Bombalai Hill


  • Elevation: 530 m (1,739 ft)
  • Prominence: 206 m
  • Ribu category: Spesial
  • Province: Sabah (Malaysia)
  • Division: Bahagian Tawau
  • Google Earth: kml
  • Rating: 1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (2 votes) Add your rating
  • Other names: Bukit Bombalai


Bagging It!

This relatively small hill is not particularly prominent but it is an ancient volcanic cinder cone and effectively still regarded as a dormant volcano. Indeed, it is considered to be Malaysia’s only potentially active volcano. It is very close to the town of Tawau and is a good viewpoint. The trailhead starts at the entrance to the excellent Tawau Hills Park (Taman Bukit Tawau) and given you are already at a starting elevation of nearly 300 metres it takes less than one hour to cover the short distance of under 2 kilometres to reach the summit and even less time to descend.

In 2023, the trail is just re-opening after a period of closure and some renovation work but it makes a perfect short warm-up before beginning the larger trek in Tawau Hills Park to Mount Magdalena and Mount Lucia. This park can get very busy with local people at weekends so if at all possible try to visit on a weekday and make an early start – ideally at 8am – to avoid the hottest part of the day. You could then have lunch at the Tawau Hills Park canteen (‘Kantin Begonia’) and/or take a second walk to the waterfall or hot springs which are both great places to spot wildlife including red leaf monkeys.

The trail up Bukit Bombalai is straightforward, with a few wooden steps in places. At the top is a mental beirut, summit signs and a pleasant wooden viewing platform. There is a grand view over other hills plus the city of Tawau and Pulau Sebatik in the distance, half of which belongs to Indonesia. On the far left of the view, looking south-east, is Gunung or Bukit Andrassy (671m), a peak with a telecommunications compound at the top and access road. This is popularly known to local people as ‘The Peaks’ and indeed there is a restaurant halfway up the access road (Jalan Stesen TV Tawau) with that name. Although bagging the highest point is unlikely, good views over Tawau are possible from The Peaks and it is effectively the southern end of the range which includes Gunungs Magdalena, Lucia and Maria, the three main peaks of Tawau Hills Park.

On the right is partial view of Bukit Gemok (approximately 428 metres high), a minor forest peak on the edge of the city of Tawau, which appears to have been ‘closed’ during the pandemic and has not yet been re-opened. Although known for mosquitoes, Bukit Gemok used to be quite popular for its canopy walk which at 231 metres is the second-longest in Sabah. Let’s hope it re-opens.

Down to the right of the summit is a fairly steep drop. This could easily be missed but is quite noteworthy as it is the edge of a 300-metre wide ancient crater, one of the very few places in all of Borneo with known historic volcanic activity. Local authorities have been looking into volcano tourism recently, as although this kind of attraction is commonplace in Indonesia there are very few such locations available to visit in Malaysia.

Bagging report by Dan Quinn (August 2023)

Local Accommodation

Featured Guides

If you are a reliable local guide and would like to be featured on this page to increase your bookings, or a tourist who would like to support the development of a local guide business, please email with the following information: Mountain name, guide name, guide location, guide contact details, and at least one English language review from a previous hiker who was pleased with the guiding services. An example is given below for reference. We have a maximum quota of 3 featured guides for each mountain page on the site. The fee for this is £20 (British pounds sterling, typically via the Wise app or PayPal) for a period of 1 year and helps to pay towards the ongoing development of the Gunung Bagging project.

  • Name and location: Pak Budi, Surabaya, East Java.
  • Contact details: +62812xxxxxxxx,, 
  • Review from previous client: “Budi was a brilliant guide for our September 2023 trek up Gunung X and I would definitely recommend him to other tourists“, John, USA.


  • Getting there: The closest town is Tawau which has an airport with regular flights to Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan. From the airport to Tawau Hills Park takes about 1 hour by car or taxi (or 30 minutes from Tawau itself). Public transport is poor or non-existent. There is also an express boat from Tarakan (Indonesia) to Tawau 3 or 4 times a week taking around 4-5 hours. In 2022, it leaves at 11am and costs Rp500,000 one-way.
  • Guides and GPS Tracks: Want a PDF version for your phone? Looking for a guide? Need GPS tracks and waypoints? Bombalai Hill information pack can be downloaded here.
  • Permits: RM20 entrance fee for foreigners (in 2023). Open from 8am until 4.30pm.
  • Water sources: Take sufficient bottled water for what is a short hike.


2 thoughts on “Bombalai Hill”

  1. Just back from a pleasant hike up Bombalai Hill, the first after a bit of trail maintenance. Nice to finally do this short hike after having it on the to-do list for so long.

    RM20 for foreigners now, very reasonable. And the Park HQ is excellent with nice staff and a great cafe.. Kantin Begonia.

    The view from the top over Tawau and across the sea to Pulau Sebatik (half Indonesian and half Malaysian) is very pleasant.

    My GPS read 531m, a bit lower than the 545m figure on the Park signs. There is a Beirut up there and a large wooden platform for admiring the view. Lots of birdlife and a couple of leeches.

    Is there any obvious evidence of the volcanic past? Possibly, with abrasive-looking stones and what may have been a crater at one time down to the right of the peak.

    It makes a great warm-up to the Gunung Magdalena trek, which is usually done over 3 days and which I am starting tomorrow.

  2. Well, I was supposed to make a quick trip to Bombalai Hill yesterday, but was simply too exhausted from work. 6 days in a row of getting up at 5am. It’s not fair but it seems with so many jobs people have, their days off are actually just ‘getting rested in time for work again’ and paying pack the sleep debt days rather than actual free time.

    Anyway, I have at least got a number of a forest ranger at the park there. Johan +60171858286. A second option would be Alfonso +60138722354.

    I aim to visit….when I have more time to devote to this project!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top