Signal Hill Observatory in Kota Kinabalu offers a breath-taking view of the entire city. If you have been to KK but have not stood on the observatory platform, you have not truly seen this fast developing Southeast Asian city. But if you really have been to KK, no doubt you have checked out Signal Hill because this is one of the leading attractions in the city, plus it is very easy to reach.
Surrounded by lush greenery, this scenic attraction is quite near another tourist spot, the historic Atkinson Clock Tower that was built in 1903 and is now the oldest standing structure in the city. It is one of the only three buildings that survived Allied Forces bombs that leveled the city during World War II. It was built by Mary Edith Atkinson in memory of his son, Francis George Atkinson, the first and well-loved district officer of Kota Kinabalu. Atkinson died from a tropical disease when he was only 28 years old. For many years, the clock tower was used as navigation support for passing ships since it may be seen from the nearby sea area and portions of the city below. The clock tower is just a 10-minute walk down the hill from the observatory. The walk between these two attractions is very scenic and cool, thanks to the trees and shades.
Kota Kinabalu is a very warm tropical city, and so any forms of shade provided by city trees are very comforting. Located near the equator, the city experiences steady tropical climate throughout the year. KK experiences only two seasons, the dry and wet seasons, as does the entire country, although there is relatively fewer rains in KK. As the capital city of the Malaysian state of Sabah, KK is the most progressive city in this part of the peninsula.
Signal Hill, also known as Bukit Bendera, on which the observatory and clock tower stand, is a part of the natural landscape that strategically provides a magnificent view of the city, with the South China Sea providing an awesome azure backdrop. (And oh! by any chance you decide to visit the Philippines, you might want to check out Tops Cebu. It provides impressive view of the city where you can cook out with your family or just enjoy the view.) Further up provides a wider view of the city port area, Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal, Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, Tanjung Aru area, Likas Bay area, and tiny islands out in the sea.
Getting to Signal Hill is no problem at all. It won’t take more than 30 minutes going there on foot from Istana Street by KK’s town field and through Bukit Bendera Street. The last part of the hike is an uphill climb. There is also a flight of stony steps up the hill slope that serves as a shortcut. For visitors who may be too tired from visiting other tourist landmarks within the city, any taxi driver from downtown would know how to get to the clock tower and then the observatory. It is a short drive from Independence Square and could cost approximately RM10 to RM15. There are no buses going there. Tourists may enjoy the airy view from Signal Hill Observatory free of charge from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 midnight, although it is not advised to climb up the hill very late in the evening.