Last Update on Saturday, 10 August, 2019 08:33:41 PM



The Most Promising Attraction - Malaysia Tourism Award 2003

Tabin Wildlife Reserve

Lahad Datu, Sabah

- Official website of Tabin wildlife reserve
- Caving expedition - Tabin

Bird Watching in Tabin Wildlife Reserve
Tabin Wildlife Reserve is a dedicated ground for the breeding of wildlife and birdlife in Sabah, eastern Malaysia, on the island of Borneo. With its 120,500 hectares of mostly lowland dipterocarp rainforest, the largest wildlife reserve in Malaysia holds extraordinary biodiversity.

he three largest mammals of Sabah- the Sumatran rhino, Borneo Pygmy elephant, and Tembadau make Tabin their home. Nine species of primates including the Silver Langur, Grey Langur, Banded Langur, Bornean Gibbon, Pig-tailed Macaque, Long-tailed Macaque, Western Tarsier, Slow Loris, and Orang-Utan are found here, as well as four species of cats; Leopard Cat, Flat-headed Cat, Marbled Cat and Bornean Clouded Leopard. All of these are in the protected wildlife list.


Tabin is a bird-watcher's paradise. About 42 indigenous families representing less than 300 species have been recorded. Birders can enjoy good sighting and photography environment- the birds are lower in height and there is more light that penetrates the forest.

Endemic species of Borneo such as the White crown shaman, Black and crimson Pitta, Yellow rump flowerpecker, Borneon bristlehead, dusky munia, Blue-headed pitta and the Borneon wren-babbler are present. Rare species such as the speckled piculet, chestnut-capped thrush, Sinch's bulbul and Storm stock have been recorded. All the eight Hornbill species of Borneo, which are easily identified with their loud whooping sound when flapping wings, have been sighted.

Birds in Tabin
Tabin is a bird-watcher's paradise as the forest of Tabin attracts an amazingly rich diversity of birds, including rare and endemic species, due to the abundance of food plants here. The relatively low canopy with sufficient natural lights makes birding and photography a delightful experience.

Bird Watching

Storm's Stork"
About 42 indigenous families representing more than 260 species have been recorded here including all the 8 of Sabah's Hornbill species; Black Hornbill, Rhinoceros Hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill, Pied Hornbill, White-crowned Hornbill, Wrinkled Hornbill, Bushy-crested Hornbill and Helmeted Hornbill, and many others; Blue-headed Pitta, Black-and-crimson Pitta, Malaysian Blue Flycatcher, Temminck's Sunbird, Purple-throated Sunbird, Everett's White-eye, Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker. Rarely seen species such as Storm's Stork, Jambu Fruit Dove, Large Green Pigeon, White-fronted Falconet, Great-billed Heron and Giant Pitta.

Good places for bird watching
• The Lipad mud volcano and Tomanggong road
Tabin has several mud volcanoes and salt-water springs that are high in minerals of importance to wildlife. Frequently visited by animals and birds, the mud volcanoes are ideal locations to view wildlife or find evidence of their visits.
Lipad mud volcano is the one nearest to the main base. The endemic Black-and-Crimson Pitta and Blue-headed Pitta has
been sighted along the trail leading to the mud volcano. After jungle- trekked for twenty minutes, arrive at the elevated bare area of the mud volcano. Try to identify the multitude of animal footprints here. Those adventurous can experiment the effect of the volcanic mud said to be responsible for fine complexion. Walk up the observation tower and admire the contrasting landscape of the bare area and its surrounding thick forest.


Mud Volcano
Finsch's Bulbul and Black-throated Wren-babblers, White-crowned Forktail, Dark-throated Oriole, Malaysian Blue Flycatcher are some species that can be seen around the area. A nearby fig-tree is a busy feasting place for hornbills and other birds and primates during the fruiting season. Across the observation tower, bare branches of towering trees are favorite perching place for Green Imperial Pigeon, Large Green Pigeon and Jambu Fruit Dove with its wonderful colored chest.
Walking along the Tomanggong Road is likely to yield a superb bird list. The Giant Pitta has been sighted along this road. The White-fronted Falconet, Long-tailed Parakeet and Orange-backed Woodpecker as well as Red-napped Trogon, Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker may be sighted. You will most likely be able to observe the presence of Long-tailed Macaque and Orangutan along this road.

Good places for bird watching
The Road to Core Area
The Core Area lies In the heart of Tabin Wildlife Reserve. It is an undisturbed primary lowland dipterocarp rainforest that can only be reached through a few days' trekking.


Core Area

Temminck's Sunbird
Walking along the road leading to the core area, You will be entertained by wild bird songs and the calls of Borneon Gibbons. On some bare tree trunks, busy Dollarbird can be found along with Rufous Woodpecker, Bronzed Drongo, and Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot. Speckled Piculet, Chestnut-capped Thrush, White-fronted Falconet, Long-tailed Parakeet, Black Eagle, and Black Magpie are some of the species that can be seen along this road. The abundance of wild ginger plant attracts a colorful varieties of birds, including the Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, Temminck's Sunbird, Purple-throated Sunbird, Red-throated Sunbird, Thick-billed Spiderhunter, Grey-and-Buff Woodpecker. This area would also be the best place to look for the very rare Bornean Bristlehead.

Good places for bird watching
Around the resort
Explore the vicinity of the resort and you will be pleasantly surprised by the abundance of bird life found here. The Sunbird Cafe is wonderfully surrounded by greenery and flowering plants that attracts a number of brightly colored birds. Sipping your coffee, your eyes will be kept busy following active species such as the Black-backed Kingfisher, Blue-eared Kingfisher, Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker, Red-throated Sunbird, Malaysian Blue Flycatcher, Large Green Pigeon, Dusky Broadbill and Black-and-Yellow Broadbill. Be entertained by the melodious calls of Black Magpie in the nearby ground.
A bird hide built facing the flowing Lipad River provides a wonderful site for the viewing of birds. Huge boulders in the river are favorite place for Oriental Darter, Stork-billed Kingfisher and Lesser Fish Eagle to perch especially after the rain. Happy families of Otters; Small-clawed Otter and Smooth-coated Otter have been seen up and down this part of the river and delights guests.

Large Green Pigeon
Take a stroll along the road nearby the resort. White-bellied Munia and Dusky Munia can be commonly found in the bushes. A family of Lesser Coucal sometimes make their appearances here. The rare Storm's Storks have made Tabin their home and can sometimes be seen. You will most likely be able to see one or more of the eight species of hornbills in Borneo such as Black, White-crowned, Rhinoceros, Wreathed, Oriental Pied and Wrinkled Hombills either flying in groups across the sky, or in pairs perching on bare branches. Let the guide share with you the tales and origins of the Helmeted Hornbill's calls.

How to get there?
By air:
Daily flights operated by MasWings connect Kota Kinabalu to Lahad Datu. Flight duration is about 1 hour. From Lahad Datu, a 1:15 hour drive, part of it on gravel road, will take you to Tabin By road: Kota Kinabalu to Lahad Datu (7 hours) Sandakan to Lahad Datu (4 hours) Tawau to Lahad Datu (4 hours)
Where to stay
Tabin Wildlife Resort's authentic Borneo-style jungle lodges will compliment visitors' stay at the reserve. Offering on incomparable blend of adventure and comfort, the essence of Tabin's exotic charm can be truly felt here.

For more information please contact:
Address: Lot 11-1, 1st Floor, Blk A, Damai Point, Jin Damai.
88300 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.
Tel: 60 88 267266 Fax: 60 88 258266


Activities in Tabin Wildlife : Trekking to waterfall-Visit to Mud Volcano; Bird-watching; Night Safari etc.

Tabin Wildlife Reserve is remarkably accessible, a little over 1 hours drive from Lahad Datu Town in eastern Sabah. Sheltered within this vast sanctuary (twice the size of Singapore), the Resort offers a haven of comfort, its individual timber lodges enjoying all modern facilities.

Tabin Wildlife Holidays Sdn Bhd
Kola Kinabalu Office:
Lot 11-1, 1st Floor, BlkA. Damai Point, JlnDamai,
88300 Kola Kiltabalu, Sabah. Malaysia
TEL: 60 88 267266 FAX: 60 88 258266

Lahad Datu office:
1st Floor. Lot 17. BIk 2. MIJLD 3282.
Fajar Centre. 91100 Lahad Patu
TEL: 60 89 887620 FAX: 60 89 885851

Languages Spoken: English and  Bahasa Malaysia

The Tabin Wildlife Reserve of Sabah

About Sumatran rhinoceros

The Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) is the smallest of the five species of rhinos left in the world, and the only rhino found in Malaysia. Arguably the most endangered of all five species, the Sumatran Rhino faces a bleak future, as unlike other rhinos, the Sumatran's biggest problem is that pockets of reserves are too small and too far apart to enable the rhino to create a productive population.

Good news! Recently tracks of a young rhino off-spring was found in the heart of Borneo by a group of rangers from SOS rhino. This finding suggests a healthy growing population of rhinos in the wild. The sighting of the tracks of a baby rhino proves that with combined effort, there is hope once again for this once dwindling species to return from the brink of extinction.

About SOS rhino

SOS Rhino is a non-profit international organization foundation that has dedicated its efforts into preserving one of the world's most critically endangered species, the Sumatran rhinoceros through awareness and education of protecting them and their natural habitat.

The SOS Rhino has over the years built a successful SOS Rhino Borneo project in Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Sabah. Sabah has the last populations of Borneo rhino. SOS is fully charged in protecting the Rhino species and have been assisting the Sabah Government since 1998. SOS Rhino's Rhino Protection Units patrol the forest preserves of Borneo looking for the shy, elusive creature.

Tabin Wildlife Reserve

Venture into wild Borneo and be embraced by mother-nature. Tabin Wildlife Reserve with its 120,500 hectares of dipterocarp rainforest holds extraordinary biodiversity. The reserve is a dedicated ground for the breeding of wildlife and birdlife, including the highly endangered Sumatran rhino, Borneo Pygmy elephant an Tembadau.

I'm standing on the balcony of my timber chalet, enjoying the babbling brook of the Lipad River before me. Towering trees and rustling bushes surround the chalet. In the distance, a curious long-tailed macaque peers at me. I soak in the wonders of Tabin, literally mine to enjoy at my doorstep.

By Melissa Leong

The Tabin Wildlife Reserve needs little introduction. Located 50 km northeast of Lahad Datu on the Dent Peninsula, the reserve attracts visitors from far and near each year. As the name suggests, Tabin is home to a myriad of wildlife and is most famous for sightings of the Asian elephant, the elusive Sumatran rhinoceros and tembadau (Banteng wild buffalo. Bos javanicus).

Our journey begins with a flight from Kota Kinabalu to Lahad Datu. From Lahad Datu, the drive is pleasant but expect a mild 'off-road' experience as you approach the reserve. Tabin is a tropical haven for wildlife and conveniently located beside it are vast plantations which serve as feeding grounds.

We arrive at the reserve in time for lunch and check into our timber chalets. Our abode for the weekend is built on wooden stilts on a hill slope. The rooms are equipped with air-conditioning and have an attached bathroom with hot shower. The private balcony overlooks the Lipad River and in the evenings, you might even catch a glimpse of a buffy owl perched on a tree nearby. A word of advice: Do not leave your belongings out on the balcony as the cheeky macaques have been known to carry towels and t-shirts high into the trees! Visitors are also advised to keep the balcony door locked as the macaques are equipped with knob-turning skills.

Our first adventure for the day was a trek through the rainforest. We were briefed on what to expect, what to look out for and told to stay on the course at all times.

Everything seemed standard advice to me until I heard the word...

 'leeches'. Slippery tracks, giant centipedes and even dangerous wildlife I could handle. But those tiny, blood-sucking friends made me run faster than you could say 'pass me the Leech socks please'. That said. Leech socks should be at the top of your must-have list for your trip to Tabin.

Trust me, they never go out of fashion here. Our trek through the jungle was a fascinating one, albeit physically challenging. Protruding roots and fallen trees make the rainforest nature's very own obstacle course, so be sure to watch your step.


Along the way, our guide pointed out signs of elephant dung and trampled ground, indicating that the animal had been in the area not too long ago. Wild boars and deer also roam the area.

The evening shower began to fall on us. Despite getting drenched, we welcomed the cool rain which replaced the humid afternoon. Of course, this also meant 'playtime' for the leeches, and I soon found a few of them sneakily making their way up my leech socks. We headed back to base and could not resist jumping into the Lipad River for a quick dip as the sun began to set.

The next morning, our destination was Lipad Waterfall. Our journey this time was through wide open spaces and a short trek through the rainforest. We merrily rolled along, enjoying the morning sun; in the distance, we could hear gibbons calling to each other. As the previous day had been a wet one, our path had been reduced to a muddy trail. At one point, I literally found myself embedded in knee-deep mud and stumbled several times into more mud. Not quite the mud bath I had in mind.

But the arduous journey was worthwhile when we  finally arrived at the waterfall. The sparking water and roaring falls rendered us speechless and there was only one thing to do: Jump in! My only setback? A leech that once again got too close for comfort.

The Tabin Wildlife Reserve is famous for its Night Safari, where visitors can hop onto the back of a pick-up truck and ride into the night with only a torch-light and a seasoned guide. This is the best time to see some of Tabin's residents in action as they often search for food when the sun goes down. However, Tabin is not a zoo nor is it an enclosed safari; therefore, sightings of wildlife purely depend on your luck. We were fortunate to spot a leopard cat, pygmy squirrels and buffy owls.


Another must-do at Tabin is to visit the Lipad Mud Volcanoes, where many visitors swear by the mud's beauty and relaxing properties. Some even come all the way merely to bring home a bottle (or two) of this precious mud.

AS the mud volcanoes are also frequently visited by animals, they are an ideal ground to spot some of these elusive creatures.

Our stay in Tabin was brief, but I experienced more than I imagined in this natural wonderland. I returned home tired yet rejuvenated and eager to share my tales of muddy trails, cheeky macaques and very friendly leeches.


For more information on the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, contact Intra Travel Services at tel. no. 088-261558, fax 088-267558 or e-mail Visit

Photo above : Head Office/Visitor Centre of Tabin Willdife Resort in Lahad Datu, Malaysia


Facilities at a glance :

1) 20 units of spacious and air-conditioned jungle lodges each with private balcony and hot-water shower. Twin or double-bedded

2) 6 units of tented camps, each can accommodate maximum 4 persons

3) Sunbird Cafe serves a range of tasty meals with local touch. It has capacity for 80 guests,

4) A visitor centre displaying information on Tabin Wildlife Reserve

5) A small shop provides basic items and a collection of souvenir and craft Items

6) Electricity supply is from generator

Living in the Rainforest

Enjoy the leisurely pace of timeless Tabin. Listen to the sounds of the rainforest, the soothing flow of the river, the cool rhythms of waterfalls and the gentle caress of breezes in Tabin. Rekindle your association with nature. Gibbons' calls at dawn, unknown insects and melodious bird songs, the magic of Borneo can be felt here.

Mud volcanoe

Tabin's high concentration of mineral-rich mud volcanoes and salt springs are the best gift of nature. Served as salt-lick, the mud volcanoes are frequented by wildlife and birds, as evident in the plenty of animal track? found here. The adventurous ones can experiment the effect of the volcanic mud said to be responsible for fine complexion.

Tabin Willdife Resort


Tabin Wildlife Resort is open throughout the year. Climate is typical of a rainforest, warm and humid. Wet season generally occurs from November to January.

The Resort Is an exclusive hideaway within the vast expanse of magnificent rainforest. It combines an exciting blend of Borneo mystic, traditional ambience and personalised service. You will look forward to return to the charming timber lodges after an exciting day of jungle activities. Each jungle lodge comes with hot-water shower dean bed, air-condition and a totally private balcony where one can relax and get a real flavour of the surrounding beauty. Basic accommodation in the form of tented platform is also available.


Tabin supports significant species of wildlife, some of them endemic to Borneo. There are more than 70 mammal species. A small breeding

population of the highly endangered Sumatran rhino lives here. There is a healthy population of Borneo Pygmy elephants, which can sometimes be seen strolling along the resort road. Orang Utan are plentiful and their nests can be commonly sighted. There is a large variety of carnivores, including the rare Clouded leopard, the largest cat known to occur in Borneo. The area also has herds of deer, bearded pig, red leaf monkeys, silver languor, proboscis monkeys, pig tail and long tailed macaque, and binturong.

Plant life

Tabin is covered with species-rich lowland rainforest. A large number of tropical plants thrive here, some known for their medicinal and therapeutic properties, while others are awaiting to be discovered and researched upon. Wild orchids, lianas, jungle vines, towering strangler figs, and rare ferns are amongst the interesting collections of rainforest vegetation. Flowers and fruits in the rainforest often carry an exotic contrast of colors with unique shape, and scents to attract wildlife, birds and insects to maximize pollination.

Core Area

The core area lies in the heart of Tabin Wildlife Reserve and consists of totally virgin forest. The undisturbed rivers and towering trees here provide an ideal habitat for further wildlife and birds. The core area can only be reached through trekking for a journey of 23 KM. There are campsites along the way for overnight stay. Trekking expeditions to the core area provides an excellent insight to the truly rich biodiversity of the rainforest.

Sunbird Cafe

The Sunbird Cafe is the "happening place" where guests exchange their jungle I venture experiences and where meals are I served. Our chef understands the secret ingredients for a perfect meal. Do not miss  the pakis dish - the tender tip of a wild fern, I a healthy vegetable found abundantly in Tabin. At the cafe guests can sip their coffee and enjoy the splendid view of the forest and river nearby, while watching a heave of activities- insects, butterflies, birds, small mammals, naughty macaques and sometimes elephants that come near to the cafe.

Tours and Activities

Program available daily includes trekking to the mud volcano and waterfalls, bird-watching, night walk and night safari, which enable our guests to fully experience the uniqueness of the rainforest. Special-interest activities and events such as rainforest education/projects, bird-watching, team-building, seminars and meetings can be prebooked. We regularly prepare tailor made programs to meet the individual pace and interests of our guests. Alternatively, you may wish to catch an aerial view of Tabin and the unique mud volcanoes by helicopter-this can be arranged on request.

Nurture Nature

Tabin has a unique and diverse ecosystem which is as beautiful as it is fragile. At Tabin Wildlife Resort we endeavor to follow a tradition of environmental awareness and responsible tourism practice so that we can contribute to sustaining life here, and preserve it for future generations.

At night, look up at the clear, dark sky of Tabin. Identify the constellations above you, and make a wish or two. Experience the unfolding excitement of nature in Tabin. Here we not only preserved the earth, we also preserved the sky above.

How to get there

By air

Daily flights connect Kota Kinabalu to Lahad Datu. Flight duration is about 1 hour. From Lahad Datu, a 1:15 hour drive, part of it on gravel road, will take you to Tabin.

Sabah Air provides charter flight service on request.

By road

• Kota Kinabalu to Lahad Datu (7 hours)

• Sandakan to Lahad Datu (4 hours)

• Tawau to Lahad Datu (4 hours)

Enquiries and Bookings

Sole Marketing Agent:

Intra Travel Service Sdn Bhd (KKIPNO 3639)

Level 1, Office No. 5, Airport Terminal 2, 88999 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.

Intra Travel
Tel: 60 88 261558   Fax: 60 88 267558

Tabin Wildlife Reserve

Tabin Wildlife Reserve  is some 50 kilometers (30 miles) north east of Lahad Datu.

wild Asian elephants (Elephas maximus).

Toward the main Lodge in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, we passed by a number of oil palm estates bearing names such as Ladang Permaigah, River Estate, Kertam Estate and Permai Estate.

On the other side of the gravel road was a continuous stretch of secondary forest as the entire Tabin Wildlife Reserve is located within a former logging concession area. We also observed that there were many well-trampled paths on the right side of the road, which continue for a short stretch on the road's left until they merge with the man-made paths between the rows of oil palms. As David has been tagging along with his uncle on wild boar hunts, he informed me that the well traveled trails were made by wild animals especially the wild pigs and deer. In any event, we disembarked from his four wheel drive to examine closely one of such trails. True enough, we saw footprints made by some wild animals! Through David's amateurish eyes, he was able to distinguish footprints made by the bearded pigs (Suis barbatus), wild elephants and deer. However, he was not able to distinguish pug marks of the four species of deer which are endemic to the island of Borneo, that is the sambar deer (Cervus unicolor) and the barking deer (Muntiacus muntiak), better known among Malaysians as the kijang, the greater mousedeer (Tragulus napu) and lesser mousedeer (Tragulus javanicus). The mousedeer goes by the Malay name of kancil or pelanduk. Just before we reached our destination, we intruded into a gala played out by a 30-strong troop of grey leaf monkeys (Presbytis hosei).

We arrived at the Tabin Wildlife Lodge at around 4 pm in the afternoon. By then, the base of both my hiking shoes have given way as they were put through a severe stress test during my three-day stay in Danum Valley, which involves much jungle trekking. I therefore had to swap my open pair slippers with David's pair of jogging shoes. As the Lodge housekeeping took some time to spruce up one of the rooms for me, Suzy, the front office supervisor advised us to explore around. Initially, we were unsure where to start wandering, as the place was rather alien to us.

However, Suzy's mere mention of a nearby mud volcano easily won us over. We therefore drove on following the well-marked directional signs indicating "Lipad Mud Volcano" until we arrived at a forest opening with a marker showing that the mud volcano was 800 meters ahead. From this point onwards, we trekked through the forest underbrush. The trail was cleared of twigs, creepers, fallen branches or tree trunks. However, the recent rains have rendered the path rather slippery along some stretches. At one point, I slid, slipped and uncontrollably fell on the slimy jungle floor. David and I enjoyed a good laugh at my acrobatics! After more than half an hour of trudging through the muddy trail, we found what we were eagerly looking forward to. The Lipad Mud Volcano measuring 2 hectares (5 acres). It is devoid of vegetation and the cone is about 2 meters (6.6 feet) high, comprising of bubbling, salty, grey colored mud emanating from beneath the ground. The minerals comprise mainly calcium and sodium. All around the mud volcano there are footprints left behind by elephants, wild boars, birds and other unidentified .wild creatures. These are plentiful evidence that the mud volcano is a popular place where mammals, birds and other animals come to lick the salts, wallow in the mud, drink the water or cavort around in a carefree manner.

During our trek through the undergrowth, we heard the calls made by a number of different birds. As David is from Lahad Datu, which until 20 years back the forests came right up to the present suburbs of town the country boy could easily recognize the sights and sounds made by the wild pigeons, hornbills, jungle crows and the other feathered species. We made no mistake when we heard the wood knocking sounds made by the wood peckers. However, we had much difficulty in spotting them as they deftly hid among the thick foliage. We encountered a few pitta birds, a colorful ground dweller distinguished by their low-pitched, monotonous whistle. When I reached David's four wheel drive, I discovered the upper and lower soles of my borrowed shoes have also gone missing! After dropping me off at the Lodge, I wished David a safe and pleasant journey back into Lahad Datu town.

The Tabin Wildlife Reserve was gazetted a wildlife sanctuary in 1984. It is rectangular in shape and covers a secondary forest area of 1205 square kilometers (485 square miles). It was set up by the Sabah government to protect and conserve the fast disappearing mammals, namely the wild Asian elephants, the Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerohinus sumatrenis) and the tempadau or banteng (Bos javanicus) which is a specie of wild Asian cattle of smaller built than the seladang (Bos gaurus) (same specie as the gaur in India) found in Peninsular Malaysia but not in the island of Borneo. According to a 1992 survey Tabin Wildlife Reserve had a population of between 212 to 297 elephants and the current reckoning is that the population is apparently healthy and thriving. Based on another survey carried out in the 1980s there was then between 7 to 20 Sumatran rhinos. However as they are an extremely shy animal which try to avoid any human activity no one is able to put a finger as to a good guesstimate of the current number of Sumatran rhinos within the Tabin Wildlife Reserve. However, some two years ago one had been captured and placed temporarily in an enclosure close by the Lodge and eventually sent to a rehabilitation centre in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah?s capital city.

Tabin Wildlife Reserve is hilly in the central and western regions. The northern part constitutes the lower reaches of the tributaries of the Segama River, Sabah's second longest river. Here the vegetation consists mainly of swamp forests and mangroves. While most parts of the Reserve had been logged previously for the mature hardwoods there is still a small "core area" in the centre where virgin forests still stand. In addition there are small patches of native coniferous in the higher elevation. Animals especially mammals need minerals for their sustenance. Within the Reserve there are three sources of minerals. They are salt licks, mineral springs and mud volcanoes. Besides the Lipad Mud Volcano there are two other mud volcanoes in the Reserve. Another reason why wildlife is found in abundance and in great diversity is the presence of many oil palm estates in the fringe of Tabin Wildlife reserve. The leaves, fruits, saplings and the growing tips of young palms provide food for the elephants, rhinos, wild boars, deer, monkeys, porcupines, rats, squirrels, birds and other herbivores. In turn some of the smaller animals or the young ones of the larger mammals like the bearded pigs and deer are preyed on by the larger carnivores such as the clouded leopard (neofelis nebusa) the largest of the carnivores in Borneo, leopard cat (Felis bengalensis)and the common palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) and by omnivores such as the binturong or bear cat (Arctitis binturong) a prehensile-tailed animal which is the largest civet in Borneo. Birds of prey such as the owls, hawks and eagles also make their presence felt. The rotting fruits, decaying leaves and other vegetative matter and detritus serve as food for the ants, beetles, bugs and other insects, millipedes, centipedes, snails and other mollusks. These invertebrates in turn are eaten by predators such as the Malay weasels (Mustela nudipes), pangolins or anteaters (Manus javanica), frogs, lizards and snakes as part of Mother Nature's complex food chain. Nature too has endowed some of these creatures with defensive mechanisms or survival instincts. For example the scaly pangolin will when threatened roll itself into a ball, the porcupine will brace itself with protruding long sharp spines while the agamid lizard (Calotes cristatellus) will like a chameleon camouflage itself by changing the color of its skin to blend with its surroundings. Except for the swampy north Tabin Wildlife reserve is essentially a lowland rainforest. The predominant family of tropical hardwoods is the Dipterocarpaceae and the natural vegetation is often referred to as the dipterocarp forest. Dipterocarpa comes from three Greek words meaning two for "di", wing for "ptero" and fruit for "carpa".

Trees belonging to this family are characterized two-winged fruits although some species from this family have five wings and others have no wings. When the fruits are ripe they drift like helicopters over a wide area of the forest floor and this helps the dispersal of the seeds for perpetuation of the species. At any one time one will be able to see clumps of flowering or fruiting trees belonging to the same species. However, the dipterocarps do not flower each year but do so once in every four to five years. Sometimes due to the vagaries of nature such as drought or excessive precipitation conditions or an increase in sunspot activity the entire forest floor will bloom at the same time.

This phenomenon is known as mega mast flowering and it happens once in 9 years or so. The entire dipterocarp forest will depict a post card perfect view. Dipterocarps grow to a height of up to 55 meters (180 feet) and if left alone undisturbed by Man it can live for more than 500 years. However dipterocarps are in great demand for the furniture, wood making and construction industries and much of the forests in Sabah had been cleared to feed the hungry sawmills and meet the voracious demands of Man. In recent years much of the cleared forested land made way for oil palm cultivation although re-afforestation have been implemented in some of the secondary forests like those surrounding Danum Valley under the auspices of FACE (Forest Absorb Carbon-dioxide Emission)

Foundation funded by a group of Dutch power companies. Some other secondary forests have been turned into national parks such as Tawau Hills Park or wildlife sanctuary like Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

The Lodge at Tabin offers the following facilities:- *20 units of cabins each with either double or twin beds. *20 tented camps which can accommodate 4 persons each. *A timber-built restaurant constructed on an open concept (without walls) allowing .guests to enjoy without impediment the sights and sounds of the forests. *24-hour electricity with hot water shower and modern toilet facilities.

The cabins were only ready for occupation in August 2002. Thus when I was there in December 2002 the cabin furniture was still gleaming and everything in the cabin was so spanking new. Tabin Restaurant serves a wide range of dishes both Western and local cuisine. The chef Jaffar cooks excellent food in view of his long years of pandering to the taste buds of diners patronizing the food outlets of an international hotel in Kota Kinabalu where he started his apprenticeship. He and his able assistant Evelyn know how to treat guests at the Lodge like a king or queen as he last served for some 8 years in the royal Brunei household as a cook. He is also quite an accomplished guitar player. He too has good vocal chords and he learnt these skills from his father who was a musician with Radio British North Borneo in the pre-independence days. He entertained me to some of the evergreen hits of the 1960s and 1970s especially those sung by the Bee Gees. That evening after a scrumptious dinner Michael my guide and Johnny the driver took Suzy, Jaffar, Evelyn and I for a night safari drive in an open air jeep. Indeed for such a night drive to observe the habits of nocturnal animals the more eyes on board the better as we would not only have to look ahead both at close range and at a distance with the assistance of powerful search lights we have to look left and right both up and down too. We traveled along the road which separates the wildlife reserve from the oil palm estates. When dusk fall this meeting place of the wild and the developed world comes alive. Within two minutes of our drive I cried out aloud: "Look two horses!" There was laughter all round as the two animals I saw in front of me turned out to be a pair of sambar deer. They both reach the height of a pony. Throughout our one and a half hour drive we saw several Bornean bearded pigs darting across the road. At other times too we sighted herds of bearded pigs rambling around the palms apparently having a go at the delicious fruits of the oil palms. The eagle-sharp eyes of Michael spotted a leopard cat hiding among the lush foliage. It has the size of a domestic cat but with a spotted body. It is fond of rats, snakes and other small animals which make their way to the oil palm estates. The powerful beam of light from Michael's torch caught the sight of two species of owls that is the brown wood owl (Strix leptogrammica) and the buffy fish owl (ketupa ketupu). The brown wood owl was not at all disturbed by our presence although we were less than 2 meters (6.6 feet) away and close enough for me to snap its photograph using a conventional non-zoom AF camera. We also saw a number of bats, flying squirrels and flying foxes. I must say that I was lucky to enjoy the sight of Mother Nature's gifts to mankind .Before I adjourned for the night Jaffar and Evelyn advised me to rise from bed early to observe a particular southern pied hornbill (Anthracoceros convexus) which has the habit of pecking against its own reflection from the glass door of one of the cabins usually in the morning at around 6.30 am.

Due to the excitement engendered during the night safari drive I soon dozed off into deep slumber land although throughout the night there was an incessant "wah" "wah" barking calls of a tree gecko (Crytodactylus species) webbed to one of the roof buttresses right outside my cabin back door. The next morning my biological clock seemed to work perfectly. I was roused by it at my usual 6.00am wake up call. By a quarter past six I staked out at cabin number 6 hoping to catch a glimpse of the hornbill at work. However after more than half an hour of silent vigil I gave up but was amply rewarded soon after. As advised by some of the staff I carried out a similar spying expedition from under a richly flowering fig tree close to the staff quarters. I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by the loud plaintive cries of a flock of eight southern pied hornbills. I began to snap away in rapid bursts photographs of the noisy hornbills.

After a wholesome breakfast Michael and I set off for a four-hour jungle walk covering some 3 kilometers (1.2 miles) of steep and hilly terrain. Besides the many species of dipterocarps such as the seraya (meranti in Peninsular Malaysia), merbau, keruing, selingan batu, we encountered with the various species of the hardy bamboo, lianas (Ficus villosa) which are woody climbers, rattan (Palmae family) another climber with hooks to facilitate climbing. Other ubiquitous plants are the screw pine (Pandanus family) a pineapple-like leafy plant with long stiff leaves fringed with sharp prickles and the wild ginger (zingiberareae family) crowned with bright red or yellow flowers. The trunk of the lianas are often coiled up and rested on forest floor or suspended on branches of other trees and their tips reach out to the sunlight. There are also various species of epiphytes such as wild orchids, moss, lichens which grow on the branches and trunks of other trees. I was most captivated by the enchanting beauty of particular specie of the terrestrial orchid (Calanthe zollingeri) with a long lasting upright incandescence bearing snow-white clustered flowers. One will never miss the various species of parasitic plant. Worth special mention is the eerie looking strangling fig tree (Ficus benjamina) which sprouts from seeds lodged within the branches of the host tree. Over time the network of interlacing roots of the strangling fig tree will reach down to the ground and envelope the trunk of the host tree. After several years the strangling fig tree will kill off the host tree in a fashion similar to the slow vise-like grip of the python. We also observed that there were also a few wild fruit trees such as the rambutans, durians, bananas and pineapples. Their presence in the forest was due unwittingly to the efforts of monkeys, squirrels and some other wild creatures. The forest floor especially among the leaf litter or decaying vegetative matter is the habitat of the millipedes, centipedes, snails and the lizard-like skink. We spotted a fair number of pill millipedes (Oniscomorpha order) and flat-backed millipedes (Platyrhalus genus). When I touched the pill millipede it rolled into a round ball to protect itself. The round ball camouflaged the millipede to look like a seed of a wild fruit. The flat-backed millipede measuring 30 centimeters long looked like one of those long flat-bed trains from Western movies traversing across the vast American plains. The forest has a diverse range of birds which include sunbirds, leaf birds, insect catchers, spider hunters, nectar suckers, flower peckers, barbets, barblers, warblers, drangos, jays, broadbills and pitas.

The forest in the Tabin Wildlife reserve is so rich in flora and fauna that one can spend a few days there to marvel at the wonders of nature. It was with a tinge of sadness that I have to leave the Reserve after two days of carefree, peaceful and stress-free existence to enjoy the sights and sounds of wildlife but I vowed to return someday in the not too distant future. I bade farewell to the friendly staff and Johnny took me to Lahad Datu for me to meet with David who would whisk me to Kunak where Robertson was waiting eagerly for me. And I know that outside Tabin Wildlife reserve a convoluted, confused, callous and cantankerous world driven by crass commercialism and spurred by stark materialism awaits us.

Scientists manning world's first orang utan monitoring station

30 Aug 2006


Eight scientists are living in the jungle with a quartet of newly-released orang utan, monitoring how they adapt to their new home.

The group, headed by British primatologist Sheena Hynd, is manning the world's first orang utan monitoring station, opened recently in the 120,000ha Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Lahad Datu.

Their immediate task is to monitor two young males and two females from the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan, released near the station on Aug 24.

"A long-term study of this kind, particularly of rehabilitated orang utan, has never been done before. The information gleaned will provide a new, detailed insight into the behaviour of rehabilitated orang utan and assist conservation strategies," Hynd said.

She said the researchers will track the four young apes, recording behavioural data until they have fully adapted to life in the wild. She could not say how long this would take.

The other researchers are Malaysians Clifford Nathaniel, Joseph John, Lineker Faitun, Alderian Jiwol, Wellson Loron, Mohd Sobri Kahar and Ray Clement Madius, chosen because of their interest in the research.

"There is no tracking device that can be attached to an orang utan, so we will follow the animals each day from about 5am to 7pm until they make their night nest. Feeding, ranging and nesting behaviour will be recorded, and faecal and other samples will be collected every day to see how the four adapt to their new home,” Hynd added.

The monitoring station was jointly established by the Sepilok Orang Utan Appeal UK, a British non-governmental organisation, the State Wildlife Department and State Forestry Department.

The NGO has also funded the construction of a new quarantine ward, the salary of a nurse, a Land Rover and a new enclosure at Sepilok.

The centre has been rehabilitating orang utan since its establishment in 1964, releasing them into the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve which surrounds the Centre. Presently, there are at least 250 orang utan in the 43sq km Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, and 10 in the indoor nursery at the centre. In the Tabin Wild Reserve the orang utan population is estimated at more than 1,200.


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