Category Archives: Wildlife

Turtle Sanctuary and Glamping at Libaran Island


What a tourist couple did really touched me. I was buying cake in a bakery in Kota Kinabalu City. At the cashier counter, an Australian couple declined to use plastic bag to store their purchase. They explained to their children, “We shouldn’t use plastic bag because if it’s dumped into the sea, turtle would think it’s food and eat it, and that can kill it.” I’m so grateful that foreigners care about our turtles. On the other hand, I feel ashamed that Malaysians generate about 4,000 metric tonnes of plastic waste every day, and these contribute to plastic found on one-third of the coral reefs in the Asia-Pacific region.

swimming turtle

Jellyfish is the food of sea turtle, and plastic bag is often mistaken as jellyfish by turtles

Therefore, I see hope when Libaran Island, which used to be a turtle grave, has become a turtle sanctuary and a new tourism attraction now. Before a turtle hatchery was established there in 2012, every turtle egg laid on Libaran would end up in the stomach of villagers and stray dogs on the island. After 5 years, this hatchery has saved more than 27,486 turtle eggs!

Releasing baby turtles to the wild

Releasing baby turtles to the wild

And Top 4 Reasons to visit Libaran Island? #Turtle #Glamping #Stargazing #Sunset

About Libaran Island

With a population of 450 people, Libaran (GPS: 6.120437, 118.030001, see Location Map) is a 450-acre (about 2 sq KM) island located 45 minutes away by boat from Sandakan, the second largest city of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Though Libaran is only 5 minutes away from the famous Turtle Islands Park (a.k.a. Selingan) of Sabah, unfortunately it is not inside the boundary of this protected park.

Beach of Libaran Island

Beach of Libaran Island during low tide

If turtle landed on the wrong island, that’s the end of their cycle of life when villagers collected their eggs. Luckily this is changed by Alex Yee, a business-minded conservationist, who creates Walai Penyu Conservation Park with a win-win model for the locals and turtles.

Beautiful mangrove tree

Beautiful mangrove tree in Libaran

Trip to Libaran Island

Turtle sighting in scuba diving is always a delightful experience. This gentle reptile swims gracefully and look really chill underwater. We can’t call a diving destination a top dive site if it has no turtle. Turtle is also the Guardian of Coral Triangle because it maintains the health of marine ecosystems. If turtles are safe, our tourism and environment will do well.

Group photo of divers with the friendly turtle

Group photo of divers with the friendly turtle. But we were not allowed to touch it or we would be banned for next dive.

What’s better than looking at the turtle up-close? Malaysia is home to four species of turtles, namely, Leatherback, Green, Hawksbill, and Olive Ridley turtles, all are endangered due to pollution and poaching. When Alex invited me to his Walai Penyu Resort on Libaran Island last month, I said YES x 100 without thinking.

boat to Libaran

Alex named his boat “Tora” to commemorate his dog

In a sunny afternoon, our boat to Libaran departed from the Sabah Parks jetty located at Sandakan Yacht Club. If you book a tour with Walai Penyu Resort, they will provide boat and land transfer (Walai = Stay Together and Penyu = Turtle in local language).

Red cliff face of Berhala Island

Stunning red cliffs of Berhala Island

On the way to Libaran, you would pass by Berhala Island, a very beautiful island with distinctive red cliffs. Sadly, its beach is covered by so many junk that it never becomes a tourist attraction. If the locals love their environment more, they would have a nice island for weekend outing now. Rubbish is like karma, we will pay for our wrongdoing.

Approaching Libaran Island

Approaching Libaran Island

The ocean was calm and we reached Libaran Island after 45 minutes of smooth ride. It’s a fairly densely vegetated flat island, without any high ground and tall building. Turtles love such pristine beach with little development. Too much noise and artificial light will drive mother turtle away.

corals in the sea

You can see the corals in crystal clear water

Though we were about 100 Metres away from shore, the water was only knee depth, and I could see the lush corals clearly. Our boat cruised slowly to avoid crushing the corals.

Nesting spots of sea turtles

Nesting spots of sea turtles

Finally we landed on the golden beach of Libaran, the cradle of turtles. Their staff already waited for us with wheelbarrow and transferred our bags to Walai Penyu Resort.

Landing track of sea turtle on the beach

Landing track of mother turtle on the beach

Apparently we are not the only visitors here. Tracks and traces of turtle landing are everywhere. We found nesting sites under the shrubs, on the beach and near the camp.

Glamping at Walai Penyu Resort

We check-in to our room. Actually it’s a glamping tent, which is larger than standard camp and spacious enough to fit in two beds and a desk. The camp is very clean and located on the beach.

Glamping ground of Libaran Island

Glamping ground of Walai Penyu Resort in Libaran Island

Glamping is becoming a trend for travellers who love to be close to nature but stay comfortable with adequate setup. In short, Glamping is a luxury version of Camping. I have done camping many times, glamping is new to me, and it definitely offers a more family-friendly and enjoyable stay than camping.

Glamping is where stunning nature meets modern luxury

Glamping is where stunning nature meets modern luxury

To minimise the impact to the environment, there are only 8 dome-shaped tents in Walai Penyu Resort to host up to 16 guests each day. Lighting is kept to minimum to avoid disturbing nesting turtles.

glamping on Libaran Island

Experience glamping on Libaran Island

Bathroom in Walai Penyu Resort

Bathroom in Walai Penyu Resort

The tents have side windows covered with mosquito net. You can unzip them for sea breeze or view. As our tents are very near to the beach, it’s quite windy and we could hear sea waves clearly.

Toilet and shower room on the island

Toilet and shower room on the island

The common toilet and bathroom have lot of open spaces that allow good ventilation, so the place is dry, clean and doesn’t smell.

Beautiful Libaran

Turtle usually comes after dusk. It’s still early, so I strolled around the island. With me were three lady editors (Alison, Carmen and San) for China social media. If you want to walk one around of this island, the walking distance is 6.5 KM, which takes about 1.5 hours.

Mangrove trees on Libaran

These mangrove trees can prevent beach erosion

Near our glamping site is a few patches of lush mangrove trees. Alex told us that at night we could find fireflies there. The entangled roots of these old mangrove trees are so fascinating, some looks like bonsai.

Little mangrove island

Little mangrove “island”

I asked Carmen to be my model. Being professional, she didn’t hesitate to climb up and down the tree for some perfect shots (the mangrove root is quite slippery). Of course the outcome is brilliant. Instagram is full of cliche photos on sandy beach, so we are happy to bag many special shots.

shallow sea

From Left: Alison, Carmen, San and Alex Yee

Due to low tide, the water was very shallow and tempting, so we walked in the sea water to feel the soft sand and warm water running through our toes.

girls pointing at Racket Island

You can walk to Racket Island during low tide

Less than 2 KM away is Racket Island, where you can find the “tomb” of turtles. You can walk to that island during low tide. But do return before high tide or you have to swim back to Libaran.

model on mangrove tree

Thanks Carmen for climbing up there for a great shot

The beach is long and litter-free. The cleanliness is not by accident. Alex divides the beach into dozens of 100-Metres lot, and pays villagers MYR100/month to keep their allocated slot clean.

This mangrove tree looks like bonsai

This mangrove tree looks like bonsai

Clean beach is not only for tourists, but good for the turtles too. By regularly removing driftwood, plastics and other washed-up trash from the beach, turtles don’t need to crawl over piles of debris to lay their eggs on the beach.

mineral bottle house

Alex spent 3.5 years to collect 3,500 mineral bottles to build this little house

Alex has been buying plastic bottles from these cleaners for 3.5 years. He showed us his masterpiece he created with these plastic.

Plastic House Cafe?

Plastic House Cafe?

It’s a 300 sq-ft plastic house which took 5 weeks to build from 3,500 one-litre plastic bottles. This house reminds me that Malaysia is the 8th largest producer of mismanaged plastic wastes. Guess that’s the message Alex tries to tell (and show) the world.

Fishermen return home after fishing

Fishermen return home after fishing

Then Alex went back to the camp to prepare other activities for us. We continued to explore other side of the island. There is a garrison on the island. I saw police and dogs patrolled on the beach, so I feel safe.

Peaceful dusk at Libaran

Peaceful dusk at Libaran

The sea view was ravishing. We forgot the time until dusk was approaching, and the cloud was like in fire. It’s the famous flaming sunset of Sabah. We chased for the sunset view and reached a peaceful fishing village on other end of the island. The friendly villagers smiled at us while busy preparing for the nightfall. This is just an ordinary fishing village, but looks so surreal under the sunset.

Fisherman walking to the sunset

Fisherman walking to the sunset

Inspiring Success Story

By the time we were back to our resort, yummy dinner was already served under a canopy. During meal time, Alex shared some stories about his conservation project on Libaran. It wasn’t a smooth sail. If I were him, I would had given up.

Dinner on Libaran Island

Dinner on Libaran Island

Turtles have existed for over 200 million years, but if nothing is done, human can wipe them out in 10 years. Unlike Ninja Turtle, the shell of turtles can’t protect them from human greed. Turtles are fully protected by wildlife act in Sabah and Sarawak only. In some states of Peninsular Malaysia, turtle eggs are sold openly and it’s legal to consume them.

Mangrove seedling

Mangrove seedling

However, without any enforcement on a remote island such as Libaran, the locals were eating the turtle eggs. I’m not saying that the villagers there are bad. Turtle eggs have been the main source of protein for islanders for many generations. Now for conservation, we have to take this away from these poor villagers, so it isn’t hard to understand why they are unhappy.

Variety of corals exposed during low tide

Variety of corals exposed during low tide

Besides stop eating turtle eggs, we must not harass turtles too. Let me tell you a real case. Rantau Abang in Terengganu used to the most popular nesting location of leatherback turtle. In 1950s, there were more than 10,000 nesting spots. Then tourists came and ride on their back and flipped them over for fun. The consequence is – almost 0 sighting of leatherback there for last 5 years.

windy on Libaran

Sometimes it’s a bit windy on Libaran

Libaran is blessed because they act soon enough to prevent the repeat of Rantau Abang tragedy there. In 2011, Sabah Wildlife Department sought collaboration with Alex to protect the turtles on Libaran, because the villagers collecting turtle eggs. However, it’s a hot potato, not cash cow, being handed over to Alex. The former village head didn’t support his conservation work and even tried to stop his team from collecting turtle eggs.

Lovely morning of Libaran Island

Lovely morning of Libaran Island

Deeply dismayed by many challenges and people issues, Alex thought about quitting in Nov 2015. His visit to Libaran in Feb 2016 was supposed to be a goodbye trip. Then a turtle laid 70 eggs in front of his tent. Alex saw this as a sign and decided to continue. Due to his perseverance, Alex has successfully established a new turtle stronghold on Libaran. It’s a victory in Sabah conservation.

Alison recording a time-lapsed video for sea tide

Alison recording a time-lapsed video for sea tide

Just a trivia. During World War II, about 2 or 3 British prisoners of war escaped the infamous dead march, and one of them was hiding on Libaran until he was rescued by US Navy after the war. Many years later, his son visited Libaran and found that the father of Alex’s employee is the one who rescued his dad.

Starry sky in the cloud

We still could see starry sky though that night was cloudy

Libaran is also a great place for stargazing, since they keep the light to minimal. I saw many stars in the sky, but it was covered by dense cloud shortly.


Good Night!

Before we went to bed, Alex said, “Tonight it will be high tide. We have good chance to see turtle landing.” And he was right.

Turtle Landing!

Because of the comfortable sea breeze and sound of sea waves, I had a deep sleep until I heard Alex was talking on walkie-talkie around 3:20am. I waked up and saw him standing outside his tent. From his serious expression, I knew a turtle has landed. I followed behind him with a torchlight.

Hawksbill turtle

Hawksbill turtle landed on Libaran

There are a total of 401 turtle landing (75% Green Turtle, 25% Hawksbill Turtle) on Libaran between 2013 and 2017.

Turtle laying eggs on Libaran

Turtle laying eggs on Libaran Island

And yay!!! We saw a Hawksbill turtle about 200 Metres away from our campsite, and it laid eggs under a tree near to beach. We were so excited but we had to observe it quietly from a distance. If disturbed, mother turtle would abort the nesting and turn back to the sea. Sabah has the largest population of hawksbills in Malaysia.

turtle laying eggs

Mother turtles only come to land for laying eggs. They will dig a hole with their legs, lay eggs, then cover them with sand. To me it’s bizarre. Imagine human who lives on land, but give birth a baby in the sea.

Moving the turtle eggs to hatchery

Moving the turtle eggs to hatchery for better survival rate

This Hawksbill turtle laid 149 eggs that morning, breaking the 3-year-old highest record of 146 eggs! According to Alex, Libaran got one turtle landing every 3 days in average. They prefer to come during high tide, so they don’t need to crawl a long way to the beach.

Turtle Hatchery

After the mother turtle left, the trained staff collected the eggs carefully and moved them to the hatchery near to our camp. This measure can increase the survival rate of hatching up to 90 per cent.

Turtle Hatchery on Libaran Island

Turtle Hatchery on Libaran Island

Turtle eggs look like ping-pong ball, and are delicious treat for crabs, monitor lizards and birds. Therefore, we have to place a circular wire mesh enclosure around the nest, so these predators can’t dig the nest.

Each nest in hatchery is labelled

Each nest in hatchery is labelled with date, number of eggs and turtle species

The nest is also labelled with information such as date, number of eggs and turtle species. The eggs will hatch after 45 to 55 days. Do you know that temperature can set the sex of a hatching? Cooler temperatures lead to a male, while hotter sand leads to a female.

This 4-ha hatchery was setup in July 2012 by Alex Yee at the site chosen by Sabah Wildlife Department. It’s named as Taman Hadiah, which means Gift Garden. It hatches about 4,000 eggs every month in average (73% Green Turtle, 27% Hawksbill).

baby turtles

From 2013 until 2017, the hatchery had collected 20,022 Green turtle eggs and 7,464 Hawksbill turtle eggs. On 1 March 2018, they will celebrate the release of 30,000th turtle!

I’m happy to witness the release of a few dozens baby turtles that evening. They usually release them at night to avoid the predators. Once freed, the baby turtles will head to the moonlight and enter the sea.

Releasing baby turtles to the wild

Releasing baby turtles to the wild

Another amazing thing happens during the release, these baby turtles will register the magnetic signature of this beach as their “home point”. Even after 25 years, the female turtle can rely on Earth’s magnetic field to navigate back to her exact birthplace to lay eggs.

Baby turtle staying alive

Only 1 in 1,000 of baby turtles can make it to adulthood

There is one cruel fact I hope I don’t have to tell you. Only one in a thousand baby turtles will survive. So every egg counts.

By the way, if you see any sneaky fellow in Sandakan City that shows you Ok sign in the street, bash him because he is selling turtle eggs illegally (but double check in case he is really a friendly Sandakian).

Leaving Libaran Island

Leaving Libaran Island with happy faces

In Sabah, anyone caught in possession or consuming turtle eggs could be fined MYR50,000 or be jailed five years, or both, if convicted. That means you are as guilty as seller if you are buying turtle eggs.

Glamping tent of Walai Penyu Libaran

Walai Penyu Libaran is one of the few places in Sabah where you can experience glamping

However, due to weak enforcement, these sellers are still around and certainly enjoy good business. I hope the authority will also prosecute the buyers to the fullest extent by law. This will send a strong warning to buyers that buying turtle eggs is also a crime.

How to get there

A visit to this new turtle island is highly recommended to those who want to see the miracles of nature. Day trip and overnight tour are available. For more information or booking, please contact Walai Penyu Resort via the following channels:
Facebook: WalaiPenyuResort
Phone: +60 16-8310168 (cellphone), +60 88-260263 (office)

View of Libaran campsite after sunrise

View of our campsite after sunrise

At the end, I would like to compliment Alex Yee for his dedication in conservation. What he does far exceeds the scope of Corporate Service Responsibility (CSR). It’s a long term commitment, not a one-time beach clean-up or symbolically planting a few trees. I hope more visitors will visit Libaran to support the turtle conservation there. Please learn from the story of Rantau Abang and don’t be the generation that bully turtles.

Photos taken in Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

Where to see Orangutan, Proboscis Monkey, Sunbear, Pygmy Elephant and Hornbill of Borneo

Orangutan Vs Proboscis Monkey

Does Sabah have anything extraordinary on world map? Foreigners would not know your favourite celebrity in Malaysia. But when you mention the word “Borneo”, they would reply, “Oh I know, that’s where orangutan lives!” Orangutan is a superstar in animal kingdom and is featured as much as Kangaroo and Panda in nature channels.

Superstars of Borneo: Orangutan, Proboscis Monkey, Pygmy Elephant, Sunbear and Hornbill

Superstars of Borneo: Orangutan, Proboscis Monkey, Pygmy Elephant, Sunbear and Hornbill

However, orangutan, a.k.a. Man of the Forest, isn’t the only wonder in our 140-million-year-old Borneo rainforest (Amazon is only 60 million). Come and meet the “Borneo version” of Playboy, Teddy Bear, Mini Jumbo and Love Bird, which are Proboscis Monkey, Sunbear, Pygmy Elephant and Hornbill respectively, the other four iconic wildlife rule the third largest island on earth. Allow me briefly introduce these charismatic and must-see animals of Borneo:-

1. Orangutan — Man of the Forest

say Hi to your cousin (just kidding), orangutan, is one of our closest relative, as their DNA is 97% resemble to human. If you look at their eyes and expression, you know they are thinking animal. Orangutan probably inspired the making of first King Kong movie, and you may have seen orangutan in movies such as Maurice in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and King Louie in Jungle Book.

Orangutan of Borneo

Orangutan is only found in Borneo and Sumatra

Orangutan is smarter than Chimpanzee. They know how to use tools, memorizing the fruiting season of different fruit and pass on this knowledge to their offspring. Orangutan is the only great ape of Asia. So please stop calling orangutan a monkey, that’s an insult to them lol.

2. Proboscis Monkey — Playboy of Borneo

This peculiar long-nosed monkey has an amusing nickname, i.e. Orang Belanda (means Dutch Man in Malay language) because of its big nose and beer belly (don’t be offended ok, if you are from Netherlands). Though you would think the long, pendulous nose of adult males is funny, the female monkey think it’s sexy. And strong male proboscis monkey has dozen of wives.

Male Proboscis Monkey

“Huh? Banana? No Thanks.”

Never feed Proboscis Monkey with banana. Their digestion system is meant for breaking down mangrove leaves. Anything sweet will ferment and create lot of gas in their stomach, and that could cause death.

3. Pygmy Elephant — Mini Elephant

Pygmy Elephant is the smallest elephant on earth and only a thousand of them left in Sabah, so they are critically endangered and far rarer than African elephant (with a population of 350,000+ and always reported as “in worrying status” by world media).

Pygmy elephant

Pygmy elephant is the most endangered elephant species

Pygmy Elephant looks like Asian Elephant, but both species separated from each other around three million years ago, and Pygmy Elephant evolves into a smaller subspecies that has longer tail and round baby face. Pygmy Elephants love durian and they swallow it as a whole.

4. Bornean Sun Bear — Teddy Bear of Borneo

About the size of a dog, Bornean Sun Bear is the world’s tiniest bear. The baby bear is so adorable and cuddly that some people keep it as pet illegally. For such a beautiful creature, you might imagine that they live a fairytale life in a candy house filled with cookies.

Bornean Sunbear

LOL Bear

Instead, they live in danger every day. Poachers shoot them without hesitation, for their highly priced gallbladder. And their cute baby bears would be kept as pet, but will be abandoned eventually after they grow too big to be handled. Never live in the wild since young, these bears won’t survive.

5. Hornbills — Love Birds of Borneo

Hornbills are monogamous and a symbol of fidelity. I always see them flying in pair. There are 8 species of hornbills in Borneo, each with interesting characteristics. For example, Helmeted Hornbill is called Burung Tebang Mentua (Chop Mother-in-law in Malay language) by locals because of its long eerie call that sounds like evil laughter.

Hornbills of Borneo

Hornbills of Borneo

During hatching period, female hornbill seals herself inside a tree hole, leaving a slit for feeding by her “husband”. The male can come back and forth as many as 70 times a day to feed. This goes on for months until the chick hatched. If this is not love, what it is then.

Best Place to See Them All?

You can see these “big 5” wildlife in only 2 days in Sandakan, the gateway to wildlife sanctuary of Borneo. Sepilok and Kinabatangan will be your best destinations for wildlife sighting in Borneo. For tour and accommodation, I stayed in the lodges of Nasalis Larvatus Tours which are rated as 4+ stars by TripAdvisor.

1. Sepilok

Sepilok is a a virgin forest reserve about 26 KM away from Sandakan City and highly accessible by public transport. Tourists love this place because they can see Orangutan, Sunbear and probably Hornbill in one trip. The following are three parks that are adjacent to one another in Sepilok.

1) Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC)

Founded in 1964, SORC is the most popular tourist attraction in Sandakan. Orphan orangutan is sent here for survival skill training such as climbing and food hunting. They will be released to the wild after they “graduate” from this orangutan school. The best time to see them is during the feeding time at 10am and 3pm daily. The Centre also has a hall where you can see cute baby orangutan playing in nursery.

Feeding time at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

Feeding time at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

2) Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC)

Located just next to SORC, BSBCC houses and rehabiliates over 40 bears rescued from illegal zoo and pet owners. BSBCC won the Best Nature Attraction in Sabah Tourism Awards 2017 and its founder Dr. Wong is named as one of the CNN Heroes in 2017.

A sleeping sunbear high on tree

A sleeping sunbear high on a tree

The bears roam in a confined forested area for tourists to observe them from a rised platform. You will be amazed by their tree climbing skill and playful behavior. Some staffs are around to share the story of each bear. Their sad stories could make you cry, but sun bear gets far less attention than Polar Bear and Panda.

3) Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC)

RDC is a beautiful forest park with tall tropical trees, lake, nature trails and exhibition hall. You can walk on their 15-Metre high sturdy walkway to see everything at canopy level.

Canopy walkway of Rainforest Discovery Centre

Canopy walkway of Rainforest Discovery Centre

This place is also an ideal bird-watching location where you would find hornbill, kingfishers, pitta, and Bornean Bristlehead, the superstar endemic bird of Borneo. If you are a tree hugger, check out the Sepilok Giant, an estimated 800-1,000 years old Ironwood tree in the park.

Nature Lodge Sepilok

For accommodation, I spent a night in Nature Lodge Sepilok (GPS: 5.875559, 117.950068, see Location Map) in Sepilok and able to make a day trip to all 3 parks near the lodge.

Location of Nature Lodge Sepilok and its surrounding attractions

Nature Lodge Sepilok is near to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Rainforest Discovery Centre, and Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

Below are some photos of Nature Lodge Sepilok.

Nature Lodge Sepilok is a family friendly accommodation

Nature Lodge Sepilok is a family friendly accommodation

The lodge is constructed in smaller scale to give more privacy and tranquility to tourists. They don’t want a big lodge with hundred of noisy tourists.

Rooms of Nature Lodge Sepilok

Rooms of Nature Lodge Sepilok

The room is nice and clean with air-conditioning. It is as comfy as a 3-star hotel room. The pictures above shall give you an idea.

The open bathroom of Nature Lodge Sepilok

The open bathroom of Nature Lodge Sepilok

And the toilet and bathroom is a little surprise. It’s a backyard garden with bath and toilet area partly concealed by plant. There is no tall building around, so don’t worry about your privacy. In fact, taking bath and doing my business in semi-open area is oddly satisfying. One of my friends found bird nest in her bathroom.

Cute cats at Nature Lodge Sepilok

Cute & friendly cats at Nature Lodge Sepilok

Every time I walked around the lodge, I always ended up with cat fur all over me. The cats there are so cute and friendly.

Mango Garden Cafe of Nature Lodge Sepilok

Mango Garden Cafe of Nature Lodge Sepilok

Breakfast at Mango Garden Cafe of Nature Lodge Sepilok

Breakfast at Mango Garden Cafe of Nature Lodge Sepilok

The food in Mango Garden Cafe of Nature Lodge Sepilok is delicious and rich in variety. They even look yummy in photos. Every meal time is a happy time for me.

Delicious food in Mango Garden Cafe of Nature Lodge Sepilok

Delicious food in Mango Garden Cafe of Nature Lodge Sepilok

By the way, you can buy almost every necessity in their shop, e.g. raincoat, soft drink, instant noodle, snack, toiletries, sunblock lotion, insect repellent, drinking water.

Little shop in Nature Lodge Sepilok

Little shop in Nature Lodge Sepilok

Nature Lodge Sepilok is really a great place for a relax and leisure vacation. For booking, you can reach them at: or Phone: +60 16-8302038

2. Kinabatangan River

Let’s keep it short, Kinabatangan River is simply the best place to see orangutan, proboscis monkey, pygmy elephant and hornbills in the wild. You need a bit of luck to see pygmy elephant and orangutan though, as they are always on the move (please note this is not a zoo).

Kinabatangan River

Kinabatangan River is the longest river of Sabah

No matter what, I can assure that you won’t be disappointed with your trip in Kinabatangan, because there are so many other amazing wildlife to look at.

Nature Lodge Kinabatangan

Seeing wildlife in their natural habitat is a more exciting experience, so I visited Kinabatangan and stayed in Nature Lodge Kinabatangan (GPS: 5.494785, 118.204908, see Location Map) at Bilit Village, which is in upstream of Kinabatangan.

Tasty Soto (Beef soup) in Kinabatangan Town

We stopped at Kedai Kopi Santa of Kinabatangan Town for lunch. Their Soto (Beef soup) is one of the best in Sandakan.

Nature Lodge Kinabatangan of Kinabatangan River

Arrived Nature Lodge Kinabatangan

It took about 2 hours of road trip from Sandakan City to Bilit. The Lodge is located about 30 Metres away from the Kinabatangan River.

Nature Lodge Kinabatangan

Nature Lodge Kinabatangan is a highly ranked accommodation in Tripadvisor

Sunset river cruise

Sunset river cruise

After we checked into our room, we started our sunset river cruise and saw a baby crocodile on the river bank right away.

Birds of Kinabatangan

Kinabatangan River is one of the best bird-watching sites in Borneo

There were many birds along the river. I saw Purple Heron (many!), Little Heron flying next to our boat, Black & Red Broadbill, Lesser Adjutant (known as Burung Botak locally, means Bald Bird), Rhinocerous Hornbill, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Brahminy kite, and Oriental Darter (Snake Bird).

Long-tailed macaques in alert

Long-tailed macaques in alert

Then we saw a group of Long-tailed macaques in commotion. They stood up looking at a pile of log, probably there was a monitor lizard or crocodile hiding in there. The highlight is a few herds of proboscis monkey on the trees.

Sunset river cruise at Kinabatangan River

Sunset river cruise at Kinabatangan River

Pygmy elephants at Kinabatangan

Pygmy elephants at Kinabatangan

After the interesting river cruise, we had our buffet dinner in the lodge. We enjoyed some fresh vegetables planted in their garden.

Buffet dinner at dining hall of Nature Lodge Kinabatangan

Buffet dinner at dining hall of Nature Lodge Kinabatangan

The activity didn’t stop there. We went for a night walk in the forest around 8pm. If this adventure is too much for you, you may stay back at the lodge to join some fun activities such as local dance.

some critters in night walk

Critters we saw in night walk

With the help of our guide, we spotted a few nocturnal animals in the dark. A jewel-color kingfisher slept like a fluffy ball on a twig, so cute. A researcher put up a white sheet to attract insects with light. We went busybody there and checked out the bug. Near the end we saw a number of big flying foxes foraging on a cotton tree. It’s quite a thrilling experience.

Nature Lodge Kinabatangan is in the forest of Kinabatangan

Nature Lodge Kinabatangan is in the forest of Kinabatangan

After day long of playing, I went back to my lodge to rest. The lodge is inside the rainforest. It’s a special feeling to sleep in a forest, so peaceful and quiet, almost like a therapy.

Nature Lodge Kinabatangan at night

Nature Lodge Kinabatangan at night

They also have dormitory if you prefer backpacker style accommodation.

Reading room in Nature Lodge Kinabatangan

Reading room in Nature Lodge Kinabatangan

Room of Nature Lodge Kinabatangan

Room of Nature Lodge Kinabatangan

My room is quite spacious and comfortable. I love big space as it makes me more relaxing, so I’m really happy with my room, and it has air-conditioner.

Misty morning of Kinabatangan River

Misty morning of Kinabatangan River

The next day we waked up around 6am for a morning river cruise. Though it’s really early and I was sleepy, the sighting was very rewarding. The morning was cool and refreshing with a bit of mist on the river.

Orangutan on top of a Durian tree

We spotted an Orangutan on top of a Durian tree

We were so lucky to see an orangutan waked up from his nest high up on a durian tree. Another trophy is Storm’s stork, which has only around 200 left in the world, and Kinabatangan is their stronghold.

River cruise is the best way for wildlife sighting at Kinabatangan

River cruise is the best way for wildlife sighting at Kinabatangan

Wild Proboscis Monkey is quite common here. You can easily see about 20 of them here.

Group of wild Proboscis Monkey in Kinabatangan

Group of wild Proboscis Monkey in Kinabatangan

If you love to experience this safari trip, you may contact Nature Lodge Kinabatangan via the following channels:
Facebook: NatureLodgeKinabatangan
Phone: +60 88-230 534

Both Nature Lodge Sepilok and Nature Lodge Kinabatangan are operated by Nasalis Larvatus Tours, a licensed travel agent of Malaysia.

Flight to Sandakan

You can fly to Sandakan City by Malaysia Airlines or AirAsia from Kota Kinabalu City (KK)(50 min flight) or Kuala Lumpur (KL)(2 hours 50 min). Flight is available every day. If you book at the good time, you can get really cheap round-trip ticket like about MYR200 for KK-Sandakan and MYR400 for KL-Sandakan flight. You can use Google Flights to check the fare prices from all airlines. Nasalis Larvatus Tours also can pick you up at Sandakan airport.

Famous Spring Noodle and Century Egg Dumpling of Sandakan

Famous Spring Noodle and Century Egg Dumpling of Sandakan

By the way, Sandakan is the second largest city of Sabah and also a foodie paradise, do try some yummy local food such as spring noodle when you visit Sandakan!

Photos taken in Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo