Tag Archives: Birds

Orangutan of Borneo (Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center)

Baby orangutan

Imagine a baby orangutan loses its mother due to deforestation and illegal poaching. This orphaned orangutan is traumatized and in distress. Without help, its chance of survival is slim. The population of Bornean orangutan has been dwindling by 50% in the past 60 years. Currently, only 45,000-50,000 orangutans left on Borneo and 6,000 on Sumatra. In Sabah, there are about 10,000 orangutans in the wild.

Cute expression of orangutans

Being more intelligent than chimpanzee, orangutan has emotion and feeling like human too.

The name “Orangutan” was derived from the Malay word Orang Hutan, which means the “Man of the Forest”. Orangutan is the only ape of Asia and found only in Sumatra and Borneo. Though orangutans won’t give you an eye-roll if you mistakenly call them monkey, people would laugh at you as apes have no tail. I won’t object if you say orangutan is my “cousin” because orangutan is the most human-like primate and its DNA is 97% similar to ours. And orangutans know what is love.

Entrance to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center of Borneo

Orangutan is endangered and a fully protected wildlife in Malaysia. Harming orangutan or keeping it as pet is against the law, offender will face a mandatory prison sentence of six months to five years and/or fine up to RM50,000.

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center

However, law protection isn’t enough, we need a long-term conservation project, so Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center was established in 1964 to train orphaned orangutans to become self-reliant in the rainforest when they grow up. The Center is also the first orangutan sanctuary in the world to dedicate itself to the rehabilitation of orangutans.

Photo booth at the entrance

Orangutan photo booth at the entrance

For over 50 years, 758 orphaned baby orangutans, who are the victims of logging, plantations and illegal pet trade, are rescued and brought to this Center. About 81.6% of them are successfully rehabilitated and 66% of these orangutans were released to protected forest reserves such as Tabin. (The released orangutan will be monitored for week, to ensure it can survive on its own.)

Viewing platform for orangutan feeding

Viewing platform to see orangutan feeding in Sepilok

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center is Not a zoo, the orangutans here aren’t treated as pet either, so expect no animal show and touching of orangutan. The Center is located within the protected Kabili-Sepilok Virgin Forest Reserve, which covers an area of 4,294 Hectares (43 KM²) and serves as a natural classroom for orangutans.

Orangutans coming to feeding platform

Most Bornean orangutans in Sepilok are Pongo pygmaeus morio species

A baby orangutan stays with its mother for 7 to 10 years. During these vital stage, the mother will teach her young everything it needs to know to survive. Young orangutans, which are not parented, don’t have the ability to find food, build nest and climb. The Center takes the role as their mother to turn them into wild orangutans.

Orangutan Feeding

The best time to see orangutans is during the feeding time at 10am and 3pm every day. The food is meant to be “supplement” to orangutans, before they can live fully independent in the forest.

Layout map of Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center

Layout map of Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center

Visitors keeping their bags in lockers

Visitors leaving their bags in the lockers

Visitors are not allowed to carry their bag, food / drink and insect repellent (poisonous to orangutan if they get ahold of it) to the forest. Orangutans and monkey are highly curious and won’t hesitate to rob any object they find alluring. Visitors can store and lock their bags (for free) in locker of visitor building. Still, you must remain vigilant because your smartphone or shiny jewellery could be a target.

Boardwalk to feeding platform

Boardwalk to orangutan feeding platform

After ticket checkpoint, visitors need to walk about 200 Meters on a raised wooden boardwalk that leads to the orangutan feeding platform. The walk takes about 10 minutes, so you better move earlier to be on time for the feeding (at 10am or 3pm). Along the way, you will see many towering tropical trees, the perfect habitat for orangutans.

Rangers keep aggressive macaques at bay

Rangers keep aggressive macaques at bay

Don’t get excited if you see wild orangutan or macaque on the boardwalk. Never look into the eyes of macaque, as this is perceived as a challenge and provokes them. Whatever the tourism posters show you, adult orangutan is not cute. They can grow up to 1.4 Meter tall and weight up to 100 Kg. You really shouldn’t upset this beast which is 3 times stronger than human. Usually these fellows will leave you alone, otherwise you can turn back calmly and ask for help from rangers who station nearby.

Orangutan nests on the tree

Orangutan “apartment” on the tree. How many nests do you spot?

Orangutans make nests for bedtime every day by breaking and folding branches in the treetops. Just look up and I’m sure you will see some orangutan nests near the boardwalk. Sometimes you would see hornbill and eagle flying over the tree canopy.

Tourists waiting for orangutan

Tourists waiting for orangutan

The Center is visited by an average of about 80,000 tourists annually. You will see hundred of orangutan fans waiting eagerly to see orangutan the first time at the viewing platform. It’s important to keep quiet to avoid scaring the orangutan away. Normally, you will see 4 or more orangutans come for the free food. However, during fruiting season, you would possibly see none. This might disappoint you, but you should feel happy that they can find enough food on their own.

Female macaque with sexy butt

Female macaque with sexy buttock

Sometimes it’s the naughty pig-tailed macaque that does the opening. The big red buttock of female macaque would stir up the crowd, “OMG, look at her butt!” “Ew.. That’s gross.” In fact, the swollen hip is a sign of ready to mate. To male monkey, she is as hot as Nicki Minaj LOL.

Baby orangutan coming for free food

Baby orangutan coming for feeding

Orangutan is very good climber but clumsy in walking. There are a few long ropes that are used by orangutans to approach the feeding platform about 15 Meters away from tourists. At some points, someone would notice the movement of swaying ropes and blurts out “it’s on the way!”

The feeding time is at 10am and 3pm every day

The feeding time is at 10am and 3pm every day

One by one, these beautiful reddish-brown creatures swing along the ropes and land on the feeding platform. Most of them are juvenile above 5 years old. If you are lucky, you would see mother orangutan carrying her baby for extra diet there.

This orangutan seems content

This orangutan seems content

They are given bananas and milk most of the time, sometimes sugar-cane, watermelon, vegetables, etc. The Center deliberately repeats the similar menu every day, a tactic to make orangutans bored of the monotonous food and more motivated to forage for other fruits in the jungle.

Orangutans enjoying food

Orangutans enjoying food

Orangutan is a solitary and quiet animal. Most of them focus on eating, and occasionally playing or arguing with their mates. One or two greedy orangutans would stuff 4 or 5 bananas in their mouth, grab another bunch in their feet then go away.

Young orangutan wouldn't come back to feeding platform once they can live independently in the forest

Orangutans wouldn’t come back to feeding platform once they are totally independent in the forest

Every orangutan there has a name, for example, Mimi, Mariko, Kam Chung and Rosa, and they all have unique faces and personalities. Some are introvert, some are hyperactive and some are bully. Orangutans reach maturity at 7 – 10 years of age and can live up to 40 years old.

Orangutan always acts funny at feeding platform

Orangutan always acts funny at feeding platform

The crowd is so awed by the playful and adorable orangutans. One orangutan couple even practiced mating after meal. You can watch the following video for the hilarious moments:

By the age of 10, orangutans will learn to identify more than 200 different food plants. They keep a memory map of location of different fruit trees and their fruiting time, and they would not visit feeding platform anymore. The rehabilitation costs about RM8,000 (≈USD$2,200) per orangutan per year (include toy)!

Cheeky macaques wait for their share

Cheeky macaques wait for their share

The feeding usually ends after 30 minutes. After all orangutans left, the pig-tailed macaques would have a family picnic at the platform to finish the leftover.

After the orangutan feeding, you can proceed to the Outdoor Nursery, or turn back to watch a 30-min video (in English) on orangutan conservation, which is played at 8:30am, 11am, 12pm, and 3:30pm in the Visitor Information Center.

Ticket (Conservation Fee)

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center is open to public every day (include weekends and holiday), so any visitor can walk in and buy a ticket to enter. No prior booking or application is required. The ticketing counter is open at 9am-11am and 2pm-3:30pm. The following are the ticket fees, which they call Conservation Fees (prices in RM, as of Aug 2015):

Malaysian Foreigner
Adult (above 17 years old) RM5 RM30 (≈USD$8.50)
17 & below RM2 RM15 (≈USD$4)
Camera & Video Cam Personal: RM10 per unit (≈USD$2.80)
Commercial: Professional Filming / Photography (with 400mm lens and above). RM1,000-RM10,000 (ask the Center)

The ticket is valid for the whole day, and you can use it for entering feeding area and Outdoor Nursery. If you are crazy about orangutan, you can go at two feeding times with the same ticket on the same day.

Outdoor Nursery

Open in Oct 2014, the new Outdoor Nursery Building is an excellent addition to the Center. It is connected to feeding platform with 300-Meter boardwalk. Just follow the crowd and signage after the orangutan feeding and you will reach the building, it’s quite a long way though.

Entrance of Outdoor Nursery Building

Entrance of Outdoor Nursery Building. There are left (air-conditioned) and right halls (fan only).

You don’t need to buy another ticket to enter Outdoor Nursery, a double-value to your tour. In the past, to avoid human contact and stressing the orphaned orangutans, Outdoor Nursery was a no-entry zone to tourists. Now visitors could sit comfortably in a hall to watch baby orangutans in action. We love them but we don’t want them to be so attached and used to human.

Outdoor Nursery in Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center

Outdoor Nursery in Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center

Outdoor Nursery is a play school for baby orangutans 5 to 7 years old to learn to climb. Orangutan is arboreal animal that spends most of its time on trees searching for food and building nest, so climbing skill is crucial for its survival. The Center won’t stop (actually they encourage this) young ape from exploring the forest on its own.

Training baby orangutans in Outdoor Nursery

Training baby orangutans in Outdoor Nursery

Same as juvenile orangutans, baby orangutans are also naughty and playful. Everyone laughed when they saw the orangutans fooled around with their trainers. In the video below, you will see a mischievous orangutan grabbed and pulled the hair of a volunteer:

Close-up with orangutan at Outdoor Nursery

The glass works like an one-way mirror. Orangutans can’t see the people behind.

The Outdoor Nursery has large indoor halls with about 100 seats. Visitors can overlook the play area through the large window, but the orangutans outside can’t see us. They still can hear us if we are too noisy.

Orangutans gather at Outdoor Nursery

Orangutans gather at Outdoor Nursery

The baby orangutans are so cute, but each of them has a sad story. Most of them were admitted to the Center in malnourished, traumatized or injured condition, after they lost their mother. Under good care for some time, they will be paired up with an older orangutan to help them to develop the survival skills. This buddy system is used to replace a mother’s teaching and it works quite well.

Baby orangutans undergo training in Outdoor Nursery before coming back to the wild

Baby orangutans undergo training in Outdoor Nursery

You can be part of the conservation effort to prevent this charismatic ape from extinction. You may Adopt an Orangutan, which starts from a contribution of RM200 (USD$70) per year. They will send you the update and photos of your adopted “cousin” every 6 months. You also can work as a volunteer at the Center for an once-in-a-lifetime experience with orangutan.

How to get there

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center is located 25 KM to the west of Sandakan City (see Location Map). Public transport to Sepilok is available readily and the journey takes about 45 to 50 minutes one way.

By Bus

The following is the departure time of regular shuttle between Sandakan and Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center. The bus fare costs RM4 (≈USD$1) per person one way:
Sandakan City → Sepilok: 9am, 11:30am, 2pm, 5pm
Sepilok → Sandakan City: 6:30am, 10:30am, 12:30pm, 4pm
Tel: +60 12-8067067, +60 17-8632684

Or you can take the mini-bus (route: Batu 14) near to the bus terminal of Nak Hotel in Sandakan.

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center

By Taxi

You can hire a taxi for a return trip for about RM100 per car (≈USD$28)(negotiable). There is also a taxi stand in car park of Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center.


Overall, the Center has adequate amenities for tourists as it is one of the most developed destinations in Sabah.


The public toilet of Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center is probably the best in Sabah. It’s air-conditioned and handicapped-friendly. Visitors don’t need to pay any entry fee.

Toilets in Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center

Toilets in Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center


In the Center, there is a Sepilok Cafeteria where you can buy food (e.g. sandwiches, fried rice, noodle, omelettes), snacks and drink. It’s convenient but the place is quite crowded, you can expect a long queue to cashier counter during busy hours.

Sepilok Cafeteria

Sepilok Cafeteria

If you want great food and not in a hurry, I strongly recommend Lindung, which is only a 5 minutes walk away from the Center (see Location Map). They have nice restaurant, art gallery and exhibition.

There is also a small souvenir shop (in front of ticketing counter) in visitor building. The Center is managed by Sabah Wildlife Department, which is reachable by phone (Tel: +60 89-633587) and e-mail (sorcsylvia@gmail.com, ppous64@gmail.com).


There are many other things you can explore and do at Sepilok, for example, Rainforest Discovery Center, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center, bird-watching, jungle trekking, so you may like to spend a few days there. Below are a few accommodations that are only a 10 or 15 minutes walk away from Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center:

1. Sepilok Jungle Resort

I stayed there before. The accommodation is quite affordable and very popular among tourists. This resort has 45 air-conditioned rooms and 15 fan rooms ranging from dormitory, standard, family to deluxe room with balcony. Though the rooms and facilities are a bit old, the nice swimming pool, lake and garden make it up.

Rates: RM38 per person – 190.80 per room (≈USD$10-50) (Online Booking available)
Website: www.sepilokjungleresort.com
Facebook: fb.com/SepilokJungleResort
E-mail: info@sepilokjungleresort.com
Tel: +60 89-533031, +60 89-533051
GPS Coordinate: 5.866024, 117.951640 (see Location Map)

2. Sepilok Forest Edge Resort

It’s about 700 Meters away from Sepilok Oran Utan Rehabilitation Center. The resort comprises of stylish Malay design chalets around green surrounding and hills with nice view. It has long house accommodation for budget travellers, as well as standard, family and superior chalets.

Rates: RM40 per bed – RM590 per chalet (≈USD$11-168) (Online Booking available)
Tel: +60 89-533190, +60 89-533245, +60 13-8859890
Website: www.sepilokforestedgeresort.com
E-mail: sepilokforestedge@gmail.com
GPS Coordinate: 5.867155, 117.950294 (see Location Map)

3. Sepilok Nature Resort

Sepilok Nature Resort has fully air-conditioned twin bed chalets feature beautiful lake or jungle view verandah and private bathrooms with hot water. The accommodation fees for Double / Twin Room start from RM265 (≈USD$75)

Website: sepilok.com
E-mail: mail@sepilok.com
Tel: +60 89-673999, +60 89-674999
GPS Coordinate: 5.867229, 117.949029 (see Location Map)

Photos taken in Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

Tour to Deramakot Forest, a Well-Managed Forest of Sabah

pig-tailed macaque

We can’t eat our cake, and have it too. At least this is how most environmentalists see logging, which usually means the end of world to wildlife and ecosystem in that forest. Deforestation is really a threat to flora and fauna of Borneo. However, we can’t totally ban logging, like we can’t simply stop fishing for the purpose of conservation. Though Sabah government phased out logging in 2007, lumbering is still an important economy activity. Even USA, Canada and New Zealand export log.

forest of Deramakot
Pic: misty logged forest in Deramakot

What if, we can harvest the timber in a sustainable manner that minimize the impact to our environment? Deramakot, one of the Sabah forest is able to achieve that through Reduced Impact Logging (RIL). This is a great news because 70% of Sabah forest is commercial forest that allows logging.

Nevertheless, many conservation solutions only sound good on paper, so it’s better we see the reality with our own eyes, and that’s my goal to visit Deramakot Forest Reserve organized by Aseh Tours.

Deramakot Forest Reserve

Deramakot is a 55,507-hectare (equivalent to 66,000 soccer fields or 555 Sq. Km) lowland forest located in middle of Sabah and north of upper Kinabatangan River. Deramakot is also the first tropical rainforest in the world to be certified as well-managed forest under FSC™ certification (Forest Stewardship Council).

rainforest and oil palm
Pic: oil palm plantation at the edge of forest reserve

To reach Deramakot, we drove 237 Km from Kota Kinabalu City (190 Km if from Sandakan City) on paved and gravel roads. After we entered the final 70 km of bumpy gravel road, we saw oil palm plantation and secondary forest along the way. We also passed by some tree nurseries, logging camps and forest replanting zones.

timber log for auction
We saw pile of logs from Deramakot ready for public auction to international and local buyers. Each log is marked with ID that can trace its exact location where it was harvested. These logs from Deramakot can generate an annual income of about US$4 millions for Sabah. Some buyers such as IKEA do offer premium prices (15% to 20% more) for certified logs as compared to uncertified logs.

group photo at gate of Deramakot forest reserve
Pic: group photo at entrance to Deramakot Forest. We saw two Black Hornbill there.

Visitors are required to get the permit from Sabah Forestry Department to enter Deramakot. They welcome tourists who are accompanied by experienced tour guide. Strictly no walk-in visitor. We drove through four security gates which guards the forests (i.e. Ulu Sapa Payau, Tangkulap and Deramakot) of Yayasan Sabah and Sabah Forestry Department.

funny signboard for forestry staffs
Pic: a funny signboard for forestry staffs, which says (translated), “Satan’s Notice, Stop and Read: 1. Going home early huh? 2. Want to go ‘Happy Happy’? 3. Absent from work? 4. If so, go to Hell!” LOL

driving to Deramakot forest
After the last gate, we entered the Deramakot Forest Reserve. We saw no more oil palm and the road condition was much better. It’s possible to access the bumpy and gravel road to Deramakot by sedan or saloon cars during dry season. The road can turn muddy after rain so 4WD is a safer choice.

wildlife crossing sign
Pic: Warning about wildlife crossing. Note Michael Jackson at the right. LOL

We would run into heavy truck or wildlife in forest road, so we moved at a slow speed of below 40 KM/H. While driving, our tour guide was also keeping an eyes on the forest for wildlife and birds. We saw Barking Deer (Kijang) and long-tailed macaques on the way.

Buaya Darat River
Pic: a funny signboard of “Playboy River” (Sungai Buaya Darat), more photos here. This river does have crocodile.

Night Safari

We were losing daylight but Deramakot base camp was still hour away, so we just slow down, turned on the spotlight of 4WD and did a dusk drive along the way. Most animals here are nocturnal and we spotted common palm civet and two leopard cats. I also saw Badger and Sambar Deers in next day.

night safari on 4WD
In fact, Deramakot is one of the few places in Borneo where all 5 Bornean cat species are found (namely, Sunda Clouded Leopard, Bornean Bay Cat, Marbled Cat, Flat-headed Cat and Leopard Cat). Leopard Cat is almost a guaranteed sighting, but other 4 cats are in very low density. Clouded Leopard and Bay Cat are endemic to Borneo and highly secretive, but NHK filming crew managed to capture the former cat.

orangutan on the tree
You have 50 to 60% chance of seeing orangutan in the wild at Deramakot. About 792 orangutans dwell in this forest (statistics 1999). Too bad I didn’t see any, but their presence is evidenced by their nests left on the trees.

female Sambar deer
Pic: female Sambar deer

Other potential sighting of wildlife in Deramakot includes Pygmy Elephants, Banteng (Tembadau), Sun Bear, Binturong, Flying Lemur, Gibbon, Reticulated Python, Porcupine, Pangolin and Wild Boar. Anyway, this is not a zoo and the animals here are quite elusive and not used to human presence, so you will need some luck.

Malay badger
In 2010, the world’s most endangered otter species hairy-nosed otter (Lutra sumatrana) was “rediscovered” in Deramakot when everyone thought it had extincted. To me, it’s quite surprising that so many rare wildlife can be found in a logged forest. Deramakot is a relatively new nature destination, we would uncover more gems when more people explore this forest.

Deramakot Lodge

We arrived Deramakot around 7:30pm and check-in to Deramakot Lodge. Please note this is not a hotel so there is no hotel staff welcomes you with a phony smile. We just collected the key from forestry staff and we were on our own. Though the accommodation is basic and not tourist-oriented, it is clean and comfortable.

Deramakot Lodge
Pic: This is the chalet where we spent two nights. Each chalet has 3 rooms (2 units of Double bed room and 1 unit of Queen bed room) and a living room (no TV though). They even have ramp for wheel chair. There is an old resthouse with 3 bedrooms (2 units of Double bed room and 1 unit of Triple bed room) but it would be reconstructed.

room of Deramakot Lodge
Pic: One of the room in chalet, with fan and air-conditioning. Every room has an attached bathroom with hot shower. Blanket, pillow, towel, soap and shampoo are provided. Electricity is available 24×7. Wifi is available during weekdays and there is no phone network coverage. There are another two chalets nearby, which have dormitory bedrooms with bunk beds, you can see their photos in my photo album. The lodges can host a total of 31 people at a time.

crested serpent eagle at Deramakot Lodge
The chalet is near the forest edge so you would find wildlife foraging around. I saw long-tailed macaques, crested serpent eagle and flying lizard near my chalet.

insects gather at light
At night the light at our balcony became a magnet for hundred of moth, beetles, katydid, cicada, etc. You can look at this photo and count how many they are. They are just everywhere. I had to close the door fast before they flied into the house. The bug also attracted a Brown Wood Owl looking for easy meals near our building.

watching video on RIL
Pic: watching video about Reduced Impact Logging

There is no canteen, restaurant, shop and room service in the base camp, so you have to prepare your own food, or you can request the forestry staffs to provide food catering (for a fee) like what we did. We had rice, vegetables, chicken, fish and fruit for every meal (quite delicious). We were quite well-fed actually. After dinner, we were invited by Sabah Forestry Department to watch a video about Reduced Impact Logging in Deramakot.

Reduced Impact Logging (RIL)

Now you may wonder why wildlife can do so well in a logged forest. Reduced Impact Logging (RIL) is the answer, as you might have expected. RIL is a very big topic and someone can write a book to talk about it. I’ll only scratch the surface here. To learn more, you can visit website of Deramakot.

flowering dipterocarp tree
Conventional Logging is destructive. Basically, the loggers just bulldoze everything to make way, cut down all valuable timbers and leave a mess behind. This unsustainable method hurts the forest so much that it needs 50 to 80 years to regenerate.

In contrast, RIL employs different harvesting strategies that leave the forest mostly intact, to a level that it only takes 25 years to regenerate. Moreover, logged forest of RIL will be left to recover for 40 years before next harvest (felling cycle).

fruiting fig tree
Pic: fig fruit is an important food source for orangutan and hornbill

To be more friendly to wildlife habitat and ecology of a rainforest, RIL doesn’t cut fruit trees and small trees (less than 60cm in diameter). It also leaves buffer zone for riparian, steep slope, watershed, and other elements that keep the forest healthy and stable. Though the logged forest is degraded to some degrees, it still remains very livable for local flora and fauna.

orangutan nest on the tree
Pic: orangutan nest on the tree

RIL also reduces the soil damage by 50%. This is crucial because top soil contains Mycorrhizal fungi community that acts as a root extension for indigenous trees to absorb water and nutrients more efficiently. This measure promotes faster forest restoration and cut the cost of rehabilitation from RM5,000 to RM300 per hectare! Besides, silviculture and tree replanting are carried out to keep the forest in good shape. Auditors of FSC will come to check the forest regularly for re-certification (or revoke).

Dawn Drive & Morning Walk

Morning offers the best photography opportunity to capture beautiful view of misty rainforest. We waked up very early and started our exploration by 4WD around 5am. Deramakot Forest is lively during dawn. We heard the loud call of Bornean Gibbons and bird chirping everywhere. Unlike the muggy city, the air here is refreshing and cooling.

dawn drive
I didn’t see any large area of exposed soil (a bad characteristic of traditional logging practices). Deramakot Forest Reserve is divided into 135 compartments for sustainable forest management and lumbering. About 75% of Deramakot must remain undisturbed or closed to forest management activities at any given time.

morning walk in Deramakot forest
To enjoy the fresh and clean air, we decided to get out of our car and took a leisure morning walk. According to biophilia hypothesis, humans have a psychological need for greenery and contact with nature is a basic human need. That explains why a walk in the wood is always a pleasant experience.

misty forest of Deramakot
Deramakot is an excellent bird watching site. We spotted or heard Rhinocerous hornbill, Asian Paradise Flycatcher (twice!), Buff-necked woodpecker, whiskered tree swift, Black-headed bulbul, Blue-eared kingfisher, Oriental dwarf kingfisher, Crested Fireback, Changeable Hawk-eagle, Racket-tailed Drongo, Yellow and Black Broadbill, White-crowned shama, etc. Black & Crimson Pitta, Great argus pheasant, Bornean Bristlehead and 8 species of hornbill also live here. Our guide says the “feature” birds here are Helmeted Hornbill and Wreathed Hornbill.

breakfast in the forest
Then we picnic under a shelter. Deramakot isn’t a destination for mass tourism and we were the only tourists there. I really enjoyed the secluded moment.

Jungle Trekking

Near the basecamp there are two jungle trails for you to see the forest logged by both Conventional & RIL methods. Each trail is about 1 to 2 Km and takes about 30 minutes to 1 hour of hiking, they are quite well-maintained and not challenging (but watch out for a few slippery and steeper areas).

jungle trekking in Deramakot
During our visit, it was dry season so the forest floor was covered by layer of dry foliages. Only a few tiny leeches were around so I didn’t even bother to put on my anti-leech socks. Not many wildlife was found though. I heard the flapping of a few hornbills above the canopy.

big tree in Deramakot forest
The forest seemed like a young secondary forest in good quality. Though they were logged before, there are still many standing tall trees that provide plenty of shade. Sivilculture is also in place to remove other competing plants such as climbing vines and scrubs that hinder the growth of timbers.

Darah-Darah the bleeding tree
Pic: Darah-Darah (Myristicaceae), a tree that “bleeds”

Along the nature trail are rich variety of big and small trees labeled with interesting local names like Ghost Durian (Durio grandiflorusurat), Worm Eye Smooth Leaf (Parashorea malaanonan), Thin-skinned (Memecylon edule), Bitter-Bitter (Eurycoma longifolia). I hope they can use info-rich signages that tell visitors the special use / story of each plant. For example, the sap of Paliu tree (Antiaris toxicaria) is used in making poison dart.

tree resin
Pic: When burnt, this resin smells like the incense in Buddhist temple

I’m not a plant expert and only can tell you that there are many species of famous timbers such as Seraya (Shorea), Kapur (Dryobalanops) and Keruing (Dipterocarpus) in Deramakot.

Camera Traps

For some fun, we collected four camera traps that were deployed in different wildlife hotspots in Deramakot forest a few months ago. Normally the camera trap is strapped on tree trunk one Meter above ground and the batteries can last about 3 to 6 months.

collecting camera trap

road sign to Whitehouse
Two of the camera traps were near to the road to “Whitehouse”, which is a building painted in white and has nothing to do with US President, haha.

elephant dungs on the road
The gravel road to Whitehouse is narrow and bumpy. We saw a lot of elephant dungs on the road. Whenever our car turned at a tight corner, my heart would beat faster, imagined that our car would bump into an elephant face to face. That would be a scary but exciting moment, but we saw more dungs instead.

After driving 27 Km, we arrived Whitehouse and found the place was raid by elephants. The Whitehouse was attacked! Don’t worry, Obama wasn’t there.

water tank punctured by elephant
Pic: the water tank was punctured by elephant tusk. I have no idea why they were so mad. Probably these elephants are the members of Republican Party in US.

looking at photos from camera traps
Unfortunately, one of the camera traps was broken and another one was out of battery. We downloaded the photos from other camera and had fun looking at those cheeky selfie by monkey, palm civet and wild boar.

wildlife captured on camera trap
Pic: wildlife captured on camera trap

Camera trap is a useful tool to monitor the number and types of wildlife. The shot is in color if taken during daytime, black & white if shot by infrared at night. The most commonly captured animals are mouse deer, barking deer, macaque and wild boar.

Going to Deramakot

Deramakot is a unique destination because it’s an eye-opening experience for tourists to witness the abundance of wildlife in a logged but well-managed forest. The positive news is the model of Deramakot will be implemented in 81% of other commercial forest (a total area of 1.8 million ha). Uncontrolled and unsustainable timber exploitation will become history.

junction to Deramakot Forest Reserve
Pic: Junction to Deramakot (another 70 KM on gravel road)

To enter Deramakot Forest, you need to write to Director of Sabah Forestry Department to apply for entry permit for yourself and your vehicle (fees apply). However, for safety concern, it’s quite likely that they will reject your application if you visit Deramakot without guiding by travel agent or tour guide. I think the last thing they want to hear is some clueless tourists being gored by a wild elephant or lose in jungle.

Therefore, I advise you to book a tour package to Deramakot through Aseh Tours. They will arrange everything for you, from permit, 4WD transport, food, accommodation to guide services. The fee is between RM2,000 to RM3,000 per person (for a 3 or 4 day trip).

Below are the contact of Sabah Forestry Department:

Sabah Forestry Department (HQ)

Address: Locked Bag 68, 90009, Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia.
Tel: +60 89-242500
Fax: +60 89-671303 / 672579 / 669170
Website: www.forest.sabah.gov.my
Facebook: SabahForestryDepartment

Deramakot District Forestry Office

Tel: +60 89-278801
Website: www.deramakot.sabah.gov.my

more photos of Deramakot Forest Reserve
For more photos of Deramakot, please check out my photo album.

Photos taken in Tongod, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo