Tag Archives: deer

Sepilok Rainforest to Mangrove (part 1 of 4)

Nearly half of Sabah is covered by forest. However, less than 3% of our forested area is virgin rainforest. Our very famous Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center is part of Kabili-Sepilok Virgin Jungle Reserve. From there, you can try a 5.5KM jungle trail from Sepilok virgin rainforest to a pristine mangrove forest.

Map of Sepilok
>> Click Here to see more photos of Sepilok Forest

My plan is to spend 2 to 3 hours to complete the walk of this 5.5KM jungle trail to reach the mangrove forest, spend a night in the hostel of Sepilok Laut Reception Center, then take a boat to Sandakan town in the next morning. I know some travel agents offer such package but the response is very poor, as most tourists are only interested in seeing orangutan and not keen to try the nature trail infested by forest leeches.

View My Sabah Map in a larger map

trail map to Sepilok mangrove discovery center

As the Sepilok rainforest is a first class forest reserve, you need to get a permit from Sabah Forestry Department to enter the jungle. Therefore, I went to the Sandakan District Forestry Operation Office (not the HQ) in Bandar Leila (near to UMW) of Sandakan to collect the permit. Besides, I was also paying for guide, accommodation and boat (see details in this blog entry). Forestry Department is very efficient and thanks to Mr. Kwan. They also express that they really want to promote this place.

Sandakan District Forestry Office

The booking and payment took me less than 10 minutes, then I drove 40 minutes to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, where the trail begins. My guide, Uncle Severinus, was already waiting for me. A forestry guide is required coz we may encounter dangerous animals such as orangutan, sun bear and poisonous snakes. Yes, dear tourists, orangutan can be very dangerous. Part of the trail is not well-marked, so people can lose their way.

Sepilok Orangutan sanctuary

First we walked on a boardwalk, which is the same one used by tourists to go to orangutan feeding platform. Then the guide opened a small gate to the forest trail. FYI, they also have a bird watching trail and a 2KM “Water Hole” trail. The trails here are really nature and heavily foliaged. The guide says in future they will open a new trail from Rainforest Discovery Center to connect to this trail.

Gate to Sepilok rainforest

Jungle Trekking from Rainforest to Mangrove
In the beginning, you will see many big trees of lowland dipterocarp forest, with an average height of 55 Meters! We pass by a Sun Bear conservation center which will be opened for public soon.

tall tree in Sepilok virgin forest

The forest trail is next to the river so it is flooded occasionally during rainy season and become wet and soggy.

Jungle trekking in Sepilok virgin forest
>> Click Here to see more photos of Sepilok Forest

In dry season, this trail poses 0 degree of challenge to me. But it was wet season that time in Sandakan, the trail becomes very muddy after weeks of raining. Though I was wearing the water-proof rubber shoes “Adidas Kampung”, I still have to avoid sinking my own feet into the soft and sticky mud.

muddy trail in Sepilok rainforest

Part of the trail is totally flooded. We have to walk at the edge of the trail, or snake around in the wood to find another easier route to bypass the flood. We even “lost” for a few minutes and had to turn back to retrace our trail. Luckily, my guide knows the place very well. He knew that we were on the wrong way coz he felt the place “macam lain” (look different). Now you know why you can’t go alone without a guide.

flooded trail

To feel what we had been through, you may watch the 4-minute video below:

Click Here to see bigger video

sleeping tiger leech

When we were busy passing through the dense undergrowth, we waked up the sleeping blood suckers, the Tiger Leech! Leech is sensitive to vibration and body heat. I believe they can sense us 10 feet away though they are blind.

tiger leech

The tiger leeches always hide in the shrubs and leaves and most active during wet season. When my body was brushing through the shrubs, the tiger leeches would hop on me. I removed more than 20 big tiger leeches and countless small brown leeches from my shirt and skin. I was wearing leech socks but with so many leeches around, it is still a miracle that I didn’t get a single leech bite!

leeches in shoes
>> Click Here to see more photos of Sepilok Forest

Usually leech is absent during dry season. After jungle trekking, I checked inside my shoes and removed a few more. Always “de-leech” yourself before entering the room! Leech is annoying but it does not cause serious harm. I worry more about falling tree branches during rainy day.

hammer head worm

Not everything in rainforest is creepy. I came across some beautiful creatures too, like the golden hammer head worm above. Ok, it is as creepy as a leech too.

frog of Sepilok forest

There are some tiny frogs found along the flooded trail. My guide is always happy to catch one to show me.

signage in Sepilok forest
Above: the signage in the jungle. But they don’t tell the remaining distance to my destination. There is no hut and resting point on the trail.

track of Samba deer
Above: the footprint of Samba deer, the largest deer species of Sabah.

sleeping centipede
Above: sleeping centipede. Look nasty.

sleeping millipede
Above: sleeping tractor millipede. So, not only human feels sleepy during rainy day huh.

fungi in Sepilok forest
The trail is less muddy after 2KM. I saw some fungus but the variety is fewer than I expect. I feel that part of Sepilok forest is a logged-over forest.

bleeding tree?
Above: a “bleeding” tree

camera trap
We saw a few camera trap on the way. But the researcher removed the camera due to flood concern.

cicada chimney
Above: I saw thousands of such cicada chimney on the forest floor. We hear cicada calls all over the place as if they are the key residents of the jungle. We also heard the loud calls of Tokey lizard and it sounds like chicken.

>> Click Here to see more photos of Sepilok Forest

green hill
When we get closer to the mangrove, we meet two hilly trails. They call the trail in photo above as “green hill”. It is a long descending trail.

Sepilok Rainforest Camping Park
At noon we reached Sepilok Laut Camping Park (a.k.a. The Gap) which is only 1KM away from my destination, Sepilok Laut Reception Center. It started to rain heavily and we took cover under the roof of a multi-purpose hall.

Proboscis monkey
Then we heard something fled into the wood. It was a herd of proboscis monkey. I saw a big male proboscis monkey sitting on a tree about 100 feet away from us!

broken mirror
We used the water and toilet in the camping park. See the broken mirror at the basin? The guide says probably it is broken by angry monkey, who thought it saw a rival male in the mirror, lol.

toilet of camping park
toilet and shower room of camping park
The toilet and shower rooms are well-maintained and divided into male and female blocks. School teachers and students can consider to have a camping here. The camping ground can accommodate 80 people.

Near to Sepilok Reception Center
When the rain turned small, we quickly continued our jungle trekking. Very soon we saw the 500-Meter signage.

Entrance of Sepilok Laut Reception Center
And finally we reached Sepilok Laut Reception Center at 1pm! I spent 3 hours 30 minutes, which is considered very slow as I stopped a lot to photograph. Normal people can reach here within 3 hours.

>> Click Here to see more photos of Sepilok Forest

Photo with the guide
The rain started pouring. But my guide, Uncle Severinus, wanted to go home. He is a very friendly village man from Tambunan. He is old but strong and even offered to carry my heavy backpack twice. I think he is very cute so I take one picture with him. You can see that my shirt is all wet. It’s sweat, not rain.

Late lunch

Another forestry staff, Justinus, in the center shared his lunch and rice with us, so nice. I had some chocolate bars as quick lunch, but it felt so good to enjoy fish and hot soup in cold raining day after a long walk. Justinus has stationed here for a week and happy to see human.

Someone watching

We were not alone. There were something lurking in the dark and looking at us…

Read Next Article (part 2)…

Update (Nov 2012)!

The jungle trail to Sepilok Laut Reception Centre (SLRC) is changed. You may want to read the new upgrade and latest change of SLRC facilities here.

Photos taken in Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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Long Pasia – adventure to the Heart of Borneo (part 1 of 6)

damaged road

I’ll pick Long Pasia as my hometown, if I were to born as an “orang kampong” (villager) in Sabah. More than 250KM away from Kota Kinabalu, Long Pasia is located in south-western corner of Sabah, very near to border of Kalimantan (Indonesia). With an altitude of 1,000 Meters above sea level, cool mist frequents Long Pasia, hiding some least-known natural and historical heritages of the Heart of Borneo.

Map to Long Pasia

Since year 2005, I have been thinking of visiting Long Pasia. My father had been there and told me about this beautiful and remote place. Finally I had the chance to join a 4-day-3-night adventure with a group of friends in early Nov. Below is the outline of our Long Pasia trip:
Day 1: Depart to Long Pasia homestay
Day 2: Rapid shooting & jungle trekking to (and camping at) Fefukan Waterfall
Day 3: Back to Long Pasia homestay
Day 4: Back to Kota Kinabalu city
You may Click Here to see the detail itinerary.


Road Trip to Sipitang

The road trip to Long Pasia took us about 9 hours (8am – 5pm), as we made a few stops. The beginning part is easy; we drove 2.5 hours on a paved road from Kota Kinabalu city to Sipitang town (144KM). At 10:30am, we reached Sipitang, where we had our early lunch and purchased food supplies for camping. Sipitang has undergone some changes and now it has a nice sea-view esplanade.


We also met up with our Long Pasia guide, Lait. At first look, you have no doubt he is a competent “jungle man” coz he is muscular. I’m surprised that he is also a talent artist, and his drawing is so fine and detail, a big contrast to his rugged figure. He always has a mischievous smile on his face, as if he would play a prank on you anytime (and he does!). He is a naughty and playful big boy, this trip would be less fun without this friendly guide as our company.

Lait, our Long Pasia guide
Above: Lait, our guide

Bestamart Supermarket
Above: Bestamart Supermarket

After lunch & briefing, we dropped by Bestamart supermarket of Sipitang, to get some stuffs for our camping. We bought biscuit, instant noodle, can food (sardine, curry), 3-in-1 coffee mix, onion, vegetables, water, oat meal, sugar & salt, cooking oil, etc.

Food for camping

Then we loaded our bags and supplies to a 4-wheel drive. Long Pasia is 123 KM away from Sipitang, and it’ll be a 4-5 hours bumpy ride on a hilly gravel road (a logging road in fact). The road was dry and dusty that time. But in rainy season, the road will turn muddy and slippery, only accessible by 4WD. It sounds very isolated, but the most beautiful and pristine places of Sabah are always in remote region.

Loading things to 4WD

Iban Longhouse

We visited an Iban longhouse about 15-minutes away from Sipitang. I knew there were some Iban people living in Tawau district (South-east of Sabah), but didn’t know some of them lived in Sipitang too. Though this longhouse is a modern version, it is really long and able to house about 40 families. The veranda is so long and wide that some children have fun racing on it back and forth.

Iban Longhouse

Deer skull decor

>> Click Here to see more photos of Long Pasia

The most distinct feature of this longhouse is the deer skull decors at each door. I saw the skulls of Sambar Deer and Barking Deer (Kijang). We only stopped here for 10 minutes, and then we continued our journey to Long Pasia.


Road Trip to Long Pasia

Very soon we hit the rough gravel road. We passed by small villages, plantation (e.g. rubber, banana, paddy, tapioca, maize) and rivers, most of the time we were surrounded by lush hill forest and saw no other car. Sadly, we also saw logging trucks and deforestation done by SFI (Sabah Forest Industries). You may watch the video below to get an idea of the road trip.

gravel road to Long Pasia

Logging truck of SFI

Click Here to see bigger video

Road collapsed

When we were about an hour from Long Pasia, we found that a bridge in front of us collapsed. Luckily a truck and excavator were there to make a new way. Within 30 minutes, we could move on again.

Long Pasia Village

Finally we arrived Long Pasia at 5pm. Long Pasia means “Mouth of the Red River” (though I want to call it “Long….. Passage” due to the long ride). First thing I felt was the fresh and cool air (remind me of Kundasang town decades ago). This highland village is always in dense mist in the morning and late afternoon. Surrounded by mountains, forest and rivers, Long Pasia is the one of the few villages closest to true nature and wilderness. They said an eagle grabbed a chick when we got there.

Long Pasia
Above: Long Pasia

Paddy field of Long Pasia
Above: Paddy field

Most of the 600 villagers here are Lundayeh people, which means “People of the Interior or Upriver”. In the past, they were headhunters, as well as a strong rival to another headhunting tribe, Murut (means “People of the Hill”). Now most of them are Christians and work as farmers, fishermen and hunters, and they are one of the friendliest people I meet.

Animal fur

>> Click Here to see more photos of Long Pasia

Long Pasia is unlike the typical Malay kampong (village) in other parts of Malaysia. Most villagers still converse in Lundayeh, though they speak fluent Malaysia language. Lundayeh is also found in Sarawak (known as Lumbawang instead) and Kalimantan. To see their differences in costumes, you may see my blog on Lundayeh Festival.

Villagers playing volleyball

We walked around Long Pasia in late afternoon. We were greeted by friendly villagers and felt so welcomed as a guest. Many were playing soccer and volleyball on the field as past-time. I noticed there were so many dogs, probably as many as the human population here. FYI, you will be fined RM500 (USD$150) for killing a dog, coz many of them are trained as a hunting dog, a loyal partner that follows the hunters in and out forest for days.

Dogs of Long Pasia

Dogs of Long Pasia

Another “feature” of Long Pasia is the Solar Panel outside every house. There is no power line here, so they rely on stored solar electricity for basic lighting and TV. This solar panel costs about RM15,000 (it is funded but I don’t know by who)! If they need more power, they will turn on the generator on demand, so I can charge my camera batteries. You can save a lot on electricity bill by living here, coz we don’t need air-conditioner in cool place like Long Pasia.

Street light powered by solar panel
Above: Street light powered by solar panel

Huge solar panel
Above: Huge solar panel

My mobile phone got no line coverage here. I was told that they have Internet connection by satellite in the village, so some of them even have Facebook accounts. Not only that, many houses also have Astro channel (satellite TV).

SK Long Pasia, first school in Long Pasia
Above: SK Long Pasia, first school in Long Pasia

Long Pasia Homestay

For first day, we stayed with a local family (Dina & Janet) in Long Pasia. The people here realise the importance of eco-tourism and nature. About 15 houses have registered under the Homestay program. Under the education of environmental bodies, the villagers reduce the cutting of forest and hunting of wildlife, especially in tourist areas, though these have been their traditional practices for centuries.

our homestay in Long Pasia
Above: our homestay in Long Pasia

The standard of living here has improved over the years, and most villagers are self-sufficient. You won’t find yourselves staying under the roof of a water-leaking broken hut. In fact, their houses are spacious, comfortable and well-furnished, just as good as the houses in city. As pamper city people, we only had problem to bathe with icy mountain water. We went into the shower room, screamed then stormed out in 2 minutes, probably the shortest shower that we’ve ever taken, lol…

our bed
Above: our bed

The evening was getting cold and it was so nice that the family cooked a hot dinner for us. We ate a lot of delicious fresh vegetables that planted and harvested locally. Do you know that Long Pasia produces the best rice in Sabah? It’s so soft and yummy that I had 3 plates.

fresh vegetables

our dinner


>> Click Here to see more photos of Long Pasia

Long Pasia Homestay has been around for some years, but it is under-promoted. Personally I think Long Pasia is the best homestay in Sabah and many will agree with me. Besides accessibility issue, many tour operators (outsiders) are only interested in earning more $$$ by building luxury chalet there then charging tourists a “5-star” price, just like what happens to Mt. Kinabalu now. I will only opt for homestay coz it benefits the local community, not a few blood-sucking tour players.

homestay with Rose family
Above: homestay with Rose’s family

After a briefing by Lait for the trip next day, we went to bed. Tomorrow we will explore one of the most remote places in Borneo, even to the locals, the Fefukan Waterfall. Long Pasia has many attractions such as Tiger Hill and Maga Waterfall, but Fefukan is totally new and far away.

>> Read Next Article (Part 2)

Photos taken in Long Pasia, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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