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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 – Fefukan & Mataga Waterfalls (part 4 of 6)

Fefukan Waterfall

Continued from Part 3…


My biological clock wakes me up at 6am. My knee pain is gone after a long rest. I grab my camera and tripod and walk straight to Fefukan Waterfall to take some photos. I didn’t get a good shot of this waterfall yesterday coz it was dark by the time we arrived the campsite. Lait (our guide) also joined me.

Fefukan Waterfall

With a wide of 20 Meters and height of about 3 Meters, Fefukan Waterfall is one of the most unique and beautiful waterfalls that I’ve ever seen. I can sit there, staring at it for whole day without getting bored. In local language, Fefukan means the sound of beating. Some fishes try to jump over this waterfall during migration season. The fishermen will wait with a stick and hunt the fishes by beating them.

Fefukan Waterfall

Fefukan Waterfall

>> Click Here to see more photos of Long Pasia

I’m so proud to be one of the first Sabahan tourists who visit this waterfall. This is probably the first time the photos and video of Fefukan being shared online. The water is freezing cold. Crazy Lait is the only model who is keen to walk into the icy water for me to photograph. Thank you Lait, for helping me to get some excellent shots.

Click Here to see bigger video

Fefukan Waterfall

Mataga Waterfall

It is a 2-in-1 bonus to come to Fefukan, as there is another waterfall nearby. Without hesitation, I joined Lait to explore the second waterfall, the Mataga Waterfall (Astaga Waterfall? Hehe..). Mataga means “beautiful” in Lundayeh language. It is only a 30-minute walk from Fefukan Waterfall.

Mataga is a newly discovered waterfall. Again, we are the first local tourists who visit it. Most of the time, we walked upstream along a small river to find Mataga Waterfall. We saw a few long-tailed macaques on the trees. To avoid getting wet, I had to remove my leech socks, and later find that two fat leeches sucking my blood between the toes, then followed by hour of bleeding, yaks! The bite marks are still visible after 3 weeks.

Mataga Waterfall
>> Click Here to see more photos of Long Pasia

Mataga Waterfall is about 50 feet tall. Though taller than Fefukan, it is lack of character. It is windy around the waterfall with splashing water. I shot only a few photos. One of the guides also collects some plant from the waterfall as herb.

Click Here to see bigger video

Going Home

We got back to Fefukan campsite for breakfast at 8:50am. Wow, we have kancil (mouse deer) soup and fried rice as breakfast today! The meat of mouse deer is a bit chewy and taste like beef, nice… Before we left, everyone decided to take a final dip in Fefukan Waterfall. I’ll never forget this beautiful place and joyful moment.

mouse deer meat

mouse deer meat
Above: mouse deer soup as breakfast!

wild men of Long Pasia
Above: Lait insists we must play the “Wild men of Long Pasia”

Fefukan Waterfall

Fefukan Waterfall

jungle trekking
>> Click Here to see more photos of Long Pasia



taking a break

weird tree
>> Click Here to see more photos of Long Pasia

We finished packing our stuffs and headed to Lelawid at 10:30am, where the boats will pick us up. Probably of the mouse deer soup, everyone walks as fast as a deer. We reached the river by 3pm, just on time for our late lunch. This time we had wild boar intestines soup, steamed tapioca and Pelian fishes (which was trapped in fishing net we setup yesterday). Pelian fish can be sold for RM60 (about USD$18) per Kg. It tastes really sweet but has a lot of Y-shaped bones in its meat. The wild boar intestine is as hard as rubber, very hard to chew and smell fishy.


steamed tapioca in bamboo
Above: steamed tapioca in bamboo

wild boar intestines soup
Above: wild boar intestines soup, dare to try?

Pelian fishes
Above: Pelian fishes from Matang River

We left by boat at 3:30pm. Coz we follow the stream direction and the water level is higher today, we reach Long Pasia village at 6pm, quick fast. I saw a “moving wire” on the boat. At first I thought it was just a thread being moved by breeze. Then I notice it is a living thing. They call it “Cacing Sungai” (river worm). A search on the Net tells me that it is a horsehair worm or Gordian worm ( Nematomorpha ).

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Horsehair worm is a sinister parasite lives in water. If an insect such as cricket, mantis and beetle consumes the water which contains its eggs, the egg will hatch and grow inside its host. After weeks or months, the worm is fully grown (30 to 50cm long) and wants to get back to the water, so it’ll release a chemical to “mind-control” the host to walk into water, and then it crawls out of the butt of the host and swim away. In most cases, their host will die due to serious injury. Infection on human is possible but very rare.

It starts to rain when we walk home. I think we are really blessed. It’ll be terrible if it rains when we are in the jungle or river. However, I still catch a cold and sick for 2 weeks. We are so glad that the trip is mostly over. We are back to our homestay family and go to bed early. Zzzz….

>> Read Next Article (Part 5)

Photos taken in Long Pasia, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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