Rare orchid of Maliau Basin

Part 6 of 8. Trip to Maliau Basin, Sabah’s Lost World – Day 5

Continued from Part 5

Hundred-Feet Observation Tower

I wake up early at 5am in day 5, when others are still in their dream. Next to the Nepenthes Camp is an observation platform on top of a 33-Meter Agathis borneensis tree. I want to climb up there early to see the sunrise.

Observation Tower and Nepenthes Camp

Observation Tower

Soon Mr. J and Mr. T also wake up to join me. Ms. S doesn’t join coz she has issue with the height and says there is no way she will do it. It is already frightening just looking at this tall tree. Anyway, adventure is doing something that scares you. At 5:15am, one by one, we climb up to the tree top with aluminum ladder that fixed to the tree body.

Observation Tower

Imagine you climb a ladder to the top of a building over 10 floors high in the dark (about same height as the Karamunsing Complex in Kota Kinabalu). This is the second scariest climb that I attempt so far (the first is Batu Punggul). A misstep and you will be a free falling object for hundred feet.

Tour package to Mataking

on top of the platform

waiting for sunrise

the view and fence on top of the platform

One good thing to climb in the dark is, you can’t see anything under your feet, so it is not that terrifying. Mr. T and J got up there first. I hang the camera and tripod over my shoulder and move up carefully. After a few days of holding camera to take thousand of photos, my fingers are really painful. The extra camera weight also makes my legs tired and shivers. I have to stop a few times to rest. Finally, I reach the top within 10 minutes.

Above: a helipad not far away from Nepenthes Camp

Nepenthes Camp looks so small from top
Above: Nepenthes Camp looks so small from top. You can see the solar panel on the roof.

Strictly speaking, the observation tower is only a wooden platform on top of a tall tree. It is not really a tower. The structure is fenced and solid enough to take 5 to 6 persons. It is 5:40am. We look out from this platform and see that our house is so small under our feet. We also admire and appreciate the pretty Agathis borneensis tree that house the structure.

beautiful skin of Agathis borneensis tree
Above: the beautiful skin of Agathis borneensis tree, note the pocked-marked, greyish-reddish bark.

waiting for sunrise
Above: Mr. J waits to video sunrise

The sunrise comes at 6:10am. The surrounding and the trees are painted with golden hue of colors. The birds also start their days. Many colourful birds such as Iora and Scarlet Minivet gather around the canopy of this tree. This platform is quite a nice bird watching spot. We climb down at 6:40am for breakfast, when the sunrise show is over. Damn it! I find a crack on the LCD protector. Luckily it helps to block the damage to LCD which would cost hundreds to fix.

sunrise of Maliau Basin

forest in sunrise

climbing down
Above: Mr. T climbing down

me climbing down
Above: it’s me climbing down the tree

Back to Maliau Basin Studies Centre (MBSC)

We are very relaxing today, coz we will leave the total wilderness of Maliau Basin and the trail is mostly descending (easy) path. Even though I am cut off from civilisation for many days, I don’t really feel homesick, it’s a sad day for me actually. After we have our breakfast, we depart at 8:30am to Agathis Camp, which is 7.5 KM away and a move from 1,005 to 421 Meters above sea level.

trail map to Agathis Camp
Above: trail in red is our path to Agathis Camp today

the trail in 3D model
Above: the trail in 3D model

The guides warn us about the steep downhill trail and we should “brake” always and don’t run too fast. And they are right. The descending trail is not easy and it does not make us move faster, and it poses another challenge. There is no way you can tell if the soil is soft or solid until you step on it. The slope area is dangerous coz the soil is soft and slippery. The slippery “trap” is so evil coz the mud layer is just thin enough to make you slip, but not deep enough to hold your foot. I have to make sure both of my hands are supported by a rope or tree before I take the next step. I can survive a fall but my camera might not. Just be careful of the precipitous hills…

trail on slope

Over the days, I discover a special ability of women. They just can’t stop talking, during trekking, eating and sleeping, ALL the time. I am already out of breath trekking and they still talk to me. At the end, I just pretend I don’t hear them. Sorry, I am just too tired.

look out point
Above: lookout point, where you can see Maliau rim through gap between the trees.

Since this is the last jungle trekking of our trip, we just walk slowly, open all our senses and enjoy the surrounding view. We saw a family of 3 Bornean gibbons swings on tree branches. Red & Hose’s Leaf Monkeys (langurs) and Bornean gibbons are very common primates in Maliau. We also hear the distinct calls of Black & Yellow Broadbill and Bornean Bristlehead, and also the loud pecking noise of a woodpecker. Then Mr. T is very excited and shows me a flower of Dendrobium cinnabarinum. He says this flower is very rare, the two (all) varieties are found in Maliau Basin only.

Dendrobium cinnabarinum
Above: flower of Dendrobium cinnabarinum.

signage to Agathis Camp

Finally at 12:30pm, we arrive Agathis Camp, where we have our pack-lunch. We are asked to take a shower and put on clean clothing, before we are allowed to sit in the beloved 4-wheel of the guide. Then we leave Agathis Camp and go to the hostel of MBSC, where we will spend the last night in Maliau Basin. After staying 3 days in jungle camp, the hostel is really a 5-star accommodation to us now. The guides and porters are very happy too coz now they can watch World Cup 2010 in MBSC.

orange fungi

fat leech
Above: don’t know who brings this tiger leech back to the hostel. It is fully fed with 1 year worth of meal, so fat… lol

Skybridge (Canopy Walk)

You are wrong if you think we are holidayers who can sit still for day doing nothing. After we unpack our bags in hostel, we start to get restless and want to go to Skybridge (suspension bridges built between tall trees high above the ground). It rains heavily in the afternoon so we go around 4PM.

canopy walk

The Skybridge is only a 10-minute drive from MBSC. Constructed in April 2007 and linked up with about 8 super tall trees (Uratmata, Sepatir, Merbau and Seraya), Skybridge is the second longest canopy walk of Sabah, with a length of 293.8 Meters (Highest Point: 21.35 Meters).

sky bridge
Above: can you see them? They look so small…

canopy walk

Maliau Basin is an Important Birding Area. More than 290 bird species are found here, with more than 20 are endemic to Borneo, and 26% are listed as threaten or near-threaten by IUCN. Here you can find all 8 species of hornbill of Borneo, 6 species of kingfishers and all 9 species of Bornean barbets. We see fruits of fig species (Ficus), which is the favourite of hornbills, who visit as many as 240 species of fruit trees. We spend an hour here and back to hostel later.

fig fruit
Above: fruit of Ficus tree

praying mantis
Above: a weird praying mantis looking at us

Night Safari

Tonight we have a night safari at 8pm. We just sit on the jeep and let the guide scans for wildlife by using a spotlight. If the guide spots anything, the car will stop and he will show and tell us what we see. This is highly depends on luck. In bad day, you would see nothing.

wild boar and babies
Above: this wild boar (Sus barbatus) always comes to MBSC. She got 8 babies.

night safari

During an hour of fun drive, we see Malay Civet cat, Sambar Deer (cervus unicolor), Flying Squirrel, Rhinoceros Hornbill and Buffy Fish Owl.

Rhinoceros hornbill

Sambar Deer

Buffy fish owl

We have been seeing the fresh dung of Banteng and elephants and hope to see them tonight, but too bad none of them turn up. Anyway, below are their photos for you to know how they look like.


Above: Banteng (Bos javanicus), Asian Wild Cattle or Bornean Wild Ox, known as Tembadau locally. Left is the female and right is male Banteng. Banteng is extinct in West Malaysia (since 1950) and Sarawak (since 1980). It was used to be the favourite game species of hunters but now it is endangered and protected in Sabah. The domesticated Banteng becomes Bali cattle. Note the white “stockings” on the legs. About 15 to 20 Banteng are recorded in Maliau.

Above: Pygmy elephant of Borneo is the smallest elephant species in the world.

barking deer
Above: Common barking deer (Red Muntjac), known as Kijang locally. It can grow in length up to 98 to 111 cm, a height of 50 cm and a weight of 15 to 35 Kg. You can buy its meat as it is still the game species.

FYI, all 5 cat species (i.e. flat-headed cat, marbled cat, bay cat, leopard cat, clouded leopard) of Sabah are found around Maliau Basin. They are very elusive and secretive animals active at night, so they are very hard to spot.

clouded leopard

Finally, we have joined all the programme In Maliau Basin and will go back to Kota Kinabalu tomorrow. But there is still one more unplanned programme waits for us tomorrow.

>> Next Article (Part 7)

Photos taken in Maliau Basin, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

All Articles of Maliau Basin Trip:
Part 1. Introduction to Maliau Basin
Part 2. Day 1 in Maliau Basin
Part 3. Day 2 in Maliau. Trekking to the 1st camp
Part 4. Day 3 in Maliau. Maliau Waterfall
Part 5. Day 4 in Maliau. Entering the garden of pitcher plant
Part 6. Day 5 in Maliau. Skybridge & Night Safari
Part 7. Day 6 in Maliau. Leaving Maliau
Part 8. Conclusion & Notes

More Photos

You may check out my Maliau Basin photo album for more pictures:
More photos of Maliau Basin
BONUS! More new photos of Maliau Basin…

Other canopy walk in Sabah:
Poring Canopy Walkway (highest in Sabah)
Canopy Walk of Danum Valley (award-winning attraction)
Rainforest Discovery Center (best for bird-watching)

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