Catch unique wildlife species up-close at Sabah’s top wildlife hotspots

Catch unique wildlife species up-close at Sabah’s top wildlife hotspots

Sabah is famous for its pristine beaches and vibrant marine scenery, but there’s plenty of biodiversity to encounter on land as well. Its dense rainforests are rich with various flora and fauna, but unfortunately, many of them are endangered due to environmental threats such as deforestation and mining.

However, you can show your support for the local wildlife and their habitats by supporting ecotourism initiatives that show just how valuable Sabah’s biodiversity is. We’ve listed eight wonderful places in Sabah you should definitely visit if you wish to admire Sabah’s precious wildlife in more natural settings:

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center

Sabah is home to the world’s smallest and second most rare bear species, the Bornean Sun Bear. The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center, located just over 30 minutes away from Sandakan by car, is the world’s only wildlife conservation center dedicated to them.

Besides caring for the welfare and rehabilitation of sun bears, the conservation center aims to raise public awareness and facilitate research to learn more about the species. The center is equipped with key facilities including an observation platform, boardwalk and a visitor center. All proceeds collected from entrance fees go back towards the conservation efforts.

Opening Hours: ​9:00am – 3.30pm (all year round, including holidays)

Entrance Fees: Kids under 12 (Free); Youths aged 12-17 (RM2.10 for Malaysians and RM15.90 for non-Malaysians); Adults aged 18+ (RM5.30 for Malaysians and RM31.80 for non-Malaysians)

Note: Cameras with lenses 500mm and above will incur additional fees.

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center
Credit: Jordan Adkins / Shutterstock.com

Located right next to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center is the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center. It functions as a rehabilitation center for orphaned, injured or displaced orangutans, where they are nursed back to health and trained to survive in the wild before being released.

Visitors have access to a boardwalk which leads to a viewing gallery and feeding platform where the orangutan are fed by rangers twice a day (at 10am and 3pm).

Opening Hours:  Saturday – Thursday (9am – 12pm and 2pm – 4pm); Friday (9am – 11am and 2pm – 4pm)

Entrance Fees: Malaysians (RM2 for those below 18 years old and RM5 for those 18 and above); non-Malaysians (RM15 for those below 18 years old and RM30 for those 18 and above)

Note: Cameras and video cameras will incur additional fees. RM10 per unit for personal use and RM1,000 – RM10,000 for professional filming and photography (400mm lens and above).

Turtle Islands Park

Turtle Islands Park

The gazetted Turtle Islands Park – comprising Selingan, Bakungan Kecil and Gulisan islands – is a haven for green and hawksbill turtles. The largest of the islands is Selingan Island, where visitors can stay overnight and watch the turtles make their nightly landings to lay their eggs or cheer hatchlings on as they make their journey to the sea.

The turtles lay their eggs all year round, but the best time to visit the park is during peak season between July and October, when the sea is calmer. Besides turtle watching, the clear blue waters and thriving coral reefs are ideal for swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving.

Opening Hours: Visitors will have to stay overnight to watch the turtles.

Entrance Fees: Adults (RM30 for Malaysians and RM60 for non-Malaysians); Children (RM20 for Malaysians and RM30 for non-Malaysians)

Note: Cameras will incur an additional charge of RM10.

Deramakot Forest Reserve

Deramakot Forest Reserve

Deramakot Forest Reserve is one of Sabah’s most biologically diverse forest reserves, with up to 75 percent of mammals found in Sabah documented there, such as Orangutan, Pygmy Elephant, Proboscis Monkey and Clouded Leopard. This means you’re likely to come across one of them should you visit.

The forest reserve is a flagship project run by the Sabah Forestry Department, where ‘reduced impact logging’ is practiced and it is recognized as a “well-managed forest” by the Forest Stewardship Council. Only accessible by four-wheel drive, you’ll find plenty to do here, such as morning walks and wildlife photography.

Entrance Fees: RM15 per person; RM100 for transportation vehicles; RM10 for personal cameras; and RM250 per night for a chalet.

Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary

Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary

Kinabatangan River is the second longest river in Malaysia and is known for its wide range of habitats, from limestone caves at Gomantong Hill to mangrove swamps near the coast – this is why it’s also known as the “Corridor of Life”.

Its surrounding forests are one of only two known places in the world where up to 10 species of primates can be found, as well as all eight species of Bornean hornbills. For your best chance at spotting wildlife, hop on a river cruise at dawn or dusk. You can even try a night safari to catch nocturnal creatures like the crocodile.

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

The privately-owned sanctuary is set smack-dab in the middle of a mangrove forest near the coastal Samawang Village at Labuk Bay. It’s about an hour’s drive from Sandakan, but it’s worth the trip if you love watching the Proboscis Monkeys leaping about so close to you.

The males have distinctively large, dangling noses and reddish flat-top hairstyles, while the females have much smaller, upturned noses.

Feeding Times: 9.30am and 2.30pm (Platform A) and 11.30am and 4.30pm (Platform B)

Entrance Fees: Adults (RM15 for Malaysians and RM60 for non-Malaysians); Children (RM5 for Malaysians and RM30 for non-Malaysians)

Note: Cameras will incur an additional charge of RM10.

Tabin Wildlife Reserve

Tabin Wildlife Reserve

Tabin Wildlife Reserve was gazetted in 1984 due to its teeming wildlife, many of which are endangered species. The area is known for its active, mineral-rich mud volcanoes, which attract animals from all over the forest and present an ideal platform for wildlife observation and bird-watching.

You can stay at the resort located within the reserve and enjoy various exciting activities such as jungle trekking, night safari, bird-watching and rainforest education.
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