Nicca and I went to visit Tabin Wildlife Reserve last month to familiarise ourselves with this incredible natural area that is home to some of Borneo’s most iconic species. We definitely had an enjoyable experience there!

Early morning sunrise from the viewing tower

Tabin Wildlife Reserve is located in the eastern part of Sabah, Malaysia, on the island of Borneo. The reserve comprises a rectangular area of approximately 125,000 hectares north-east of Lahad Datu town, south of the lower reaches of the Segama River and north of the Silabukan Forest Reserve.

Tabin was declared a Wildlife Reserve in 1984, primarily due to the much needed preservation of the large amount of biodiversity inhabiting the lowland dipterocarp forests, some of which are highly endangered. The three largest mammals of Sabah, namely Borneo pygmy elephant, Sumatran rhinoceros and tembadau are all found within the reserve, including nine species of primate, as well as three species of cats all of which are on the protected wildlife list, and over 300 bird species have been recorded. 

We arrived in Lahad Datu just before 11am and went to Tabin Wildlife Reserve’s office which is just located next to the arrival hall. The staff, Siti, was very friendly and she was quite excited in welcoming us. We soon dropped our bags in their office and went and shopped in town for a bit while we waited for our fellow colleagues Dean, Azreil, and the group they were guiding to arrive. By midday, we went back to the office and met the group there with Dean and Azreil. After we settled our luggage, we went for lunch in town and not long after we were on our way to Tabin Wildlife Reserve. The journey took only about 1.5 hours drive along the winding gravel tracks, and along the way we saw animals like long-tail macaques walking on the cables and a monitor lizard. 

Once we had arrived at Tabin Wildlife Resort at about 3.00pm we were greeted with cold towels by a friendly resort staff member which was very refreshing after a long and bumpy ride. We settled in, relaxed, and checked into our River Lodge (located nearby the Lipad River).

The gate upon entering Tabin Wildlife Reserve
Sticky Rice Travel guides Dean & Azreil preparing group for an afternoon jeep safari

The property was incredible and our room was fantastic! Following our indulgence of luxury comfort we met our guide, Rafael and Sharon, and they briefed us about the network of hiking trails in the area and what activities we can undertake during our time in Tabin.

Tabin Wildlife Resort built among the trees
The view from private balcony along the river

In the afternoon we went for a short trek to the Lipad mud volcano which provides a mineral salt lick for animals and the elevated bare area is frequented by an array of wildlife. There are many animal footprints there! We had to try out the “volcanic mud facial” as it’s said to be responsible for a fine complexion.

Lipad Mud Volcano

(LEFT) Volcanic mud facial and (RIGHT) Viewing platform overlooking Lipad Mud Volcano.

After returning from our walk, we tried the traditional foot soak that’s made with a natural blend of herbs the perfect way to soothe your muscles from the jungle trekking. Very relaxing!

Spotting a family of gibbons passing through Tabin Wildlife Resort

Tabin Wildlife Reserve has gained popularity to be one of the best places in Sabah to observe an array of wildlife whilst partaking in responsible nature-based activities. Amongst the popular things-to-do in Tabin are jungle-trekking, night safaris, night walks, wildlife-spotting, bird-watching and environmental education.

Enjoying a delicious lunch that was prepared by the village and contributed to by our host-families

Our activities in Tabin were mostly comprised of 4×4 safari tours aimed to spot as much wildlife as possible. The guides were very knowledgeable teaching us about the forest and for spotting many animals, we saw; pig-tailed macaques, gibbons, serpent eagle, shama bird, red giant flying squirrel, millipede, leopard cat, malay civet, and lots of insects during our evening drives.

Getting ready to leave on our jeep safari with the group

Overall, we had a great time in Tabin, not just with the activities there but also with the friendly staff and the services that they had provided to us. And we look forward for our next adventure in Danum Valley. 

Photography by Eva Petrus & Nicca Lo

The Sticky Rice Travel team with our host families in Sayap Village

YouTube VLOG by Ana Jonessy: 

Photography by Jessica Yew & Sonny Royal