Discovering Tawau Hills Park

By Jessica Yew, 29th July 2020

For sometime now we have heard of 1StopBorneoWildlife offering trips in Tawau Hills Park, a very short jaunt from Tawau. We finally made it there for a quick discovery of the park and its facilities. The park sits at the border of an oil palm plantation and it is quite surreal seeing tall old-growth trees alongside stubby oil palms.

Our 2 nights at the park headquarters offered exciting herping activities alongside the search of interesting nightly creatures such as stick insects, katydids, hoppers, and other bugs. During the day, we watched red leaf langurs way up in the tree canopy, spied on a pair of not-so-easily-sighted White-crowned hornbills, and went on gentle walks on its well-maintained botanical trail in search of birds. The forest is beautiful and filled with giant dipterocarp trees and snaking lianas, with many opportunities to venture towards the riverbank for spotting kingfishers and other birds. My initial thought of taking a dip in the river by the picnic area was thwarted by the sighting of a reticulated python slithering in the water during one of our night herping sessions. I don’t particularly dislike snakes but the thought of a good-size python sneaking past me in the water made the idea a lot less appealing.

Tawau Hills Park is a mere 24km from Tawau town and was established in 1997 as a water catchment to the areas of Tawau and Semporna. The park, measuring almost 28,000 hectares is mostly hilly with 2 prime elevations – Mt Lucia and Mt Magdalena, both of which we did not explore this time. Those wanting a long hike have the option of adventuring up to Mt Lucia and staying the night at the hostel there.

1StopBorneoWildlife is essentially fusing awareness, conservation and tourism together. Aside from discovering the park, a visit to Tawau Hills Park can be combined with elephant tracking activities in an oil palm plantation whose areas border an elephant wildlife corridor.

Wildlife sightings


Good for reptiles, amphibians, insects, and hornbills. Resident red leaf langurs are often seen in the park headquarters also. Orang utan occurs in the park but is rarely sighted.



Private rooms with fan or air conditioning available, all with shared bathrooms with the exception of rooms in the Chalet. Cold water shower only. Conditions of lodging facilities are very dated and extremely basic. Food option is very limited and must be pre-ordered at the co-op cafeteria near the entrance.



Various activities from light jungle walks to night walks, options to include elephant tracking and tree planting.



Programs for Tawau Hills Park can be booked directly with 1StopBorneoWildlife here.



Suitable for fuss-free travelers on a shoe-string who want an introduction to primary rainforest.

Discovering Tawau Hills Park is one of the four-part series of me and Charlie’s post quarantine adventures, a travel diary made for those who want to see what is happening in some of the best destinations in Borneo. If you are interested in this adventure do reach out to 1StopBorneoWildlife.