By Jessica Yew, 7th July 2020

If I get to choose my spirit animal, it would be the gibbon. Their whooping calls are magic to my ears and I love nothing more than to watch them swing so effortlessly from tree to tree. The dramatic form of locomotion is called brachiating and it allows them to leap acrobatically up to 50 feet across rainforest canopies, not to mention swing out to reach fruits at the end of branches where not many other primates can. Simply put, watching gibbons put me in a state of trance.

Exploring Tabin -Gibbon

Tabin Wildlife Reserve is where one would go to see gibbons up close. They wake you in the morning with their loud and unmistakable call that echoes for miles in the rainforests; beginning with a single long call followed by ever faster shorter calls – “whoooooopp, whooooop, whooooop, whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop..”.

Our days in Tabin saw us on early morning, mid afternoon and night safari drives along the main road leading up to the lodge, with forests on one side and palm oil plantations on the other – such is an ever-changing landscape of forest environment in many areas of the world. To the less-explored minds, palm oil plantation dotting the horizon as far as the eyes can see is simply put, an utter destruction to the natural world. However, in a world where capitalism is king and in a state where mass, fast-yield agriculture continues to dominate the economy, there are opportunities for curious minds to explore a little deeper when visiting forest reserves in Sabah. The journey to ensuring that each has their place in the world is an endless and ongoing effort by many parties. We stand with our emerging natural habitat tourism segment that provides almost an automatic insurance protection policy for forests and wildlife, coupled with creating quality jobs.

Tabin Wildlife Reserve is the largest reserve in Malaysia with a total of 300,000 hectares and a visit here promises an abundance of both mammal and bird sightings. Over the span of 3 nights we were treated to a primate galore – we observed 15 different orang utan individuals of which 2 were alpha males, gibbons, long tailed and pig tailed macaques, and the rare grey leaf langurs. Of the 8 species of hornbills that occur in Sabah we sighted 6; we saw multiple individuals of the rhinoceros, wreathed, wrinkled, Asian black, Oriental pied and flocks of the Bushy-crested. Our nightly adventures revealed many leopard cats, several civet species, mousedeers, flying squirrels and island flying foxes. A full list of species can be seen here

Wildlife sightings


Solid option for seeing gibbons, hornbills and raptors, orang utan when certain tree species fruit. Night drives provide opportunities for seeing nocturnal creatures such as leopard cats, civets, flying squirrels, and owls. Sunbear and marble cat have been seen during night drives, and resident otters usually swim in the river but eluded us this time around.



Comfortable jungle lodge offers rooms laid out on the hills and along the river, with air conditioning and hot water. Lovely common areas include boardwalk to rooms on the hill and hanging bridge for self-exploration of the immediate area. Food is staple Asian style rice and dishes on most days, room ambience can be improved. Internet is available.



Easy jungle exploration on 4WD vehicles, padded bench seatings. Walking opportunity to the mud volcano and small waterfall. In between activities, walks in the surrounding areas during early to mid mornings and mid afternoons provide opportunity to see gibbons, macaques and birds. Knowledgeable guides.



Fair pricing for value for money.



Excellent experience for those wanting to see wildlife and experience nature in comfort and best combined with Danum Valley. Short travel time from Lahad Datu (less than 2 hours) on easy unpaved roads is a plus.

Exploring Tabin 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 visiting these places, we welcome you as we are traveling again. Watch this space for the next featured destination!

List of species

Orang utan, grey leaf langur, pig tailed macaque, long tailed macaque, gibbon
Rhinoceros, wreathed, wrinkled, Asian-black, Oriental pied, bushy-crested
Small-toothed, banded, island palm
Leopard cat
Lesser mousedeer
Island flying fox
Flying squirrel
Black, giant red
Red legged-crake
Crested serpent-eagle, Black eagle, Wallace’s hawk eagle
Buffy fish, Bard eagle