Tabin: A Home for Wildlife Wanderers in Sandakan


By Chloe Tiffany Lee

Immerse yourself in the tranquil rainforest of Borneo. Considered to be the largest wildlife reserve in Malaysia, Tabin Wildlife Reserve comprises a rectangular area of approximately ​​300,000 acres that is home to an exceptional array of Borneo’s rare and endangered species, including the Borneo Pygmy elephants, Clouded Leopards, Bornean Sun Bear, Orangutan, Tembadau (Banteng), and about 42 indigenous families representing more than 300 species of jewel-bright birdlife.

Classified as the Class VII Forest Reserve, Tabin is one of the best-kept lowland rainforests of Borneo. Wildlife photographers and birdwatching enthusiasts will find their visit to Tabin a truly priceless experience!

Tours in the wildlife reserve must be accompanied by a ranger or a nature guide, and we were lucky to have Paul Napolean, an award-winning guide, to be our guide for a good 3D2N tour. It is a must to visit the Trogon Hall Gallery and Tabin Visitor Centre as there is valuable information about the conservation of the wildlife reserve and briefing on birds, insects, and wildlife.

River Lodge or Hill Lodge

Enjoy the leisurely pace of timeless Tabin in their comfortable authentic Borneo timber bungalows that are uniquely designed. There are ten units of River Lodges and ten units of Hill Lodges, each housing a twin-bedded or double-bedded room with en-suite bathroom, hot water shower, ceiling fan, and a private balcony overlooking Lipad river or the hillside forest. Lucky visitors will be able to wake up to the sounds of gibbons or honking hornbills with their magnificent casques.

Nature Trails
Each trail in Tabin has its own uniqueness and attractions. 

  • Sambar Deer Trail (1.16 kilometres), 
  • Raleigh Trail (2.5 kilometres), 
  • Mouse Deer Trail (0.4 kilometres), 
  • Gibbon Trail (2.8 kilometres), 
  • Otters Trail (0.5 kilometres), 
  • Otters Loop (1.2 kilometres),
  • Rhino Trail (1.8 kilometres), 
  • Elephant Trail (2.2 kilometres), and 
  • Mud Volcano Trail (0.7 kilometres)

Strolling along the Tomanggong Road

A must-visit for birders. Here, you can find an impressive bird list such as the Giant Pitta, Orange-backed Woodpecker, including some of the eight species of Sabah’s Hornbills, and other amazing wildlife. You will most likely be able to see long-tailed Macaque too.

Bird Watching Platform

This eight-metres platform is a bird watcher’s paradise to view birds.

Night Safari

Hop on the truck and get ready for a night safari. All the nature guides are equipped with a spotlight during the night safari or night walk to help you look out for nocturnal wildlife and birds. You can view many sightings of the giant-eyed Slow Loris, Malayan Sun Bear insects, anurans, slinky civet cats, and more. Don’t forget to enjoy a good scenic view of the stars filling in the night sky too. 

Mud Spa

If “jump into a volcano” happens to be on your bucket list, then treat yourself a free mud spa which is known as the Mother Nature’s natural skin purifier. Tabin’s high concentration of mineral-rich mud volcanoes and salt springs are the best gift of nature. Served as salt-lick, the mud volcanoes are frequently visited by wildlife and birds.

Lipad Waterfall

Trek your way to the scenic Lipad Waterfall and the delightful Lipad River. After a mud bath, you would be happy to rinse (and cool) yourself off here.

Tabin Rainforest Herbal Foot Soak

Slip your weary, achy feet into a soothing therapeutic soak that helps relax sore muscles. Don’t be fooled by the mild-mannered herbs and ingredients such as Kaffir lime leaf, lime aloe vera, pandanus leaf, lemongrass, betel leaf, galangal, and tumeric, because it can really soak away a day of muscle aches! Tabin offers a DIY Herbal foot soak where there are instructions for you to try out at your own pace. 

Chilling on the Otter’s Deck

Listen to the sound of the rainforest and the soothing flow of the river while sipping your coffee or tea and listen to the forest come to life. You can spot quite a few active species around such as gibbons, snakes, wild boars, or birds such as the Red-throated Sunbird and Malaysian Blue Flycatcher.

Tabin Wildlife Reserve was gazetted in 1984 under the Forest Enactment, 1968, as part of the State government’s efforts to protect and preserve wildlife.

>> Packages at the Tabin Wildlife Resort include return transfers from Lahad Datu to the lodge as well as accommodation, meals, and guided trekking or safari activities.
>> To state the obvious, the wildlife is free to wander. Therefore sightings are not guaranteed.

Timeless, wild and beautiful, Tabin never disappoints. When you visit, your experience is sure to be as authentic, friendly and full of surprises as the place itself. A must-see for wildlife enthusiasts!

A special thanks to Mr. Alric from Canon Malaysia for the camera gears.

How to get there
By Air: Kota Kinabalu to Lahad Datu (about an hour flight). From Lahad Datu town, a 1 hour 15 minutes drive, part of it on a gravel road, will take you to Tabin.
MasWingsoperates daily flights connecting Kota Kinabalu to Lahad Datu. 

By Road: Kota Kinabalu to Lahad Datu (7 hours) / Sandakan to Lahad Datu (4 hours) / Tawau to Lahad Datu (4 hours)

Address: Tabin Wildlife Holidays Sdn Bhd, Lot 11-1, 1st Floor, Block A, Damai Point, Jalan Damai, 88300 Kota Kinabalu
T: +60 88 267 266/ +60 88 258 266
Facebook: Tabin Wildlife