Tabin Wildlife Reserve
Introduction and History
The Tabin Wild Life Reserve was established in 1984 with the aim to protect endangered wildlife. The 120,000 ha reserve is an important breeding ground for the wild life which is threatened by logging activities and also serves as a habitat for animals from nearby plantations. Tabin is a haven for both wildlife and humans alike as the reserve is serene and spectacular from the mighty dipterocarp trees to the mysterious swamps.
Tabin was originally registered as ‘Silabukan and Lumerau’ Forest Reserve in the 1950's. A big part of the Tabin Reserve consists of secondary forests, especially in the selected logging areas in the lower parts. However, there are untouched jungles in certain parts of the Reserve. Oil palm plantations border the Reserve except for the north-east region, which leads to the mighty Segama River.
In Malaysia, under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment of 1997, protected areas are categorized into 3 types. The first type is the Conservation Areas which aim for adaptable, flexible and quick protection of wild life and their habitats. The second, Wildlife Sanctuaries, is the most effective and reliable in protecting plants, animals and their habitats along with genetic resources. Lastly, the Wildlife Hunting Areas are areas where animal population is controlled through regulated hunting.
According to the Forest Enactment of 1968, there are seven classes of forest reserves with each class having different purposes. Tabin Wild Life Reserve is a class VII reserve gazette for wildlife protection.
Flora and Fauna
Tabin is a haven for both wildlife and nature-enthusiasts. Once in the midst of the jungles of Tabin, you can soak in the sights and sounds of nature at its best. Wake up to the shrill calls of the ‘wak’wak’ or gibbons. There are also the mighty and majestic Orangutans, the Men of the Jungle, with their lustrous red fur. Catch a glimpse of the flying squirrels gliding from tree to tree while listening to the piercing sound of cicadas mating. For bird-watchers, Tabin is a fantastic place for bird-spotting as there are so many different species of birds including all the 7 of Sabah’s Hornbills species and the Crested Serpent Eagle.
A hike into the forest is a must if you want to enjoy the unique tropical wildlife. The bearded pig often leaves tell-tales holes in the jungle floor.
Besides the impressive array of fauna, you will be fascinated by the variety of flora which flourishes in the Reserve. Don’t miss the infamous Rafflesia, the biggest flower in the world which emits a rotting odor. Neither should you miss taking a walk in the jungle to spot the carnivorous Nephentes or pitcher plants. The fascinating array of wild orchids will not fail to impress! The rainforests hold many plants known for their medicinal value. Scientists believe a large number of these plants have yet to be discovered and that existing species still hold secrets.
The orangutans are shy, quiet creatures. Consider yourself lucky if you spot one! Perhaps another primate which is as famous as the orangutan is the proboscis monkey. These monkeys have large pendulum-like noses and pot bellies! Both the orangutans and the proboscis monkeys move in large families during the day.
The Asian elephant, the smallest size elephant found in the world, is easily seen inside the Tabin reserve area and inside the palm plantation. They normally travel in groups and remember not to get too close! The elephants are wild.
Experience Tabin throughout a whole day! Listen to the day time sounds and the vivid colours and then sit back and relax while you soak up the romantic blinking lights of the courting fireflies at night.
Attraction and activities
Although not as famous as the mud volcanoes of Pulau Tiga, the mud volcano of Tabin is quite extraordinary. The mud volcano is 2m in height and 20m wide. The mud is a hot spot for animals such as the endangered Sumatran Rhinoceros and bearded pig. The pigs use the mud to wallow and cool down.
The limestone caves of Tabin are another must-see. The cave system is located in the northern part of Tabin. The caves span 1200m, which are believed to have been formed by an underground river system. A total of 36 caves with 23 openings have been explored for archeological interest but safety became a concern after numerous collapses due to rock weathering.
Check out Lipat waterfall for a relaxing swimming spot!
Getting there and away
Tabin is situated on the east coast of Sabah. Travel by domestic flight from Kota Kinabalu to Lahad Datu, and then continue by road for an hour to reach the main base of Tabin. Alternatively, you may travel land from Sandakan. This is a popular 3-hour with visitors who combine Sabah’s east coast attractions, including the Sepilok Orang Rehabilitation Centre, Sukau kinabatangan river, Selingaan (Turtle Islands), and Sipadan.
From Kota Kinabalu to Lahad Datu.
Four flights daily are available with Malaysia Airlines (www.malaysiaairlines.com)
Sabah Air provides charter flight service on request.
Sabah Air Building, Old Airport Road, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Locked Bag 113, 88999 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Tel: +6088-256733 / 252372 Fax: +6088-235195
Kota Kinabalu to Lahad Datu and onwards to Tabin (7 hours). Sandakan to Lahad Datu and onwards to Tabin (3 hours).There is a regular bus service from Kinabalu to Sandakan and to Lahad Datu. No train service. From Lahad Datu, it is another hour's drive on gravel roads to the main base of Tabin.