Tabin Nature Reserve and Jungle Lodge Days 1-2

Day 1

An early morning departure from Bilit followed by a four hour drive by large bus and mini bus took us to the Tabin Nature Reserve and our accommodations for  the next two nights. Our drive took us through 1000’s of acres of palm oil trees, as well as acres of newly cleared and planted plantations.

The primary undergrowth appears to be rampant morning glory or something similar. Apparently in Sabah 60% of the jungle has been saved so i guess we were driving through the other 40%. Palm oil production is a land wasting and depleting enterprise. Cleared land looks like a nuclear war zone.

Chemical fertilizer applications occur 6-8 times a year to keep the palms growing due to nutrient depletion of the soil. Herbicides keep the area under the palms weed free, although we saw some evidence of mulching. I only know that after viewing what has happened here first hand I will no longer support the palm oil industry and plan to read food labels very carefully. 

The Tabin Nature reserve was established in 1984 to protect 300,000 acres of rainforest and provide a home for critically endangered species including the orangutan, sun bear, hornbills, water buffalo, rhinos and elephants among many others. It has morphed into one of the main release sights for animals rehabilitated at locations such as Sepilok. An interesting point about rehab centres in Borneo is that they are primarily NGO’s started by people from elsewhere. Today they work in conjunction with the Borneo govt in preserving the endangered species of Borneo.

There is only a single lodge in the nature reserve with 20 cabins. I am in a lovely cabin overhanging the river.

In the first 30 mins 5 species of birds have flown by, plus some monkeys. We are headed out through leech infested trails to visit a volcanic salt mud lick this afternoon. Water bottles filled and boots on.  Our hike about to the Volcanic mud cone took about 1 1/2 hours through the filtered light of  dense jungle in 35 C heat and 100% humidity – like hiking in a plastic bag.

Our guide made us much appreciated walking sticks that helped us negotiate the slippery root choked paths. Bands of sound accompanied us up the trail. In one section the car alarm cicadas, in the next the nuclear lab meltdown alarm cicadas, in another area the ray gun cicadas.  The mud cone was formed by volcanic activity associated with crustal movement. Little active pools still burb gas at the top of the mound. Foot prints of mammals ring the area as they come for salt and paper wasps were busy carving out mud to build their nests.


Our guide lit one of the bubbles on fire for us – although the smell was enough to prove that that is what was being expelled from the mud – made for an interesting photo in any case.

Our night game drive was a wonderful way to see a different side of the jungle. Civets, a leopard cat and owls plus a red giant flying squirrel gorging on flowers and two western Tarsiers crossed our path. The evening ended far too soon.  

Day 2

A pre-breakfast departure took us through a wakening forest wreathed in mist in the tree tops,

Along a jungle trail searching for the elusive Grey Gibbon a primate species endemic to Borneo. Our guide put his calling expertise to work and within a few minutes a return call ! A quick scramble brought us to the base of a huge grove of trees where a small Gibbon family was whiling away the early morning hours. Magic!

Tabin – Day 2

One of my hopes during this visit was to see one of the last Sumatran Rhinos on Borneo still alive. This Rhino is the smallest of all rhinos and is felt to be the closest modern relative to the Wooly Rhino which roamed the earth during the Ice Age. At the moment there are two surviving Pygmy Rhinos at the grounds of the Borneo Rhino Alliance a non-profit NGO dedicated to saving this remarkable animal. 100 total are thought to survive in Indonesia. They are solitary creatures and the loss of habitat has resulted in their numbers plummeting to the point where the survivors cannot find another rhino to mate with. Using modern day fertilization and embryo implantation techniques the hope is to use DNA from all available SE Asia Rhino populations and rebuild the population over time. The Alliance depends on donations to maintain the program, as well as staffing and grounds maintenance. We spent a wonderful hour with the male Rhino at the centre watching him enjoy a wallow in a mud hole and generally be a rhinoceros.

Following our time with him, we embarked on a dusk game drive.

Again I felt blessed by the appearance of another would love to see on my list – the Rhinoceros hornbill. What a beautiful bird! A mated pair of them plus two young entertained us for 30 minutes or so before we regretfully had to move on.

The final photo op was provided by a troop of macaque monkeys on the roadside.

Our game drive fittingly finished with a return to the lodge into a glorious sunset.

We leave tomorrow for Kota Kinabalu and the final night of the trip before the 48 hr trip home. It has been a thought provoking, exhausting, exhilarating journey, full of beauty and some sadness. This is an amazing part of the world, boasting large scale conservation efforts and I urge everyone who can to visit. The people are warm and welcoming, the food is outstanding and the warm temperatures have been very welcome indeed after a long Canadian winter. Another A+ for G Adventures National Geographic Journeys!

Thank you all for following along with me! Sehingga masa depan!