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Tabin Wildlife Reserve

Tabin is a very large dipterocarp rainforest landscape located in the eastern part of Sabah with a most diverse range of flora and fauna.

Borneon Pygmy Elephant at Tabin
Borneon Pygmy Elephant at Tabin
Tabin was declared a wildlife reserve because of the large numbers of animal species inhabiting its forest, including several which are highly endangered. The three largest mammals of Sabah, the Borneo Pygmy Elephant, Sumatran Rhino and Tembadau are found within Tabin. With a protected forest area of 120,500 hectres, Tabin plays an important role as a dedicated ground for the breeding of endangered wildlife and protected mammals in Sabah. Orangutans, honey bears, the rare clouded leopard, sambar deer, wild boar, red leaf monkeys and macaques also call Tabin their home. There are also some 220 species of birds at Tabin, including at least seven of Sabah's eight Hornbill species, blue-headed pittas, wren-babblers, Borneon Blue Flycatchers, Scarlet Sunbirds, and Everett's White-eyes.

Access to Tabin is along a narrow laterite road carved through the Lahad Datu oil palm plantations. The two-hour journey is a bumpy ride that could displace the contents of a weak stomach. Perseverance in getting through this rough passage is rewarded with a lush, green landscape of the tropical paradise known as Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

Tabin was heavily-logged until the 1980s. During this period, however, a core area of about 8,600 hectares of forest was left intact. After the logging activities were halted, and the area was declared a wildlife reserve in 1984, it was left to naturally regenerate itself.

Tabin is also unique for its mud volcanoes. The seven mud volcanoes found in Tabin (some as large as a football field) are important watering holes for the wildlife in the area due to its high mineral content. Wild animals often visit the mud volcanoes in the early mornings, leaving evidence of their stopovers in the form of paw prints on the soft grey mud.

Lipad waterfalls

Lipad Waterfall
Lipad Waterfall


About 3km away from the base camp, through secondary regenerative forest and sections of ankle-deep mud, is the Lipad Waterfalls also known as Twin Waterfalls. During the rainy season, the high volume of water creates a second stream of water that plunges into the pool below. A swim in the pool is well worth the effort to get there. The trek to the waterfalls is fairly easy and takes about an hour and a half. Occasionally, you may be lucky enough to spot orang-utan nests in the high branches of trees along the way.


Lipad mud volcano

One of the Lipad Mud Volcanoes
One of the Lipad Mud Volcanoes
Mud Volcano Erupting
Mud Volcano Erupting


The Lipad mud volcano, situated in a clearing fringed by the forest about 2km away from the park HQ, is the nearest mud volcano to Tabin base camp. The ground here is grey, soft and free of vegetation. The volcano spews out fresh mud every day. Visitors can either trek along the laterite road all the way or jump on a pick-up truck to the forest entrance, from which the mud volcano is about 700m away. A visit in the early morning is advised as that is the time animals come to drink from the mud volcano. Visitors can wait at the nearby viewing tower to watch their comings and goings. It is believed that the mud has regenerative properties which are good for human skin. Some visitors take the opportunity to slather themselves with the mud for an instant facial before trekking back to camp.
Photographs on this page is courtesy of Penny Favilla and Tabin Wildlife Reserve


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