Tabin Wildlife Resort @ Sabah, Malaysian Borneo – Part 2

Written by @Lan & Joehairie 
3D2N Tabin Wildlife Safari-Our Travel Journal Part 2 of 2


The outdoor activity is the highlight anticipated by guests at Tabin Wildlife Resort,  Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Both of us included. We’re eager to see things out there, learning new things, more importantly; enriching our knowledge. This part of journal aims to prepare future guests so that they are much better prepared for the activities lined-up in 3D 2N Tabin Wildlife Safari programme.


There are few important things that future guests must know. The weather here is a bit unpredictable. At times it’s sunny and the next hour, light shower. During monsoon season, do expect heavy rain. That said, activities maybe reorganized to best meet operational situation. Also, don’t come with high expectation to see all listed animals, birds and insects as Tabin Wildlife Reserve itself is one big area. Some people, for example, did get to see the elephants. Some did not. We did not. It depends purely on timing and luck. 

To check the full list of packages offered by Tabin Wildlife Resort, click HERE

We’re booked on the 3D 2N Tabin Wildlife Safari programme and our guides; Fadli and Rafel ensured that we’re physically and mentally prepared, especially on the walking part! Yes, a lot of walking but it was fun, educational and indirectly burnt some unnecessary fat of ours!


1st Day-29 September 2018

Briefing at Trogon Hall 


Upon arrival, our guides briefed us about the activities being lined-up for the next 3 days. Fadli and Rafel gave another detailed briefing in regard to conservation of Tabin Wildlife Reserve as well as birds, animals and insects found in this area. They invited us to Trogon Hall, which is just 2-3 minutes walking from the resort’s main building.


We were informed by Rafel that in the near future, briefing will be done at the new building located not far from Trogon Hall. Both Rafel and Fadli took turns to explain things that are quiet new for us, for instance- the wild cats of Borneo.


Rafel informed us about the findings of recent academic research and how it helps the resort’s staff and guests to gain better understanding of Tabin’s rich biodiversity hence promoting the awareness and practice for wildlife and flora conservation. Such research enables related parties to pay attention towards endangered species, finding the best possible way to protect them.


Rafel gave detailed explanation of a baby elephant skull. It’s amazing to know that Rafel is very well-versed when it comes to Borneo pygmy elephants! He told us that it is considered to be an endangered species with about 2,000 left in Sabah. Adult pygmies is said to be 2.5 metres tall and they are 30-60cm shorter than other Asian elephants.


Rafel told us about the sad incident that occured in 2011 where a pygmy elephant attacked and killed an Australian tourist, Jenna O’Grady Donley. Rafel added that she is believed to have gone within 10 metres of the animal, which might have charged at her because it was alarmed by the unfamiliar humans.


Tabin Wildlife Resort is proud to have international celebrities such as Emma Thompson and many others coming to the resort. They have purposely left their ‘Mud Volcano’ Certificates, with their ‘hand prints’, on it!


Getting ready for Trekking


The assembly point for trekking activities is at the resort’s main building where there is a station with rubber boots and life jackets. There is no need to bring your expensive trekking shoes as the resort is kind enough to provide complimentary rubber boots, proved to be pretty useful in muddy trek! Should you insist on wearing your own trekking shoes, no one will stop you.


Simply put on suitable t-shirt, long pants and leech socks, then proceed choosing your boots. Leech socks is optional but if it’s not dry season, you may need it. Alternatively, use long soccer socks. Other important items to bring along while trekking are; raincoat, sun hat, water bottle, torch light and insect repellent. Optional items are binoculars, camera, swimwear, personal toiletries and light snacks such as energy bars.


To avoid wasting time choosing boots each time you are going for trekking, get the best one and bring it to your lodge. Return it to its place once you are no longer doing any trekking activity. Kindly wash your dirty rubber boots, it will make the next person wearing it, smiling.


Life jacket is optional. Choose one should you need it for the visit to Lipad Waterfall. If you think you are Spitz, Thorpe or Phelps, go without one.

Dusk Drive1

If you have every required items with you, then you are good to hop on the truck! It is best to study the map below so that you have a proper understanding and ably to picture of your location whenever you are doing trekking.

Credit: Tabin Wildlife Resort


Lipad Mud Volcano


Our guides brought us to Mud Volcano using the Mud Volcano Trail instead of the Elephant Trail. We were the one who chose this particular trail as it is shorter in comparison to Elephant Trail. On second thought (after we were back at the resort), we should have chosen the longer trail, who knows we might get to see some elephants! But again, it’s quite lengthy. Should you come, we highly recommend Elephant Trail. That is if you are not lazy (that’s us).


Telltale sign of elephants!


Telltale sign of elephants!

Giant Trees!


Observation Tower

In less than 30 minutes trekking, we reached the mud volcano and its observation tower. The Elephant Trail requires trekkers to walk for about one and half hour. We went up the tower to get an aerial view of the area. It is possible for guests to book ‘Overnight Package’ at the tower, opening up chances to see some wildlife ‘visiting’ the Mud Volcano.


Mud volcano: Due to humidity, with no heavy rain prior coming here, the area was a bit dry. This active Lipad mud volcano provides a mineral salt lick for wildlife such as elephants and wild boar. We did not get to see the elephants. How unfortunate. Few days after we left Tabin, elephants decided to come, doing their usual business.

Credit: Tabin Wildlife Resort

It was reported in the resort’s official Facebook Page (Link) that some guests and guides had the chance to see for themselves, not one but 14 elephants exactly on top of that mud volcano! If you decide to come and have high expectation to see em’, perhaps the best way is to book that ‘Overnight Package’. However, it is not guaranteed that the elephants will come.


At the mud volcano..


The volcano was a bit dry but we managed to spot some..


Playing with the mud..well, a bit..

Credit: Evon Foo

For the adventurous, try the effects of the volcanic mud, said to be responsible for a fine complexion as what our blogger friend , Evon and her friends did! Read her experience at Tabin, HERE. We did not try it but we highly recommend you do it, if you come here.


We opted to apply the mud during the pampering session at the resort. More on that later. Below is a short video of our visit to Mud Volcano.

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Night Safari (On Truck) 

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Right after dinner, we went for night safari to look out for nocturnal wildlife and birds. It did not require any walking as we went around using the resort’s truck. It was pitch dark, nothing heard except wildlife’s sound and the truck’s engine. Our guides used their mobile lights powered by the truck to pin point some wildlife. We managed to see some but soon it started to rain! Our gadgets had to be safely stored in the truck hence no recording or photos taken.


2nd Day-30 September 2018

Morning Walk 


On the 2nd day, we woke up early and had our light breakfast before heading to the nearby trail for morning walk with our guides. It was pretty much educational (and fun) as our guides shared detailed information of Tabin’s rich collection of more than 300 species of birds. After that walk, we went back to the resort for some heavy breakfast and short rest before hopping on the truck, visiting Lipad Waterfall.


Komorebi at Tabin Wildlife Resort

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Lipad Waterfall


Getting to Lipad Waterfall requires trekking through the lush green rainforest known for its rich diversity of plants and animal species. There are three trails to reach here namely; Gibbon, Raleigh or Mouse Deer. The common trail is Mouse Deer where guests hop on the truck and driven straight to the starting point. It is the fastest way to get to Lipad Waterfall, less than 20 minutes trekking.


Starting point of Mouse Deer Trail

*Lipad Waterfall is also known as Twin Waterfalls. 


Crossing the river..


Our guide, Fadli..


The water is damn cold but refreshing!


A memento..

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Herbal Foot Soak & Mud Facial


After short rest and lunch, we went to Eagle’s Nest with some other guests to enjoy the pampering session; Herbal Foot Soak and Mud Facial. It was fun and again educational as we were briefed by the staff of the session’s benefit(s). In short, the session aims to rejuvenate and refresh guests.


The philosophy of this particular foot soak session is based on the fact that nature give us everything we need to lead a healthy and happy life, and so the ingredients are of natural herbs such as Kaffir Lime Leaf, Lime, Aloe Vera, Pandanus Leaf, Turmeric, Galangal, Betel Leaf and Lemongrass.


We were given a towel for drying and lotion to apply

Also, a cup of refreshing tea to be enjoyed after the ‘treatment’. We went back to our room feeling younger and refreshed!


Dusk Drive


After Tea, we were ushered by Rafel and Fadli onto the Truck again for dusk drive to look out for more nocturnal wildlife & birds coming out to look for food during this time of the day. This time around our gadgets had some problems. Lesson learned. We should have check everything in advance. We did not see elephants but there was a wild boar hurriedly crossing the road!


We were told that this particular viewing platform is aged and to be repaired soon.


On our way back to the resort, we saw a couple of Hornbills!


Night Walk


After dinner, it’s back to the rubber boots and we had a night walk for about an hour, along the trail nearby the resort in search of sleeping birds, frog and nocturnal wildlife. It was pitch black but luckily each of us had a torch light. Fadli led the way while Rafel did the explaining part.


Can you see it? Below is the short video showing our night walk.

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3rd Day-1st October 2018

Video Presentation and Mud Volcano Certificate


After breakfast, Fadli invited us to Hunter’s Place to enjoy a video presentation on Tabin’s natural wonders. It was indeed informative.

We took turns in getting that mud brushed on the palm and Fadli guided us to have our hand ‘printed’ on the certificate!

and yesssss..finally we received our certificates, an ‘endorsement’ sort of, by Fadli and the resort that we have been to Tabin Wildlife Reserve!


Filling in feedback form

We took time to jot down our thoughts in regard to our experience at Tabin Wildlife Resort. There was no flaw whatsoever, in fact we enjoyed every second of our stay and activities at the resort. We want to acknowledge Fadli’s effort in walking back again to Lipad Waterfall just to retrieve one ‘forgotten item’. We also would like to express our gratitude to both Rafel and Fadli for their attentiveness towards us, taking care both of us from start to end.


References (Instagram)

There are some elements at Tabin Wildlife Reserve that we failed to capture through our lenses hence we inserted the screenshots and links here for future guests to refer to.

#tabinwildlifereserve (Link: Click HERE)


Our guide’s Instagram @rafelborneo (Link:Click HERE)


#tabinwildliferesort (Link:Click HERE)



Bottom Line


The experience at Tabin Wildlife Resort is indeed memorable. The activities were educational and fun, thanks to our guides, Rafel and Fadli. Other staff were amazing as well. They were all friendly, jovial, informative and helpful. Our River Lodge; well-appointed and it was indeed a comfy place to retreat in the evening. We were well fed by the continuous serving of yum delicious foods at Sunbird Cafe!

We didn’t get to see elephants but we perfectly understood that such opportunity is rare and depends on luck. In recent previous trips around the world, we failed to see whales in Sydney, Australia as well as Turtles in Terengganu, Malaysia. Such failure will not stop us from coming back to places that we love so much. Tabin is one of them and we will sure to return to see some elephants! Fingers crossed.



We would like to thank Promenade Hotels and Resort, Tabin Wildlife Resort and Mr. Lawrence Chin for this golden opportunity; visiting Tabin Wildlife Reserve and gaining in-depth knowledge in regard to nature and conservation effort. We also would like to express our sincere gratitude to WebJet Australia, Malaysia Airlines (MasWings) and Enrich Malaysia Airlines for providing seamless travel all the way to Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. 



Tabin Wildlife Resort
KM 49, Jalan Tungku, Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia
Facebook: Click HERE
Website: Click HERE

HQ Office Address:
Lot 11-1, 1st Flr, Blk A, Damai Point, Jln Damai, 88300 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.
Telephone+6 088 267266
Facsimile+6 088 258266

Lahad Datu Office Address:
Lot GL 02 Arrival Concourse, Lahad Datu Airport, 91108 Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia.



References/Useful Links

Bird list (2013). Retrieved on October 5, 2018 from (Link)

Cuaron, A. D. (2000). A global perspective on habitat disturbance and tropical rainforest mammals. Conservation Biology, Vol. 14, No. 6. pp 1574-1579.

Daily Express (December 4, 2011). Tabin-the forest and the oil palm. Retrieved on Ocotber 8, 2018 from (Link).

Evon Foo (2016). Into the wild. Retrieved on October 7, 2018 from  (Link to blog post)

Fiffy Hanisdah Saikim, AK Mohd Rafiq Bin AK Matusin, Norazah Mohd Suki & Mahadimenakbar Mohamed Dawood (2015). Tourists Perspective: Inclusion of Entotourism Concept in Ecotourism Activity. Retrieved on October3, 2018. (Link)

Henry Bernard, Esther Lonnie Baking, Hisashi Matsubayashi & Abdul Hamid Ahmad (2012). Records of Borneon felids in and around Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Sabah,Malaysia. Retrieved on October 5, 2018 from (Link to PDF)

Insect Listing (2013). Retrieved on October 5, 2018 from (Link)

James G. Robins, Marc Ancrenaz, Jason Parker, Benoit Goossens, Laurentius Ambu & Chris Walzer (2013). The release of northeast Bornean orangutans to Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Sabah, Malaysia. Retrieved on October 2, 2018 from (Link to PDF)

Jason Bugay Reyes (2013). The Best of Tabin Wildlife Reserve 2013. Retrieved on October 7, 2018 from (Link).

Murphy Ng (2013). Tabin, the Sanctuary of Borneo Wildlife. Retrieved on October 5, 2018 from (Link to blogpost)

New Straits Times (January 7,2018). Survival of the endangered. Kristy Inus, Avila Geraldine & Olivia Miwil. Retrieved on October 8, 2018 from (Link)

Rhino Resource Center (2011). Borneo Rhino Sanctuary Programme in Tabin Wildlife Reserve. Retrieved on October 6, 2018 from (Link to PDF).

The Guardian (8 December 2011). Australian woman killed by pygmy elephant. Retrieved on October 8, 2018 from (Link).

The Sabah Society (2011). Tabin Wildlife Field Trip 28-30 May, 2011. Retrieved on October 7, 2018 from (Link)

The Star Online (2 June 2014). Raising hope for baby rhinos. Lim Chia Ying. Retrieved on October 7, 2018 from (Link).

Tourism Malaysia (2018). 5 reasons to go wild at Tabin. Retrieved on October 6, 2018 from (Link).


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