Sunday, November 11, 2012

Nature Orientation Course in Maliau Basin ~ PART 2

Continued from Part 1

The banner of our nature orientation course


The real adventure starts on the second day. I woke up very early in the morning at 4:45 am, in fact, the earliest one to wake up among the participants. I was not able to sleep well the whole night because I am still not used to sleeping on a double decker bed.

While everyone else is still asleep, I went to prepare myself and take photographs of the nocturnal animals left before the sun rises.

I photographed this pair of small bats flying around the balcony before dawn

Some early birds on the way to catch some worms get some breakfast

Our breakfast served in the dining hall was quite good for a local standard. All our meals and accommodation are sponsored by the government.

View of the Dining Hall balcony 

After a hearty meal, we all went to the Maliau Basin meeting room. Here, each of us get the chance to introduce ourselves formally in front of everyone. After that, Mr. Jimmy Omar and the park rangers gave talks on the introduction and rules of this forest reserve. Each of us participants are given a folder, ID card and our uniform. 

Everyone in the meeting room

After some time in the meeting room, we finally get to go out and do some real outdoor activity! 
We all excitedly wore our brand new orange uniform and headed out to start our very first outdoor activity.   

Walking on the muddy road while being careful not to step into the mud pools

Just crossing a bridge

Picture of the suspension bridge from above

After crossing a river through the Maliau Suspension Bridge, we reached our destination.
Our first outdoor activity will be canopy walking.

Climbing the wooden platform to get to the canopy bridge on top

This Canopy Walk activity is to give students a chance to explore and experience the canopy layer of the rainforest. Our ranger guides and the information displays on the skybridge taught us a lot about the types of animals and plants found there.

The Maliau Skybridge is 300 meters long and can reach a height up to 21 meters above ground. 

Maliau Skybridge

Panoramic scenery of the Maiau Basin forest canopy 

A tree-hugger, literally !

I managed to find some interesting arboreal spiders that live by camouflaging themselves on tree barks. Try to spot them in these pictures.

A jumping spider, possibly a Laufeia sp.

An easy one to notice

Okay, something a little more tougher 

I could spend the whole day on the sky bridge trying to record as many species up here as I can because it is said that 60 to 70 percent of the rain forest animals live up here in this canopy environment. Unfortunately, we still have to stick to the time table and move on, besides the rain clouds are coming.

   Still have some time to take a photo of myself climbing down the tree

After the canopy exploration, the rangers lead us to a forest trail for our second activity - forest trekking. The trail is called Knowledge Trail which is 1 kilometer in long. Our guide showed and explained to us the types of trees we see in that forest. We were also introduced to the animal that is popular and feared during jungle trekking here - leeches.

Tiger Leech, the most feared blood-sucker in Borneo

We also saw some amazing termite nest which is spiky all over

There is also this awesome coral fungi which looks like burning flames

We finished the forest trail just in time before the rain arrived. After crossing the suspension bridge, the rain became heavier so we all ran to seek shelter.

 A small crowd taking shelter under a hut

Finally, our guide suggested that we should get to Maliau Basin Belian Camp, a nearby campsite where we can get shelter from the heavy rain. While exploring the camp, I found this  strange structure stuck underneath a wooden table.

A mud nest made by an Eustenogaster potter wasp

The rain stopped after an hour. We returned to the dining hall for lunch and rest, filled ourselves up with enough energy before continuing with our next outdoor activity - Rope Challenge.

This rope challenge is like a obstacle course where we have to cross 2 obstacle. The first one is walking on a plank which both ends connected to ropes, making it swing wildly if you are not balanced (see the photo above)

The second obstacle is climbing upside down through a long rope tied horizontally (shown below)

Girl Power !

This challenge sure is exhausting! Good thing we were given a long rest after that until dinner. The meal we had during dinner was good as usual but the nocturnal species that showed up that night was indeed spectacular !

Here are some of these nighttime critters:

A rare Majangella moultoni a.k.a. Moss Mantis

A large common planthopper of MBSC

A strange-looking weevil

Our last activity of the day is just listening to talks given by the organizing team in the meeting room. They showed us a slight show on the variety of flora and fauna found in Maliau Basin. We were also told about the history of Maliau Basin.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Nature Orientation Course in Maliau Basin ~ PART 1

This post is continued from

Photo credit ~ Jimmy Omar 

As I have already mentioned in the previous post, I had participated in a Nature Orientation Course in Maliau Basin Study Center. This is a one week course organized by the is a part of the awareness campaign organized by the Sabah Nature Society and Yayasan Sabah to educate the young generation the importance of conserving nature.

22 students accompanied with several teachers participated in this exciting program. These students are chosen from the Nature Clubs in several secondary schools around Sabah. They are among the best "nature-lovers" students in Sabah.  

The course provides many exciting activities related to nature which I will share about in this post. Mr. Jimmy Omar, the host of this program along with Andreas Boital and his team have made this course a success and leave us behind unforgettable memories and useful knowledge. 


On the first day of our adventure, participants from Tawau, Semporna and Lahad Datu will assemble in front of the Tawau UMNO building where we will board 4-Wheel Drive Vehicles which will leave at 11 am to Maliau Basin.

UMNO Political Building in Tawau © CEphoto, Uwe Aranas

The ride to Maliau Basin Study Centre (MBSC) took us 5.5 hours across about 190 kilometers of road. The roads after Kalabakan district are unpaved and very bumpy.

Halfway into Maliau Basin, we took a break at the Maliau Basin Security Gate where we register and checked in.

Security Checkpoint / Maliau Basin road junction

During the break, we also took the opportunity to visit the Maliau Basin Information Gallery in the security checkpoint compound. This information gallery is opened by Shell Company in 2007.

Maliau Basin Information Gallery

The information gallery is very informative as it contains maps, pictures and articles
about Maliau Basin.

There is even a Tembadau skull displayed inside the gallery

After the break, we resumed our journey to the Maliau Basin Study Center which is about another
20 km away from the security gate.

If you think the road from Kalabakan is bad enough, the road starting from the Maliau basin security gate is a lot worse. The situation gets from bad to worse. This narrow road is without gravel so it is extremely muddy and slippery here. A non-4WD automobile will surely get stuck in the thick mud.

Sometimes the condition becomes very risky when our cars crossed rivers through bridges which are simply made of 2 tree trunks. One little slip and you will fall to the rivers below.

Our 4WD car covered in mud from the long journey

After checking in at the lobby counter, we were lead to the hostels where we will be staying for the next several days. The hostels are dormitory roomed so we each choose a bed and start to unpack our luggages.

Bambangan & Beluno Hostel

After that, we explored the surroundings of our hostels while waiting for dinner time.

Dinner is in MBSC Dining Hall where we enjoyed our all-you-can-eat buffet. Wild boars also came to join us after picking up the smell of our delicious meal.

 A wildboar

We have nothing to do after dinner so we returned to the hostels and get to know each other while I looked for nocturnal insects.

These are several of the nocturnal insects that visited our hostels attracted to the artificial night lights.

Continue to part 2 here

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Roadkill Animals

The introduction of Roads and Cars here have became a threat to many animals who are not used to roads. Dogs are a common victim to the traffic so roadkill dogs are just an ordinary sight to the locals here. Cats are as common as dogs here but far less cats end up dead on / beside the road because of their agile nature. However there are some rarer animals that end up as roadkills.

10 years ago when I was still a little boy, my father showed me an unusual animal. It was found dead on a road, obviously another road victim. I was fascinated when I saw the mammal but also disgusted by it's stench of decay. It is has a muscular tail and the whole body is armored with overlapping thick scales. That was the first time I have seen a Pangolin.

The Leopard Cat is also another rarely seen animal because of it's shy nature. These nocturnal cats can be found in oil palm plantations living by preying on the abundant rats here. I have seen unlucky leopard cats on the highway several times. They usually died knocked by cars late at night when they are trying to cross the road to reach the opposite plantation. One of the roadkill cases recorded here in

I have spotted another strange mammal 2 months ago. I am very happy to get a chance to see this rare Stink Badger at the same time sad to see it dead. Little is known about this species. Few photographs of this badger (also claimed as skunk) existed. They can secrete an unbearable foul smell like skunks. I have met a village folk who has told me about his funny experience with this mammal. He was still a young boy when his mother captured one badger by wrapping it with a towel but releasing it immediately after realizing that it can produce smelly secretions. The towel was "cursed" to be smelly forever. He claimed that even after months of soaking the towel in a stream, the smell still refused to leave. At first I was being doubtful because I know very well that we do not have skunks in Borneo, but this roadkill victim changed my belief.

Sunda stink badger (Mydaus javanensis) a.k.a. Malayan skunk

These are protected animals but as you can see, they are still vulnerable. I hope the Malaysian governors could do something to provide further protection to these animals. The drivers should also do their part in driving safely. I know that some drivers here just could not resist to run over an animal mercilessly. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

a Trip to Maliau Basin

I was lucky enough to be one of the 2 students to represent our school - SM St Patrick Tawau, in participating in the Nature Orientation Course (Kursus Orientasi Alam Sekitar) from 10 to 15 November 2012 in Maliau Basin Studies Centre.

This course is a part of the awareness campaign organized by the Sabah Nature Society and Yayasan Sabah to educate the young generation the importance of conserving nature. 22 students from secondary schools all over Sabah participated in this event and accompanied by several teachers, park rangers, Mr. Jimmy Omar and his team from Yayasan Sabah.

Wait !  There must be a beginning to this story. 
Here it goes....

It all started one afternoon just few days before the STPM examination starts, I was supposed to call my mum to pick me after school is over but unfortunately all the 3 public telephones in the school were having technical problems. Since I could not contact my mother, I decided to just visit the school canteen to hang out with my friends while thinking what to do next.

A teacher passed by the canteen minutes later holding some papers began talking to my friends. I overheard their communication and got interested as soon as I heard the word "MALIAU". That word could only mean one thing ~ MALIAU BASIN - THE LOST WORLD OF SABAH !
I rushed over to poke my nose into their conversation and found out something about camping in Maliau Basin. The teacher saw the interested look on my face and told me about this nature orientation program. My friends are interested to join in this program but unfortunately for them, the date of the course clashed with their very important STPM examination time.

2 person are to be chosen from my school to participate in this course. The students are usually chosen from the Nature Club members in our school but somehow this year only one student from the school Nature Club joined and that leaves one more room for another student. The teacher had to get students from outside the club and that is when he walked past the canteen looking for students who are interested. 

I showed great interest and the teacher gave me the last form. After I received this 2nd form, there won't be room for another participant from this school. And of course, I have filled and handed the form. It was a last-minute application but a successful one.

If the public phones were still functioning.....
If another interested student bumped into that teacher first and took that form......
If I had not stayed back in school.....    
If I have decided to ask my friends for a ride or a phone.......
If I have not switched schools and remained in my old school......
I kept thinking about what had happened. All these coincidence happened in the right time to change my life. Whether you believe in God or not, you ought to believe in great coincidences, or you might call it Miracles. Do also believe that there is a silver lining in every cloud.

Maliau Basin is a wonderful place that have diversity in the species of flora and fauna found there. I have always aimed to visit Maliau Basin one day and I did not know that my dream was achieved that early. Thank you very much Teacher Ramli, Mr. Jimmy Omar, Encik Andreas Boital, park rangers, Yayasan Sabah, my school and fellow participants for making it possible for me to visit Maliau Basin and making it one of the greatest experiences in my entire life.

Don't miss my follow up posts.