Borneo - Maliau Basin


Maliau Falls, Sabah, Malaysia, Borneo, Asia by Sabah TourismWater cascading down Maliau Basin's iconic falls © Sabah Tourism

 It is a faunal haven with over 1,800 species of plants and lots of wildlife including barking deer, banteng, sun bears, proboscis monkeys, clouded leopards, pythons and many species of birds including the rare Bulwer’s pheasant, crimson-headed partridge and peregrine falcon. 

A ‘protected forest reserve’ once open to logging, Sabah’s so-called ‘Lost World’ lies in south-central Sabah, about 40km north of the Indonesian border – an enclosed 390km² basin up to 25km across. The area is drained by tributaries of the Maliau River, one of which forms a stunning series of waterfalls, the seven-tiered Maliau Falls. It is a remarkable block of tropical forest – virtually the entire catchment of the Maliau River – almost encircled by a dramatic escarpment rising over 1,600m in height, insurmountable from most directions. The area was originally set aside by the Sabah Foundation and then formally upgraded to a Class 1 Reserve.

The basin has 12 different forest types, mostly Agathis tree-dominated lower montane, dry heath forest and lowland and hill dipterocarp forest. It is a faunal haven with over 1,800 species of plants and lots of wildlife including barking deer, banteng, sun bears, proboscis monkeys, clouded leopards, pythons and many species of birds including the rare Bulwer’s pheasant, crimson-headed partridge and peregrine falcon. Only a couple of operators are allowed to visit this area – it is under tight wraps, and is very expensive – about RM4,000–6,000 for five days and four nights excluding airfares, less with a bigger group. It’s also a tough trip – camping in tents, with lots of leeches around (including tiger leeches) and 06.00 starts. With long walking days in humid conditions, participants must be physically fit, and mentally prepared. There are about 12 licensed tour operators, both local and international, who can visit the area.

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