Tabin Wildlife Reserve, a government-owned tract of land twice the size of Singapore, holds a single resort managed by a private company. It’s around 44km northeast of Lahad Datu airport, where the reserve office is based, of which the last 25km is unsurfaced. Although just eleven percent primary dipterocarp forest, Tabin offers excellent opportunities to see wildlife. Indeed, charismatic manager Fernando argues that Tabin’s strength as a habitat is in its combination of primary forest, secondary forest and plantation (which is rich in fruit for animals to eat).
Both hiking and night drives offer opportunities to come across pygmy elephants, macaques or wild boar as they cross the tracks from the forest to the plantations in search of food; orang-utans can also be spotted, and even the rare clouded leopard. Birdwatchers can look out for such endemic species as the Bornean bristlehead, blue-headed pitta and all eight local species of hornbills.
A visit to Tabin will typically include a walk to a mud volcano, used by animals as a mineral lick; a nearby tower allows guests to observe the scene and you can even sleep there by arrangement. Serious trekkers can explore the virgin forest of the Core Area, although this is not part of the normal schedule.