Last Updated on : 1 March 2014
Waterfalls & Lakes
Maliau’s Murut name for the basin means “Land of the Giant Staircase” derived from its step-like landscape and countless waterfalls – 19 falls and still counting.
A trip to the Maliau Basin takes several days, you will stay overnight in a number of camps and must be prepared for long jungle treks under sometimes difficult conditions.
For detailed information, download this
report, prepared by Gabriel Chong.
| Danum Valley | Danum Valley Field Centre
| Gemok Hill | Madai Caves | Maliau Basin |
| Tabin Wildlife Reserve | Tawau Hills Park
| Imbak Canyon Conservation Area
| Tun Sakaran Marine Park |
|Maliau Basin is perhaps the most mysterious of all jungles in Malaysia. It looks like a volcanic caldera surrounded by cliffs and slopes up to 1500 m in heights, making it almost impossible to access on foot from most directions. But for the determined, not only is it a rich unspoiled rainforest, it boasts an awe-inspiring seven-tier waterfall. At least 80 types of orchids have been recorded, most of which are a newly discovered in Sabah. There have been talks that this lost world of Borneo could very well be Malaysia's fourth World Heritage Site.|
In Sabah lies one of Malaysia's finest remaining wilderness areas, the mystical Maliau Basin. Bounded by a formidable escarpment reaching over 1,675 m a.s.l.., the almost circular Basin encompasses 390 km2 of pristine forest, a virtually self-contained ecosystem, never permanently inhabited and with large areas still remaining to be explored and documented. Remarkably, the whole basin is a single huge water catchments, drained by one river only, the Maliau River, which flows through a gorge in the southeast of the Basin, joining the Kuamut River and eventually the Kinabatangan River.
Maliau Basin conservation area is not commonly know by all Malaysian people. If you like nature and trekking in the jungle, Maliau Basin, can provide you a nice place and nice experience in the jungle. The scenery of maliau falls is very beautiful and nature. Here you will have a chance to see a sun bear, banting, deer and others.
The Maliau Basin is one of the most spectacular and pristine natural features in Malaysia. The Basin is almost unvisited and completely uninhabited by man. It is located in south-central Sabah, about 40 km. north of the Indonesian border at between 116° 40' - 117° 2' and 4° 40' 4° 50' N. While all of this region is rugged, remote and forested, the Maliau Basin is distinguished by its steep slope up to 1,500m. in height, making it insurmountable on foot from most directions. The size of the enclosed Basin is 390 sq. km. with a maximum diameter of 25 km. The highest point is Mt. Lotung, on the north rim which is about 1,900 m elevation.
It is drained by a set of radiating tributaries of the Maliau River, one of which descends a series of waterfalls, known as the Maliau Falls.
The river drains through a gorge into the Kuamut River which in turn feeds into the Kinabatangan River, the longest river in Sabah.
The pictures on this page are courtesy of Gabriel Chong, the Chin Family, Stefan Kolb and Lau Nai Kwong. More information can be found on the websites of Gabriel
Photo Gallery : http://www.johnlkong.com
self-contained forest where rare and endemic flora and fauna have thrived
for million of years in a saucer-shaped basin hemmed in by sheer cliffs.
Step into the pristine Maliau Basin Conservation Area (Maliau Basin Conservation Area), aptly dubbed the Lost World.
In the heart of Sabah, 190km from Tawau, Maliau was a well-kept secret among the local Murut people. The rest of the world only learned of this mysterious place when a pilot nearly crashed into its mist-shrouded cliffs in 1947.
A recent team to Maliau in 1982 discovered an untouched world with bearded pigs, leaf monkeys and eight-meter long pythons.
The first Maliau scientific expedition began in 1988, followed by a few research trips over the years. Scientists encountered the elusive clouded leopard, endangered sun bear and endemic species like the tufted grand squirrel and male Bulwer’s pheasant.
More than 30 species of mammals, 270 bird species and over 80 species of orchids, rare and endemic, were recorded. The recent June 2006 scientific expedition led by the Academy Sciences of Malaysia and two local universities yielded 10 possible new species of flora and fauna, according to Maliau Basin Conservation Area’s Dr Waidi Sinun, Yayasan Sabah’s group manager of conservation and environmental management.
Originally part of the 10,000sq km timber concession held by the Yayasan Sabah Group (Sabah Foundation), Maliau Basin escaped the chainsaws in the early 90s and mining exploration attempts in early 2000, despite it being gazetted as a Class I (Protection) Forest Reserve in 1997 (banning all logging and mining activities).
Guests of Sabah-based outdoor operator Borneo Nature Tours (BNT), our party of five – including journalist Liz Price, photographer Calvin Ng and guides Calixtus and Isnadil – opted for a five-day/four-night trek on the Agathis loop which would take us through the Agathis, Lobah and Camel Trophy camps.
With over 70km of marked trails, only about one third of Maliau is open to visitors and less than half the Basin has been explored by researchers so far.
A six-hour trundle on a four-wheel drive from Tawau, over logging roads and oil palm estates took us to the Maliau Basin Conservation Area security outpost.
Maliau Basin Conservation Area covers an area of 590sq km, including a “buffer” zone made up of secondary forests. It is in the buffer zones that the rare Sumatran rhinoceros and Bornean pygmy elephants have been spotted.
Our first sighting was the footprints of the Banteng, or what the locals call tembadau (wild ox), extinct in Peninsular Malaysia for half a century now. About 15 to 20 tembadau have been recorded in Maliau.
An hour’s drive from the outpost, the Agathis camp is nestled in the mixed dipterocarp forest with tree canopies reaching 25m to 45m, and species like the meranti sarang punai (Shorea parvifolia) and seraya (Shorea curtisii). The camp, a wooden building on stilts, comes with comfy camp beds, shower facilities and lounging areas with stacks of reading material.
After the first of many scrumptious dinners, we took off for a night ramble on the Agathis Nature trail. Sightings of a Kingfisher, mouse deer, barking deer, frogs, millipede and calls of the Argus Pheasant wrapped up a fruitful evening.
Exploring the basin
Pristine rainforest covers the Basin from 300m to 1,800m high – with lowland dipterocarp forest making way for highland heath forest and Casuarina-conifer forests as the altitude increases.
The rugged terrains and precipitous hills also meant our knees took a serious pounding as we trekked an average of four to seven hours a day from one campsite to another.
But we feasted our senses on the forest’s smells, sounds and sights.
We stumbled upon a kaleidoscope of mushrooms scattered on the forest floor and tree trunks like cup fungi (Cookeina specie) and bracket fungi (Stereum lobatum).
Soothing hoots of the Bornean gibbons (Hylobates muelleri) kept us company each morning as we trudged on the sheer slopes. One of the rangers, Harbin, pointed out some unusual forest herbs, a tree bark ripped off by the sun bear and a gaping hole on a gaharu tree (Aquilaria malaccensis) left by poachers.
Maliau’s entire basin is a single water catchment, drained by numerous streams that converge to form Maliau River that flows out into Kuamut River which, in turn, feeds the Kinabatangan River.
Garden of Eden
On the third day, we plodded on to the Camel Trophy camp, 1,005m high. After a arduous climb of about 300m up a 70° incline, we stepped into the magical heath forest.
Bright pink rhododendrons and red ixoras peeked out from trees and bushes. Pitcher plants like the Nepenthes stenophylla dangled prettily like Christmas tinsel, while the Nepenthes veitchii with their flared lips (peristomes) wrapped their roots around trunks.
At least six pitcher plant species and one natural hybrid (N. veitchii-stenophylla) have been spotted in Maliau. In one day, I took snapshots of at least five types of pitcher plants including the N. tentaculata, N. hirsuta and N. reinwardtiana.
The winding trail flanked by pitcher plants and colorful fungi made a pretty sight. Assortments of epiphytes like orchids were in abundance although they were not in bloom then.
The Camel Trophy camp was almost “luxurious” with beds and pillows, solar-powered lights and running water pumped from the river below.
We stayed put for two days and explored the nearby Giluk Falls and Takob-Akob Falls. Both evenings, a “resident” bearded pig (Sus barbatus) was spotted foraging outside our camp.
My all-time favourite place in Maliau would be the 33m observation platform built on an Agathis borneensis tree behind the Camel trophy shelter. Towering Agathis trees have distinct pock-marked, grey/reddish barks with pearls of yellow-white resin. At the break of dawn, I clambered up the platform, taking in the sweeping view of the lush, mist-wreathed forest and enjoying the cool, fresh air.
As the pink, glowing sun broke through the clouds, I heard a sudden rustling of leaves. On my left, about 10m away at eye level, two Bornean gibbons were cavorting on a nearby tree. Seconds after they spotted me, they took a big leap and like trapeze artists, swung their long arms and vanished into the thick foliage.
What a spectacle
Five days were barely enough to unearth the many natural riches of Maliau. But given a chance, I would come back again, especially when the haze comes around . . .
o Sources: Maliau Basin – Sabah’s Lost World
STAY A 5D/4N-trip for a group of four averages RM1,100 per person (including conservation fees, transport to and from Tawau, administration fees, two park rangers, VHF radio rental, food and camp beds). Visitors have to write to Yayasan Sabah and get an approval before being allowed into Maliau Basin Conservation Area. Tariffs for Maliau Basin Conservation Area have not been updated on the website.
For a 5D/4N package, price ranges from RM2,800 to RM 3,800 per/person (including nature guides). Park Rangers are not guides and their job is to ensure visitors follow the trails and don’t violate park guidelines.
Since it was designated a Protected Class I Forest in 1997, Maliau’s visitors (including government officer, researchers and voluntary organizations) total 2,574. As of Nov 2006, there were only 684 visitors.
Some of the steps taken to preserve the area include:
Visitors can check out the new “sky bridge” (spanning eight trees, it is 400m-long and suspended 22m above ground), a natural pool, interpretative nature trail and treetop lounge. The centre will hold environmental education activities and have a Nature Gallery.
A 45-minute drive from the security post, the centre is open to the public.
Two of the biggest threats to the Maliau area are poaching and the nicking of forest products, according to Dr Waidi Sinun, the group manager of conservation and environmental management under Yayasan Sabah Group.
Maliau’s management has increased the frequency of patrols in the area by park rangers. Some of the rangers double up as wildlife wardens and also work with the Wildlife department to deal with poachers.
“It’s also a challenge to educate the public, especially the communities living near Maliau, to ensure they help conserve the area for the future generation,” says Waidi.
Traditionally, local communities have always ventured into the fringes of the basin to collect forest products.
“We’re now looking into alternative economic opportunities for these communities.”
Most of the park rangers are sourced from nearby villages.
Balancing nature conservation and protecting locals’ livelihood is a real challenge, but at this juncture, Maliau Basin Conservation Area is off to a good start.
Day to day management of the Conservation Area is carried out by Yayasan Sabah on behalf of an inter-agency Maliau Basin Management Committee, which also includes Sabah Forestry Department, Sabah Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment, University Malaysia Sabah and representatives from other government agencies, academic institutions. District Offices and NGOs.
Maliau Basin Conservation Area is a remote location and safety procedures must be followed. These include having insurance which covers emergency helicopter evacuation for those trekking into the forest, being accompanied by Maliau rangers while on the trails and rental of VHF radios. Hunting is absolutely forbidden, and rules concerning the conservation of the area such as no collection of specimens without written permission, must also be strictly adhered to.
The isolated and mysterious Maliau Basin, also known as Sabah's Lost World, has only recently begun to be investigated by researchers. Major expeditions in 1988,1996, 2001, 2005 and 2006, and baseline studies during the joint Yayasan Sabah/DANIDA project, discovered a distinct and diverse flora of over 1,800 species, including at least 6 types of pitcher plant and more than 80 species of orchid, several of which are new records for Sabah. The rare Rafflesia tengku-adlinii has also been found in Maliau Basin, one of only two known localities in Sabah, and two species completely new to science, a tree and a moss, have so far been discovered. Main forest types comprise lower montane forest dominated by majestic Agathis trees, rare montane heath forest and precious lowland and hill dipterocarp forest.
The basin is a faunal haven for lowland animals such as wild pigs, barking deer, probocis monkey, clouded leopard, pythons and many species of birds including the rare Bulwer's Pheasant, the Crimsonheaded Partridge and the Peregine Falcon.
Although much of the terrain remains to be explored and studied, Maliau has
already revealed itself to be the home of some of Sabah's most rare and
endangered wildlife species, including the Sumatran Rhinoceros, Banteng, Orang
Utan and Proboscis Monkey. Others among the over 80 mammal species so far
confirmed include Bornean Pygmy Elephant, Clouded Leopard and Malayan Sunbear.
More than 35 species of amphibian have so far been found, including a frog which makes its home in pitcher plants! Maliau has also yielded new species of fish, crab and water beetle, with no doubt many more species still to be discovered amongst its rich biodiversity.
|Satellite Camp Accommodation
In addition to the chalet, rest house and hostel accommodation facilities available at Maliau Basin Studies Centre, Maliau offers a range of satellite camps linked by well-maintained trails.
Belian Camp is about 25km drive from the Security Gate and within walking distance of Maliau Basin Studies Centre. It comprises a camping ground with space for 20 double tents, a large kitchen, toilets cum showers, and an attractive pavilion. Located in logged lowland dipterocarp forest near the banks of Maliau River, Belian Camp is close to an educational nature trail and an impressive canopy walkway, also known as Maliau 'Sky Bridge7.
Set on the banks of a 15m wide stream in hill mixed dipterocarp forest, Agathis Camp is located at the southernmost edge of Maliau Basin Conservation Area, about 20km to the north of the Security Gate. A 1km self-guided nature trail at the camp provides visitors with a fascinating introduction to the forest and its wildlife. The camp is well-equipped and comfortable, with hammock-style accommodation for up to 30 visitors, electricity and toilets and showers.
Four to six hours walk from Belian Camp, Seraya Camp is located on what is expected to be the most important trail in Maliau Basin Conservation Area in the future, as most visitors to Maliau Falls will spend the night here. Trails around Seraya Camp also pass a rare Rafflesia tengku-adlinii site.
Located near the top of a hill with a 230 degrees panoramic view of the Basin's rim, Lobah Camp is approximately 2km from the well-known Maliau Falls, and serves as a much-needed stopping point for visitors from Ginseng and Camel Trophy Camps, before arriving at the Falls. Other satellite camps in remote locations such as Rafflesia, Strike Ridge and Eucalyptus Camps are accessible to visitors only by helicopter.
|Maliau Basin Conservation Area is located in south central
Sabah, about 40 km north of the Kalimantan border, and adjacent to Yayasan Sabah
Forest Management Area. It is accessible via the towns of Tawau or Keningau,
both 4 to 5 hour drives away. Four- wheel drive is recommended as part of the
journey is on unpaved roads.
At Maliau Basin Security Gate, where the Shell Maliau Basin Reception and Information Building is located, an access road leads to Agathis Camp and Maliau Basin Studies Centre. There are no roads inside the Conservation Area.
Please contact the addresses below for further enquiries and booking information:
Maliau Basin Conservation Area
Research & Development Division
Yayasan Sabah Group
P.O. Box 11622. Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Languages Spoken: English and Bahasa Malaysia
Tel: (6 088) 326300 / 326318 Fax: (6088) 326316 / 326315
Maliau Basin Conservation Area
Research & Development Division
Yayasan Sabah Group
C/0 Rakyat Berjaya Sdn. Bhd.
P.O. Box 60793, Tawau. Sabah, Malaysia
Tel: (6 089) 759214 Fax:(6089)759215
March 01, 2014 10:58:05 AM