Covering an area of 1205 sq-km Tabin Wildlife Reserve is one of the last haven’s of many of Borneo’s severely endangered species including the Sumatran Rhinoceros Pygmy Forest Elephant and Clouded Leopard. Although only 40km from the nearest town Lhad Datu, it is not an easy place to visit, especially whilst on a budget. In order to visit you have to book through the one resort at Tabin which controls all tourist access and starts off at £150 for a one day visit! Sod that, we hired a 4x4 in Lhad Datu and drove the short distance to the Tabin turn off and then bumped our way along rough tracks through palm oil plantations for over an hour. Arriving at the first checkpoint we waved cheerily at a security guard, who opened his barrier and let us through. The same happened at the second checkpoint and we were in! Taking a picture of the trail map at the resort we parked up at a discrete distance and entered the forest.
We had two fantastic days walking the trails and observing wildlife from the observation tower next to a mud volcano, which is a popular salt lick for many of the animals. Although we didn’t see Rhino or Elephant we found their tracks and poo, we spotted bearded pigs and gibbons two of the shyest creatures in the forests. Hornbills and Macaques were everywhere as were the leaches but you get used to them after a while! The heat and humidity was stifling and sweat poured constantly from when we left the haven of the car until we returned in the evening. We had one moment of respite from the heat when dark clouds rolled in, day almost turned to night and we witnessed a very impressive rainforest-style downpour with thunder and lightning everywhere. Luckily we’d sought refuge in the observation tower and escaped the worst of it. Even before the rain had stopped the jungle was steaming, vapour trails lifted from every tree and soon we were in a misty white out before the sun broke through again and everything cleared.
On the way home on the fist day we met a beautiful Wallace’s Hawk Eagle who still looked a little damp from the rain. He was very well behaved and sat on a fence post right next to the car to let us get some nice pictures.
However, the trip home on the second day was the zenith of our days at Tabin. We’d stayed late at the salt lick hoping to see some bigger creature come at dusk, but only saw some more wild pigs. So we made our way back to the car by torch light and headed home. More pigs crossed our path as we descended back towards the oil plantations. Once in the plantations we didn’t expect to see much and were chatting away, suddenly in the middle of the track a pair of bright eyes shone at us, it looked like a fox at first but moved more elegantly. As we got closer and got the torch beams on to it we could clearly see her markings, a Leopard Cat!! She was stalking through the long grass and bushes at the side of the track unfazed by us trundling along slowly next to her. Next thing two more pairs of eyes appeared and suddenly dashed across the road obviously spooked by our presence, her cubs!
Before we got back to the main road we spotted another leopard cat and a palm civet, not bad for an evening’s drive! Thank you Tabin.
A small group of gibbons hanging around near the park's entrance was a great start to the adventure. These shy primates are rarely seen but can often be heard around sunrise calling across their territory
It's not just the big stuff that's fascinating, this tiny frog was very hard to spot
Pig-tailed Macaques were a common sighting but we stayed well clear of these aggressive chaps!
Tabin is mainly secondary dipterocarp forest, with plenty of mature trees with giant buttress roots
The mud volcano 4km into the park, a popular salt lick with an observation tower right next to it for spying on the timid visitors and escaping the rains
Charly finds herself in the rather larger footprints of the forest elephant at the edge of the mud volcano
Chris loses the trail "come on girls I'm sure its this way!?!"
A cool rest stop at the river rapids
On the way home on the fist day we're lucky to spot this very photogenic Harris's Hawk Eagle at the side of the track
From the edge of the park it's Oil Palm Plantations as far as the eye can see
We were lucky to spot these very shy wild bearded pigs a couple of times over two days
Best spot of the trip - our first Leopard Cat stalking dinner for her cubs
A banded or masked Palm Civet by the side of the track
Our fourth Leopard Cat of the evening - what a trip!