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Rhino Survey Expedition in Borneo

Tabin was declared a wildlife reserve because of the large numbers of wildlife and birds inhabiting its jungle, many of which are endemic and endangered species. Amongst them is the most endangered of the rhino species, the Sumatran rhino.  Tabin is suspected to have one of the last remaining populations of the Sumatran rhino in Borneo

This is an excellent program enabling the participants to sample the best of what Tabin has to offer- a comfortable stay at the charming Tabin Wildlife Resort with a jungle expedition where your contribution will help the Sabah Wildlife Department and SOS Rhino Borneo in their efforts to protect one of the last populations of Sumatran rhinos in Borneo.

Day 1
You will be picked up in the east coast town of Lahad Datu. Spend sometime in the town to shop for local supplies before embarking on the overland journey (1:30 hrs) to Tabin Wildlife Resort, an eco-tourism resort within Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

Upon arrival, register and check into the charming Bornean timber bungalow of the resort which comes complete with private balcony, air-condition and hot water shower, a real luxury within the jungle.

Enjoy the splendour of mother- nature and explore the vicinity of the resort. Built alongside the Lipad river and nestled within the rainforest, a variety of birds, insects and even small mammals can be sighted quite easily within the resort.

Tabin’s charming timber bungalow Lipad Café at Tabin Wildlife Resort

In the afternoon, visit the Lipad mud volcano which serves as a mineral salt lick for wildlife.  After trekking through the jungle for twenty minutes, arrive at the elevated bare area of the mud volcano known to be frequented by deers, bearded pigs, elephants and birds. Try to identify the multitude of animal footprints here. Those adventurous can experiment the effect of the volcanic mud said to be responsible for fine complexion. Walk up the observation tower and admire the contrasting landscape of the bare mud volcano area and its surrounding thick forest where birds are commonly sighted.

After dinner, enjoy a slide presentation on Tabin’s uniqueness, followed by a trip to look out for nocturnal wildlife and birds.  Remember to look up at the clear, dark sky of Tabin, identify the constellations above you, and make a wish or two. Overnight in Tabin Wildlife Resort.   (L,D)

Fun at the mud volcano Hornbills can be easily sighted

Day 02
You may opt to join the early morning bird walk (not included in package) as Tabin has a rich collection of about 300 bird species. After breakfast, trek through the lush green jungle known for its rich diversity of plants and animal species to visit Lipad’s Waterfall.  Take a dip in the natural pool and enjoy the refreshing splash coming down from the waterfall. Alternatively explore the surrounding vegetation or just relax.   In the afternoon, there will be a Sumatran rhino orientation and work shop conducted by the SOS Rhino Borneo team. This includes 1 hour lectures and 3 hours practical training program. This will prepare you for the next few days’ survey and field work.  Overnight in Tabin Wildlife Resort. (B,L,D)

Wild elephants at Tabin Wildlife Resort Lipad waterfall, a perfect place to unwind

Orientation Workshop Topics:

  • Natural History of  the Sumatran Rhino-This section focuses on the recent biological history of the Sumatran rhino, including characteristics, historical range, environmental requirements, behavior, reproduction and habitats.
  • Conservation of Sumatran Rhino-This section includes both in situ and ex situ efforts occurring in countries all over the world over the last 20 years. Failures, successes and special issues confronting the survival of one of the worlds most unique and most endanger animals.
  • SOS Rhino Borneo Program-We will cover the various programs of SOS Rhino Borneo and how collectively these areas combine to build stakeholder commitment, thus sustainability of conservation. Beginning in 2000 with an assignment to assist with the captive breeding program, SOS Rhino Borneo expanded to include awareness and capacity building projects.

Practical skills Workshop:

  • Survey and tracking techniques
    Participants will learn to identify the signs of rhino such as footprints, feces, browsing, wallows, and how to make a record of them. Rangers will demonstrate casting footprints, GPS use, compass and mapping use, camera trapping, etc.
  • Jungle living
    This will include what to expect in the jungle when trekking and camping. What to do about bees, elephants, snakes, fire ants and leeches. How to make camp, gather food, cooking and forge rivers.
Day 03
Today you will begin your survey with the Rhino Protection Unit. The survey location can vary according to the availability of SOS Rhino Borneo’s Rhino Protection Units. The land transport starts from Tabin HQ to Parit water village to the jetty. The 2-3 hour road and boat journey depends on the climatic condition. While traveling along the river you may have chance to see variety of birds, otters, monitor lizards, small mammals and elephants. Upon arrival at the survey site, trip participants have a chance to make their own temporary camp for your 3-night stay. This is one of the exciting expeditions travel along the river. (B,L,D)

Taking pictures of elephant hoof prints along the river bank. RPU Staff heading toward one of SOS Rhino Borneo’s base camps

Camp-making and jungle living
The following images illustrate the camp-making activities and jungle living in temporary camps.

Camp- making and jungle living

Communal lunch  after a tough jungle-trek Temporary camp

Day 04
Early morning  jungle trekking in deep Bornean tropical rain forest to find rhino foot prints. On the way you may see a variety of birds and other wildlife such as sun bears, wild boars, sambar deer, and elephants. The jungle itself will prove to be a most exciting and adventurous place to visit. Participants will experience  hiking up and down steep hills and walking through streams and river beds. The beautiful landscape of Tabin’s rainforest is relaxing and soothing.

The following photos show evidence of the Sumatran Rhinoceros in the jungle.

Food plant eaten by rhino Fresh wallow used by rhino

Rhinoceros hoof prints along the riverbank Rhinoceros dung after 2 -3 days

Around 4 o’clock team will return back to the temporary camp and rest for the night. The next day will be more adventurous and thrilling. (B,L,D)

Day 05
This is another day of the jungle trekking in a different location from temporary camp. Today the team will trek along the river trail as rhinos do come to the river for a drink. Along the trek one can experience the beautiful scenery of Tabin Wildlife Reserve from the river side. If  the team is lucky, the you can catch a glimpse of beautiful birds and fauna such the Kingfisher, Rufous Piculet, Rhinoceros Hornbill, White-Breasted-Wood-Swallow, Great Argus, Red Leaf Monkey, Silvered Langur, and many more. From the river trail, the team will then follow the transect trail to a logging trail in search of rhino’s foot prints. Upon reaching the logging trail, the team then will spend several hours trying to locate and identify rhino foot prints. Around 4 o’clock, the team will head back to the temporary camp for your final night’s accommodate here. (B,L,D)

Day 06
After spending several nights in Tabin’s rain forest, the team will return from temporary camp to Tabin Wildlife Resort. The length of the journey back to SOS Rhino Borneo’s Headquarters in Tabin will depend on road conditions. Proceed to check in Tabin Wildlife Resort where you will enjoy a night’s stay in the resort’s timber bungalow, complete with hot shower and air-condition facility- for a change. (B.L,D)

Day 07
After breakfast, you may want to relax in the vicinity of the Tabin Wildlife Resort, sit by the Lipad river, have a drink of local coffee or enjoy the presence of colourful birds, insects and sometimes small mammals that can be seen nearby. After lunch, depart Tabin. (B,L)

End of program. You may opt to extend your stay at Tabin Wildlife Resort

What to bring for the Jungle Trek:

  • Back pack, light sleeping bag, and plastic bags to keep your personal effects dry
  • Water filter, and/or tablets (available at pharmacies) to clean drinking water
  • "kampung addidas" (instead of hiking boots) can be purchased upon arrival in Lahad Datu. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED FOR JUNGLE TREKKING
  • Leach socks can be purchased upon arrival
  • Teva-type sandals or Japanese slippers, to be worn while in base camp, can be purchased upon arrival for US$3.00
  • Waterproof bag and silica gel for your camera
  • FAST DRYING: Sturdy light-weight long trousers, long and short-sleeve t-shirts preferably dark colors, socks, short trousers, night clothes, towels, hat or cap, swimsuit
  • Antiseptic cream, talcum powder, antibiotics to treat septic wounds, insect repellent
  • Soap with low or no environmental impact


  • Participants must be fit and healthy. Rhino tracking survey work can be tedious and involves many hours per day of walking in the rain, at times crossing swollen rivers, trekking up and down steep ridges and ravines ­ all in an environment with humidity of more than 90% and temperatures hovering at 30 degrees C during the day.
  • Meals during the rhino survey program are generally communal and gathered from the forest, with local dishes accompanied by rice
  • Accommodations during the rhino survey program will range from hammocks, to tents to stilt houses.

For booking and further information, please contact:
Level 1, Office No. 5, Airport Terminal 2, Old Airport Road
Locked Bag 113, 88999 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Phone: 60-88-261558 Fax: 60-88-267558 Email:

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