Nature Escapes

Maliau Basin Conservation Area

"Sabah's Mysterious Rainforest Wilderness"


A 'Lost World' of pristine rainforest, Maliau Basin sits within a volcanic-like caldera that keeps it out of human view. Not until a British pilot, in 1947, nearly collided into its steep cliffs that were obscured by the mist hovering over the jungle.

Even then, the treasures of Maliau were not really discovered until an expedition in 1988 began to uncover one of the best wilderness areas in Asia.

As big as Singapore in size, Maliau Basin harbors dozens of jungle waterfalls, 30 species of mammals, a mix of over 270 birds, six species of pitcher plants, and six dozen orchid species. And that's just the half of it because only 50% of the wilderness has been explored.

Steep slopes rising to a 1675 meter circular rim prevented early explorers from entering the habitat on foot. The entire basin has only one exit, the Maliau River. And the traditional Murut people only ventured into the area on annual hunting parties. .

All of these factors make Maliau Basin a special destination.

Natural Things To Do

Maliau Basin Conservation Area: Nature Attractions

Jungle Trekking

As a premier conservation area, a network of over 70 km of jungle trails traverse the diverse forest habitats of the interior wilderness. A series of satellite camps connected by these trails offer remote access to partake in wildlife watching, jungle photography, birdwatching and night time treks. Maliau Basin
flickr/Orang Asli

Streams and waterfalls slice through the dense vegetation of the basin and provide relief from the difficult terrain. The most specatacular sight remains the Maliau Falls, a stair-step, seven tiered cascade flowing into the Maliau River.

Lower montane, heath, lowland and hill dipterocarp forests harbor nearly 2000 plant species, including the enormous Agathis tree, the unmistakable Rafflesia flower, ant plants, colorful orchids and much more.

Trekking in Maliau is tough, so expect leeches, water crossings and hot jungle conditions. But isn't that what you want from a rugged wilderness adventure?

Wildlife Watching & Birdwatching

Without no human inhabitants and slight hunting pressure, the wild animals are in abundance to showcase the biodiversity of tropical rainforests. Remember, the jungle is for hiding, so you must be persistant, patient and lucky.

Bearded pigs and wild cattle (banteng) tracks are common to encounter and the jungle calls of Bornean gibbons punch the air to tease you, as you hurry to view these arboreal primates. Clouded Leopard
Photo: Kae Kawanishi

In the buffer zone, the pygmy elephant and rare rhinoceros have been sighted. Search for tree markings of the sun bear and watch red and grey leaf monkeys gaze back at you from their tree canopy perches.

Endangered species such as orangutans, clouded leopard, Sumatran rhinoceros and the proboscis monkey dwell in these protected forests for a better chance of survival.

For birders, the forest habitats shelter lots avian fauna such as Giant Pittas, Bornean Bristleheads, Bulwer's Pheasant and eight species of the elegant hornbills. Reptiles and amphibians are plentiful too, so maybe a python will cross your path.

Go for a night walk and spotlight civets slinking along tree branches and other nocturnal sightings.

Jungle Camps

To keep the pristine quality of Maliau Basin, spartan jungle camps limited to 20-30 visitors each do not encroach upon the wild character of the experience. Scattered as satellite camps away from the main chalets, these remote spots are connected by well-maintaned jungle trails. These jungle camps get you deeper into the wilderness and in the mood for exploring.

Agathis Camp - Set next to a stream in hill dipterocarp forest, the camp has a one kilometer nature trail and comforts such as electricity, showers, toilets and hammock-style beds for up to 30 people. Maliau Basin
flickr/Orang Asli

Camel Trophy Camp - A strategic location in lower montane and montane heath forest on the southern plateau, a 33 m high observation platform in the tree canopy provides good panoramic views and bird sightings. As the first permanent camp in Maliau, Camel Trophy is a two-story building with bunk beds, solar electricity and showers for 15 people.

Belian Camp - Near the Maliau River and in a logged portion of lowland rainforest, Belian is close to the Maliau Basian Studies Center with an educational nature trail and canopy walkway. There is campground space for 20 large double tents, a kitchen, toilet, shower room and pavillion.

Ginseng Camp - Located at the scenic 27 m high Ginseng Falls, the camp is 5-6 hours by foot from Agathis Camp and provides basic hammock beds, toilets and showers for 20 visitors.

Seraya Camp - The overnight camp for the long trek to Maliau Falls, Seraya has its own natural features with a chance to observe a Rafflesia. The camp is a six-hour haul from Belian Camp.

Lobah Camp - With a good view of the Basin's rim, Lobah sits high on a hill. It is a scenic stopover from Ginseng and Camel Trophy camps for hikers on the way to Maliau Falls, 2 km away.

Remote Camps - A few camps are only accessible with a helicopter to the far interior. These camps are Rafflesia, Strike Ridge and Eucalyptus and special arrangements must be made.

Maliau Basin Conservation Area: Getting There

Getting to the conservation area is quite a journey in itself. Located in a far corner of Sabah, it is reachable by road from either Tawau or Keningau, both 4-5 hours' drive away. Maliau Basin
flickr/Orang Asli

The journey to the Security Gate is affected by weather conditions with 4WD vehicles needed to scramble on logging roads and rough terrain.

A Visitor Reception and Information office is the entry point at the Security Gate, and to travel on access roads to Agathis Camp and the Maliau Basin Studies Centre, typically a 45-minute drive.

Gate passes can be obtained from the Yayasan Sabah Maliau Secretariat offices in Kota Kinabalu or Tawau. Gate passes for each vehicle, including the names of passengers must be shown at the Security Gate before entering.


As noted in the Jungle Camp section, all accomodations are basic at best. Campgrounds are equipped with sufficient water, cooking and shower amenities and basic bedding. Satellite camps restrict the numbers of visitors and do not allow clearing for more campers.

The MBSC has chalet, resthouse and hostel facilities.

Reservations & Enquiries

All visitors to Maliau Basin are required to deal with official tour operators. A minimum of 3 days trekking is needed to visit Maliau Falls (5 days recommended to visit other interesting sites). There are no roads inside the Conservation Area.

Visitors enter at their own risk and must show proof of Personal Accident Insurance Cover, which includes emergency helicopter evacuation, before permission is given to enter. Please check with travel and tour agents to ensure all necessary permits and papers are in order.

For General Information and Bookings:

Conservation & Environmental Management Division
Yayasan Sabah Group
12th Floor, Menara Tun Mustapha
P.O Box 11623
88817 Kota Kinabalu
Sabah, Malaysia

Tel : +6 (088) 326300 ext. 6318 / +6 (088) 326318
Fax : +6 (088) 326315 / 326316
Email: mbca_kk[at]

Maliau Basin Conservation Area,
Conservation & Environmental Management Division
Rakyat Berjaya Sdn. Bhd.
Tingkat 2, Bangunan UMNO
P.O Box 60793
91017 Tawau
Sabah, Malaysia

Tel : +6 (089) 759214
Fax : +6 (089) 759215
Radio Call : +6 (089) 759216
E-Mail: maliau[at]

Maliau Basin Studies Centre,
Maliau Basin Conservation Area,
Tawau, Sabah, Malaysia

Tel : +6 (087) 742100
Fax : +6 (087) 742101
E-Mail: maliau[at]


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