Spending a whole day watching birds may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for some folks, it is a wonderful way to connect with nature.
The Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) in Sandakan, Sabah is a birdwatcher’s paradise as hundreds of species can be found here, as well as many varieties of plants, trees and insects.
Why you should go
The RDC is one of the top environmental education centres in Sabah. It is also the most accessible natural rainforest – the Sepilok-Kabili Forest Reserve – in the state. Managed by the Sabah Forestry Department, the 4,300ha centre is really more of a park where visitors can go to learn about the flora and fauna of Borneo island.
The annual Borneo Bird Festival is usually held at the end of the year at RDC, attracting birding enthusiasts from all over the world.
What to do
There are a handful of jungle trails to check out. Each one is to follow and properly marked, with plenty of signboards along the way.
Pay attention to your surroundings as you might just be able to catch a few of the forest’s natural inhabitants hanging about, doing their thing.
There’s also the canopy walk, which is very popular with visitors.
The steel walkway is 347m in length, and goes up to about 25m in height. It leads you to the observation towers – the Bristlehead and Trogon.
There’s no need to worry about the 2m-wide structure as it is safe and sturdy and was purposely built to withstand large crowds. Both adults and children can take their time to walk around the area.
Birdwatchers may want to park themselves at the towers, or at the Sunbird Shelter. Some of the bird species that have been found at RDC include the Bornean Bristlehead, Black and Crimson Pitta and Rhinoceros Hornbill.
The Plant Discovery Garden is a lovely place not just to rest and relax, but also learn about the plants featured there.
Who will like it
Although RDC started as a learning centre for students and teachers, it has evolved to become a destination for tourists, both local and international. There’s so much to see and learn at the forest, and there’s no need to get a guide either as the signboards are very informative.
Of course, birding fans would also appreciate this place.
RDC is about 20km from Sandakan town and just a stone’s throw away from the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre and the Borneo Sunbear Conservation Centre. Ride-sharing cars and taxis are easily available, and many locals would know exactly where this place is. It would be easier to engage the services of a local guide, though, who would then arrange for everything.
The place (ticketing counter, exhibition hall and Plant Discovery Garden) is open daily from 8am to 5pm. However, the trails and canopy walkway only close at 8pm.
Tickets range from RM3 to RM15. If you’re planning a school trip, do call or email them in advance and enquire for special guided programmes.
Rainforest Discovery Centre,
Forest Research Centre,
Sepilok, P.O. Box 1407,
90715 Sandakan, Sabah
Tel: (089) 533 780, (089) 533 781 and (089) 535 201