Rainforest Discovery Centre

After paying a visit to the famous Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre or while waiting for the feeding time in the afternoon, one can always turn into the Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) which is about 1km away. This is a great new addition to the Sandakan tourist destinations. Set within the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, Rainforest Discovery Centre is a huge place. The main attractions here are the canopy walk, the plant discovery garden and the forest trails. Bird lovers will have an extra incentive to visit, three towers that mushroom up to the top of the canopy giving visitors a spectacular view over the surrounding tree tops. Huge canopy walkway on equal height with the trees allows photographers to choose the perfect spot to capture that unique picture of exotic birds of Borneo (with some luck).

The best place in Sandakan to come and learn about forest and nature.

During the hot humid mid-afternoon one can always chill out at the visitor building or relax at the lake side areas which consist of resting places like huts, garden chairs and the lakeside pavilion. One can easily be lost in the magic of the Rainforest Discovery Centre for half a day. Even that is not enough time to cover all the activities here. The Rainforest Discovery Centre is managed and run by the Sabah Forestry Department. Its main aim is to create public awareness and appreciation of the importance of conserving forest as well as sustainable use of forest resources.

The Canopy Walkway
The 147 meter long canopy walk is a huge structure, compared with other canopy walkways in the country. The canopy walkway has an average height of 27 meters above ground. 30 persons or more can walk on this canopy walkway at any one time, as it is supported by many strong iron bars about 6 feet in diameter which are built from the ground up. The canopy walkway is about six feet width.  Both ends of the canopy walkway are anchored on two huge concrete steel towers. The first tower is the Bristlehead Tower, which is 17 metres above the ground. This tower is named after the rare Bornean bristlehead, and this bird is endemic to Borneo Island. Trogon Tower is the tower at the other end, which is 26.5 metres off the ground. The third tower is the Hornbill Tower which is 27 metres above ground. At the moment the canopy walkway is not connected to this tower but with more funding there is a future plan to connect the present canopy walkway to the Hornbill Tower.

There are about 250 species of birds found here including hornbills, pittas, kingfishers, and the rare Bornean bristlehead. If you like to know what types of birds are commonly spotted at RDC. Check out the last part of this article.

Plant Discovery Garden

picture courtesy of sabah forestry department

The Planet Discovery Garden is located just beside the exhibition Building. This one hectare garden is not only fun to walk around, but also to get more inside knowledge from the interpretive panels about these plants. The Plant Discovery Garden is divided into many parts, the most interesting of them is the Orchid garden where 250 species of native orchids are on display. The ginger plants also occupy a big area. Although smaller in size the economical plant garden and the medicinal plant garden are just as interesting as the usage of these plants are common in our daily life. Even though these cactus plants are small, and some even tiny, yet somehow they seem always manage to attract the visitors. Apart from the other garden plants, not mention here, a traditional bamboo house belongs to the Dusun tribe of Sabah, and a small pond with many water plants sum up the Plant Discovery Garden.

The Forest Trails

Four major trails are mapped out from the RDC. The longest trail is the kingfisher which is about 2.8 km long. This trail passes through the dense dipterocarp forest and it almost encircles the whole place. The Sepilok Giant Bypass is only 1km long but this is where one will find the Sepilok Giant tree. This giant tree will need about 10 adult men, with outstretch hands, to encircle the tree trunk. The Pitta Path trail is 2.8 km, and the lakeside trail is only 800 metres. Many dipterocarp trees can be viewed along these trials. One can also learn a lot about the rainforest ecology as well as its amazing biodiversity while walking along these network of self-guided trails in the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve.

The Visitor Building

The Visitor Building is where you pay your entrance fee before venturing into the green foliage forest and the colourful plant garden. An exhibition hall, a gift shop, offices, and a lecture hall are also housed in the Visitor Building. The exhibition hall is not big but it has a lot of information on the plants and animals of Sabah. Fossil and taxidermy of local animals are on display here. Visitors can learn a lot about animals like orang utan, Bornean pygmy elephant, proboscis monkey and the very rare Bornean Rhinoceros by reading the many interpretive posters on display. There are also some interesting games to keep visitors occupied too.

The Lake is located at the centre of Rainforest Discovery Centre. An 800 metre trial encircles this lake. Picnic huts and garden chairs are placed at various parts along the Lake. Peddle boats are available for rent. On the far end of the lake there is a 50 meter long suspension bridge which brings one closer to the Sepilok Giant Bypass trail. One can also look out to the lake from the Lakeside Pavilion, which is a classic wooden building. Spend sometime along the lake to steep in the relaxing environment, and see the perfect reflection of the surrounding trees in the clam water.

History and Children Programme
The Rainforest Discovery Centre started in 1996 as a small centre to teach people especially the locals about the importance of forest management. With times more and more classes and programmes are created to help bring more awareness of the forest to the masses. And in August 2006 the new complex together with the Canopy Walkway is opened to the public. Now every one can come here to enjoy the forest surroundings as well as learning the many things that the forests can teach us. All the year round children and student programmes are available here, contact Rainforest Discovery Centre for more information.

For those who want to spend more time visiting the Rainforest Discovery Centre and Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre, there are many accommodations from budget to mid-range pricing available along the Sepilok road. How to get here? There are daily flights from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan. Air Asia also has direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Sandakan twice daily. Rainforest Discovery Centre is located at mile 17 Sepilok. Sandakan has daily buses to this area. Taxi can also be chartered. For bus fare and schedule check out with Sandakan Tourism Office beside the Sandakan Municipal Council.

Entrance Fee: RM 10 ( Adult & Children)
Malaysian: RM 5 Adult, RM 2 Children
Visiting Hours: 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
Open daily including public holidays. Rainforest Discovery Centre
Sepilok Arboretum Road, Sepilok Road Mile 14 Sepilok
Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia
tel: 6089 533 780 / 533 781
fax: 6089 535 201
email: rdcsepilok@yahoo.com
website: www.forestdabah.gov.my/rdc


Other nearby interesting article:
Birdwatching in Sabah

Other nearby interesting destinations:
Agnes Keith House
Gomantong Cave
Kinabatangan Safari
Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
Turtle Island Park

This information might be handy for the bird lovers. These are the birds commonly spotted in and around Rainforest Discovery Centre. Broadbill family:

  • Banded broadbill
  • Black & red broadbill
  • Black & yellow broadbill

Hornbill family:

  • Black Horbill
  • Oriental Pied Hornbill
  • Rhinoceros Horbill
  • White-crowned Hornbill

Kingfisher family:

  • Banded Kingfisher
  • Oriental dwarf Kingfisher
  • Rufous-collared Kingfisher
  • Stork-billed Kingfisher

Pitta family

  • Black & crimson pitta
  • Blue-headed pitta
  • Hooded pitta

Sunbird family:

  • Brown-throated sunbird
  • Crimson sunbird
  • Ruby-cheeked sunbird

Trogon family:

  • Diard's trogon
  • Red-naped trogon
  • Scarlet-rumped trogon

Woodpecker family

  • Banded woodpecker
  • Checker-throated woodpecker
  • Great slaty woodpecker
  • Grey and buff woodpecker
  • White bellied woodpecker

Other species:

  • Ashy tailorbird
  • Asian paradise flycatcher
  • Black-naped monarch
  • Black-winged flycatcher-shrike
  • Bornean bristleheas (endemic to Borneo Island)
  • Brahminy kite
  • Brown wood-owl
  • Greater racket-tailed drongo
  • Green iora
  • Hill myna
  • Large-tailed nightjar
  • Lesser green leafbird
  • Little green pigeon
  • Little spiderhunter
  • Orange-bellied flowerpecker
  • Raffle's malkoha
  • Scarlet Minivet
  • Velvet-fronted nuthatch
  • Violet cuckoo
  • Wallace's hawk-eagle
  • White-crowned shama
  • White-fronted falconet
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