Sabah’s Lost World
“Maliau Basin is the single best place in Borneo to experience the wonders of primary tropical forest. More than that, it is one of the world’s great reserves of biodiversity, a dense knot of almost unbelievable genetic richness.” Lonely Planet Borneo, 2008
In 1947, a British pilot was heading towards Tawau when he flew over what he thought was a mist-shrouded jungle. But as the cloud dissipated, he found himself encircled by a wall of steep cliff rising some 915 metres above the jungle floor. This serendipitous discovery was reported in the Borneo Bulletin which was first published in 1953; this episode did not generate much interest and quietly slipped back into obscurity.
Surrounded on all sides by wickedly steep and forbidding slopes, Sabah’s ‘Lost World’ covering an area slightly bigger than Singapore is insurmountable by foot in all direction. The only way in is at the point where the Maliau River – the only one flowing here – exits the basin. But even this is guarded by a series of impressive waterfalls and gorges. Inaccessibility has led to its natural secrets being hidden from mankind for millions of years.
Then in 1988, the first expedition opened a Pandora’s Box of surprises, unveiling the mystery and beauty of a world untouched by the passage of time; where nature and wildlife coexists in perfect harmony, tucked in what seemed to be the very edge of the world: A ‘Jurassic Park’ sans dinosaurs.
To date, only about 2,000 people have set foot in the Maliau Basin and only less than 50% of the area has been explored……..
Maliau Basin Conservation Area is located in south central Sabah, about 40 km north of the Kalimantan border, and adjacent to Yayasan Sabah Forest Management Area. It is accessible via the towns of Tawau or Keningau, both 4 to 5 hour drives away. Four-wheel drive is recommended as part of the journey is on unpaved roads.
At Maliau Basin Security Gate, where the Shell Maliau Basin Reception and Information Building is located, an access road leads to Agathis Camp and Maliau Basin Studies Centre. There are no roads inside the Conservation Area.
The mystical Maliau Basin is one of Malaysia’s finest remaining wilderness areas.
Bounded by a formidable escarpment reaching over 1,675m asl, the almost circular Basin encompasses reaching over 390 km2 of pristine forest, a virtually self-contained ecosystem, never permanently inhabited and with large areas still remaining to be explored and documented. Remarkably, the whole basin is a single huge water catchment, drained by one river only, the Maliau River, which flows through a gorge in the southeast of the Basin, joining the Kuamut River and eventually the Kinabatangan, Sabah’s largest and most important waterway.