Maliau Basin: The Lost World

5:30am – Mabul Island – Celebes Sea

The sun was rising behind the windows of our overwater chalet in Mabul. Under our feet, the glass floor allowed us to see some ray fishes. We got dressed, packed everything inside the suitcases and someone rang the bell of the main entrance. A golf car was waiting for us outside to take us through the wooden plaform first and under the palm trees later to the other side of the island for a quick breakfast. Our small boat to Semporna in the Borneo coast was going to depart in less than 30 minutes.

Mabul Water Bungalows

The boat ride took one hour. Then, a small tourist bus (Bas Persiaran) took us during one hour and a half to Tawau airport, where a private driver was waiting for us for a long 6h journey to the remotest and most inaccessible valley in the world, where every week new species are discovered: Maliau Basin, The Lost World.

The road that climbs to the Lost World is in bad condition. It is partially tarred with dangerous bumps. Add to this the heavy rain that appears suddenly like happened to us and huge trucks carrying giant logs. Don’t beleive Lonely Planet comments about this road. We think they are old or maybe not described by someone who really experienced it.

The Lost World

Our driver left us in the Maliau Basin Conservation Area, a place where scientific research is done and some universities from around the world come often to study the incredible ecosystem and maybe find new species. In fact we shared our stay with a group of students from Australia who were there to study unique moths and butterflies. There are different kind of accomodations in MBCA, from shared rooms to private ones. Also camping with barbacue is available.


After checking in we did a short walk around the MBCA under a light rain. There is a lake with some boardwalks around it, a big mosque in the middle of the forest and some houses for the scientists that do research in the area. Then we went for dinner with the group of young university students. And after the dinner… a night walk safari through the dense and full of water jungle to discover the wildlife.

Small mouse on a tree

We found a snake some metres above our heads, tens of sleeping colourful birds, a female mouse, a binturon, some Sambar deers, tarantulas, … We were walking for 2 hours the two of us and the guide. The darkness was so deep that we were a little bit scared. We didn’t know what we could have above our heads, below our feet or just next to us.

Colourful bird sleeping

Usually wildlife is scared from us, but the feeling of danger was with us in every moment. Anyway, after some time walking we stopped thinking about the dangers and tried continously to find new animals with our head torchlights. We didn’t talk during the night safari, silence was crucial to be able to see wildlife. And then, we saw a green light coming from some metres in front of us…


The green light was from two guys with really big cameras. They were recording wildlife for a documentary that some day we may watch on TV. This is really one of those remote places where cutting edge research is done and National Geographic and other important associations are looking for new adventures to be explained.

A viper snake above our heads… really dangerous one.

When we went back to our room we faced two Sambar deers in front of us… they got scared and started running towards the dense forest. With this last experience we went to bed and next day we had planned a canopy trek and a trail to an abandoned scientific base: the Agathis Camp. This will be explained in another post.

Learning is the base of any travel


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