Rainforest Discovery Centre night walk and wildlife

Rainforest Discovery Centre night walk and wildlife

Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) is a hidden gem of Sandakan and Borneo. The park is a really accessible and affordable borneon rainforest experience (Compared to Danum Valley and Tabin Nature reserve) and is highly recommended for any nature or wildlife lover. Just 20 minutes ride (via taxi or ride-hailing) from Sandakan, you can have an easy hike through many of the well-maintained trails in the park. Their website is https://www.rainforestdiscoverycentre.com/copy-3-of-our-facilities. The Rainforest discovery centre guided night walk(6pm-8pm) is absolutely not to be missed (as of 2023 the price of the night walk is only 30MYR, which is very affordable) as it was one of the most memorable forest experiences I had.

How to get to Rainforest discovery center from sepilok or sandakan:

There is Grab and Maxim at Sepilok and Sandakan and it is very cheap to use it to get around and between Sepilok and sandakan.

To reach Sandakan, you can take a flight to Sandakan airport or a bus from Kota Kinabalu, Kundasang or Semporna. On how to use the bus, see post here. To get to Sepilok, it is very easy to find a taxi from town or just use grab. It is only a 20minute drive.

Tips for visiting Rainforest Discovery Centre:

  • GO FOR THE GUIDED NIGHT WALK from 6pm to 8pm. I cannot stress this enough. There is a minimum group size of 4 people but i think it's almost maximum capacity on most nights from June-August (busy season). Alternatively, you can pay for the missing people to form the group and you get a cool private tour.
    - I reccommend to call RDC 1-2 days in advance as it does get sold out on some days. The night walk is very popular in peak months. Alternatively, you can go to the visitor center counter and book. 30 MYR to be paid in cash and reservation is free.
  • Stay in the lodges near RDC, so you can walk to and fro the reserve in the early mornings and late nights (for the night walk). There are a few affordable ones within walking distance.  Also, Grab and Maxim is pretty available and cheap in Sepilok.
  • If you want to see wildlife, join a guided tour in the day, be it a private or large group. Contact RDC for day tours. Wildlife spotting in any rainforest is difficult for the casual and inexperienced tourist. The local guides are experienced with recognising signs of wildlife and the recent hotspots shared within the guides network. Supporting the local guides and rangers promote eco-tourism jobs which would help to protect wildlife. Park rangers do patrol and look out for poaching activities as some of the animals are targets of animal trade. One local guide in Sabah shared that during the pandemic, there were some poachers going after the pygmy elephants in River Kingabangtan for their tusks :(
  • But if you really want to DIY your own wildlife spotting mission, it is possible but requires sharp senses and rainforest wildlife-spotting experience:
    - Walk quietly, don't talk loudly. Stay put at various spots.
    - Listen keenly for bird and squirrel calls.
    - Research to know what common creatures live here. Also, memorise various bird calls.
    - Look out for bird nests from the towers and wait, there might be birds inside.
  • Go in the morning, the temperature is much cooler. You can go before opening hours, just pay for the entry ticket when you exit.
  • Wear long socks and covered shoes to prevent leeches.

## A short day trip
Some residents I spotted in Rainforest Discovery center (RDC) during a 3 hour walk around the trails

crimson pita

^ Crimson Pita, we only saw this because there were birders


^ Cute cartoonish bugs mating. this tree has tons of them.


^ Hawk Eagle and its nest at one of the towers. We only noticed the bird and the nest when a tour guide next to us was telling his tour group about the nest. The eagle only revealed came out of it when the tour group left. Bird spotting requires a lot of silence and patience.


^ Orang Utan's built a nest recently right next to the trail. Yes! they sleep in nests.


^ Oriental dwarf kingfisher. There was a sudden bird wave and we spotted 6 bird species in one spot.


Borneon black squirrel. Plenty of them near fruit trees.



(from left) White-crowned shama, starling, barbler, drongo. There was a sudden bird wave and all these birds were spotted in the same area which was ringing with a cacophony bird calls. You have too look very closely for sudden movements in the foliage. There was also a white-bellied woodpecker (below) that was very high up but the barely audible wood- knocking  gave its presence away.


The mascot of the park is the borneon bristlehead. Its call was heard from way above the canopy of the forest. You will need enduring patience and a very good camera to get a good shot of this pretty bird.

At the hostel, we met a few experienced wildlife spotters who spent more than a day in this forest. And they felt that 2-4 days in RDC is not enough. Personally, I would reccommend 1 or 2 days for the casual tourist.

Wildlife spotting takes knowledge and experience. Birds are often well-camouflaged and very high up. But it is easy to hear their calls/sounds amidst the loud cicadas.

Sepilok Night Walk

RDC closes at 5pm, but you may join the night tour at 6pm and it ends at around 8pm. There were many guides and also tourists participating, so it's pretty safe. The Rainforest Discovery center night walk was the absolute highlight of my time in Sandakan.
Below are some badly taken photos of the cool wildlife the guides spotted for us. (There were many other creatures which i did not feature and you can see them when you visit this place for yourself) Also, please do not use flash photography. Generally the guides do use torches so your phone camera should work or alternative you can use very powerful cameras that take good photos in low light environments.


Tarsier, the smallest primate! Also, their eyes are very sensitive to light, so it's bad to shine bright white light at the eyes also definitely no flash photography to be used. (the guides did stop shining after a short time. Using the red light is more comfortable for them. )


^ Star of the tour: flying squirrels that jump amongst trees


^ chonky mom and her baby below

buffy owl“tarantula”

^ Tarantula

Posting locations of exotic wildlife is often harmful ( i debated this post but i think RDC deserves a lot more support for eco-tourism and i think it is already well-known that the creatures I mentioned here exist in this forest). There was an incident where rare tarantulas were poached from Sarawak and the researchers regret collecting samples without permits:  https://www.science.org/content/article/amazing-blue-tarantula-new-spider-species-did-researchers-break-law-when-they-studied

“viper” “another

Scorpion under UV light

Other tourist things to do in Sandakan town:

  • Guides and locals mentioned that seafood in Sim Sim village is much cheaper than in KK city.
  • There are some good local restaurants and also a large mall with western favorites like macdonalds.
  • There is not much wildlife in Sandakan town itself as far as i know. The town has much litter.
sandakan thrash problem

Water monitor among the litter at Sandakan waterfront


  • Orang Utan and sunbear conservation centers. Do take note of the opening hours for both centres as well as the orang utan feeding times.

River Kingabangtan:

  • The tour packages can be expensive, but there are some affordable options.