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Lost World Sabah

Thursday, June 12, 2008
Sabah is a Malaysian state in northern Borneo. After Sarawak, it is Malaysia's second largest state and shares a border with Indonesia's East Kalimantan.

Sabah was part of the Sultanate of Brunei in the early 16th century when the sultanate's influence was at its peak. In 1658 it ceded the north-east portion of Borneo to the Sultan of Sulu in compensation for his help in settling a civil war.

Known as the Land Below the Wind and Land of the Sacred Mountain, Sabah has varied landscapes and many natural wonders. Its culturally diverse population has more than 30 ethnic groups and 80 local dialects.

The Lost World on the island of Borneo — officially known as the Maliau Basin — is so remote the only way to reach it is by an hour's helicopter flight from Tawau.

The Maliau Basin is an enormous bowl covering 590 square kilometres, surrounded by almost impenetrable cliffs. That could explain why it was undiscovered until the 1980s, although it was officially discovered in 1947 when a pilot almost crashed into its northern rim.

Its extraordinary geomorphological features include a high number of waterfalls and it is the catchment of one of the headwaters of Sabah's largest and most important rivers, the Kinabatangan.

One of the few places on the planet virtually untouched by humans, the Maliau Basin has unusual forest types and high botanical diversity. It is a refuge for the rare and endangered Sumatran rhino, banteng, proboscis monkey, Asian elephant and plant and insect species found nowhere else. The Maliau River doesn't support much life as tannins and other chemicals leached out of leaf and vegetation matter further upstream make the water quite acidic.

The Karanas Forest is 900 metres above sea level and along with the lower Montaigne Forest, is damp and full of mosses. Eighteen hundred species of flora have been found, including rare orchids and pitcher plants.

The carnivorous pitcher plant has a mild odour that attracts insects which land on the plant and slide right in. They deteriorate and become protein for the plants.

A fantastic experience is flying into the heart of the jungle by helicopter. Tours start early in the morning with a one-to-two-hour trek with an experienced guide. Enjoy lunch and a refreshing swim at the falls before flying out over the steep cliffs of Maliau.

A range of basic accommodation facilities is available, including a well-equipped campground at the Agathis Camp and the two-storey Camel Trophy Camp. There are several more camping areas within the Basin itself.

The Maliau Basin Studies Centre at the south-east edge of the Conservation Area comprises a rest house, hostel, researcher and staff accommodation, as well as the reception and office area, laboratory, conference room, auditorium and interpretation hall.


The island of Borneo.


Maliau Basin three-hour scenic flights are about $946 per person with a minimum of three passengers. They are subject to weather and should be booked through Malaysia Holidays.

Maliau Basin Studies Centre Resthouse rooms start at around $25 a night, twin share.

Royal Brunei Airlines has flights to Kota Kinabalu.

From 35-day fare:

  • Perth $886
  • Brisbane $1072

90-day fare:

  • Perth $942
  • Brisbane $1127

Valid for sale until March 31, 2009. Taxes are included and conditions apply.

Prices correct at June 12, 2008.

For further information

Malaysia Holidays
Ph: 1300 882 803

Sabah Tourism Board
51 Gaya Street
88000 Kota Kinabalu
Sabah, Malaysia
Ph: +60 88 212 121
Fax: +60 88 212 075 Royal Brunei Airlines
Ph: 1300 721 271

It is recommended travellers to Malaysia see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there are specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information, visit

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