Rainforest Discovery Centre
Canopy walkway at the Rainforest Discovery Centre. Photo by Greg Rodgers
Located only 23 km. away from Sandakan, the Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) is another hidden jewel of Sabah, Borneo. If you are travelling on a budget, the RDC is a refreshingly-cheap, educational and fun place to visit if you have a few days to spare around the city of Sandakan.
The tourist crowds are mostly heading to the nearby Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre – just down the road – but very few stop in to see the Rainforest Discovery Centre. On some days you may even have the whole place to yourself!
Visiting the Rainforest Discovery Centre
Start your visit to the RDC in the Exhibition Hall which is full of great facts and information. The Rainforest Discovery Centre began as a school for environmentalists and later opened their doors to the public. Teaching people about the importance of preserving the rainforest is their speciality. You have a chance to learn more about the native flora and fauna of Borneo to better appreciate your trekking later. The exhibition hall is simply fantastic – do not skip it before going into the rainforest!
The Rainforest Discovery Centre offers a chance to spend some time on the 100-foot-high canopy walkways and climb three observation towers. You will feel like you are walking in the trees, so close to nature, with an opportunity to see many species of endangered birds. Bring your binoculars – or borrow some – and patiently wait for the habitants of the rainforest to appear. With an estimated 250 species of birds and even occasional orangutans as well as proboscis monkeys, you are guaranteed to see and hear Borneo wildlife at its best.
The array of the trails offer some great walks through the rainforest without a huge commitment. Trail loops range from an easy 20 minutes to over two hours. Getting lost is nearly impossible, as all trails are well-signed. Visit the “Sepilok Giant” – as the name suggest this is a gigantic tree that has been quietly keeping its eye on the rainforest for hundreds of years. It would actually require 10 or more adult men with outstretched hands to encircle the whole tree – give it a try!
Waterproof yourself as it rains often in the rainforest – surprise. There are plenty of shelters along the trails if you get caught in a downpour.
Plant Discovery Garden at the RDC
The Plant Discovery Garden – located just behind the Exhibition Hall – displays about 250 species of native orchids, pitcher plants, arid land plants, aquatic plants, and some impressive tropical plants. Winding brick paths take you past sweet-smelling flowers and even to a demo-house constructed entirely out of bamboo.
If you like to listen to the symphony of the insects, birds, and the animals that come alive after dark, the Rainforest Discovery Centre offers night walks. The guided night walks go on certain evenings: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, all starting at 6:00 p.m. For the price of 30 RM per person your guide will take you for a two-hour stroll through the rainforest. Children under 18 pay half price. If you are having too much fun, the night walk can be extended; each additional hour costs 15 RM.
Unfortunately, there is no public bus running back to Sandakan so late in the evening – you are on your own. Accommodation is available near the Rainforest Discovery Centre or a taxi can be arranged in advance to bring you back to Sandakan.
Entry Fees and Open Hours
The entrance fee for the Rainforest Discovery Centre is 10RM per adult or 5RM per child. The RDC is open every day from 8:00 a.m. To 5:00 p.m.
Food and Water
There is no option for food available within the Rainforest Discovery Centre, but in July 2010 there were signs of a cafeteria being built. Bring some snacks or lunch with you; there are some perfect spots for a picnic around the lake near the entrance. Water can be purchased in the ticketing office.
How to get to the Rainforest Discovery Centre
To reach the RDC from Sandakan, take a public bus from the bus stop near Gentingmas Mall. Look for the bus labeled Sepilok Batu 14 and tell your driver that you want to stop at the Rainforest Discovery Centre. The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is farther down the same road, so watch out for signs advertising the RDC on your right. If you catch a friendly bus driver he will know where to stop. The one-way ticket costs around 3 RM.
You can also take a bus to Batu 32 or Sukau from Gentingmas Mall in Sandakan – watch out for the big sign for Sepilok Centre at the roundabout and ask your driver to drop you off there. From the roundabout, it takes around 20 minutes to walk to the Rainforest Discovery Centre.
Some Borneo Pictures from the Rainforest Discovery Centre in Sabah: