One of the top attractions in Sandakan is Rainforest Discovery Centre, Sepilok. Our itinerary was so tight that we couldn’t visit it during the day time. Earlier we did Night safari in Mulu National Park and that experience was amazing. Hence, we decided to do it again in Sandakan. We called the centre and asked for their night safari. In Sepilok, you get options to do the night safari either at the Orang-Utan Rehabilitation centre or at Rainforest Discovery centre. Since we already visited Rehabilitation centre in daytime, we opted for latter one.
Lake at Rainforest Discovery Centre
The staff at the Centre was very kind and supportive. As per their schedule, there was no night safari on that day, but they made an exception as we were 4 of us and after us there were many enquiries for the safari.
View of lake from top of the Canopy Tower
The Night Safari started at 7 pm with our Guide introduces us to our route and taking us towards canopy in the sight of Flying Squirrel. Yes, you read it right, flying squirrel. It is one of the must see at centre and surprisingly squirrel has a particular time in which they fly from one tree to another. At the viewing point near the canopy, we patiently waited for squirrel to flying across the forest. We waited, we waited and nothing happened. We spotted the squirrel, and she or he was ready for the flight, but still was waiting for the signal. After almost 30-45 minute wait, we saw his first flight from the top of the tree to another one. The sight was amazing, I was so mesmerised by it that I forgot to shoot it with my camera. After the first squirrel, second one was ready to take his leap of faith. Immediately after 10 minutes of first flight, the second one also led its way. This time I was ready to shoot, but due to the low light and the speed of a squirrel, I didn’t get anything.
Flying Squirrel preparing for the flight
Red Squirrel post his flight from tree top
Our excitement level rose to top after seeing the beautiful sight (first time in my life). Moving on to our night safari, our guide warned us about the fire ant and instructed us to tuck our pant in our shoes to save us from bite (warning: wear full pant or something which cover your legs fully). He also shared with us the wildlife which we will try to find in the dense forest. The species whose sights are rare to find – Tarsiers (the smallest monkey) and Slow Loris. Apart from these, we will keep encountering snakes and other wild creatures.
Bird catching food in the lake
Going ahead on our walk, our guide selected unmarked route which was literally in the forest with no proper road in the pitch dark night illuminated by thousands of stars. The unpaved road was home to many fire ants and we happened to cross path with a big one around 3 inches long. Along the path, we also saw black Scorpio. Since we were carrying torches with low light, clicking pictures of Scorpio and ant was not possible even with higher ISO.
Various Insects in the forest.
The Night Safari at Rainforest Discovery Centre was turning out to be the best night safari with an opportunity to see wildlife I would have missed out on my tour. Also, this was our last activity of my adventurous trip to Borneo, the excitement level was rising with passing moment. We hoped to see each and every wildlife reside in the Rainforest Discovery Centre. Our prayers were actually answered as we encountered yet another snake, this time it was Viper Snake. My earlier encounter with a snake was during Night Safari in Mulu National Park. Before our safari gets over, we encountered second Viper snake, as deadly as first one.
Viper snake making his way
Focusing on his hunt
Moving along the path, we also saw a Tarantula sitting on the tree trunk. Moving ahead, we sae another huge spider climbing up on his web and speed of this creature was amazing. Within a minute he was on top of the tree 6-7 feet above the ground.
Tarantula in Rainforest Discovery Centre
Spider climbing up on his web
The night was becoming more and more exhilarating. Our next encounter was something I have seen first time in life, Slow Loris. Initially our guide spotted him twice and both times he ran away into the tree, I kept wondering who calls him slow loris when he is so fast to hide away. Then a moment came where we saw the true nature of slow loris when he started walking on the tree branch slowly. It looked as if I am watching the video of walking Loris in slow motion. Step by step, slow loris was moving inside the forest. I thought with this speed of animal, I am sure to capture many clear pictures only later I found out that I barely managed to click 1-2 good picture as it was dark and I clicked all pictures handheld.
Slow Loris climbing the tree slowly
Even though Slow Loris was really slow, capturing him handheld in flash light was a task
Also on our walk we saw one of the Borneo’s wildlife who’s name I am still unable to remember. He was hanging to tree bark in such a way that it was difficult to understand his body structure. His hands and legs were on a tree with a face looking at the floor.
Unknown wildlife of Borneo
Last thing on our Nigh Safari, Tarsiers, was still missing and we walked miles deeper in the forest to get a glimpse of him. Surprisingly, in our entire night safari, we didn’t spot any other money. I wonder, they might be sleeping at night, tired and exhausted from days hanging and jumping. Walking with eyes squinting to spot something, even when a leaf move, our guide suddenly signalled for us to stop and look in the direction of sound. Listening to insect noise in pitch darkness, he directed his light towards a moving animal. In a split second, I spotted the Tarsier and suddenly he disappeared. Then another movement and flash light of our guide showed, Tarsier resting on the tree. He was barely 5 inch long. I had to be quick in my action as I didn’t want to miss him like squirrels and I managed to get little blur image of the world’s smallest monkey.
Tarsier, second before he managed to jump and disappear
Even before Night Safari end, our desire to see wildlife was satisfied. Even after the hunt of the top 3 species was over, we kept walking and our guide directed for one more stop. This time it was for a bird. Our guide pointed his torch towards a tree and we all couldn’t see a thing. Then he slowly stroked his hand on the tree for us to actually see what it was. There was a small hole in the tree were little bird was sleeping with his back to us. After small stroke, he turned around and we saw him clearly. The entire sight was so cute – bird was quiet, calm and also half sleepy. He was in his place, not bothered with all the tourist clicking his pictures.
Little Bird opened his eyes after turning around
Along the path, there was another bird, kingfisher, sleeping between the leaves. Since it is nice walk, we saw only when they were sleeping as spotting them flying in dark night is nearly impossible.
Another bird sleeping between the leaves
Since I have not gone night safari in Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, I can’t tell you which one is better. However, Night Safari at Rainforest Discovery Centre was indeed amazing with a chance to see many species in a short span of time. Our end of the wonderful trip to Borneo was on the super happy and satisfactory note.