The island of Borneo is home to many rare species of flora and fauna, like the proboscis monkey.
It’s easy to spot a proboscis monkey. Its fur is mostly orange and gray, it has a long tail and a large, distinctive nose. In fact, you can tell which monkey is the head of the barrel just by looking at the size of its nose – a bigger nose means bigger power.
If you’re planning to go on a nature adventure in Sandakan, Sabah, during the school holidays, then put this place on your list.
Why you should go
As these monkeys are endemic to Borneo, it is vital that we keep them safe.
In the mid-1990s, a palm oil estate owner discovered that a group of proboscis monkeys were actually living in the mangrove swamps within the plantation. Instead of further developing the land, he decided to leave the monkeys’ habitat as is to ensure their conservation. However, food supply for the monkeys was running low so efforts were made to make sure they had enough to eat each day.
Today, about 60 monkeys head to the feeding platforms regularly to get food like fruits, and some water. This was a good way for the sanctuary to keep track of the proboscis monkeys’ survival.
The proboscis monkeys are a shy bunch, especially those who have had their homes taken away from them. They will run and hide each time they sense any danger (usually humans). At the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary, however, the monkeys know that they are safe from harm and therefore stay put even when they see big groups of people.
There is no gate or fence around the sanctuary to keep the animals in or out – they are free to roam anywhere they wish.
What to do
There are two viewing platforms from which visitors can observe the monkeys. It is best to come during feeding times when more monkeys are around.
Visitors and observers are not allowed to get too close to the monkeys or to touch them. It would be in your best interest not to provoke them either as they are very strong creatures and will not hesitate to hurt you if they feel threatened. Caretakers are also not encouraged to handle the proboscis monkeys, unless during emergency situations.
If you stay on the platform long enough you might be able to see them make giant leaps from one tree to another. Make sure you have your camera ready!
Apart from the proboscis, the silver leaf monkeys and oriental pie hornbills have somehow made Labuk Bay their “stopover home” too. Unlike the proboscis, the silver leaf monkeys will actually walk onto the platforms and sit around the humans without a care in the world. The same rules apply, though – do not touch or interact with them even if they seem “friendly”.
People typically just spend an hour or so at Labuk Bay for a visit but if you’re keen on doing more, stay overnight. The sanctuary has several types of lodging for overnight guests and also offers night tours where you can possibly see wild boars, flying foxes, fireflies and even crocodiles!
Who will like it
Nature lovers – especially nature photographers – of all ages will enjoy watching these wonderful animals in action. Every so often you will also find artists hanging out at the place, happily sketching away. Kids (and adults) will learn how to respect wild animals and learn about animal conservation at the sanctuary, too.
Labuk Bay is about an hour’s drive from the Sandakan airport; you need to add about another half an hour’s journey if you’re coming from Sandakan town itself. The best way to visit the sanctuary is to hire a tour operator but if you would rather do things on your own, then you need to get a taxi or a Grab from the airport or town.
You could also drive there but do note that you would need to go through some gravel roads and make your way across a few kampungs to get to the sanctuary.
Entrance fees to Labuk Bay are RM15 (Malaysian adult) and RM5 (Malaysian child); RM60 (non-resident adult) and RM30 (non-resident child). There is also a “camera fee” of RM10 a day for those who wish to take pictures using proper cameras, or videos using handy-cams.
If you’re taking pictures with your phone, it’s free.
Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary
Address: Yet Hing Oil Palm Estate,
Off Jalan Labuk, 90000 Sandakan, Sabah
Opening hours: 8am to 6pm daily, including public holidays
Tel: 089-672 133 / 089-672 177 / 089-674 880