Getting to the Canopy Walk at the RDC is fairly simple as once you arrive at the Rainforest Discovery Centre in Sepilok, you purchase tickets and make your way to the Rainforest Discovery Trail where the Skywalk or Canopy Walkway is located deep inside. With the support of Sabah Tourism, I visited the RDC in Dec 2009 to explore the wonders of Eco-tourism that Sandakan and Sabah has to offer.
The Rainforest Discovery Walk at the RDC takes about one to two hours and halfway through your walk, you will see a signage that directs you to the unique steel canopy walk. Once you follow the path, you will come to a steel tower all painted in green which stands about five storeys tall.
This is the main tower for the canopy walk here and it is called the Bristlehead Tower named after the rare Borneo Bristlehead Bird. Climbing up the tower is relatively easy as the stairs spiral up to the fourth level where the steel canopy walk starts. Going up one more level takes you to a lookout area of the Bristlehead Tower.
This magnificent steel canopy walk is a whopping 147 meter long structure. Every part is made from steel and designed for high traffic. While conventional canopy walks are made from wood and ropes, you need not wait your turn to get on it. The RDC canopy walk is also 28 meters above the rainforest floor and took five months to complete at a cost of RM2 million (US$588,000).
Without hesitation, I was already up top exploring the surroundings of the RDC Canopy Walk. My guide - Ben, filled me with more information about this unique place where a lot of Bird Watchers or Birders love to come here to see the rare birds that Sabah has to offer. It was also mentioned that most Birders come here at about 7am to get the best views.
For Bird-Watchers or Birders, you can actually contact the RDC Birders to go on sightings here or around Sepilok. You can do so by contacting the information counter at the main Visitors Building at the RDC.
Apart from the Borneo Bristlehead which is one the rarest birds in Sabah, there are over 250 species of birds to look out at the RDC-Sepilok rainforest. Some of the popular birds to see are Hornbills, Kingfishers, Broadbills, Woodpeckers and also Pittas. When I was at the canopy walk here, I managed to catch a couple of the smaller birds like the Red-naped Trogon and an Ashy Tailorbird. Bird-watchers will have a field day here according to Ben, my guide. On rare occasions, you may even encounter an Orangutan or two around the canopy walk here.
I easily spent a good 45 minutes on top of the canopy walk admiring the surroundings of the Sepilok-Kabali Forest Reserve. The sounds of birds chirping and insects completed the pure sounds of the rainforest. Walking all the way to the end of the canopy walk will lead you to another tower called the Trogon Tower which is named after the Trogon Bird. This is not an exit tower but you can climb higher by another level to observe the area. After that you need to walk all the way back to the main Bristlehead Tower to exit back down.
After leaving the canopy walk, we saw some major construction going on with the canopy walk. According to Ben, there is massive extension works going on to make this canopy walk the longest canopy walk in the world with a total walkway of almost 1000 meters. The entire skywalk will make a complete loop as it will end where you started. There will also be a ticketing booth and a theater with a covered area and souvenir shop.
This amazing canopy walkway project is currently ongoing and should be completed by late 2010-2012 and is currently being built by a local company called Buildtech Enterprise. The Canopy Walkway Phase II will be connected to the Bristlehead Tower once completed and current costings for this phase is about RM3.1 million (USS$1 Million). Anyway, I will be attending the Borneo Bird Festival 2011 to see how much has progressed.
My conclusion to the Canopy Walk at RDC: A must visit! For adults, children, bird-watchers and nature lovers. To get a view of the rare birds, go as early as 7am or late in the evenings. Bring your zoom lens if you have one. If you are visiting the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, make it a point to stop over here as it is only five minutes away by car.
Not advisable for those with wheelchairs or weak legs as you need to climb up stairs for four storeys before getting on to the canopy walk.
Getting to RDC Sepilok:
- Located just out of Sandakan town, RDC Sepilok is about 23 kilometers from town. Getting to RDC Sepilok is fairly simple as it takes about 30-40 minutes by car or van. (Self drive or tour company)
- There is a public bus service from Labuk Bus Company that departs from the Sandakan Town Council at RM2.10 (US$0.60) one way but the bus stops at the junction of the main road. You then need to walk in about 1.5km.
- Taxi service from Sandakan is available with a return trip costing about RM100.00 (US$29). Do negotiate with your taxi about the prices.
- Getting to Sepilok from Kota Kinabalu (KK) is also possible. A bus ride would take about 7-8 hours from KK to Sandakan and would cost around RM30-50 (US$9-$15) one way. Visit this site for Kota Kinabalu-Sandakan bus fares and tickets.
- Better option is to fly to Sandakan as there are direct flights from Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching. Airasia offers some cheap tickets if you book early. Malaysia Airlines also has some decent ticket prices if you want to compare.
- Drive along Jalan Labuk from Sandakan Town
- Turn left at the Mile 14 roundabout (with a large Orangutan statue)
- Drive along until you see the large, pictorial RDC sign and turn right
- Drive for about 500m to the RDC car park
Tickets/Entrance Fees for the RDC:
- Adults: RM10 (US$3)
- Children (5-17 yrs) RM5 (US$1.50)
- Children (Under 5 yrs) Free
- Daily8 am - 10pm
- Birders start as early as 7am
Bring mosquito or insect repellent, a poncho or umbrella in case it rains as the walkways are not covered. Bring some snacks and bottled water as well. A pair of binoculars are a must if you want to see birds. Wear proper shoes here as some of the walkways can be slippery. You may want to bring some snacks if you have kids as there is no food available there except for a kiosk that sells drinks and some local snacks and closes at around 5pm.
* Remember to practice Responsible Tourism wherever you are.
Address for the Rainforest Discovery Center RDC:
Rainforest Discovery Centre,
PO Box 1407,
Telephone: 60 089 533780 / 781
Website for the Rainforest Discovery Center or RDC
Website for Sabah Tourism RDC Story
Read my other Sabah articles on;
View RDC Rainforest Discovery Center Sepilok in a larger map