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Rainforest Discovery Centre RDC Sepilok in Sabah

Rainforest Discovery Centre RDC Sepilok in Sabah

Rainforest Discovery Centre RDC is located in Sepilok and caters to the environmental education of the Sabah Rainforest. It is also located in the Kabili-Seplok Forest Reserve which is also home to the world famous Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary. The primary function for the RDC is to create public awareness and importance of conserving our rainforest as well as mother natures resources.

Rainforest Discovery Centre Visitor Building

The Rainforest Discovery Center or RDC as it is commonly known was opened to the public in 2006 to create awareness for our tropical forest and rainforest. Proceeds from ticket sales are channeled back into the RDC to fund environmental education for students and other related activities which are becoming popular nowadays. With the support of Sabah Tourism, I visited the RDC in Dec 2009 and found the entire premises a wonderland for nature lovers.

The RDC has three main areas for exploration which are the main Visitors Building, Rainforest Discovery Trail and the Canopy Walkway. In this article, I will focus mainly on the visitors center while the other places will be featured in my other articles. To get to the RDC, you can either engage a tour company with a certified tour guide or you can self drive here from Sandakan town.

Various images of the rainforest at the RDC Visitor Center

As we had our own personal guide - Ben, we made our way via 4WD from the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary and arrived in about 5 minutes. Tickets were purchased at the main Visitors Building entrance. From there, we explored the interiors of the center where everything and anything about the rainforest, flora and fauna is displayed. Most of the information is related to the surrounding rainforest of Kabili-Sepilok and the greater Sandakan district.

Pygmy Elephant information at the visitor center

Rare information can be obtained here as I noticed one of the exhibits included the unique Pygmy Elephants of Borneo which are a highly endangered species. These Pygmy Elephants are only found around the Kinabatangan River in the Sukau district which is about two hours out from Sandakan.

RDC Visitor Center - Borneo Crocodile

Other subjects of wildlife include various birds of Borneo, Butterflies and Insects and even Crocodiles. A stuffed crocodile was seen on display which measured a whopping 15 feet from head to tail with a little baby crocodile on top of it. It looked very real and if you did not pay attention, it would come as a shock to you.

RDC Visitor Center Butterfly Taxidermy

When you explore the exhibition hall in the visitors building, you will notice that there are over 40 posters with information on flora and fauna of Borneo which include taxidermy (stuffed butterflies/insects) , samples of trees, flowers and leaves and even a skeleton head of a Pygmy Elephant in a case. There are quite a number of pictures of birds and flowers as Birders (Bird Watchers) or Flora Lovers would absolute enjoy this place. If you are an orchid lover, you should not miss visiting the RDC.

Visitor Center Kids Corner

Besides the gift shop and lecture hall, I saw a 'kids corner' where children can further get to know about the rainforest and environmental education here. Plus point for bringing kids here. Once can easily spend a good hour reading and finding out more about the rainforest at the visitor center.

Model of Birds Nest Harvesting at the Visitors Center RDC

Just before exiting, we had a glimpse of how Birds Nests are harvested traditionally from the caves around Sandakan. A replica model of the contraption is on display there. I have a coming article on the Gomantong Caves which is one of the popular Birds Nest Harvesting caves in Borneo.

RDC Rainforest Discovery Trail start point

Once you exit the visitor center, you will be lead to the Plant Discovery Garden which is part of the Rainforest Discovery Trail. It is here where you will see the natural flora of the Borneo Rainforest. This will be in my next article on the RDC.

Heliconia flower at the RDC

As a nature lover myself, I could not help admire the way the RDC has structured it's tour of the rainforest walk. Flowers and plants are carefully located in their own specific areas throughout the walk which made identifying them easy. A tip would be to engage a good nature guide for this as he or she will explain everything along the way to you. I was glad that I had Ben with me throughout the trip here.

A flowering Ginger plant at the RDC

The RDC has an amazing selection of flora and it would be a bonus if you brought a camera along for your visit here. There would be a lot of pictures to be taken especially if you are a flower enthusiast.

Part of the Rainforest Discovery Trail at the RDC

The main Rainforest Discovery Trail would easily take you a good one to two hours to complete and this depends on the time and speed of your exploration. I must have spent a good four hours during my visit here with no regrets.

RDC Canopy Walk - A unique steel type

Apart from the Visitors Building and the Rainforest Discovery Trail, there is the very unique Canopy Walk where the entire structure is made from steel. It is here where Birders (Bird Watchers) come to see the rare and unique birds of Borneo. This segment is featured on my Canopy Walk RDC article.

RDC Lake

The RDC also has a beautiful lake where you can rent a paddle boat. If not, do as I did and relax by one of the lake chairs while absorbing the pure nature after our exciting exploration.

Father and daughter paddle away at the RDC lake

Note the paddle boats at the RDC are leg powered and easy to use. Life jackets are provided and each paddle boat seats two persons.

RDC Boat Ride Information

For RM5 (US$1.50), you can rent the paddle boats and explore the lake around the RDC. Sadly, I did not have the chance to do this as when I finished my exploration, the boat ride was closed. for the day.

RDC Entrance Ticket Fees

By the way, the Rainforest Discovery Center RDC also offers EE Programs for students and since 1997, about 13,000 students from both local and foreign schools have participated in this Environmental Educational Program. This is something where more local and international schools around the region should participate in.

My conclusion to the Rainforest Discovery Center RDC in Sabah: Please visit this place if you are a nature lover or when you visit Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary. If you have children, I would highly recommend you bring them here as it is uniquely educational for them and the family.

Growing up and living in a city, my trip to the RDC provided me with valuable information about our rainforest which cannot be fully enjoyed by just reading about it. A trip here opened my eyes to the rainforest of Borneo. Again, a very big thank you goes out to Sabah Tourism for making my visit to the RDC possible.

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.
Getting to the RDC via car or bus:
  1. Drive along Jalan Labuk from Sandakan Town
  2. Turn left at the Mile 14 roundabout (with a large Orangutan statue)
  3. Drive along until you see the large, pictorial RDC sign and turn right
  4. Drive for about 500m to the RDC car park
  5. 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 2km or thumb a ride.
Map courtesy of RDC

Tickets/Entrance Fees for the RDC:
  • Adults: RM10 (US$3)
  • Children (5-17 yrs) RM5 (US$1.50)
  • Children (Under 5 yrs) Free
Opening Hours for the RDC:
  • Daily 9am - 6pm
  • Birders start as early as 7am
What to bring
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 worth bringing 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.

* Remember to practice Responsible Tourism wherever you are.

Address for the Rainforest Discovery Center RDC:

Rainforest Discovery Centre,
PO Box 1407,
90715 Sandakan,
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:

Official website for Sabah Tourism


Map to Rainforest Discovery Center RDC

View RDC Rainforest Discovery Center Sepilok in a larger map

~ David Jr

*All pictures shot with Nikon D60 - 18-105mm Lens


shloke said...

Hi David!

I would LOVE to explore RDC!! The canopy walk is AWESOME! It's been a while since my last nature exploration and hiking.

I'm going to use my first pair of AirAsia tickets (from BLOG4FT) to explore Sabah. HOORAY!


Malaysia Asia said...

Mylo, your Airasia tickets to Sabah sounds like an awesome trip! With my tickets, I think I will also be booking another trip to Sabah too.


Borneo Falcon said...

Never realize there is other activities to be engaged here beside seeing the Orang Utan. Thanks for the enlightenment

Malaysia Asia said...

Funny you mentioned that as someone else brought this up to me yesterday stating that he thought Sepilok was the only attraction in Sandakan. Well, glad there is this and a few more articles coming.


Luray va accommodations said...

Great article! Orangutans are superbly loved all the way through the world, especially so in the Western world. Look into the eyes of an orangutan, especially the young ones, they seem to be begging for a big hug. It is not easy to see orangutans in the wild, unless you have all your lucky charms with you.

Best Regards,

Malaysia Asia said...

Hello Luray, Orangutans are much loved indeed. And for your added information, my coming article will show you how I saw orangutans in the wild! Stay tuned for it.

Regards and happy new year 2010 to you,