Rainforst Discovery Centre RDC Nature Trail Sabah

Rainforst Discovery Centre RDC Nature Trail in Sabah

The Rainforst Discovery Trail or Plants Discovery Trail is one of the highlights at the Rainforest Discovery Centre RDC in Sepilok, Sabah. This unique 800 meter long trail is filled with all kinds of rainforest flora and a very educational walk. I must admit that I had an awesome time viewing the different types of plants and flowers along this walk at the RDC. You must be a nature or flower lover to enjoy this trail and in this article, it is all dedicated to the Flora of Sabah Borneo.

Heliconia flower in Orange-Yellow

Heliconia flower in pink

Heliconia flower in red

At the beginning of the walk, you are introduced to the various flowers from the Heliconia family. While some of them I have seen, most of the other heliconias were entirely new to me and so my Rainforest Discovery Trail began with much interest. With the support of Sabah Tourism, I visited the Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) in Dec 2009 to explore the wonders of Eco-tourism that Sandakan and Sabah has to offer.

Various Ginger Plant Species on a display board

From Heliconias you will start to see various Ginger Flowers and plants along the concrete walkway. The flowers and plants are well planted on both sides of your trail so keep a look out as there may even be some rare flowering species here.

Medicinal Plants garden at the RDC

After the Ginger plants, we came to the Medicinal Plants section where many locals still believe and use local medicinal plants of the rainforest. Popular names like 'Misai Kuching' (Cat's Whiskers) and 'Tongkat Ali' (Ali's Walking Stick) plants can be seen in this section.

Strange fruits growing out of a tree bark

A large Tiger Orchid plant growing here

One of my personal highlights was the Tiger Orchid (Orkid Harimau) plants which were abundant throughout the beginning of the trail. Some of the Tiger Orchids were extremely huge and beautiful. I have a small Tiger Orchid growing at my mums place and it has flowered twice in a span of one year. Sadly, I did not see any flowering ones here at the RDC but the sheer size of them put a big smile on my face.

Tiger Orchid information (Orkid Harimau)

Tiger Orchids are the largest orchid species in the world in the world and some say that even after growing them for five to ten years, the orchid never flowered. They are usually found in the tropical forest of Malaysia and growing on trees.

Fern Corner at the RDC

Another section that was along the rainforest trail was the Fern Section (Sudut Paku Pakis). This is one of my favourites as well due to the beauty of the various wild ferns. I have a collection of wild ferns growing at my mums place too.

Staghorn Fern

On seeing the local Staghorn Fern (Tanduk Rusa) growing healthily and beautifully, I could not hesitate but to take a shot of this. The Stag Horn Fern or Platycerium (Polypod Family) was amazingly very healthy with leaves growing to a length of five feet long. Something I rarely see in captivity.

Ekor Kuching (Cats Tail Fern)

Another species of fern which caught my eye was the Cats Tail Fern or locally known as Ekor Kucing. This fern from the Lycopodium family is one of the beautiful ferns that impress me always. Some of the Ekor Kuching ferns in the wild grow up to over 6 feet in length while most in captivity are about two to three feet and there are a few types of this Lycopodium found here at the RDC.

Various orchids growing off a tree stump

Arriving at the Orchid section, there are just too many to name and are grown every where. Orchid lovers would find this a wonderland. Some of the rarest tropical speciesare found growing here too. Slipper Orchids which are much protected can land you in jail if caught removing them from the rainforest. And there were a few of the Slipper Orchids growing here at the trail. Sadly they have not flowered yet.

Bulbophyllum Longiflorum or Umbrella Orchid

Did you know that Sabah has over 1500 species of the 30,000 species of orchids known to man and Sabah is one of the top hot spots for orchid enthusiast from around the world. There are about 300 species of orchids found in the Rainforest Discovery Trail at RDC and some of the names are Apostasia, Arundina, Aeredas, Coelogyne, Dendrobium, Dipodium, Eulophia, Calanthe, Cymbidium, Bulbophyllum, Paphiopedilum, Phalaenopsis and Renanthera.

Pitcher Plant Garden

After about 30 minutes of beautiful flowers, we approached the Pitcher Plants (Peruik Kera) area. A relatively small area but with quite a good collection of Pitcher plants found in Sabah Borneo. You can read up a little more on the Pitcher Plants of Sabah.

Nepenthes Gracilis Pitcher Plant

The Pitcher Plant or Monkey Cup as it is commonly known are protected species and one can get fined or jailed or both if caught stealing them from the forest reserves. Scientifically known as Nepenthes, there are 31 species throughout Borneo Island while 15 of them can be found in Sabah alone. At the Rainforest Discovery Trail, I must have seen at least five different types of Pitcher Plants here.

Wooden walkway at parts of the trail

The final section of the Rainforest Discovery Walk is along the tall dipterocarp trees. By then, we had already done a good 45 minutes walking with out nature guide Ben. Along the way, Ben had explained almost everything to us including the scientific names of flowers and plants.

Video of Rainforest Discovery Trail at RDC Sandakan

Creepers growing on tree bark

Some of the dipterocarp trees growing here are taller than a hundred feet (33 meters) and have amazing life surrounding them. Sounds of the rainforest drown everything else and the air smells of green. Best not to look up too much or you will have a neck ache like I did.

Fungi seen on tree stumps along walk

Fungi are also spotted at a certain part of the trail where parts of the walkway is made from wood elevated over the rainforest ground. Becareful not to touch them too.

Lianas or Forest Highway

One of the things that caught my eye again was the Lianas or The Forest Highway. These amazing plants which are vines begin life on the ground as small sell-supporting shrubs and rely on other plants to reach the light-rich environment of the upper canopy. They can be seen along the trail here at the RDC and some of them grow to an amazing six inches in diameter.

Information on the Lianas plant

Kalumpang Sarawak or Wild Almond Tree with fruit

Apart from the general tropical rainforest trees, I chanced upon some unique ones with strange fruits growing out of the tree barks. One popular tree named the Kalumpang Sarawak (Sterculia megistophylla) or Wild Almond Tree had a bunch of fruits hanging out in bright red colour. Apparently they are non-edible but are absolutely fascinating.

Tall various dipterocarp trees line the trails

The other great thing about the Rainforest Discovery Walk is that along the entire 800 meters, there are various signs informing of the names of the flowers, shrubs, ferns or trees. Most of them are pinned on to the trees or on the ground so you will always know what type of flower or tree it is.

Butterfly creepers growing up a tree bark

While some strange ones are seen like the Butterfly Creeper on the tree above, you may need the assistance of a good guide to give you the information. Luckily I had my own personal guide Ben with me during this nature walk.

Crossing a wooden bridge at the RDC

At one point during your nature walk, you will come across some bridges and also a section which leads to the Canopy Walk. The Canopy Walk at the RDC was another amazing place which I learned more about the rare birds of Sabah.

Wood and rope bridge over the lake at RDC

Finally at the last bridge over the lake, the path takes you around and to the end point which is where a small shack selling drinks and doubling as the paddle boat operator is located.

The RDC Lake

At the lake, there are some chairs where you can take a breather and enjoy the serene beauty of the entire place. We spent a total of almost two hours throughout the trail and it was a memorable one. I had learned so much about our rainforest and about the various flora here and my thanks goes to Ben - Our guide and also Sabah Tourism for making this visit possible.

My conclusion to the Rainforest Discovery Walk: If you are a nature lover or want to enjoy some serious flora and fauna, make a visit to the Rainforest Discovery Centre and spend some time here. If you're lucky you may even see some birds, animals and insects here. Excellent for exposing kids to nature and for the city loving people, it would be a change from your usual touristy place.

Getting to the Rainforest Discovery Centre 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
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 8am - 10pm
  • 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 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 by the lake 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,
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

*Pictures were taken with a Nikon D60, Lens: 18-105mm
Rainforst Discovery Centre RDC Nature Trail Sabah Rainforst Discovery Centre RDC Nature Trail Sabah Reviewed by Malaysia Asia on Wednesday, January 06, 2010 Rating: 5


Stanley said...

I remember going there for a BRATs assignment at the end of 2008. Brings back memories! We stayed at the Forest Edge Resort where they took away all our handphones lol.

Btw, Happy New Year to you too!

Tekkaus said...

Awesome! Awesome photos bro. Yeah! What fruit was that? So damn strange looking. Haha :D

David Jr said...

Stan, you must have had an awesome time there! Good for you.

Tekkaus, thank you. Which the Red one coming out of the tree? I totally forgot to ask but it looks like the Kalumpang Sarawak family.


Cath J said...


Ow.. now I know what the plants name 'Tiger orchids'... my mom have it too.. and the flowers are beautiful!!! thanks for the info.. ^_^

David Jr said...

Hey Cath, the Orkid Harimau is one of the sought after orchids if you like big orchid flowers. It is beautiful when it blooms or should I say 'if' it blooms.


CEL said...


David Jr said...

Thank you Cel. It is really beautiful here.


shloke said...

I LOVE fern!!! You got pictures of staghorn and cat tail ferns - AWESOME!

I've seen butterfly creepers many times during my jungle trekking. But, I do not know the actual name. Thanks for sharing!

Enjoy reading this article!


CEL said...

Hey hope you have a great 2010 too :)

David Jr said...

Mylo - I used to have at least 6 types of staghorns in my old place. now only 3 or 4 species left. They are amazing plants.


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