Imbak Canyon Photography Safari

Imbak Canyon Photography Safari 2011 with North Borneo Safari. One of the most exclusive photography expeditions held in North Borneo, the amazing journey through the thick and uncharted rainforest made an incredible experience for a group of photographers and adventure seekers from around Sabah. Yes, this was the first ever trip into Imbak Canyon by a group of non-researchers which is a conservation area and also a biological gene bank. 20 serious photographers and 4WD enthusiast gathered in the town of Telupid which is the main gateway to Imbak Canyon and Maliau Basin.

You see, I have always wanted to visit this unique and mysterious place since 5 years ago. After hearing the many stories from park rangers who worked around the conservation during my many trips to Sabah, this made it more intriguing and captivating. Finally the day came in February 2011 when Cede Prudente of North Borneo Safari had organised a photographic expedition and this was my chance to explore the mystical place. 

4WDs ready for the journey into Imbak Canyon

Arriving in Sandakan, Sabah via Kuala Lumpur, I met up with one of Cede's trusted and very professional nature guide Kenneth. From the airport, we headed towards the town of Telupid to meet up with the rest of the team. The journey took about two hours via the main trunk road which leads all the way to Kota Kinabalu. On arrival, I met up with everyone and to my surprise, another photographer friend of mine was there too. The journey into Imbak Canyon started at about 3pm as we convoyed in ten four wheel drive vehicles. It would take us through vast remote areas on interior Sabah while stopping briefly at the town of Imbak which is a small outpost and the last stop before proceeding into the canyon. 

One of the 4WD going through a river at Imbak

Normal vehicles will not be able to access the canyon due to the rough and muddy terrains therefore only four wheel drives are suitable to make this journey. Upon reaching the canyon junction, our ranger who was in the lead vehicle stopped briefly to pre-warn the other 4WD drivers about the intense conditions the rest of the way. Passing a river, all the vehicles needed to go through using a set path from the lead car.

The view along the way was just as I expected as dense rainforest conditions with muddy off road tracks dominated the other half of the journey to our base camp. At many times, we would stop to make sure everyone made it safely across treacherous stretches of mud. Finally after about three hours of intense driving, we arrived at the Tampoi Base Camp. The camp was basic with living quarters for the 20 odd staff there including our open aired bunk bed lodging. Yes, no two or three star hotel here in the middle of Borneo. Dinner was prepared for everyone at the main dining area and to my surprise, I noticed some of the rangers watching satellite television from a 40" LCD TV. Talk about modern technology in one of the most remote places in Sabah Borneo. After dinner, an introduction was done via power point about conservation work done in Imbak Canyon while our itinerary was set out for the following day. 

Sleeping quarters at Tampoi Base Camp in Imbak

Some of the 4WD gang opted to camp out under the stars while the rest of us prepared our camera equipment before bed time at about 10pm. The conditions were really nice as I got to experience sleeping in a double bunk bed with mosquito netting under a structure without walls. Toilets were modern if you should be interested as they are behind the quarters and with 8 units. Only for those who cannot live without hot showers, everything else was great here. 

To start the day, we woke up at about 5am to prepare for our journey to the Imbak Waterfalls. Previously, one had to trek there for about an hour but early in 2011, a driving trail was made. Along the way to the falls, you would be lucky if you bumped into a Borneo Pygmy Elephant but for my trip, I only saw what the elephant left behind on the trail. The ranger had told me that the elephant was there last night as the droppings were very fresh. Oh how I would have loved to bump into one of the mammals.

 Gearing up to photograph the Imbak Waterfalls

Arriving at the Imbak Waterfalls, I could hear the beautiful sounds of water falling from a distance. We had to stop the vehicles and walk down a wooden staircase where my eyes could not imagine the size and length of these falls. Everyone was in awe when we saw it and some could not resist while pulling out their cameras clicking away. As everyone was making their way down the platform area, Cede and the rest of the rangers that followed us here gathered for a detailed briefing at the main platform area. This was crucial as all of us were first timers here. 

Cede Prudente giving everyone a briefing about the place

We were all informed of the do's and dont's and what to look out for. As this is very deep into the conservation area, the nearest form of civilization was still 3-4 hours away. So we were informed to be cautious here. Leech socks were required for trekking while moving around the falls, we should be a tad careful. After the waterfall photography sessions, we were to trek into the BBC trail and camp which was over a hanging wooden bridge. It is here that you get to see some of the deep rainforest flora and fauna. As for animals, we heard a lot but they choose not to be seen while we were there.

Below are a series of pictures taken while we trekked carefully through the Imbak Conservation rainforest. You can click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Standing by a Berlian Tree

Birdwatchers would find some interesting species here

Leaf insect lands on someones hat

Moss growing freely on one of the trees

One of the photographers in action

The suspended bridge to the trek

Trekking Imbak Canyon's BBC Trail

View of a river during the trek

When we returned back from the trek, we spent the afternoon at the waterfalls as many wanted to explore the different timings of the light for photography. Lunch was arranged and served at the platform while a few choose to have an afternoon siesta while the serious photographers were seen around the falls. Finishing a two hour session there, we headed back to camp for dinner. The evening was spent talking about everything and later in the night, Star Trail professional - Jollence Lee, gave a number of us a guide on how to photograph Star Trails. This was very informative and interesting. You can see an example of Jollence Lee Star Trails. Overall, this excursion had to be one of my most challenging and interesting rainforest adventures in a long while. 

For those of you who are interested in experiencing this unique expedition, you need to know that only groups are received or you can get more details from Cede of North Borneo Safari in regards to the Photo Safaris that he organises around Sabah Borneo. For photographers, this is one of the trips that you should not miss from around the world. Shooting in remote Borneo inside a 35000 hectare conservation is something not many people will be able to do and now this option is available. You can get more details from below:

You can find North Borneo Safari on;

North Borneo Safari Contact Details:
Lot 4, 1st Floor,
Block 22, Bandar Indah,
Mile 4, 90000 Sandakan,
Sabah, Malaysia.

E-mail: inquiry@northborneosafari.com
Telephone: +6089 235525
Fax: +6089 235526

Photography at Imbak Canyon

If you are an avid adventurer or loves the rainforest, Sabah Borneo is one of the many places that you could explore. The state offers a variety of treks and adventures to suit your style. Sabah Borneo is also one of the well known Bird Watching destinations with many places to choose from. Apart from the normal excursions, you can also opt for the advance trips to explore deep rainforest and see the beautiful Imbak Canyon Waterfalls. Solo travels are nor permitted while this place is best visited in a group and under the assistance of Sabah Park Rangers and North Borneo Safari guides for the Imbak Canyon Photography Safari.

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