After staying in a hostel in Sandakan in the western part of Sabah, part of the Malaysian side of Borneo. I took a Grab (Southeast Asia’s cheaper and better version of Uber) to the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary.

Labuk Bay

After close to an hour taxi ride, which was still extremely cheap, I arrived at the sanctuary. Although a common site driving through Sabah, the Labuk Bay Sanctuary entrance was located within a palm oil plantation. The ticket office was only a small building but inside the woman I was supposed to buy a ticket from was lying down asleep. The ticket to the viewing platforms cost me 50 ringgits which seemed reasonable to me.

The viewing platforms were still far away from the entrance so the Grab driver willingly drove me to one. As the viewing platforms are only open at certain times during the day, I had unfortunately asked the driver to take me to the one which was currently closed at the time. With the other platform over a mile away, I had no choice but to walk under the blistering sun.

However it wasn’t too bad, despite telling myself there aren’t any predators nearby, I was still on alert to any sound or movements. A little monitor lizard was swimming in a little stream on the edge of the plantation as I continued my walk down the road. A massive shaking of leaves in the trees on the side of the sanctuary caught my eye and also put me further on edge. Difficult to see what was causing the disruption, I did manage to see what I think was some species of hornbill amongst the vegetation.

Further on the walk, the monitor was still swimming and slighty following me as I was catching glimpses of it’s dinosaur like head poking out of the water now and then. Although I saw wild proboscis monkeys while on a river cruise a few days previous, I saw my first in the sanctuary, a female was sitting in the trees ahead of me, although not for long, as soon as she saw me she was off and out of sight. This really caught my eye of their size and being on my own was slightly intimidating in case one disliked me being on the road alone too much.

The other platform a bit further on had a sort of cafe area where there were a few staff within. Unfortunately I had just missed the viewing times for that platform but without even asking an extremely friendly man working there told me it was fine for me to go there.

As the only person there it was quite nerve racking but I also felt extremely lucky. The proboscis monkeys were so close, a large male was sleeping in a tree literally a few metres from me and I didn’t think I could get any closer ( I was to be wrong). I walked up a raised part of the platform and was able to look down upon a family foraging. I couldn’t have been there for long until two what looked like young females came up onto the viewing deck with me and sat on the railings. They were very close, too close and they made me a little uncomfortable. As they were also endangered I really didn’t want to get into a squabble if either tried to steal my bag or camera, so I backed off. One of them got bored and jumped off the railings and back down with the rest. The other did the opposite, it came towards me along the railing. As I was backed off even more and was trying to speed up without looking like I was running away, it too sped up, until suddenly it charged at me. Just before it reached me it slapped one of the poles on the railings with a loud bang as it stared unnervingly through me.

I figured it was probably the best time to leave so headed back to the restaurant/cafe to wait it out until it was time to go to the other viewing platform that I was originally at. Kindly, the man who allowed me to go into the viewing platform alone also asked a mini bus driver in a nearby building to give me a lift to the other one. However this driver was also extremely nice and even told me he would drive me personally to the airport afterwards for virtually no cost at all.

I mentioned how the monkey had charged at me while I was on the platform and the driver kept dismissing it as he told me how shy the monkeys were.

At the other platform, the monkeys were much more active. They were crossing mine and the now other guests’ paths. The other platform was quite different from the other too. You could look out from all sides of it, as two separate families of proboscis monkeys were feeding on their own tables.

This was where I was able to get really good shots of the male, at the closest table. He was constantly on alert and snarling and shouting at things out of view. He had multiple young monkeys around him, climbing about and playing. One young monkey seemed like it was shouting at its mother, until I realised the complete lack of interest from the mother, as clearly the child was rather amusingly having a tantrum.

A few rather menacing looking Giant Mudskipper (Periphthalmodon schlosseri) were visible in the mud pools surrounding the platform, along with a couple of kingfishers and a brahminy kite amongst the canopy. This was when the monsoon downpour suddenly came into action and it was time to go.

I loved it here and was probably the place I enjoyed above all rest so far. The lack of proper tourist and the closeness of the animals made it feel very unique and almost intimate. Not to mention the staff who went above and beyond and treated me with so much kindness and doing so much for me. I would love and hopefully expect to come back again.

More information on the endangered proboscis monkey:

National Geographic

IUCN Red List

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