Deramakot Forest Reserve

Deramakot Forest Reserve is home to over 75 percent of mammals in Sabah. One does not necessarily have to stay long to chance upon a variety of wildlife. This forest has been logged but surprisingly in an environmentally friendly way. A contrary stance but you need to be there to see and understand this concept for yourself.


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Deramakot Forest Reserve may not be as popular as Danum Valley or Kinabatangan River, however Deramakot is the first tropical rainforest in the world to be certified as well managed forest under FSC Certification (Forest Stewardship Council) in September 1997. The FSC certification is considered the gold standard designation for wood harvested from forest that are responsibly managed, socially beneficial, environmentally conscious and economically viable. It is indeed a favorite place for researchers and university students. However, Deramakot started getting the attention of local and foreign visitors when it was re-certified for the 5th Certification Period.

Faced with the reality of deforestation, the Sabah Forestry department together with the technical support from Technical Cooperation of Germany (GTZ) a strategic management system was developed to ensure sustainable production of timber and logging at the Sabah forestland in 1989. The system requires a substantial investment in forest planning, infrastructure, low impact harvesting equipment and training for all the foresters managers and workers. The mission is to manage the commercial forest reserve in a way that replicate the natural processes, low volume logging but with high quality of timber products in a sustainable manner. Sustainability are define in terms of the overall balance of the nutrient cycles, forest structure, biodiversity of the forest and socio-economic needs. As a result, Deramakot Forest Reserve was chosen as the role model for the best forest management practices and has the longest certification by FSC.

Now you might wonder how wildlife can do so well in a log forest? This is all thanks to Reduce Impact Logging (RIL) system. Basically, the conventional logging is quite destructive as it bulldozes everything, cuts down all the valuable timbers and abandons the mess. Therefore, it may need another 50 to 80 years for the whole forest to regrow. In contrast, RIL employs a different harvesting method where it will leave most of the forest intact and the regrowth period takes only 25 years. Moreover, logged forest of RIL will be left for 40 years to recover before it can be harvested once again. To make it more eco-friendly for the wildlife habitat and the ecosystem of the rainforest, RIL does not cut any fruit trees or any small trees that is less than 60 centimeters in diameter. There are also some buffer zone around the riparian, steep slope, watershed and other terrain in order to keep the forest healthy and stable. Even though the logged forest is degraded to a certain extend, it is still livable for wide array of flora and fauna. Interestingly, RIL technique also manage to reduce soil damage by 50 percent, promotes faster forest restoration and able to cut down the cost of rehabilitation up to 94 percent per hectare.

When one visits the Deramakot Forest Reserve with an open mind, not expecting it to be a portable zoo or not expecting the accommodation to be a glamping spot - then one will not be disappointed. The size of the forest alone is around 55,507 hectare, which is equivalent to 66,000 soccer field. This massive lowland forest is located in the heart of Sabah, at the north of upper Kinabatangan river. It is consider to be one of the top location to spot Borneo wildlife, since almost 75 percent of mammals were documented around here. This includes the 5 world endangered species which is orangutan, Pygmy elephant, Banteng, Proboscis monkeys and Clouded leopard. Beside the endemic creature, there are also countless of rare and illusive species that can be found in Deramakot Forest Reserve. Among them are the Colugo, gibbons, multiple species of flying squirrel, Sambar deer and mouse deer. So, get ready with your camera and binocular as you may be lucky enough to spot them during your trip.

Where wildlife is concerned, the Deramakot forest is also home to all of the 5 amazing Bornean cat species. These species are Sunda Clouded Leopard, Marbled Cat, Bornean Bay Cat, Flat Headed Cat and Leopard Cat. Being stealthy and illusive hunters, cats are some of the most difficult animals to find in the wild. Nevertheless, most of the visitors in Deramakot did get a chance to catch a glimpse of the wild cat during their night drive here.

The forest reserve is also an ideal site for bird watchers. Various colorful species can be seen in the forest, for example Racket-tailed Drongo, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Buff-necked woodpecker, Whiskered Tree Swift, Black-headed Bulbul, Blue-eared Kingfisher, White-crowned Shama and many more. The loud noise of flapping wings of the hornbills can also be heard quite often. According to the local rangers, 8 species of Bornean hornbill can be found flying through the forest canopies. Examples are but not limited to the Rhinoceros hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill and the Helmeted hornbill.

In terms of location, Deramakot Forest Reserve is 190km drive from Sandakan town and it can only be accessible by 4 wheel drive vehicle. The journey might be bumpy and long, yet it is a worthwhile experience once you get to the forest. Despite being in a remote area, Deramakot also has a basic accommodation nestled within the forest reserve. Both of the park-style chalet and hostel comes with attached bathroom, complete with fan, air-con, blanket towels and even hot shower. It is an ideal place to relax after a long trek, watch the beautiful fireflies glow at your window at night and wake up to the sound of Bornean gibbons and bird chirping in the morning.

Deramakot is truly a unique destination where you can enjoy a medley of thrills and memorable experiences. Take a morning walk and enjoy the fresh air of the misty forest, experience an amazing dawn drive on a jungle tour, fascinating bird watching, jungle trekking and take a stunning wildlife photos. Since most of the Deramakot animals are nocturnal, 4WD night safari and spot lighting offers the best opportunities for you to see wide range of incredible wildlife here. Its like having your very own National Geographic experience.

Deramakot Forest Reserve, is not catered to no walk-in visitor or last minute bookings. This is simply because time is needed for proper registration and preparations before arrival. If you are planning to go to Deramakot, do reach out to Bike and Tours as we need to apply for an entry permit from the Sabah Forestry Department before the tour. This is to ensure the safety of the visitors. during the stay. Our Discover Deramakot Forest Reserve include pickup and drop off in Telupid, forest lodge, meals, jungle adventure and nature guide. This unique location is a perfect example of how sustainable forest management can promote conservation of wildlife. Come and see for yourself, it is truly an eye opening experience to witness the abundance of wildlife within the logged forest. We definitely recommend Deramakot Forest Reserve for all wildlife enthusiast as it is an absolute wildlife adventure away from the crowd.