Imbak Canyon, the Lush Tropical Rainforest
Imbak Canyon Conservation Area (ICCA) is situated right in the heart of Sabah in Tongod District. With a total area of approximately 30,000ha including two ridge-top virgin jungle reserves, the canyon makes a significant contribution to the coverage of protected areas in Sabah.
How to Get There
It takes about 6 hours from Kota Kinabalu to Tampoi Base Camp just outside the conservation area through Telupid town. But if the river is flooded, vehicle unable to cross the river, there is another route which takes approximately 12 hours from Kota Kinabalu, passing through Sook, Maliau Basin Conservation Area, and through Luasong. The access road leading to Tampoi Base Camp is really challenging, you need a 4×4 and an experience driver.
Tampoi Base Camp and Surrounding Jungle Trails
This camp is complete with bunk beds, bathrooms, dining hall and kitchen. Depending on your reason of visit, Tampoi Base Camp is the main camp before you venture out to other sub-camps. Usually photography and nature expeditions group would explore Imbak Falls (approximately an hour drive from Tampoi Base Camp plus another hour of trekking to the waterfall). If you are up for some adventure, you may continue on your trekking journey from Imbak Falls to Kapur Camp (17KM, 6-8 hours), Pinang-pinang Camp (5KM, 2-3 hours), Bukit Beruang Camp (4.2KM, 6-8 hours) then back to Tampoi Base Camp (4KM, 4-6hours).
Kuli Camp is situated south of Tampoi Base Camp approximately 1.5 hours drive (depending on the road condition). From the starting point trek another hour or so to reach Kuli Camp. This camp is built to facilitate the on-going scientific expeditions carried out by the authorities and foreign researchers to uncover the biological gene bank in the heart of Sabah. It was an honor for me to be part of the Wildlife Survey Expedition team organised by Yayasan Sabah (caretaker of ICCA) to install camera traps around Kuli Camp and record general wildlife observations based on recce walks. There are 5 major trails around this camp with difficulty level ranging from easy, medium and tough. So we ventured out to these different trails to find a good spot to install the animal camera traps.
Riverine trail is the easiest to trek due to its flat terrain leading to a small waterfall. Kuli waterfall trail and Ridge trail are medium tough with almost 70 degree slopes. We scrambled through the slippery muddy trail and attracted a lot of friendly leeches. Slope trail and Summit trail are the toughest, we didn’t go all the way up to Mt. Kuli summit but it is doable with overnight stay in sub camp.
River crossing is part of the adventure.
Tiger leech. If you are concern about leech attack, check out my post on “How to avoid leeches in Borneo“.
Endless slope ahead that drains out our energy, but it is not impossible to climb.
An example of Bushnell camera trap installed.
Though the trails around Kuli Camp can be explored by tourists, but this place is not for any ordinary tourists, you have to be physically and mentally fit, be prepared to rough it in and be flexible enough to make do with what you have in the forest.
Jungle trekking in Imbak Canyon is an adventurous journey to explore the beautiful and untouched natural environment in Sabah. Along the way we spotted bearded pigs, squirrels, Red Leaf Monkey, Bornean Gibbon, Sun Bear claw marks on tree trunks (I hope to see it one day in the forest, maybe 100 meters away without it noticing my presence of course). There are many more mammals in ICCA and we hope to capture their images with the camera traps throughout the area.
How to Arrange Imbak Canyon Packages
This area is gazetted as a Class I (Protection) Forest Reserve therefore you will need a permit from Yayasan Sabah to enter Imbak Canyon. An experienced ranger is also required to be with you once you enter into the forest. Currently Imbak Canyon is less developed (in terms of tourists facilities) as compare to Maliau Basin and Danum Valley, therefore not many tour operators offer trekking packages to this place. However, it is worth checking out North Borneo Safari , a tour company that caters for customize needs and interests to anyone who is interested to explore Sabah’s pristine tropical rainforest.