A UNESCO World Heritage sight, the Maliau Basin is an enormous forested hollow in the state of Sabah, Borneo. It is home to a huge variety of flora and fauna due to its isolating topography and landscape. We visit this area on our Borneo Lost World trip and it can be an add on to other holidays with access from either Kota Kinabalu or Tuwau. You can read more about how challenging the trek is in the Maliau Basin on our blog.

Top 10 Facts about Borneo’s Maliau Basin

1.The first Western discovery of the basin was by a WW2 pilot flying over Sabah in 1947, he noticed the vast sunken forest below as he almost flew into the cliffs on the basin’s escarpment, claiming it must be “higher than Kinabalu”.

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2. Only properly explored by a scientific expedition in 1988, the Maliau Basin has never been continuously inhabited by humans and 50% of the reserve has never been visited by humans to date.

3. More than 80 species of orchids are found in the Basin, several of which have only recently been discovered in Borneo.

4. A rare natural phenomenon, the acidic tea-coloured Maliau river is not hospitable to many fish, and there are only three known fish to live in the Basin’s entire river system. But surprisingly it provides great conditions for many amphibians, including a frog who builds its home in the flesh eating pitcher plant!

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Some of the incredible flora of the Maliau Basin

5. The Maliau Basin encompasses an area covering 588 square kilometres.

6. The Maliau Basin’s Murut name means “Land of the Giant Staircase”, based on the areas’ countless waterfalls (19 & counting!) and derived from its stepped landscape.


7. The Maliau Basin has never been logged and is home to an estimated 1800 different tree species, 54 of which are listed as endangered or close to extinction.

8. The Basin is also home to an astonishing array of wildlife. Over 82 species have been record, many of which are endangered; The Clouded Leopard, Sumatran Rhino, Malayan Sun Bear, Asian Elephant, Sambar and Barking Deer, Orang Utan, Bearded Pigs and the Banteng – a wild ox that has been extinct in peninsular Malaysia for over half a century.

9. There are nine species of Borneo’s famous carnivorous Pitcher Plants. This unusual plant ‘feeds’ on the flesh of insects (and sometime small mammals and birds!) by luring them into their jug-like hollows, where they are ‘digested’ by the liquid they fall into. 


10. Adventure Alternative runs multi-day treks to the Maliau Basin. It is one of the Borneo Trekking holidays we run on the island and it is a strenuous nine day trip which includes a visit to Orou Sapulot and a stay with the Murut tribe.

Access is limited by the authorities to 15 people at a time in the reserve to manage any impact on the ecosystem, so you will be far away from hordes of tourists on this unique adventure.

It remains a remote destination to visit for travellers looking for challenging hikes in the forested wilderness, but any visitor is rightly rewarded with the sights and experiences of true adventure into a region deserving of its title as Sabah’s Lost World.