Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary offers a chance to see the action monkeys of Borneo up close.
Proboscis monkeys are endemic to this island, and unfortunately on the endangered list. The orange and white-coated primates are one of the largest species in Asia — males can grow to 30 kilos and 75 centimetres tall, females are considerably smaller. Their most prominent feature is the huge schnoz on the male—it can be up to 10 centimetres in length, hanging down over his mouth. Female noses are smaller, but still big for a monkey. Both have bulging pot-bellies, and the males have a permanently erect red penis — hello mister!
Lowland mangrove and riverine forests are their stomping ground and webbed feet help them out in this environment, but you’ll mostly see them leaping great distances from tree to tree. They hang out in large groups, usually with one dominant male, several females and their offspring, and to the side you’ll often see a group of “bachelor males” angling to get in on the action.
Now back to the endangered bit, the major reason for their decline is loss of habitat due predominantly to clearing of forests to plant palm oil. The owner of Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary is a palm oil plantation owner. The story goes, that in 1994, he was in the process of land clearing to expand his empire and came across several troupes of proboscis monkeys living there. Curious, he learnt more about their plight and changed his plans so they could continue to survive in their natural habitat. As their food sources had dwindled due to drought, they supplemented the monkeys diet with fruit and water. And thus began Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary.
Two feeding platforms offer the opportunity to see the monkeys up close. The ticket booth is at the main entrance, and Platform A is 1.6 kilometres away, and Platform B is 2.9 kilometres away. If you plan on visiting both, it’s just over one kilometre in between. You are more likely to see the animals during feeding time — at Platform A it’s 09:30 and 14:30 daily, and Platform B, 11:30 and 16:30 daily. If you only have time for one feeding, choose a time at Platform B, as here as well as proboscis monkeys you are often able to see the usually shy silver leaf langur. When we visited several females were carrying offspring. The small silvery grey monkeys have bright orange babies. Often at this platform a couple of oriental pied hornbills get in on the act too, swooping down to eat the offered fruit.
A film on how the sanctuary came to be is screened daily in the screening room at Platform B at 10:15 and 15:15 (50 minutes).
Your ticket is valid for all feedings. English-speaking guides are available for 30 ringgit for one feeding and 50 ringgit for two feedings.
How to get there
Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary is 50 kilometres from Sandakan, and 23 kilometres from Sepilok. A shuttle bus runs from Hotel Sandakan (09:30) to the sanctuary via Sepilok Orangutang Rehabilitation Centre (10:30). The return schedule departs Nipah Lodge near Labuk Bay at 15:00 and 17:00. The shuttle is 20 ringgit one way.
A taxi from Sandakan is 80 ringgit one way or 160 ringgit return including waiting time. A taxi from Sandakan, continuing to Sepilok and return including waiting time at both is 180 ringgit.
By Sally Arnold
Last updated on 12th October, 2016.