Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

Most animal lovers would’ve heard of them. The strange-looking primates that live in what little forest there is left in Borneo. In Malay, they are known as monyet belanda (Dutch monkey) as the locals thought their abnormally large noses and bellies resembled those of Dutch colonisers. They are the Proboscis Monkeys.

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Proboscis Monkeys are known for their huge noses.

The Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary is just over an hour’s drive from Sandakan. Nestled within devastating plots of palm oil plantations, this sanctuary is unlike any other in the region.

There aren’t any visible fences or boundaries. The sanctuary features two platforms (A & B) where visitors can see the monkeys frolick. Vehicles stop at the ticketing counter before driving further into the platforms, which are 1.6km (platform A) and 2.9km (platform B) away. It was a bumpy, jaw-rattling 10-minute ride but one that we were not strangers to, after riding to the Kinabatangan River the day before.

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary Platform B

Happy arriving at Platform B of Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary. 

Out of the car. The sun glared upon us like an angry fireball. It was… burning. I was roasting in the heat.

And apparently, so were the monkeys, resting on the platform’s bannisters.

Silver Leaf Monkeys at Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

The first animal we set eyes on was a Silver Leaf Monkey seeking shelter from the blazing sun.

“What was it?” I scanned the area trying to find information on the animals we were here to see. There was little. Eventually the friendly staff there told us the species name. I wished there was more to read though. This was probably one of the few places tourists visit for the animals, and a great chance to learn a bit more about the monkeys.

Proboscis Monkey at Labuk Bay Sanctuary

The star attraction just wanted to chill out at the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary.

The 20-odd crowd consisted of professional photographers, animal lovers, and wandering tourists. We all waited expectantly.

It was 1130. The mood changed. As if an internal alarm clock rang, the Proboscis Monkeys started heading towards the feeding platforms. Men with buckets of fruit and vegetable were greeted with scampering primate feet. Soon, the monkeys were feasting. According to the sanctuary’s website, feedings were meant to supplement their natural wild diet.

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

Proboscis Monkeys enjoying bread and vegetables

The troop of smaller Silver Leaf Monkeys suddenly became larger-than-life and shredded any Proboscis Monkey bliss by chasing them off the platforms and finishing any leftovers. I’m not sure why, but the Proboscis Monkeys appeared to be scared of the Silver Leaf? If anyone knows the answer, please comment or email me.

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

Proboscis Monkeys fled the Silver Leafs with food in hand and ate them atop a huge branch

As far as dramatic animals go, I’d place my bet on monkeys that would not be content with an after-lunch siesta. It was play /fight time. As they went on a playful rampage across the platform, into the shelter, and then on to the roof, a flurry of camera shutters let loose. People scrambled to take pictures, while others, myself included, scrambled out of the way. You hear thunderous foot steps on the aluminium roof, and then nothing. Then, you see a fully grown 20kg proboscis monkey leaping to the bannister right beside you.

I had no intention of blogging about a monkey landing on me. As dexterous as he was, I decided a quick escape to another part of the sanctuary would be a better idea. The drama eventually ended when the monkeys disappeared back into the woods.

Silver Leaf Monkeys at Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

The Silver Leaf Monkeys watched on with great amusement

It was also time to leave. I wanted to return to Sepilok to see the Sun Bears.

Cows at Labuk Bay amidst the palm plantations

A herd of cows saunter amidst Labuk Bay, obstructing our exit route and ignoring us entirely.

All around, palm oil plantations juxtaposed the animal sanctuary we departed. I’ve read some criticism of the sanctuary because of the palm oil development. Rather than denounce efforts that one has put in, should we not further encourage the development of such animal respites? This sanctuary assists with the survival of ~60 lives. If it does not exist, these animals may not too.

The sightings of Proboscis and Silver Leaf Monkeys are almost certain, so you may want to add it on your check list if you are in the area.

Details
Website: http://www.proboscis.cc/ or Sabah Tourism Board
Admission fee: RM60 / RM15* (Adults), RM30 / RM5* (Children)
* For Malaysian residents

Feeding times
Platform A (not reviewed here): 0930, 1430 hrs daily,
Platform B: 1130, 1630 hrs daily

Most pictures taken by @clintx on Instagram. Check his profile out here: instagram.com/clintx

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