The lodge itself is just fine, the cabins are adequate and have air condition (which is such a plus in this part of the world). Because they are still trying to develop tourism in Labuk Bay - it offers an opportunity for a very quite stay (only one other party the night we were there). The food was not great but adequate, staff was friendly but at times seemingly uninterested.
The larger issue here is whether or not this is worth an overnight stay, and it's tricky as it largely depends on how much time you have. We opted to stay one night, and visit Sepilok for one feeding before heading to Kinabantagan. Because we were going to the lower Kinabantagan - and with a relatively limited amount of time, I think I would have preferred to just come into Labuk Bay for just one feeding, and spent more time in the Kinabantagan, but you may find you may need at least one night at Sepilok/Sandakan/Labuk Bay for logistical reasons. It is a fantastic experience to watch the Proboscis monkeys up close.
I hope that the intentions of the palm plantations owners are good here, as with any wildlife lodge or sanctuary there is a fine line you are walking when you bait the widlife. At this point, Labuk Bay is not a rehabiliation center like a Sepilok - so I find it more difficult to substantiate feeding wild monkeys. The thought is that it is necessary to feed the wild monkeys so that tourists can get an up close look, which subsequently gives the owner of the palm plantation reason to carve out a sanctuary amongst the palms. Personally, I would hope to learn that they are taking on legitimate research projects within the sanctuary in the years ahead -- to this point, there are apparent funding issues.
At the lodge itself, they are clearly baiting (very) large monitor lizards which live around the property. Interesting to see them up close, but I always find it hard to see a wild animal become reliant on kitchen scraps. Unfortunately, the night walk was also a bit of a let down - it's a walk amongst the palm trees, so you're likely only to see fireflies.
All that said, there is no question that the guides I spoke with during our stay were sincere about the long term intentions, and the lodge does offer a quiet, comfortable experience.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The best kept secret in Borneo...Nipah Lodge is surrounded by nature with mangrove paths. A perfect retreat place to get away from busy hostels and lodges. It is the only accommodation within minutes to Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary.The view from each private chalet balcony and dorm rooms are overlooking to a pure serenity of a low land forest. It is like being part of a scene from National Geographic rainforest. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Nipah Lodge Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia