Where? Lok Kawi (near Kota Kinabalu), Sabah
Ratings: *** Nothing should replace seeing wild animals in the wild, and I don’t encourage the caging of animals, but this is a good place to see Borneo’s wildlife if you don’t have time for a real jungle adventure. The close-up look at the proboscis monkey is reason enough to give this zoo a 3-star rating. Not many zoos around the world are able to keep the proboscis monkeys due to the unique care and special enclosure that is needed.
Lost Ratings: *** Go on a weekday and you will hardly see any visitors. Sometimes I can sit for hours on a bench just watching the animals. Botanical Garden at the back of the zoo is a forest park seldom visited by tourists.
Opened in 2007, Lok Kawi Wildlife Park (LKWP) has become another popular tourist attraction in Kota Kinabalu, especially among the locals. Although the name Wildlife Park might suggest a safari-like environment, it is just another name for a zoo. But LKWP is no ordinary zoo. Carved out of a former rubber plantation that has reverted to a secondary jungle, it is surrounded by a lot of greenery. The bird aviary and botanical garden especially has a jungle-like feel to it. For those who don’t have the time for a real trip into the jungle, the zoo is a convenient place to see the wildlife of Borneo. Even for those who have been to Danum Valley and Sukau, the zoo offers the visitor a chance to see some of the rarer animals like the Sumatran Rhinoceros and Bornean Clouded Leopard, which would otherwise be very difficult to spot in the wild. Animals that are not from Borneo include the zebras, ankoli cattle, capuchin monkeys, ring-tailed lemurs and tigers.
Highlights of Lok Kawi Wildlife Park
Although this primate can be seen quite easily on any river cruise in Borneo, this is one place where you can get a really close-up look at the huge pendulous nose of the male monkey. In the wild, you would need a pair of binoculars to clearly see the nose, and that too only if he decides to show you his face instead of his back. Antics of this male and his harem are quite funny to watch.
Orang utan is the symbol of Borneo and therefore is a must-see for some people. The Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan and Shangri-la Rasa Ria’s Nature Reserve are two other places where the orang utan can be seen, and to be honest, both these places are better as the orang utans get to come and go as they please. But LKWP is the most accessible to tourists staying in Kota Kinabalu. The orang utan enclosure at LKWP is bigger than most other zoos, and instead of a fenced-up area, it is only surrounded by a moat. (Orang utans can’t swim, so they cannot escape). It would be even better if there are more trees for the orang utans to play in and to provide shade from the hot sun, instead of the playground-like structures that are there right now.
The aviary not only has birds flying around freely, it is also a very welcome relief from the heat. The natural environment is wonderful, and some of the rarer and bigger birds like the Lesser Adjutant and Argus Pheasant can be spotted here. Perhaps the most interesting animal in here is not even a bird, but the mouse-deer. Often hiding from the sun and tourists in its own enclosure, the mouse-deer comes out to play here in the shady environment.
Bornean Pygmy Elephants
These elephants like to play in the water and it is a delight to watch them submerge into the deep pool and appear later with only their head showing. The elephants though need a larger enclosure as it is getting a bit too crowded and the elephants are showing signs of stress. (The elephants are not swaying because they like to dance!).
In the same enclosure as the Bornean gibbons, this family of 5 otters is arguably the cutest animals in the zoo. (Some would argue for the orang utan and the western tarsier). Often swimming, playing and even napping together, the otters never fail to amuse with their antics. And when they are resting, the gibbons take over with their own acrobatic show.
Lok Kawi Wildlife Park must be doing something right. It is amazing to have so many animals giving birth in the zoo. The youngest members of the zoo include 2 baby proboscis monkeys, 2 baby elephants (2 month-old and 5-month old in July 2008 ) and the otter triplets. Now is the time to go to the zoo before the babies grow up and lose their cuteness. (latest update 8/3/09 – 3 baby elephants and one baby orang utan)
Sumatran Rhinoceros, Bornean Clouded Leopard, Sun Bear, Western Tarsier.
The show is a hit with the local children and the orang utan really knows how to make an entrance swinging into the amphitheater. Shows are held twice a day, but are sometimes cancelled without prior notice.
Most visitors to Lok Kawi Wildlife Park give the botanical garden a miss in the mistaken belief that it is boring. It is not. For those who have never seen a jungle before, this is a good place for an introduction to a jungle. If walking up and down the steps tire you out, take a seat on the plank nailed onto a liana vine. Rubber trees and pitcher plants can also be found here.
Things to bring: mosquito repellent, hat, sun-block, umbrella
Best time to visit: The animals are most active in the evening when it is not so hot.
Opening Hours: Daily incl Public Holidays: 9.30 am – 5.30 pm. Last entry 4.30 pm
Animal show: 11.15am, 3.30pm
Elephant rides: weekends only
18 years and above – RM20
17 years and below – RM10
18 years and above – RM10
17 years and below – RM5
60 years above – free
Getting There: From Kota Kinabalu, it takes about 25 to 30 minutes to reach the zoo. The easiest way to get there if you are driving is to use the road heading towards the airport. Drive past the airport and straight on along the road until you cross the railway tracks and reach a T-junction. Turn left and go straight until you see the big signboard to the zoo on your right. There are signboards along the way.
Taxis from town costs RM40 one-way. There are no taxis waiting there, so you might want to arrange for the taxi to take you back as well.
Lost Borneo Tours:
Kadazan Village and Wildlife Park