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Borneo Pygmy Elephants

Borneo Pygmy Elephants

Due to their small size, gentle nature and relatively large ears, they have been dubbed 'pygmy' elephants. Less than 1,500 Borneo Pygmy elephants are found, mostly in the Malaysian state of Sabah. This makes Sabah home to the world's smallest known sub-species of elephants. Smaller than other Asian elephants, the Borneo Pygmy has a longer tail that reaches almost to the ground and straighter tusks. The biggest population of this elephant species is found along the banks of the Kinabatangan River.

Mulu National Park

Mulu National Park

Mulu National Park is the biggest national park in Sarawak. The park is best known for the amazing caves. The Sarawak Chamber is the world's biggest cave chamber. It is said that 40 Boeing 747 aircraft's fit in the cave. Clearwater Cave is one of the top ten longest caves in the world with a length of over 189km. The caves aren't the only highlights at Mulu NP. The amazing pinnacles at Mount Api are absolutely stunning to witness. A visit to Mulu NP will bring your holiday in Malaysia to new heights!

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park

TAR Marine Park is the perfect place to enjoy scuba diving, snorkeling and light jungle treks. The marine park is made up of five small islands: Gaya, Manukan, Sapi, Sulug and Mamutik. The best beaches and probably also the best corals can be found around Gaya island; the biggest of the five islands. The marine park is only a 20 minute boat trip away from the city of Kota Kinabalu.

Mount Kinabalu Summit Trail

A 4095 meter tall mountain

Mount Kinabalu is the tallest mountain in Malaysia and the 20th tallest in the World. Mainly because of the biological diversity the mountain is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Climbing the mountain is not an easy feat for the untrained; though it will absolutely be one of the best experiences ever. Watching the sun rise in the early morning will definitely make you forget all the hardships you had to endure during the hike up.

Kinabatangan river cruise

Kinabatangan river cruise

One of the most popular destinations in Sabah is the Kinabatangan River. This river has a length of 560 kilometers and stretches through half of Eastern Sabah. Alongside the riverbanks there is an abundance of wildlife. During a river cruise you will have a chance to spot the rare orangutan, the pygmy elephant, proboscis monkeys and saltwater crocodiles. During night cruises you might spot the leopard cat, numerous sleeping birds, wild boards, snakes and many crocodiles.

Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary

Map Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary

Lanchang is a small village where you can find an elephant sanctuary named Kuala Gandah Elephant Conservation Centre or the Elephant Orphanage Sanctuary. The elephant sanctuary was established in 1989 within the Krau Wildlife Reserve, and is managed by the Malaysian Department of Wildlife and National Parks. Here many orphaned elephants are raised and given shelter. Not long after tourists found out about the elephant shelter the town quickly evolved into a popular tourist attraction. Kuala Gandah (Lanchang) is probably the best place on Peninsular Malaysia to come face to face with an elephant.

"Shoot nothing but photographs, take nothing but litter and leave nothing but smiles and a generous donation."

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Rehabilitating and relocating elephants

Mainly due to agricultural development the elephants' natural foraging grounds shrunk smaller and smaller over time. Finding food became more difficult and as a result some of the elephants were found in plantations and sometimes even in the small towns looking for food. As the Asian Elephant is an endangered species; people are encouraged not to kill or hurt the animals but to report them to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks so they can capture, rehabilitate and relocate the elephants to the larger national parks throughout Peninsular Malaysia (like Taman Negara). The past 25 years the staff at Kuala Gandah (currently over 35 people work at the sanctuary) helped to prevent the further decrease of the elephant population by relocating over 400 wild elephants back into the wild. Some might say that the elephant conservation centre is nothing more than a tourist attraction. Though this might be partly true, it also plays a big role into creating more awareness among the public (locals and tourists alike).


Especially fun for kids

Families that are traveling with kids should not miss a visit to Kuala Gandah. Kids will forever fall in love with elephants after they experience the close interaction at Kuala Gandah. Visitors can witness feeding and bathing of the elephants; a great experience especially for children. To minimize stress for the elephants visitors can only see the elephants 2 times a day. Bathing of the elephants is only possible if water levels are high enough. Important to watch is the National Geographic Video documentary that is shown a few times daily; weekdays at 1pm, 1.30pm & 2pm (on Fridays only), weekends at 12.30pm, 1pm & 1.30pm.

In the past it was possible to ride elephants, feed elephants and to bath with elephants. Recently Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) decided to cancel these activities in orde to relieve stress for the elephants. This decision was part of the Malaysia Wildlife Act 2012 that was implemented in orde to minimize human contact with the elephants.

Help the Sanctuary

The relocation of a single wild elephant usually costs over RM20.000. Though the Kuala Gandah elephant sanctuary does receive funding from the Malaysian government via the Department of Wildlife and National Parks it strongly relies on donations from its daily visitors. Besides money you can also donate necessary items as there is always use for it: Brown palm sugar (Gula Merah), bags of rice (10kgs), Anlene gold milk 51, Dumex duga 1-3 y/o, Nestiva omega plus and glucose.


Main objectives Kuala Gandah sanctuary

  • Ensuring of the protection and management of the elephants and its habitants.
  • Enhancing the public's knowledge, awareness and support on the importance of elephant conservation.
  • Managing the Centre as a centre for Research and Education as well as an economic & eco-tourism activities site.

Only elephants that are seriously injured and elephants with zero to none chances to survive in the wild on their own are brought back to the sanctuary by the Elephant Capture & Translocation Unit (ECTU). Other wild elephants are relocated directly to their new living environment, far away from the plantations. Capturing a wild elephant is no easy feat. Here the two older elephants, Chek Mek and Mek Bunga, come into play to lead the wild elephant to the special truck that is able to support the wild elephant. The two elephants position themselves on either side of the captured elephant while the team attaches chains around its shoulders. Sometimes relocating a wild elephant takes many days.


Spotting wild elephants in Malaysia

If you want to spot wild elephants, you'd best head over to Sabah in Borneo; especially at the Kinabatangan River chances are pretty big you will have multiple encounters with this great animal species. During our travels we saw many Borneo Pygmy Elephants; we also witnessed a mother elephant crossing the Kinabatangan River together with her offspring. Another place to spot wild elephants is nearby Lake Kenyir (north of the lake around Tembat); though chances are usually pretty slim which of course is a good thing as this means the animals have enough space to roam freely without being disturbed to much by people.


Other elephant sanctuaries in Malaysia

There is also another elephant sanctuary in Malaysia. This is a relatively new shelter nearby Lake Kenyir at Sungai Ketiar.


How to get to Kuala Gandah

It is roughly a two hour drive from Kuala Lumpur (around 200km). There are organized tours from Kuala Lumpur, though you can also get a taxi or rent a car to drive there yourself. The elephant sanctuary is located along the East Coast Expressway between Kuala Lumpur and the city of Kuantan in eastern peninsula. From the main highway you get off at exit 816 Lanchang Interchange (Lanchang/Raub/Kuala Lipis). From there you can follow the signs to Kuala Gandah (or keep heading towards Lanchang). The sanctuary is opened daily between 10.30 and about 4pm.


Map of Kuala Gandah

Below you can see a map of the Kuala Gandah. You can simply scroll through the map with your mouse. Use the markers on the left to zoom in or out of the map.

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