Imbak Canyon Conservation Area encompasses several different types of forest including lowland dipterocarp forest and rare lower montane heath forest, a lower altitude version of the famous ‘kerangas’ of Maliau Basin, with its special magical world of small, slender trees, pitcher plants and orchids.

Dipteris fern along the river banks

The dipterocarps kapur and keruing are common in the lower areas, with kapur seedlings particularly abundant.
A huge kapur tree

As a potential site for biotechnological research, Imbak has proved to be a rich source of medicinal plants, with more than 55 different species found during a 2-week Scientific Expedition in the Conservation Area in 2004.

Ant plant found in the heath forest, used traditionally as a medicinal plant

The pitcher plant Nepenthes hirsuta has also been found in the lower montane heath forest, only the second sighting in Sabah, the other being in Maliau Basin.

Nepenthes hirsuta
Although only a small part of the Conservation Area has so far been explored, Imbak Canyon Conservation Area has already revealed itself to be the home of some of Sabah’s most rare and endangered species, including the Malayan Sunbear and Proboscis Monkey, a significant finding during the 2004 expedition.
The surprising find of a Proboscis Monkey in the heart of the Canyon
near the 2004 expedition camp.
So far at least 100 bird species have been recorded, including 5 bird species endemic to Borneo: Blue-headed Pitta, White-browed Shama, Black-throated Wren-Babbler, Borneon Blue Flycatcher and Borneon Bristlehead and also one species (Helmeted Hornbill) considered internationally near-threatened according to IUCN’s Red Data Book.
A beautiful Red-bearded Bee-eater from Imbak’s heath forest.
Imbak River is slightly tea-coloured, probably due to dissolved tannins, natural chemicals leaching out from the vegetation.
The clear, tea-coloured Imbak River at the 2004 expedition camp
The waters of Imbak Canyon appear to support higher numbers of fish species than Maliau River (16 species to date), and at least 30 species of amphibian and reptiles were found within the 2-week, 2004 Scientific Expedition inside Imbak Canyon Conservation Area.
Two Malayan Flat-shelled Turtles, green when hatchlings and turning brown when adults, found near Imbak River