Borneo’s Tropical Eden – Sabah

The book project on flora and fauna in Sabah started in 1993 and took the author through different habitats and terrain. And nature never really stood still to be photographed. But photograph we did. Instrumental to the mission was the help from Wildlife Department. The book acknowledges the many Sabahans who made our job easier. This book is a tribute to all Sabahans. Publication had been delayed due to the lack of funding. It was launched recently; the waiting is finally over. It won “Honorable Mention” at the Independent Publishers Book Awards 2005 in New York!

Book Summary

Borneo’s Tropical Eden – Sabah is the work of three close friends, fired up with a passion for the wilderness. The perseverance and the vision have resulted in the culmination of a book that will serve as a window to the untamed world and remind us of our connections with the wild. Richly illustrated with over 360 photographs and evocatively written, the handsome book will appeal to eco-enthusiasts and lovers of nature.

Washed by the South China Sea in the west, the Sulu Sea on the north east and the Celebes Sea on the south east, Sabah is located on the northern tip of the world’s third largest island, Borneo. From the air, the regal mountains and rolling hills of Sabah’s Crocker Range appear like a lush green carpet. To the north, the steep slopes of its famed Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in the region, beckon the intrepid.


More than three-quarters of Sabah are tree-covered. The tropical rainforest of Sabah, one of the oldest in the world, are phenomenally luxuriant and have spawned an abundance of wildlife. Many creatures and plants are endemic here, found nowhere else in the world. From the minutest insect to the largest mammal., each has a story to tell. Sabah’s forest and state parks are a naturalist paradise – the world’s largest orang-utan sanctuary is found here, so is the world’s largest flower, the Rafflesia. The forests, home to over ten thousand species of plants, are also natural pharmacies for a cornucopia of medicinal drugs waiting to be discovered.

Besides its spectacular rainforests and mountain scapes, Sabah possess exquisite islands scattered like gems in an aquamarine sea teeming with enchanting marine life. Sipadan on the east coast, is renowned as one of the world’s best diving spots. The Tengku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, a short journey from the Kota Kinabalu capital, boasts an equally vibrant marine community. The Layang-Layang atoll on the far west, which completes the triad, is a haven for scuba divers and birdwatchers. Indeed, the beauty of Sabah’s underwater life provides a worthy complement to its terrestrial world.

Book Review 1

By Mary Chin (Daily Express 30 Oct 2004)

Borneo’s Tropical Eden – Sabah, a colourful and illustrative book, captures the essence of Sabah and is the masterpiece of three close friends – Dr Chua Ee Kiam, Billy Kon and Lee King Li. They have something in common and that is a passion for the wilderness.

In his foreword, Chief Minister Datuk Musa Hj Aman said… “For Malaysians in Sabah, this book will express for them what have always been dear to their hearts – the unique natural wonders of their land and the exclusivity of their heritage.

“It is a book that will serve as a window to this great Eden of ours.”

Dr Chua admits that he and his team-mates could only show what they saw – a minuscule of the flora and fauna that lay within the trails. “Through a greater understanding and appreciation of nature, it is hoped that readers will be overwhelmed by the natural heritage and will personally endorse their efforts in the protection of the wild.”

Book Review 2

A Wild Sojourn by ME Choo, nature-lover (23rd Sept 2004)

When I first heard of this latest book written by Dr Chua, I was curious. What has Sabah got to do with me?  Why take 10 years to publish it?

When I finally laid my hands on this appealing 256-paged coffee-table book, I was bought over by the 360 great pictures, all exquisitely shot.  The passion of the author and his 2 co-photographers is evident, be it up in the mountains, down in the valleys, through the swamps, by the shores, in the limestone caves or in the depths of the sea. Their perseverance and delight in documenting their sojourn as they traverse these different habitats in Sabah shines through and rubs in on the reader.

As I read the illustrative prose, I embark on a journey with the author to the diverse habitats that have been co-existing with man, and which form an integral part of our existence.  Evocative and informative, the author shares his knowledge of the animals and plants that are found in Sabah , many endemic yet endangered.  To counter the damage done by indiscriminate logging, fish bombing and poaching, Sabah has set up sanctuaries to protect their wildlife and embarked on reforestation programmes to rehabilitate felled forests.  Dr Chua highlights the need for the rest of the world to support and participate in preserving the ecosystem that has so long been taken for granted by man.


The threat to the delicate balance between man and nature is not just unique to Sabah but is a universal one.  Every one of us plays a part in preserving what Mother Nature has generously bestowed upon us.  If not, as Dr Chua puts it succinctly, ‘the enchantment of today will exist only in the fairy tales of tomorrow’.


This is a great read for nature lovers, students and armchair explorers like myself. The colourful, vivid images with their compendious captions and the gripping text offer a refreshing, in-depth look at Sabah ‘s beautiful natural wonders.

Book Review 3

Picture book on Sabah Wildlife by Teh Jen Lee (New Paper 20 Jan 2005)

..led by a dentist, they made countless trips to the jungles of Sabah over 10 years. There they shot pictures of porcupines mating, carp spawning and other wildlife scenes even seasoned nature lensmen rarely capture.

Dr Chua said: “We were privileged to witness the miracles of life, and to be able to tell nature’s story because we too are a part of nature.”

Book Review 4

Sabah- the land below the winds by Nancy Chng (Singapore American, Feb 2005)

You don’t have to be a nature lover to be captivated by this magnificent volume. If you appreciate excellent photography, you’ll find this treasure to keep. The publication of his Sabah book was almost stalled due to the lack of funding. It was the dogged perseverance, combined with a belief that this was a truly important project that led to the launching last August by the Chief Minister of Sabah.

The illustrations bear testimony to the photographers’ patience. Details are evident: you can see clearly the fuzz on the wings of the colourful Atlas Moth and spot the insect trapped on a water-logged Nepenthes Rajah, the largest pitcher plant in the world. Readers, through the lens of these devoted naturalists, can observe the delicate balance between man and nature. Intersped with descriptions of the birds, flowers, animals, trees, fishes and insects are comments about the fragile environment and the need to cultivate and promote awareness of it.

In this book, the author sums up his lifelong commitment to nature and the environment thus: “Only when we have taken the effort to discover and study these habitats, then can we understand the immense gifts that we are bestowed with. Like a jigsaw puzzle, the intricate web of nature takes some time to become evident…This priceless legacy must continue to touch and enchant our lives and elevate us to be gracious creatures that could provide the glimmer and hope for all.”

Book Review 5

A Little Piece of Heaven by Anansa Jacob (The Sun 12 Jan 2005)

Our region’s tropical rainforests have been referred to by conservationists and scientists as a God-given natural treasure. With lush sprawling greenery, cool waterfalls and teeming with flora and fauna, it is no surprise that nature lovers from around the globe frequently visit our rainforests to experience a taste of tropical Eden. However, the importance of preserving this natural heritage is largely lost upon the general populace. Therefore, it is up to the conservationists to remind peple of what they have before it all disappears.

Dr Chua Ee Kiam, a nature lover has dedicated his time and effort to photographing the natural environments of both Singapore and Malaysia. “The story I am trying to tell is not just a Malaysian or Singaporean story, but a global one. I want to make people aware of issues like conservation, the dangers of poaching and others issues.”

Book Launch

Speech by Chief Minister

Speech by Dr Chua Ee Kiam

As part of the National Day celebrations, a new book highlighting Sabah’s natural wonders was launched on the 30th August 2004 in Sandakan (designated Nature City) by the Chief Minister of Sabah, Datuk Musa bin Haji Aman. Amongst guests were members of the Cabinet and the Parliament.

Event Sponsored by Datuk Nasir Yeo, Organized by Azlan Yeo; MC – Judy Goh

30 Aug 2004, Sabah Hotel, Sandakan 2.30pm

All photos taken by Billy Kon

Book project sponsored by Nikon

Handling crew headed by Albert Norman

Chief Guide – Telesphorus Chin

Images from Kadazan Country – Sabah

Taken over a period of 10 years, some of these images were gleamed from a book on the natural wonders of Sabah. The most intense documentation so far. You will find yourself drawn into the fascinating world of Sabah, where dense tropical jungles provide refuge for thousands of species of flora and fauna.  In Sabah – expected the unexpected and you will be pleasantly surprised.

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