Logistics and costs

You will need to think carefully about the logistics of your research at SAFE: make clear plans for when you need to be at different sites and budget for field costs. You will need to budget for:

The charges below apply to scientists, students, overseas volunteers, external research assistants, project supervisors and scientists/students on planning visits. For projects requiring extensive vehicle or research assistant use please email the Deputy Coordinator for special rates.


The core research areas in the SAFE project are split between two locations: the experimental and cleared areas at SAFE and the old growth forest sites at the Maliau Basin Conservation Area. Within Maliau, the sites are most easily accessed on foot, but at SAFE the distances involved often mean you will need transport to and from sites.

The SAFE Project can provide both transfers between sites and transport around the experimental area, using our fleet of four Land Rover Defender 110 and three Ford Ranger 2.2 XLT. These vehicles are driven by our trained and experienced staff and for safety reasons, may not be driven by anyone else, unless under emergency circumstances. Exceptions may be granted for long-term researchers with formal training in off-road driving.

We charge RM 100 per hour for these services -- this is charged per person, regardless of the number of occupants in the vehicle. The example costs below indicate the the average transport times and costs, although timings can be greatly affected by road conditions.


Pick-up and drop-offs from Tawau town or Tawau airport can be arranged on Wednesdays and Sundays, subject to availability of vehicles and drivers and at the discretion of the Scientific Coordinator. You will need to include transfers in your research visit plan, which you will need to submit at least a fortnight before you plan to come to the field.

Because of the distances and the nature of the roads involved, we strongly discourage anyone from requesting same-day return trips to and from Maliau. Same-day return trips between Tawau and SAFE are possible. Transfers between Tawau, SAFE field camp and Maliau Basin Studies Centre are charged at the rates below and are the same as those charged by SEARRP at Danum Valley.

TransferDriving timeOne way journey cost (approx.)
SAFE to Danum Valley7 - 8 hoursRM 750
Tawau to SAFE2.5 hoursRM 250
SAFE to Maliau3.5 hoursRM 350
Tawau to Maliau4 hoursRM 400

It is also possible to arrange transfers using vehicles and drivers from Maliau Basin. These will need to be arranged separately and have different costs:

TransferDriving timeOne way journey cost (approx.)
Tawau to SAFE2.5 hoursRM 350
SAFE to Maliau3.5 hoursRM 350
Tawau to Maliau4 hoursRM 650

Transport around the SAFE Project experimental area

Due to high demand and the large extent of the SAFE Project area, most researchers get drop-off and pick-ups at designated points and times, or share vehicle if they are working at nearby areas. Note that if the vehicle needs to drop you off, return to camp and then come out to pick you up in the afternoon, you will be charged for the full amount of time the vehicle is on the road.

LocationDriving timeOne way journey cost (approx.)
LFEWalking distance from campRM ---
B, C, D, E30 minutesRM 50
LF1, LF2, LF3150 minutesRM 250
A, F, VJR60 minutesRM 100
OP1, OP2, OP390 minutesRM 150

Accommodation, food and admin costs

SAFE experimental area

Within the experimental area, the SAFE project has built a field camp with beds, cooking and toilet facilities, and is powered by generator in the evening. We also provide food for researchers staying at SAFE and basic camp and office facilities like electricity, laser printing, scanning, satellite TV, etc.

CategoryStandard cost
SAFE cost per night (International students and researchers)RM 40
SAFE cost per night (Malaysian students and researchers)RM 20

Maliau Basin

Researchers at Maliau Basin typically stay in rooms in the Scientists' Annex or dormitories in the Hostel. Food is provided at an on-site cafeteria, although you may be able to self-cater by prior arrangement. You will also need to pay access and admin fees to work at Maliau Basin. The charges are shown below -- the Royal Society SEARRP can usually provide a letter of support for SAFE Project researchers that allows you to qualify for the discounted rate.

CategoryStandard costDiscounted costMonthly rate
Maliau Basin entry permits (per person or vehicle for each visit)
   Administration feeRM 40RM 25RM ---
   Conservation feeRM 15RM 50RM ---
   Vehicle entry permitRM 5RM 5RM ---
Accomodation (per night)
   Satellite camp (person)RM 30RM 25RM ---
   Resthouse Standard (room)RM 100RM 80RM ---
   Additional person (max 2 per room)RM 30RM 40RM ---
   Scientists’ Annex (person)RM 100RM ---RM 300
   Belian camping ground (person)RM 15RM 10RM ---
   Hostel (person)RM 35RM 30RM ---
Food (per person per meal)
   LunchRM 20RM 37RM ---
   BreakfastRM 15RM 18RM ---
   Full boardRM 65RM 100RM ---
   DinnerRM 30RM 45RM ---

Research assistants

Lone working is not permitted for Health and Safety reasons. We require all new researchers and field workers to take one of our Research Assistants to familiarise themselves with the locations of study sites and trails. At the discretion of the Scientific Coordinator, researchers working in pairs or with their own volunteers are able to work without SAFE Project Research Assistants. Rates for Research Assistants are the same as those charged by SEARRP at Danum Valley. Working at night (6 pm -- 6 am) incurs a 50% surcharge and if trained RAs are required to provide canopy access or rigging than a 100% surcharge is applied to cover safety equipment replacement and maintenance.

Many researchers working at SAFE take SAFE Research Assistants to Maliau with them, but it is likely to be cheaper to hire Maliau Rangers for RM 10 per hour. Contact MBFC directly if you want to hire their field staff; SAFE management will not manage bookings for Maliau staff on your behalf.

CategoryStandard costNight workCanopy access
   Full day RA cost (5 -- 8 hours)RM 125RM 187RM 250
   Half day RA cost (up to 5 hours)RM 70RM 105RM 140