Application Process

SCIENTISTSApplying to Research with SEARRP

Research in Sabah requires permission from the Danum Valley Management Committee (DVMC), the Maliau Basin Management Committee (MBMC), and/or the Sabah Biodiversity Centre (SaBC). We recommend initiating this process at least 4 months prior to the intended start date for fieldwork. The person doing the fieldwork (rather than the supervisor) applies for research approval in the majority of circumstances. Once the SaBC access permit has been issued, please note that it is necessary to obtain the appropriate immigration visa. You should also complete the SEARRP application form (below).

6 Months Before Research

Look-See Visit

If you want to do a short-term (less than 14 days) visit to assess Danum Valley’s suitability as a research site, you can do so on a tourist visa. However, you must apply for look-see permission.
Look-See Visit Application

Documentation Review

Review all the application forms involved (explained in the sections below) to see what documentation will be required in your proposal.

SEARRP Application

Apply for SEARRP membership, as we will give you a project permit number that you will need to include on the subsequent applications. A partnership letter from SEARRP is required on the Danum Valley, Maliau Basin and Imbak Canyon research applications. It is also important for easily obtaining a Sabah Forestry Department approval letter. All scientists need to copy SEARRP into the communication stream (Adrian Karolus) every time a progress report is submitted to DVMC, MBMC, SaBC or other local collaborator (e.g. SFD).
SEARRP Application Form

Local Collaborator

All non-Sabahan researchers must collaborate with a Malaysian scientist from a Sabah-based research institute. The local collaborator must be willing to write you a support letter that you will include in your research application.
Finding a Local Collaborator

4-5 Months Before Research

Research Applications

Apply to the management entity where you plan to do your research. These permissions are necessary for the Sabah Biodiversity Centre (SaBC) application. If you plan to work at multiple sites or your research does not involve Danum, Maliau or their associated projects, please contact Dr. Mikey O’Brien, SEARRP’s Science Coordinator, for advice. Please be advised that effective December 1st 2023, Danum Valley, Maliau Basin and Imbak Canyon permit applications for research, photography & filming and drone will only be processed through the DaMaI Management Committee Meetings that take place four times a year. The following dates are the deadlines for permit application submissions for year 2024: January 31st, April 3oth, July 31st & October 31st. If you have any questions or require further information please contact the DaMaI secretariat or Dr. Mikey O’Brien.

Contact Cornelia Peter (from the Danum Valley and Maliau Basin Management Committee) at Yayasan Sabah for additional information regarding DVMC or MBMC approval letters. It is helpful to meet Cornelia Peter in person; her office is on the 12th floor of the Yayasan Sabah building, which is in the Likas area of Kota Kinabalu (the building is shaped like a giant battery).
Danum Valley Research and Drone Application Form
Imbak Canyon Research and Drone Application Form
Maliau Basin Research and Drone Application Form

Drone Applications

FOR DRONE APPLICATIONS: Please refer to the rules in the DVMC application form, which provides a detailed description of the application process. You will also need to obtain permission/letter of consent from the following government bodies:

a.) Letter of consent from Department of Civil Aviation.

With regards to your inquiry on Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS/Drone) authorization to fly in Malaysia, the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) would like to emphasize all UAS/Drone flight activities in Malaysia are currently bound to Malaysia Civil Aviation Regulation (MCAR) 2016 Regulation 140 – 144. All drones to fly within Malaysian Airspace require a permit to fly issued by CAAM. The application form for the authorization to fly can be downloaded here: APPLICATION CAAM DRONE

The completed application form and required supporting documents needs to be sent to at least 14 days prior to the proposed activity date. CAAM reserves the right to reject the incomplete or late submission. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) with regards to UAS/Drone can be viewed here  & here .

b.) Letter of Consent from State Internal Affairs & Research Office, Chief Minister’s Department Sabah: Letter of consent from Department of Survey & Mapping Malaysia & Updated Drone Checklist.

c.) Letter of Consent from the Department of Survey & Mapping Malaysia – please consult their website here for further information.

Sabah Forestry Department Approval

If you plan to access Sabah Forestry Department (SFD) areas, then you must obtain an additional approval letter. SEARRP will mediate the letter request. In order to obtain the letter send an email to Adrian Karolus with a bullet point list of: your name, project title, place of access and duration of access and your local collaborators details. Also, attach a copy of your research proposal and SEARRP membership letter. SEARRP will request an SFD approval letter for you, which you will usually receive from us within 10 days.

Additional Authorizations

You may need to apply for additional authorizations (e.g. if you are accessing certain oil palm plantations). Please see a fairly comprehensive list on the Sabah Biodiversity Centre website. For anyone accessing Wilmar estates, there are new additional protocols. Please contact Adrian Karolus for more information.

Sabah Biodiversity Centre (SaBC) Licenses

Apply for an access license from the SaBC. The application can be made concurrently with the DVMC/MBMC application, but the approval from DVMC, MBMC or SFD are required to complete the SaBC  application. If you need to export biological specimens for further analyses, you’ll need an export license as well. The process begins by applying through the online form found here.  If you have questions regarding the SaBC application process, please contact application support (Ms. Ken Khamis).

SaBC Access License Application
SaBC Transfer License Application

Upon Arrival in Sabah


Upon arrival in Sabah (usually on a 3-month tourist visa), expect to spend 3-5 days collecting, filling out, and submitting immigration forms. This process involves visiting each of the government organisations necessary. Make sure you also arrange a meeting with your local collaborator before starting your research.
Sabah Immigration Procedures

During Research

Supervisory Visits

Project supervisors do not normally need to apply for research approval if the field visit is less than 1 month. Students/post-docs should advise their local collaborators and site managers of the visit.

Annual Renewal

SEARRP, DVMC, MBMC and the Sabah Forestry Department permission should last for the duration of your research project (Ex: 3-4 years for PhD students) but the SaBC permission (Access Licence) and Visit Pass Professional are only valid for one year, and must be renewed annually (3-6 months before the current one expires).
Annual Renewal Procedures

Non-Sabahan Research Assistants

SEARRP strongly encourages visiting scientists to use our team of Sabahan Research Assistants. If specialist or additional help is needed, which can’t easily be sourced locally, it is possible to engage non-Sabahan research assistants, but these must be named on the SaBC application and a letter of support obtained from the local collaborator. For Danum Valley or Maliau Basin-based projects, the respective secretariats must also be notified. Once SaBC approval has been granted, the research assistant will need to follow exactly the same procedure as the lead scientist with respect to Sabah Immigration Department requirements.