Kinabatangan River Cruise – A Must Do in Sabah

You have probably read or heard the great and amazing reviews from people who have visited Kinabatangan River and experienced the river cruise. Well, all the good things you heard were true, and there is even much more when you are cruising Kinabatangan River in person. Read on to remember just how much you are missing out by not booking a trip to Kinabatangan.

About Kinabatangan River

Kinabatangan River has a length of 560 Kilometres and runs across the state of Sabah on the island of Borneo. This makes it the longest river in Malaysia. Kinabatangan River is part of the Sukau-Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. Since the river has a unique ecosystem and tropical lowland rainforest vegetation, it is a favorite spot for many animals.

Why You Should Take the Kinabatangan River Cruise Trip

It is true that as days go by the forests of the shores along Kinabatangan River are shrinking. It is such a pity that deforestation is  depleting the flora and fauna of the region. It is only when you are there that you will understand the severity of the problem of the vanishing forests in the region. All the same, there is still some beauty left, and with the hard work of the conservation organizations, the situation may start improving. By visiting the river cruise, you get to support the conservation of these organizations and cast your voice on their behalf on the importance of wildlife and forests.

On the Kinabatangan River, there is still the stillness and beauty of wonderful creatures that will cool off your mind from your normal routine. There is a special magic that comes with sitting on a boat in the middle of a river as you watch out to see different types of animals.

After enjoying the experience, you will understand the need to support the conservation of the fauna and flora for the next generation. You wouldn’t want your next generation to miss out on that.

What kind of animals can you see on the Kinabatangan River?

The lower part of the Kinabatangan River basin has five different habitats; saline and freshwater swamps, waterlogged and dry forest, and limestone forests. Due to this diversity, ten apes have made this their home — the most popular ones being the orangutan, the proboscis monkey, and the Müller’s Bornean gibbon. There are also more than 50 mammals worth seeing including the bearded pig and the Borneo pygmy.

Also, there are more than 200 bird species to see, which include; scarlet-rumped trogon, buffy fish owl, rufous piculet, hooded pitta, long-tailed parakeet, Asian paradise flycatcher, maroon woodpecker, buffy fish owl, Storm’s stork, brahminy kite, crested serpent eagle, black-naped monarch, and all eight Hornbill species present in the Island.Besides the tour guides that the lodges provide to the guests, they also provide a self-guided booklet, with all the information of flora and fauna in Sabah and a gallery of the animals.

People and Culture of the Kinabatangan region

Most people of the Kinabatangan region are Orang Sungai, which means the “river people.” They have spent their entire life fishing and growing crops and vegetables as well as hunting. The Orang Sungai is a respected community who are known for showing their gratitude to the birds and animals for the privilege of viewing them. In the present day, the people are in the hospitality industry as the areas have become a hotspot for tourists.

River cruises in Kinabatangan  – the ultimate Kinabatangan Fun

The two main villages to stay for a river cruise are Bilit and Sukau; there are villages you can choose from, but these  two villages have  a lot of accommodation rooms.

Sukau River Lodge

The village has multiple lodges and guesthouses. Your choice solely depends on your budget. Some cabins cost as low as 60RM/night. Although the rooms are a bit old and not very modern, they still offer a breakfast that is included in the 60RM.

In this lodge, the river cruise fee is 50RM, and meals cost 15RM per meal. They also have 2D1N and 3D2N which costs 180RM and 360RM respectively.

Bilit Rainforest Lodge

The Bilit Rainforest Lodge is the place for you if you are looking forward to a modern and well-equipped room. They offer a variety of food to choose from, and their staff is very friendly and quick to spot animals. Their packages are also pocket-friendly and equate the services that they offer.

PS: You can book a room and then choose your river cruises “à la carte.”

Best time to visit the Kinabatangan River

Every day is a good time to visit Kinabatangan River; the only difference is the weather variations which dictate the species that are likely to be seen. The driest months are March to early September. During this time, it is easy to see wild animals in the Kinabatangan River. April to October is the best time to see birds as it is the birding season.

The wettest months are November to March, which like any season has its advantages and disadvantages. The good news is that you can go deeper into the river and see more wild animals. The bad news is that the river channels are flooded especially during the monsoon season (December and January).

PS: It is advisable to avoid visiting during the monsoon season.

How to get to the Kinabatangan River in Borneo

The most popular way to Kinabatangan is to fly to Sandakan. Fortunately, most Kinabatangan river lodges offer transport to and from Sandakan airport. If you are not sure about the transport inclusion, confirm with the people involved. It is a long drive that may take a while and a few minutes over the Kinabatangan River.

If you are touring on your own, note that there is no public transport from Sandakan to the villages. There is a bus offering services of the Lahut Datu to Sandakan route; you can flag it when it passes by. Unfortunately, if you miss it, you will have to seek alternatives.

It is advisable to take an early flight to Sandakan to ensure you start your journey to Kinabatangan River in good time. Sometimes the weather may be crazy leading to cars getting stuck in the mud causing delays. It is crucial that you use a four-wheel car that can easily tolerate the mud. When the weather is great, you may take up to 4 hours to get to your destination.


Final Verdict

Everyone wants to be on a cruise at some point in their life. It is the ultimate way of enjoying nature maximally. Kinabatangan gives you the chance to be on a cruise and view the most distinct animals at the same time. Experience you get in the river cruise is something that everyone should put in their bucket list because a list without one is an incomplete list.


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