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Birds of Borneo Tour | 3 Days | Kinabatangan River & Rainforest Discovery Centre


The Birds of Borneo tour showcases two of the best birding locations in Borneo—the Rainforest Discovery Centre and the Kinabatangan River. Each of these locations is home to hundreds of exotic bird species, making this trip ideal for birders and naturalists. Led by an experienced Birds Specialist Guide, you’ll join a range of activities aimed at maximising your opportunities for seeing (and photographing) many of the amazing Birds of Borneo.

Note – The above price is for one person based upon two people staying in the same chalet. There is also a Peak Season charge calculated for any stay between 1st July to 30th September. This booking is for 1 chalet. If you require more, then simply add the product to your cart again.

Prices are valid until 31st March 2025 (NLK11).

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Birds of Borneo Tour – Visit Three of the Best Birding Locations in Borneo

Borneo is a world-recognised birding hotspot with an amazing 688 resident and migratory bird species, including 60 endemic species. It’s the combination of the amazingly rich birdlife, alongside known locations for perfect birding opportunities, that attracts birders to Borneo. The Birds of Borneo 3-Day Tour includes visiting two famous birding locations on the east coast of Sabah – Rainforest Discovery Centre and the Kinabatangan River. The Birds of Borneo tour has been created to offer you the best birding experience in Borneo with a focus on quality observations (including private boats for the extended river cruises), and all activities are led by a Birding Specialist Guide who is an expert in the bird species found in the Sepilok and Kinabatangan River areas.

Rainforest Discovery Centre is the first and last location during the Birds of Borneo tour. The Rainforest Discovery Centre located in Sepilok-Kabili Forest Reserve is one of the most accessible natural rainforests in Sabah and home to an astounding 300 species of birds recorded in the area. The canopy walkway at the Rainforest Discovery Centre, a 620-meter-long and 25-meter-high metal platform and walkway, is the longest in Sabah. It offers great birding opportunities to find canopy birds at eye level and is one of the highlights of the Birds of Borneo Tour. Some bird species prefer habitats in the understorey and forest ground, so you will have the chance to explore the well-marked jungle trails, too. Some of the Birds of Borneo species found here include the Black & Crimson Pitta, Blue-headed Pitta, Giant Pitta, Black Hornbill, Rhinoceros Hornbill, kingfishers – the Hooded and Black-and-Crimson Pitta, Scarlet Minivet, Red-bearded Bee-Eater, Banded Broadbill, Diard’s Trogon, Malkohas, Leafbirds, Spiderhunters, Crested Jay, Woodpeckers, and Bulbuls. If you’re lucky, you’ll see the iconic Bornean Bristlehead. Find out more about birds of Borneo spotted at the Rainforest Discovery Centre.

Wallace Hawk Eagle | Birds of Borneo

Kinabatangan River and the Rainforest Discovery Centre – Home to Many of the Amazing Birds of Borneo

The Kinabatangan River is the longest in Sabah, flowing 560km to the Sulu Sea on the east coast. The Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the Lower Kinabatangan River area and is home to 200 species of birds. The main activity you’ll join at the Kinabatangan River during the Birds of Borneo tour will be private river cruises, which offer a very relaxing way to go birding. The Kinabatangan River is a birders’ paradise where you can find some of the most sought-after birds of Borneo, including Storm’s Stork, Dwarf Kingfishers, Wallace’s Hawk-eagle, the Malaysian Flycatcher, Oriental Darter, and several species of Hornbills including the Rhinoceros Hornbill, the Asian Black Hornbill and the Oriental Pied Hornbill. If you’re lucky, you’ll see the White-fronted falconet, the smallest raptor in the world at ~ 14cm and the endangered Storm’s Stork. Find out more about birds of Borneo spotted at the Kinabatangan River. Don’t forget, during your rivers cruises, you’ll also get to see wildlife, which can provide highlights during the Birds of Borneo tour alongside the birding finds, especially if you are lucky enough to come across a wild Orangutan or a herd of the Bornean Pygmy Elephants.

The third location you’ll visit during the Birds of Borneo tour is Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary. Explore Labuk Bay’s enchanting mangroves in Sabah and discover a haven for diverse bird species. Witness vibrant kingfishers darting above the water, elegant egrets wading gracefully, and elusive Oriental-Pied Hornbills making appearances. The sanctuary offers a unique opportunity to observe these feathered wonders thriving in their coastal habitat from the elevated boardwalks that meander through lush mangrove forests, offering intimate encounters with these unique inhabitants.

If you’d like to explore more famous birding locations in Borneo alongside this Birds of Borneo Tour, then we can help you add on a trip to Danum Valley or Tabin Reserve, both famous birding locations in Borneo.

Trip Itinerary – Birds of Borneo Tour (3 Days) | Kinabatangan River & Rainforest Discovery Centre

Day 1 (Meals: L & D)

06:00 hrs: You’ll be collected from your Hotel in the Sandakan or Sepilok area and transferred to the Rainforest Discovery Centre. You’ll arrive at the Rainforest Discovery Centre by ~ 06:30 – 06:45hrs, a perfect time for spotting birds of Borneo as they wake and start feeding. You will spend the rest of the morning at the Rainforest Discovery Centre.

By 12 noon: You will go to a nearby lodge for lunch, where you will have a choice of tasty local dishes.

12.30 hrs: After lunch, you will be transferred by road to a Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge called Nature Lodge, which is located in the Lower Kinabatangan River Sanctuary. The journey will take approximately 2 hours, passing by Kota Kinabatangan town and oil palm plantations. Once you arrive at Kampung Bilit, you will transfer to Kinabatangan Nature Lodge, just 3 minutes by boat transfer across the River.

~14:30 hrs: On arrival at the Kinabatangan Lodge, you will have a welcome briefing and then check into your chalet in the Agamid Wing of Kinabatangan Nature Lodge.

15:30 hrs: Join your first of four extended river cruises along the banks of the Kinabatangan River in search of birds of Borneo. This afternoon, you’ll join a 3-hour river cruise on a private boat for Birders. Embark on a Kinabatangan River cruise and enter a world of avian wonders. Observe majestic eagles soaring, colourful kingfishers skimming the water, and elusive owls gracing the treetops. The journey unveils a captivating symphony of birdlife against the lush backdrop of Borneo’s rainforest.

19:00 hrs: Enjoy dinner at the Lodge restaurant in the midst of the Kampung Bilit secondary jungle.

20:00 hrs: Join a night trek (with a private Guide) in the rainforest behind the Lodge. Look out for sleeping birds and nocturnal creatures of the jungle.

Overnight at the Kinabatangan Nature Lodge in an Agamid Chalet (with twin or double bed, aircon and ensuite Shower Room). Click here to see photos of the accommodation for the Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge trip.

Black Hornbill | Kinabatangan River

Day 2 (Meals: B, L & D)
06:00hrs: An early start for your first extended early morning river cruise (2 hours, private boat for Birders). The early morning is a great time to see many species of the birds of Borneo.

08.15 hrs: Back at the Lodge for breakfast.

09.15 hrs: Join a trek through the nearby secondary lowland rainforest to Oxbow Lake, which offers the chance for bird sightings along the trek and at the lake. The return trek will take ~ 3 hours.

12.30 hrs: Lunch at the Lodge.  After lunch, you can rest and chill out at the Lodge before your late afternoon river cruise.

15:30 hrs: Join your second extended late afternoon river cruise along the Kinabatangan River. The river cruises will be alternated upstream and downstream (3 hours, private boat for Birders).

19:00 hrs: Dinner at the Lodge.

20:00 hrs: Join a night trek following a different trekking route behind the Kinabatangan Nature Lodge.

Overnight at the Lodge: Stay a second night in the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary as part of your Birds of Borneo tour.

Day 3 (Meals: B, L)
06:00 hrs: Join your last extended early morning river cruise as part of your Birds of Borneo tour (2 hours, private boat for Birders). Hopefully, you’ll see more amazing bird species to tick off your Birds of Borneo dream list.

08.00 hrs: Breakfast back at the Lodge.

08:30 hrs: Check out of the Lodge and start your transfer by minibus back to the Sepilok area.

~11:30 hrs: Arrive at a lodge near Sepilok, where you will have lunch.

~12 noon: Time for a relaxing lunch, with time to check out your photos to see what Birds of Borneo you have ticked off your list.

14:00 hrs: Visit Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary for an early afternoon feedback session. The mangrove forests here are home to an array of wildlife. Alongside the proboscis monkey family groups, you’ll be able to watch birdlife from the raised boardwalks, including Oriental-Pied Hornbills, which are regularly seen here.

16:00 hrs: Visit nearby Rainforest Discovery for a second time from mid-afternoon to dusk, an ideal time for birdwatching.

~18:00 hrs to 19:00 hrs: Your Birds of Borneo tour has come to an end. You’ll be transferred to your drop-off location by the latest 19:00hrs (a Hotel in Sandakan Town, Sepilok Area, or Sandakan Airport – the recommended flight is the last flight departing at 9.10 PM to BKI). We hope you’ve had many birding highlights during your Birds of Borneo tour.

Trip Inclusions – Birds of Borneo Tour
The Birds of Borneo tour includes the following:-

  • Return road transfer from Sandakan or Sepilok area and return boat transfers to the Lodge from Kampung Bilit.
  • Meals (2 Breakfast, 3 Lunch & 2 Dinner)
  • Visit (and entrance fees) the Rainforest Discovery Centre twice and once to Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary.
  • At the Kinabatangan River: 4 x private birding river cruises in private boats for persons booked on the Best of Borneo trip (2 mornings & 2 late afternoons), 1 x guided trek to an Ox-Bow lake, 2 x Guided night walks.
  • Two nights’ accommodation in an Agamid chalet (twin/double/triple beds, ensuite shower room and toilet, aircon) within the Agamid Wing of Kinabatangan Nature Lodge
  • Guiding throughout your trip by an experienced, English-speaking licensed Birding Specialist Guide (private Guide for persons on the Birds of Borneo tour)
  • Access to free-flow coffee/tea and fresh water at the restaurant at the Kinabatangan Lodge
  • 0% Sales & Service Tax on the tour price as applicable from 6th May 2019.

Trip Exclusions – Birds of Borneo Tour

The Birds of Borneo tour excludes the following:

  • There is a camera/video conservation fee at Sepilok Sanctuary (RM10 per item), Sun Bear Conservation Centre (RM10 per item), and Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary (RM30 per item).
  • Soft drinks or alcoholic drinks.
  • Flights (Domestic & International).
  • Personal travel insurance.
  • Tourism Tax is currently set at a flat rate of RM 10 per room per night (you will pay this at the Kinabatangan Lodge).

Recommended Packing List – Birds of Borneo Tour

To get the most from your Birds of Borneo Tour, it is recommended you bring the following with you:-

  • Clothing suitable for a tropical rainforest climate, e.g. raincoat, cap/hat, comfortable cotton T-shirt, long sleeve top, long trousers (long trousers are required for the Oxbow Lake trek), long shorts
  • Insect/mosquito repellent
  • Sun protection, including sun cream, sunglasses and a trekking hat
  • Good walking shoes (with a change of shoes for wearing at the Lodge)
  • Binoculars for observing birdlife
  • Head torch for a night trek
  • Camera equipment suitable for close-up and longer-distance photography
  • Personal medications (if needed)
  • Please take your passport with you on this trip – your passports will be checked at the Kinabatangan Lodge.

Notes – Birds of Borneo Tour
Leeches are found on all trails in the rainforest. It is recommended you use leech socks during trekking activities.
If weather or other factors (e.g., a landslide) make an activity unsafe, the Lodge will adapt the trip itinerary for safety reasons. There will be no refund if a trip itinerary needs to be adapted on the day due to safety reasons.
The Birds of Borneo tour price is valid for trips up to 31st December 2024.


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Kinabatangan River

  • Is Kinabatangan River safe to visit?

    As far as we know looking at local papers and government announcements There has never been any history of a security or criminal acts in the Kinabatangan area. This also includes Danum Valley, Tabin, Selingan island and Lankayan Island. However, there was a very small isolated incident on the outskirts of Sandakan.

  • How far is it from Kinabatangan River to Danum Valley Feild Centre Office in Lahad Datu?

    The route to the Danum Valley Feild Centre Office in Lahad Datu is 124 kilometres and takes approximately 1 hour 54 minutes. Here is the normal route:

    Take Jalan Sukau to AH150 for 32 min (36.8 km)

    Follow AH150 to Lorong Fajar 1 in Lahad Datu for 1 hr 19 min (87.0 km)

    Take Lorong Fajar 2 and Lorong Fajar 6 to Lorong Fajar 9 for 2 min (190 m)

  • How far is Kinabatangan River from Sandakan Airport?

    The journey from Sandakan Airport (SDK) to Kinabatangan River (Bilit) is 156 kilometres and takes 1 hour 57 minutes approximately. The route it takes is:

    Follow Jalan Airport and Jalan Lintas Labuk to Jalan Ranau – Sandakan/Jalan Sapi Nangoh/Route 22 for 8 min (5.1 km)

    Follow Jalan Ranau – Sandakan/Jalan Sapi Nangoh/Route 22 and Jln Sandakan-Lahad Datu/AH150 to Kinabatangan for 1 hr 13 min (73.9 km)

    Take Jalan Sukau to Jalan Kampung Bilit for 32 min (36.8 km)

  • Where can I see orangutans in Borneo?

    Seeing an orangutan in its natural habitat is one of the top reasons for coming to Borneo. In Borneo, there are around 11,000 orangutans in Sabah and 1,600 in Sarawak. In Sabah, the top three places to see orangutans in the wild, along with other wildlife encounters on offer, are the Kinabatangan River, Danum Valley and Tabin Wildlife Reserve. 

    Kinabatangan River, Sabah

    the Kinabatangan River is one of the best wildlife-watching destinations in Southeast Asia. If you spend a few days here joining river cruises you will have a very good chance of seeing an orangutan in the wild. Wildlife watching on the Kinabatangan is done from boats making this location suitable for a range of ages and fitness levels. The Kinabatangan River is the easiest and most ‘comfortable’ option in Borneo for seeing Orangutans in the wild.

    Danum Valley, Sabah

    Danum Valley is the best place to see wild orangutans in pristine, undisturbed forest. Sightings are not ‘guaranteed’ but there is a pretty good chance of seeing an orangutan if you spend a few days at Danum. You will join guided treks into the forest in search of wildlife (including orangutans). The trekking is relatively easy so you don’t need to be super fit. 

    Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Sabah

    Tabin Wildlife Reserve is a large protected forest area covering 122,500 hectares. At Tabin, there are reasonable chances of seeing an orangutan by joining guided treks into the forest but they are not as high as Danum or the Kinabatangan. 

    Alongside these ‘seeing orang-utans in the wild’ options, you also have the chance to see orangutans at the world-famous Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. At Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre illegally captured, orphaned and injured orangutans are taught to survive in the wild again. The Centre has two feeding sessions a day which is open to the public during which you can go to a raised platform to watch the orangutans come in from the surrounding forest to be fed.

    Which one of these options is best for you for seeing orangutans in Borneo depends upon your budget, how to fit you are, how much time you have and the way you want to go in search of orangutan (by foot, boat or 4WD safari). Choose one, or more, of the above options to have the best chance of seeing an orangutan in Borneo.

  • Where can I see pygmy elephants in Borneo?

    The pygmy elephant (or Bornean pygmy elephant) are the smallest elephants in Asia and are endemic to Borneo. With only about 1,500 Bornean pygmy elephants left on Borneo, they are classified as critically endangered. For those visiting Borneo to see wildlife, the Bornean Pygmy elephant is likely to be in your top 5 of things to see. Encountering a herd of these elephants is unforgettable, and often once in a lifetime, experience. Whilst Borneo is big (it’s the third-largest island in the world) the pygmy elephant can only be found in a limited area in the forests of northeastern Borneo (with most found in Sabah, Borneo). The pygmy elephants migrate throughout the year, following a traditional corridor, and the top three places to see pygmy elephants in Sabah, Borneo are as follows:-

    Kinabatangan River

    The Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary is a narrow corridor of Protected lowland rainforest along the banks of the Kinabatangan River. Herds of the Bornean Pygmy elephant migrate through this sanctuary and when they are passing through they can be seen for a few days along the banks of the river as they forage for food. If you are lucky to be visiting the Kinabatangan River whilst they are in the area you will have the privilege of being able to watch the elephants during morning and afternoon river cruises. As with all wildlife encounters, sightings cannot be guaranteed but the more days you spend at a Lodge on the Kinabatangan River (and therefore more river cruises you join) the increased chance of seeing the rarer wildlife finds like the pygmy elephant. 

    Danum Valley

    Danum Valley, or Danum Valley Conservation Area, is one of the largest protected areas of primary rainforest in Sabah and offers a ‘safe-haven’ for the pygmy elephant and other wildlife found here. Elephants can often be seen along the access roads into Danum Valley, as well as roaming through the forest. There are two locations tourists can stay at in Danum Valley to see wildlife – Borneo Rainforest Lodge and Danum Valley Field Centre. At both locations, you are able to join guided treks into the forest, and guided night drives, in search of wildlife including the Bornean pygmy elephant.

    Tabin Wildlife Reserve

    Tabin Reserve is considered to be the largest wildlife reserve in Malaysia and covers an area of lowland forest of approximately 300,000 acres. It is home to the Bornean pygmy elephant as well as many other endangered wildlife species. Similar to Danum Valley, the access roads and guided treks into the forest provide the best opportunities to see pygmy elephants. There is one location tourists can stay at in Tabin Reserve – Tabin Wildlife Resort.

  • How do you get to the Kinabatangan River?

    At 560 kilometres long, the Kinabatangan River is Sabah’s longest river with the lower reaches of the River being home to a rich concentration, and diversity, of wildlife. This makes the Kinabatangan River one of the most popular places for tourists to visit during their holiday to Borneo. The simplest way to get to the Kinabatangan River is too join an organised tour. As the Kinabatangan River is located towards the east coast of Sabah the starting point for most tours to the River is from Sandakan (Sandakan Airport or from a hotel in Sandakan). 

    How do you get to Sandakan?

    Sandakan is a middle-sized city located on the east coast of Sabah and well connected to Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur. The main ways to travel to Sandakan from within Sabah are by plane, by public bus or by private transport.

    By plane

    Internal flights operate daily from Kota Kinabalu (BKI) and Tawau to Sandakan Airport. Air Asia and Malaysia Airlines operate daily flights from these airports to Sandakan. You can also fly direct from Kuala Lumpur Airport (KUL) to Sandakan Airport on a daily basis. Flying to Sandakan is an easy, quick option and if flights are booked well in advance you can typically pick up low price tickets with the airlines.

    By public bus

    A slightly cheaper option than flying is to catch a public bus to Sandakan Bus Station. You can catch a public bus from bus stations in Kota Kinabalu, Semporna or Tawau to Sandakan. The most popular bus route is from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan. In Kota Kinabalu, you will need to go to the northern bus terminal (located in Inanam). There are several buses here going to Sandakan on a daily basis. We’d suggest you try and catch the first buses to depart in the morning as it’s a long journey to Sandakan bus station (a ~ 6 – 7 hour journey). 

    By private transport 

    This includes hiring a car to drive to Sandakan, using a local taxi or via an organised private coach transfer. 

    How do I get to the Kinabatangan River Independently?

    For independent travellers wanting to arrange their own way to the Kinabatangan River, there aren’t any direct public transport services to the two main villages on the river which provide access to Lodges on the Kinabatangan River – Bilit & Sukau. You would need to use local bus service and ask to be dropped off at Sukau Junction, followed by catching a transfer with a local van from Sukau Junction to either Bilit or Sukau (a ~ 45km journey). For this option, you still need to have booked a stay at a Lodge near the Kinabatangan River and arranged a transfer with the Lodge from your drop off point. This option may be a cheaper alternative to an organised tour but is a lot more hard work and involves more time for the amount you may save.   

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