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Kinabatangan River Cruise & Gomantong Cave | 1 Day | Sabah, Borneo

(2 customer reviews)


If you only have a day free in Sandakan and you want to see wildlife then this is a great option for maximising your wildlife encounters in a short space of time. During this day trip, you’ll visit Gomantong Cave, have lunch at a Lodge located on the river banks of the Kinabatangan River followed by a late afternoon river cruise along the Kinabatangan River in search of wildlife. A lovely combination of wildlife viewing activities nicely packaged together into a day trip.

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Kinabatangan River Cruise & Gomantong Cave – Day Tour in Sabah, Borneo

If you have one full day free and you’re wanting to see wildlife whilst staying in Sandakan, Sabah then the Kinabatangan River Cruise & Gomantong Cave Day Tour is a great choice. During this day tour, you will visit Gomantong Cave and join one late afternoon river cruise along the Kinabatangan River.

The Gomantong Caves are an intricate cave system inside Gomantong Hill. The hill is the largest limestone outcrop in the Lower Kinabatangan area. The main cave is divided into two parts: the more accessible Simud Hitam (Black Cave), and the larger Simud Putih (White Cave) which lies above. During this trip, you will be taken on a guided walk inside the Black Cave. As you walk along the wooden boardwalk from the Information Centre in Gomantong Forest Reserve to the cave keep your eyes and hears open for passing wildlife. Found within this protected Reserve are Red and Silver Leaf Monkeys, Orangutans, Macaques and a range of birdlife including Crested Serpent Eagles, Kingfishers and Asian Fairy Bluebirds.

Providing You With A Glimpse Of The Amazing Wildlife Found In Borneo – The Kinabatangan River

After exploring the cave, led by your Nature Guide, you will head to the Kinabatangan River the world’s richest ecosystems and the largest concentration of wildlife in the South East Asian region. Join an afternoon cruise along the Kinabatangan River in search of wildlife along the river banks. At the end of the river cruise, you will be dropped off at the main jetty in Bilit Kampung before starting your journey back to Sandakan.

If you want more wildlife encounter opportunities, and have an extra day free then, then the 2D1N Kinabatangan River Cruise Trip is a great value choice with two river cruises, a visit to Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary and a visit to Gomantong Cave.

Trip Itinerary

8:30hrs – 9:15hrs: You will be collected from your hotel in Sandakan or Sepilok area, or from Sandakan Airport (recommended arrival flight at Sandakan Airport is the MH2042 0700hrs depart Kota Kinabalu, arrive at Sandakan Airport 0750hrs).

Time for Gomantong Cave

9:15hrs: Start you transfer by minibus/coach to reach Gomantong Cave, a ~ 2.5-hour journey. Here you will explore the largest limestone cave in Sabah where millions of swiftlets nest. Your Nature Guide will take you on a guided walk around the inside of the cave and point out interesting life found in a living cave. Be ready for creepy crawlies!

Time for the Kinabatangan River

~12:30 – 12:45hrs: After visiting the cave, drive onwards to Bilit Village which is located next to the Kinabatangan River. You will be transferred by boat across to Bilit Adventure Lodge. Enjoy lunch at the Lodge overlooking the Kinabatangan River. You then have a couple of hours to chill out at the Lodge.

1530hrs: Enjoy afternoon tea with some local bites accompanied by a short briefing by your Nature Guide.

16:00hrs: Join an afternoon cruise along the Kinabatangan River, Sabah’s longest river at 560km, where you can observe wildlife along the river banks.

18:00hrs: After the boat cruise you will start your transfer back to Sandakan transferred back to your respective hotel (estimated time of return is 20:30hrs).

Explore the Kinabatangan Area – Kinabatangan River Cruise and Gomantong Cave

Trip Pre-requisites

Minimum 2 persons per booking (single supplement surcharge is applicable for 1 person booking).

Trip Inclusions

Return transfer from Sandakan Airport/hotel within Sandakan or Sepilok area, entrance fee to Gomantong Caves, lunch, tea with local titbits, 1 x river cruise, 0% Sales & Service Tax on the tour price as applicable from 6th May 2019.

Trip Exclusions

Camera/video conservation fee at Gomantong Cave (RM30 per item), soft drinks at the Lodge, single supplement if you book this trip on your own (and no other customers are booked on the same trip), flights from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan.

Recommended Packing List For Your Kinabatangan River Cruise and Gomantong Cave

To get the most from this trip please bring with you raincoat, cap/hat, insect repellent, sun cream, good walking shoes, comfortable cotton T-shirt with long or short trousers, binocular for observing wildlife, camera and personal medications (if needed). Please take your passport with you on this trip – your passports will be checked at the Kinabatangan Lodge.


  • Pick up time: 0830 hrs (STW Office, City Hotels, Sandakan Hotel)
  • Pick up time: 0845 hrs (Sabah Hotel), 0915 hrs (Sepilok Jungle Resort)
  • Suggested arrival flight: MH2042 0700hrs depart Kota Kinabalu, arrive at Sandakan Airport 0750hrs

The trip price is valid for trips taken up to 31st December 2022.

2 reviews for Kinabatangan River Cruise & Gomantong Cave | 1 Day | Sabah, Borneo

  1. Wendy Farrington

    We had a fabulous day trip to the cave and Kinabantang river.

    Robert our guide was fantastic, very helpful, very knowledgeable and very enthusiastic. Our driver was extremely cautious, which made us feel very safe and was very reassuring after a long, wet drive back to our accommodation.

    The lunch location was lovely and the food was very welcome.

    As for the river trip, we were extremely lucky and saw so many different animals. We thoroughly enjoyed the excursion and had a wonderful experience. I would highly recommend “Borneo Dream” to friends.

  2. Brett T Nsw central coast (TripAdvisor)

    Amazing visit to Sandakan – Borneo Dream organised our day tour to Sepilok to see the orangutan rehabilitation centre, the sun bear rescue centre, Tabuk Bay proboscis monkey sanctuary and other sights around Sandakan. Amazing, full on day with wonderful guide and drive. Highly recommended

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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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