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Kinabatangan River Cruise | Half Day | Sabah, Borneo

(3 customer reviews)

From: $81

If you are short on time during your holiday and really want to have the chance to see some of the wildlife Borneo is famous for, then the Kinabatangan River Half-Day Trip is an ideal choice. During this trip you’ll join a late afternoon river cruise along the famous Kinabatangan River in search of wildlife along the river banks, followed by dinner at a Lodge located along the Kinabatangan River. Short & sweet!

Note – The price shown above is for 1 person. Simply add the number of persons wishing to book. Choose a date and hit the Check Availability button.

Prices are valid until 31st March 2025 (NLK07).

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Kinabatangan River Cruise – Half Day Tour in Sabah, Borneo

A river cruise along the Kinabatangan River is typically in the ‘top 5’ for most tourists coming on holiday to Sabah, Borneo. The Kinabatangan River offers a relatively easily accessible, and affordable, option for viewing wildlife along the banks the river and in the rainforest fringing the river banks.

Most visitors going to the Kinabatangan River will join a 2D1N or 3D2N Kinabatangan River Cruise Trip as they offer more river cruise activities and, therefore, increased opportunities for seeing wildlife. If you are short on time during your action-packed holiday and only have an afternoon and evening free then this half-day trip is an ideal choice for you. During this trip, you will join a late afternoon river cruise down the Kinabatangan River. Kinabatangan River Cruise, Sabah, Borneo is famous for its astounding multiplicity of wildlife creatures. As well as being home to several species of primates the river is home to underwater inhabitants, crocodiles. From bird watching to seeing snake coiled up on a branch overhanging the river, this half-day river cruise adventure is a match made in heaven for wildlife and nature enthusiasts who are short on time in Sandakan.

Prepare to be amazed on your Kinabatangan River Cruise Half-Day Tour

If you want more wildlife encounters during your holiday in Borneo, and have an extra day available, then you should consider the 2D1N Kinabatangan River Trip as an ideal alternative and join to river cruises and a visit to Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary.

Trip Itinerary – Kinabatangan River Cruise Half-Day Tour

10:45hrs – 11:00hrs: For those staying in hotels in Sandakan, you will be collected for your tour. You will then be transferred to the Sepilok area.

11:30hrs -11:50hrs: Customers staying in Resort / Lodges near Sepilok will be collected for the Kinabatangan River Cruise Half-Day Trip.

11:50hrs – 12:30hrs: You will stop at Mango Garden Restaurant at Nature Lodge Sepilok, where you will have a chance to have lunch (lunch is included for new bookings from 8th August 2018) and have a toilet break. If you do not want to have lunch, you can relax in the seated area in the Lodge’s large, open reception area.

12:30hrs: You will then be transferred by minibus to Kinabatangan Nature Lodge, which is located on the banks of the Kinabatangan River in the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, a ~ 2.5-hour journey (including stop). On the way, you will make a brief stop, typically at Kota Kinabatangan, the nearest town from Nature Lodge Kinabatangan, to refresh (toilet stop plus cafe facilities available). During the journey, you will pass by small towns, oil palm plantations and local villages. Most of the villagers are the Orang Sungei (derived from the Malay words “the river people”). Their main source of living income is fishing, and, in times of low harvest, they build boats. Some of the locals work on the oil palm plantations. During the harvesting season in Gomantong cave, they work as harvesters for the Swiftlet bird’s nest.

~14:45hrs – 15:00hrs (subject to traffic): Arrive at Kg. Bilit and take a short boat ride across the Kinabatangan River to the Lodge, the starting point for your late afternoon Kinabatangan River Cruise. Your Nature Guide will provide a wildlife & conservation briefing in advance of your river cruise (if you arrive at the Lodge after 3:30 pm this briefing will happen after the Kinabatangan River cruise. After the briefing, you can relax in the Lodge’s restaurant area (free flow water, coffee and tea available for free) before your Kinabatangan River cruise starts.

16:00hrs: You will join your late afternoon Kinabatangan River cruise in search of wildlife along the Kinabatangan River (for ~ 2 hours). Life jackets will be provided for your river cruise. The Kinabatangan River is home to at least six different species of primates, including the Proboscis Monkey, Leaf Monkey, Long and Short-Tailed Macaques, Gibbons and even the Orangutan. During certain times of the year, you will also catch the Borneo Pygmy Elephants at the riverbank. There will also be plenty of opportunities to see birdlife such as the White Egret, Oriental Darter, Rhinoceros Hornbills and the Buffey Fish Owl.

18:00hrs: Around 6 pm you will return back to the Kinabatangan Nature Lodge. It’s then time for dinner at the Lodge’s restaurant, set amidst the secondary forest. After dinner, there will be a brief presentation on the wildlife in the Kinabatangan area and also the conservation programme was undertaken by Nature Lodge Kinabatangan. You will have the opportunity to contribute to the Voluntary Conservation Levy-VCL (RM20.00), which was initiated by WWF Malaysia and supported by the Kinabatangan-corridor of Life Tourism Association (KiTA), which goes towards supporting conservation efforts in the area.

20:00hrs: Start your transfer back to your hotel in Sandakan city. The estimated time of return to Sandakan city is 22:00 hours.

Trip Pre-requisites – Kinabatangan River Cruise Half-Day Tour

The trip is open to all. Minimum 2 persons per booking.

Trip Inclusions

  • Return transfer from Sandakan or Sepilok area to Kinabatangan Nature Lodge (by road).
  • Return short boat transfer from Kg. Bilit to the Kinabatangan Lodge.
  • 1 x late afternoon Kinabatangan river cruise. The Kinabatangan River cruise included with this trip will travel as far upstream as ~7km to Pontian Point and downstream, a maximum of ~ 10 km to Tenegang Besar Point.
  • Meal: Lunch (for new bookings from 8th August 2018), Dinner.
  • Refreshments: free flow water, coffee and tea in the restaurant at the Kinabatangan Lodge.
  • Guiding by a licensed Nature Guide (English speaking).
  • 0% Sales and service Tax on the tour price as applicable from 6th May 2019.

Trip Exclusions

  • Personal spend
  • Other meals not stated. Alcoholic or 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).

The Kinabatangan River Cruise trip price is based on a shared trip basis – surcharges are applicable if you would like a private boat for the river cruise or private land transfer via minibus.

Recommended Packing List For The Trip – Kinabatangan River Cruise Trip

Comfortable clothing for a tropical climate, binoculars for viewing wildlife, insect repellent, raincoat, hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses. Please take your passport with you on this trip – your passports will be checked at the Kinabatangan Lodge.


If weather, or other factors (e.g. landslide), makes 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.

3 reviews for Kinabatangan River Cruise | Half Day | Sabah, Borneo

  1. English

    Graeme King

    Myself, wife and son have recently completed a Kinabatangan River tour and feel compelled to write to confirm what an exceptional experience the whole event turned out to be. Our driver Alan was prompt and very courteous picking us up from the Sheraton hotel in Sandacan and taking us to the lodge for lunch (which was excellent) and the return drive late on in the evening. He was exceptional.

    The trip to the river jetty was a little arduous with at times poor road conditions and was hard driving but Alan was an accomplished driver and he remained very courteous throughout the 2 hour journey and felt safe with him

    On reaching the River we were impressed with the staff on the lodge side if the river who made us feel very welcome. After a brief tour of the facility we were taken to the River where our guide and ‘pilot was Ramsan. There were a number of competing boats on the river at the time but Ramsan seemed to have an added insight into where the best spotting places were and boy did we see some wildlife. We had the right guy here! When we returned we were treated to another cracking meal prior to departure back to the hotel.

    Ordinarily I do not write tour reviews however the experience which we had on our river trip on the day was such that I just had to give praise to those guys that made it such a great day for us.

  2. English

    Jillian Hannah

    We very much enjoyed our trip, thank you very much. It was the perfect trip for a flying visit, as we’re already now into day 2 of our Hong Kong stop. The half day trip was perfect for us although I’d hope to do a couple of nights next time we’re in Borneo!

    We were overjoyed to see the wildlife that we did. Our guide Beatrice was lovely and personable, and tried hard to find every type of wildlife possible for us.

    The pick up and drop off were right on time, it was all very smooth and easy. The meal was delicious and our dietary requirements were catered to well. The atmosphere was great at the lodge and we met lots of nice, friendly people.

  3. English

    IrishAngel1 Rugby (TripAdvisor)

    Kinabatangan River Half Day Trip – We did the Kinabatangan River Half Day Trip and it was very well organised. It took about 2 hours from Sandakan and we were picked up and dropped off at the hotel. Definitely bring a light raincoat & sunscreen with you as the weather is changeable on the river, Also a pair of binoculars is a must. You will be supplied a life jacket. Whilst on the river we were extremely lucky to see Proboscis Monkeys, Long and Short Tailed Macaques, Borneo Pygmy Elephants, Rhinoceros hornbill and even an Orangutan. It was a buffet for dinner and the food was good, the toilet facilities are undercover, reasonably clean, but are basic and expect a few spiders. Overall a nice trip but you will see over 2 hours of palm oil plantations ( this really does make you consider the use of palm oil at home) so I would bring a book or something to read.

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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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