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Turtle Island & Kinabatangan River | 3 Day | Sabah, Malaysia

(14 customer reviews)

RM1795

This 3D2N Trip brings together three popular wildlife attractions in Sabah – Turtle Island, Kinabatangan River and Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary. It’s a great value way to maximise your encounters with some of the amazing wildlife who call Borneo home like the Orangutan, Green Turtle, Proboscis Monkey & much more! One of our best selling trips. Turtle Island does get fully booked well in advance so book this trip early to avoid disappointment.

Price per challet *

The prices per chalet are based up the number of adults and children staying in an Agamid chalet (with aircon) at Kinabatangan Nature Lodge. The child price is valid for children up to 10 years old on the trip date. For example, if you are booking two adults in one chalet you choose the '2 Adults in 1 Chalet' option. The price then show is the total chalet price for two persons.

1/2 Day Sandakan City Tour

Visit some of the famous sites in Sandakan including the water village, St. Michael's church, World War 2 Memorial and Puh Jih Tshih temple. This add on activity happens during the afternoon of the last day of the trip.

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

Visit a feeding session at Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary for the chance to watch these very special monkey's close up. The visit to the Sanctuary happens during the afternoon on the last day of the trip.

Private boat for river cruise

Pay extra and have a private boat for your river cruise along the Kinabatangan River with an option to extend your river cruise time to up to 3 hours. The charge is per private boat, per river cruise (maximum 10 persons per boat). Both the 2 or 3-hour options can be booked for 2D1N or longer trips staying at Kinabatangan Nature Lodge.

Rainforest Discovery Centre

Visit the Rainforest Discovery Centre for a guided walk and learn more about the plants endemic to Borneo and the rainforest environment, including a walk along the raised canopy walkway. This add on activity will happen during the afternoon on the last day of the trip.

Sun Bear Conservation Centre

Add on a visit to the Borean Sun Bear Conservation Centre as part of your trip. You will visit the Sun Bear Centre after the visit to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

Turtle Island and the Kinabatangan River – Get Close to Wildlife in Sabah, Borneo

Visiting Turtle Island (also known as Selingan Island) and the Kinabatangan River are two very popular choices during a holiday in Sabah, Borneo. With this 3D2N Turtle Island & Kinabatangan River Cruise Trip we bring together these two amazing locations in one easy to book trip package. During this trip, you enjoy an overnight trip to Selingan Island followed by a night’s stay at a lodge located along the Kinabatangan River (Nature Lodge Kinabatangan).

Selingan Island is located in Turtle Island Marine Park and is positioned 40km north of Sandakan in the Sulu Sea. The Marine Park is a safe sanctuary for the scarce Green and Hawksbill Turtles. Selingan is the largest island among the other 3 islands in Turtle Island Park, Sabah, Borneo. At Selingan Island you will have the opportunity to observe turtle landings and Turtle nesting during your stay (which typically happens every night). The Turtle Hatchery will also release hatchlings at dusk as part of their ongoing Turtle conservation programme.

Explore the wonders of Sabah – 3D2N Turtle Island & Kinabatangan River Trip, Sabah, Malaysia

After visiting Turtle Island you will visit on Day 2 a morning feeding session at Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary before being transferred to the Kinabatangan River to join river cruises in search of some of the amazing wildlife of Sabah. During your visit to the Kinabatangan River, you will join a range of wildlife viewing activities – you will join two river cruises and a night trek. On the last day of your trip, you will also visit Gomantong Cave before being transferred back to Sandakan.

If you want more wildlife encounter opportunities and you are interested in visiting Kinabalu Park too, then choose the 4D3N Kinabalu Park & Kinabatangan River Cruise Trip as a great value choice. Alternatively, if you have an extra day free then choose our 4D3N Turtle Island & Kinabatangan River trip with the chance to enjoy more river cruises along the Kinabatangan River.

Trip Itinerary – 3D2N Turtle Island & Kinabatangan River Trip, Sabah, Malaysia

Day 1 (Meals: L & D)

Pick up arrangements for trips from 1st April 2019:-

9:30hrs – 10:15hrs: You will be collected from your hotel within Sandakan, at Sandakan Airport or your hotel near Sepilok. Recommended arrival flights at SDK are Air Asia flight AK6490 depart BKI 0845hrs arrive SDK 0935hrs, or Air Asia flight KUL SDK AK5192 arrive at SDK 0910hrs. You will be transferred by minibus/coach to Sandakan Yacht Club for your boat ride to Selingan Turtle Island Park. 10:45hrs: Your boat departs for Turtle Island.

The journey to Turtle Island will take approximately 45 minutes (depending upon the sea state). Upon arrival, you will register at the Parks HQ and check into your chalet

12:00hrs: Enjoy lunch at the cafeteria. The rest of the afternoon is free to explore the island, chill out on the beach or go snorkelling in the sea (snorkel gear is available to rent at Turtle Island).

Early evening: You will have dinner at the cafeteria. After dinner, Rangers will call you to observe turtles laying eggs. Watch the Ranger transfer the eggs to the hatchery and enjoy the opportunity to observe the release of baby turtles to the open sea. You will also be called by the Ranger when there is an opportunity to watch a Turtle nesting (laying eggs).

Overnight on Turtle Island in a twin share room (with ensuite shower room and aircon). Click here to see photos of Turtle Island Resort and the accommodation.

Day 2 (Meals: B, L & D)

07:00hrs: Depart Turtle Island on your boat and transfer back to Sandakan. After breakfast, proceed to Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Center.

10:00hrs: Join the morning feeding session at Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary. The Orangutans’ feeding time is at 1000 hrs. Orangutan rehabilitation is the primary goal at Sepilok.

11:30hrs – 12:00hrs: After the feeding session at Sepilok, you will go for lunch at a local restaurant in the Sepilok area.

13:00hrs: After lunch, you will be transferred to the Kinabatangan Nature Lodge which is located in the Lower Kinabatangan River Sanctuary. The journey will take approximately 2 hours, passing by Kota Kinabatangan town and also oil palm plantations. Once you arrive at Kampung Bilit you will then transfer to Kinabatangan Nature Lodge, just a few minutes by boat transfer across the Kinabatangan River. Welcome drinks will be served upon arrival.

15:00hrs: On arrival at the Lodge you will have a welcome briefing which includes an orientation of the Lodge and the surrounding area. Check into your chalet within the Agamid Wing of Kinabatangan Nature Lodge.

16:00hrs: Join the afternoon river cruise to search for wildlife and bird life along the Kinabatangan river banks.

18:00hrs: Return to the Lodge to freshen up and then enjoy dinner at the Lodge restaurant in the midst of the Kampung Bilit secondary jungle. As an optional extra during your Turtle Island and Kinabatangan River tour you can choose to join a local dance session which is offered as a 30-minute activity after dinner before you join your night trek. The Lodge team will teach a traditional dance from one of the tribes found in Sabah such as Sumazau (a KadazanDusun dance) or daling daling (a Bajau dance). An opportunity for learning more about Borneo’s rich culture and having a bit of fun!

Afterwards, go for a guided night walk behind the Lodge to enjoy the wilderness and watch 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 at the Kinabatangan Nature Lodge.

Day 3 (Meals: B)

06:00hrs: Join an early morning Kinabatangan River cruise to see more birds and wildlife.

07:45hrs: Return to the lodge for breakfast. After breakfast, you will check out your Chalet.

09:15hrs: You will be transferred to Gomantong Caves, the largest limestone hill and the most important source of edible bird nests in Sabah.

~10:30hrs: Continue your journey back to Sandakan and transfer to either your hotel or Sandakan Airport (it is recommended you book a flight departing from 14:00hrs onwards).

Trip Pre-requisites – 3D2N Turtle Island & Kinabatangan River Trip, Sabah, Malaysia

This 3D2N trip is open to all.

Trip Inclusions – 3D2N Turtle Island & Kinabatangan River Trip

  • Return road transfers as mentioned and return boat transfer to Turtle Island.
  • Meals (2 Breakfast, 2 Lunch & 2 Dinner).
  • Visits (and entrance fees) to the following: Turtle island, Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre and Gomantong Cave visit.
  • At the Kinabatangan River: 2 x river cruises (1 morning & 1 late afternoon), 1 x guided night nature walk. The Kinabatangan River cruises included with this trip will travel as far upstream as ~7km to Pontian Point and a downstream maximum of ~ 10 km to Tenegang Besar Point.
  • 1-night accommodation at Turtle island in a twin sharing room with attached bathroom.
  • 1-night accommodation in an Agamid detached chalet (twin / double or triple beds, ensuite shower room and toilet, aircon) within the Agamid Wing of Nature Lodge Kinabatangan.
  • Guided throughout your trip by an English speaking, experienced and passionate licensed Nature Guide.
  • Free flow of coffee/tea and fresh water are available at the restaurant at Kinabatangan Nature Lodge.
  • Limited free drinking water is provided at Turtle Island Resort (1 small bottle per person at lunch and dinner).
  • 0% Sales & Service Tax on the tour price as applicable from 6th May 2019.

Trip Exclusions – 3D2N Turtle Island & Kinabatangan River Trip

Camera/video conservation fee at Turtle Island (RM10 per item) and Sepilok Sanctuary (RM10 per item) and Gomantong Cave (RM30 per item), extra bottled water at Turtle Island, soft drinks or alcoholic drinks. We recommend you take a large bottle of drinking water per person as limited free drinking water is provided by Turtle Island Resort. Single supplement if you book this trip on your own (for single sharing a room / Chalet).

The new Tourism Tax – the Tourism Tax is currently set at a flat rate of RM 10 per room per night and will be charged to Non-Malaysian or Foreign tourists from 1st September 2017.

Recommended Packing List For The Trip – Turtle Island & Kinabatangan River

To get the most from this trip please bring with you a raincoat, cap/hat, insect repellent, sun cream, swimwear for Turtle island, towel, comfortable walking shoes, comfortable cotton T-shirt, long sleeve top, long or short trousers, binoculars, torch, camera and personal medications (if needed). Please take your passport with you on this trip – your passports will be checked at Turtle Island and the Kinabatangan Lodge.

Notes – 3D2N Turtle Island & Kinabatangan River Trip, Sabah, Malaysia

Turtle Island Park is located some 40km from Sandakan city. The boat ride from the jetty to the island takes 45 mins – 1 hour. If you suffer from seasickness it is recommended you take sea sickness tablets. For boat transfers to/from Turtle Island Resort the Sandakan Marine Department on a daily basis, based on weather/tide updates, will make a safety decision if boat transfers are allowed. In the case of choppy sea, state parents may find the boat crossing to Turtle Island not suitable for infants. Persons with back problems or pregnant may find the boat transfer to Turtle Island unsuitable when there are rough seas.

Sabah Parks (who manage Turtle Island conservation activities) endorse the following conservation, and safety, practices at Turtle Island. This is to minimise any negative impact on the Turtles who come to lay eggs on the island.:-

  • Sabah Parks allow the only camera of unaided flash to take photographs of the turtle (Video/Digital Video Camera are not allowed).
  • Visitors are not allowed to go around the island on their own from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am.
  • Only one (1) turtle sighting per night is allowed for visitors to Turtle Island.

At Turtle Island Resort triple sharing is only allowed for children below the age of 5 years old with parents. 3rd adult will need to have his/her own room with an extra surcharge for a single supplement. All tours are subject to weather conditions.

The Turtle Island & Kinabatangan River trip price is valid for trips up to 31st December 2022.

14 reviews for Turtle Island & Kinabatangan River | 3 Day | Sabah, Malaysia

  1. Nigel Martin

    we had a tight schedule to fit in Turtle Island, Orangutan Sanctuary and Kinabatangan River trip in 3 days. Borneo dreams were absolutely excellent in swift response to our enquiries and everything worked like clockwork in Borneo. The staff all went the extra mile for us, carefully pointing out all wildlife, explaining conservation methods, coping with no power when camping out to the 5.30 am gong for morning cruise. We cannot thank them enough for all of their efforts. Use this company without hesitation.

  2. Lynne & Brian Brough

    We had an amazing trip with your company. Everything ran very punctual. We saw a turtle laying her eggs and even better saw the little ones released into the sea. At Sepilok watching the orangutan in the nursery was so amusing. Down at the feeding station a large male came down and being so close was something we won’t forget. On the river cruise we saw crocodiles, monkeys, birds and a lizard. The accommodation and food were better than we expected.Thanks again for so many memories. We will definitely be recommending you to people at home.

  3. Annette Murphy

    We would like to say that we enjoyed the 3 day 2 night Turtle Island and Kinabatangan river trip. It was the highlight of our holiday in Asia. All our guides were truly amazing and gave us good amount of time to appreciate he wildlife in their natural habitat. We would definitely book with Borneo Dream again as the whole experience from planning was easy.

  4. Jessica Tagg

    The trip was amazing. We had a fantastic time and we have been recommending it to all of our friends and family. We had two guides during our trip. Both of them were extremely knowledgeable and friendly. They made our trip very enjoyable. We were lucky enough to be the only two people on the three-day trip, which meant we had a lot of attention from the guides and were able to tailor the trip to exactly how we wanted it. It was perfect!

  5. Vanessa Ambler

    The Turtle Island trip was amazing – we loved every second. The staff were very attentive and the experience was unforgettable. 30 turtles came up to lay on the night we were there, laying 1760 eggs!
    The Kinabatangan river trip was also excellent although we were disappointed with the accommodation. It was much more run down than we had expected (mainly the bathroom) and the staff were not warm or welcoming as we had experienced elsewhere.
    Thank goodness for Sam our guide from Borneo Dreams who was fantastic. It would not have been nice staying there without him. Seriously suggest you look at getting the lodge to refurbish their accommodation and train their staff to smile. It would make a massive difference.
    We would do the Turtle Island again but wouldn’t stay at the lodge

  6. Bailey050276 Barnstaple, United Kingdom (TripAdvisor)

    This is the goto company for Borneo trips! – These guys are so professional and our excursion was amazing and toned to perfection. Watched a green turtle lay eggs, hatchlings released into the sea then our jungle trip was out of this world. So many animals in their natural habitat that it blew our minds. If you’re looking for a company who really know how to organise trips and excursions you won’t go wrong using them.

  7. Sid T Mumbai (TripAdvisor)

    Excellent Tour Agency That Cares for the Customer’s Experience – During our recent trip to Sabah, we used Borneo Dream to help us arrange a 3D2N tour of Turtle Island and Kinabatangan river. We also did a 3-dive tour within Kota Kinabalu. We were happy with both experiences, with the diving trip to Sapi island well organized, with good equipment (that actually fits and works!), and a strong attention to safety. Our divemaster Sabari was exactly what we wanted, he was attentive to our specific needs and helped us improve during the course of the day.

    Overall, we were glad we booked using them and would recommend them if you are looking to dive around Kota Kinabalu or are planning a tour in Sabah.

  8. Bengaluru, India (TripAdvisor)

    Extremely professional and responsive – We booked the 3D2N Turtle Island Kinabatangan river tour with Borneo Dreams, and then decided to also go with them for a day of scuba diving in TARP because of the ease of the booking process. We were not disappointed, and a couple of comments are below:

    Scuba at TARP: Our last dive was over a year ago, at the Nilaveli Dive Center in Trincomalee – it left a bad taste in the mouth as we are inexperienced divers and were assigned an aggressive, constantly critical and unpleasant dive master who left us wondering whether we should give up diving or if there was any possibility of us improving our technique. Borneo Dreams were the first dive operators we opted for after that experience, and they went a long way in creating a safe, constructive environment. First – they proactively asked for dive history, equipment sizes etc. in advance and arranged for a 15 minute refresher before we went into the water. The dive master Sabri was the epitome of patience, handled a difficult situation with a diver very well and gave us several helpful tips that enabled us to improve our technique. We were very happy that we decided to add the diving component to our trip at last minute.

    Turtle Island Tour: We landed in the Sandakan airport and were picked up for the Turtle Island tour. The car is comfortable and our guide Adrian was friendly and knowledgeable. He accompanied us to the island – not something we expected, but it seems to be standard practice with tour groups since the facility itself is government run. The experience was magical and I would recommend it whole heartedly, particularly for children. We saw three turtles over the course of our day there. The snorkelling was enjoyable and the island itself is idyllic. The accommodation is basic, which we were prepared for. They also have a vegetarian option at all meals – it isn’t fine dining but it gets you by. We did look into the option of booking directly with the Turtle Island folks instead of through BD – however, it wasn’t easy and in retrospect we were happy to have opted for the tour. It is all in all good value for money as permits to Turtle Island are restricted and stay seems expensive.

    Sepilok: On the next day morning, we came back to Sandakan and were taken to the Sepilok orangutan sanctuary by another guide. Sepilok is a short, fun trip and we enjoyed going there. We did not think a guide was required or a significant value add on this section.

    Kinabatangan Cruise: After Sepilok, we headed to the Kinabatangan Nature Lodge for the river cruises and a night stay. BD houses you in the Agamid Chalets which are air conditioned and seemed to be the nicest accommodation in the Nature Lodge. We got one of the two river facing rooms and were quite happy with it. We saw several primates on the river cruise, including two orangutans in the wild.

    On the next day, we asked to be dropped off at he Sukau junction as we were heading to the Danum Valley Field Center and needed to catch a bus to Lahad Datu. They were able to arrange it for us and the switch to the bus was seamless. The bus was comfortable as well.

    We would certainly book with Borneo Dreams again on our next trip to Sabah, particularly for itineraries such as the Turtle Island tour which provide a bang for a buck.

  9. Hayes

    Borneo Dreams arranged a 3D2N Turtle Island & Kinabatangan River Trip for our family. We have a 10 year old boy and 6 1/2 year old girl. We all enjoyed this part of our trip to Malaysia and Borneo very much!
    The accommodation on Turtle Island is basic but we did not feel that we needed anything more luxurious as we were there for the snorkelling and turtles. We were fortunate to see a turtle lay eggs, see the ranger put the eggs in the hatchery and watch the ranger release 15 turtles into the sea (we had to help a few which were insistent in going the wrong way). This was all done with the welfare of the turtle at the forefront. Each night, tourists are only allowed to view one turtle laying her eggs and help one set of turtles head back out to sea so as not to disturb the natural process. The number of people staying on the island is also kept quite small. This is certainly a positive aspect of the experience. The snorkelling around Turtle Island is also good and the coral is quite close to the surface of the water.
    We enjoyed viewing the orangutans at Sepilok Sanctuary. The orangutans are free to move in and out of the Sanctuary as there are no fences. Orphaned orangutans are rehabilitated so that they can return to a life of living in the wild.
    All transfers between the locations/activities worked well and we were fully informed of what was happening. I suggest that you take plenty of water for the two hour coach/mini bus ride from Sandakan to Kinabatangan. On the way there our bus broke down but a replacement was swiftly organised and we were soon on our way again.
    The lodge at Kinabatangan was basic but comfortable and in a fantastic setting. On the river cruises we saw lots of monkeys (including proboscis monkeys), kingfishers, hornbills, egrets, and a crocodile. It is definitely worth doing the early morning cruise as well. The guide was fantastic at spotting the animals and birdlife for us. The night walk was also a fantastic experience of the children and we saw a number of interesting insects. We probably would have seen more but our family and the other family that we were with were probably a little too noisy to see more! The lodge has wellington boots that you can borrow – you’ll need them as it is muddy! There are currently no small children’s sizes though…
    We also enjoyed visiting Labuk Bay Sanctuary to see the proboscis monkeys. They are fascinating animals to watch. The Rainforest Discovery Centre was also very much worth the visit!
    Finally, the food provided throughout the tour was very good. All guides and staff were very helpful, friendly and professional. We will definitely book trips through Borneo Dreams in the future.

  10. R Myers

    My husband and I spent Christmas Eve on Turtle Island and Christmas Day at Kingabatangan River and had a wonderful time. Our guide, Jam, was incredibly knowledgeable and could answer all our questions about the huge array of wildlife we saw during the three days.
    At turtle island we saw two turtles laying their eggs and enjoyed releasing the hatchlings afterwards. As it was raining, there wasn’t much to do on the island for most of the day, but we enjoyed snorkelling all the same.
    The river trip definitely exceeded expectations. We saw loads of monkeys and birds, crocodiles, and even wild elephants and orang utans.
    Again, there’s not much to do at the lodge but it’s a lovely place to relax and the atmosphere was really nice.
    At both places the accommodation was basic but perfectly adequate and the food was good.
    The boat crossing to the island was not for the faint hearted so bring travel sickness tablets if you need them!
    My husband loved the visit to the cave but if you don’t like cockroaches and bat poo I’d advise you stay away…
    We’ll definitely be recommending this trip to friends.

  11. Wendy Mabilat

    Turtle island certainly lived up to very high expectations! We loved every minute of our trip with Borneo Dream. We had an excellent guide, Rudy, who was very knowledgeable on the subject of turtles and in fact nature in general and he looked after us well. It was wonderful to have most of the day to acquaint ourselves with the island and relax. Once night arrived, there was a buzz of excitement as we all scrambled on the uneven sand in search of the chosen turtle – all this in semi-gloom! Mother turtle was already laying her eggs when we arrived and they were carefully taken away eventually to the hatchery. We also helped around 30 scampering baby turtles towards the sea.
    The river trips were awesome and we saw Pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys, hornbills, sea eagles and many other specimens!

  12. Jo Melville

    This was a great trip which was well organised by Borneo Dream and Nasalis Larvatus. My guide, Dino, was very nice, helpful and full of knowledge. We saw loads of animals and were also lucky to see Orang Utans in the wild!

  13. Matt Vincent, April 2016

    Hi,

    We returned from our trip today and I wanted to pass on our thanks!

    The trip was absolutely fantastic and certainly an experience that will live with us all forever!

    It was superbly organised and our guide Dino was both knowledgeable and passionate about the wildlife.

    You are all very lucky to live in a country with such beautiful and marvellous wonders and this trip really paid tribute to it!

    Many thanks again!

  14. Erica Hu

    Borneo Dream provide a professional guide , we get lots of useful information from him. It’s really helpful for foreign tourist, so we get a perfect trip from Borneo Dream.

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Turtle Island

  • Where can I see turtles in Borneo?

    The most famous place in Borneo for getting the chance to see Turtles is Turtle Island located off the east coast of Sabah. The beaches of Turtle Island are visited every night of the year by two endangered turtle species, the green turtle and the hawksbill.

    Turtle Island (Pulau Selingan) is one of three islands in Turtle Island Marine Park dedicated to green and hawksbill turtle conservation, and the only island which permits visitors to view turtles nesting and hatchlings being released. The turtle hatchery and the turtle conservation programme on Turtle Island (managed by Sabah Parks) is the oldest in the world. To visit Turtle Island you need to book an overnight stay, typically as part of a 2D1N tour

    Nearby islands on the east coast of Sabah, such as Lankayan Island and Libaran Island, also offer a similar experience but on a smaller scale.

    If you are a scuba diver you also have the opportunity to see Turtles during dives at Sipadan and on islands located close to Sipadan, like Pulau Mataking. With Sipadan being a turtle nesting site you’re pretty much guaranteed to see Turtles (and several of them) on every dive. Turtles are also found along the coral reefs fringing the islands in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park located in front of Kota Kinabalu offering both snorkelers and divers the chance to see them (if you’re lucky).

  • Do turtles lay eggs all year round?

    Female turtles return to shore only to lay their eggs, on the same beach where they hatched many years before. Depending on the species, the location, and the temperature, the turtle nesting season varies. 

    Luckily Turtle Island in Borneo is one of the few places in the world where turtles arrive 365 days of the year to nest. Both green and hawksbill turtles nest at Turtle Island in high numbers which means the chances of seeing a mother laying her eggs are high all year round. The female turtles come ashore every evening to lay eggs, and can number up to 50 at a time during peak season (between July and October). The beaches are vacated each evening so as not to disturb the turtles and to encourage the turtles to return and nest multiple times.

    If you wanted to know a bit more about how often a female turtle will nest at Turtle Island most species nest several times during a nesting season every 2-4 years over the course of their lifetime. On average, sea turtles lay 110 eggs per nest, with 2 to 8 nests per season. The largest clutches are of the hawksbills, which can lay more than 200 eggs per nest. 

    This makes Turtle Island a great place to visit if watching a turtle nest (an amazing experience) is on your ‘must-see’ list when coming on holiday to Borneo.

  • Is Turtle Island Borneo safe?

    This question is often asked due to your country FCO advising against “all but essential travel to all islands off the eastern coast of Sabah”. To be able to answer this question we need to understand how FCO advice works, know more about the current safety situation in Sabah and what security measures are in place to keep Turtle Island safe.

    FCO advise is typically based on their assessment at the time of a security incident and not necessarily based on the current situation on the ground. As such travel advisories tend to err on the side of over-caution and their advice can take months if not years to be downgraded regardless of actual conditions on the ground.

    In Sabah there have been a small number of abduction cases / attempts at kidnapping between 2000 – 2016 with the Abu Sayyaf group being the main perpetrators for most cases. To address this security threat the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCom) was established a few years ago. ESSCom strives to reinforce security measures in the east coast of Sabah utilising military patrols, police and Maritime units. An enforced night time curfew on boats also helps by restricting undetected incursions. It is fair to say that since these measures have been taken, no security incidents have taken place so far.

    Turtle Island is safe to travel to with the military, Pasukan Gerakan Am (PGA), and ESSCOM both stationed at Turtle Island helping make sure tourists are safe when visiting the islands. The Resort is typically fully booked most days throughout the year with no known security issues ever happening at Turtle Island – so many visitors to Sabah have decided the risk level of visiting Turtle Island is acceptable to them. Where it is impossible to give a 100% assurance of security, we believe that Sabah is ‘very safe’ and we feel comfortable in sending our guests to visit Turtle Island.

    Ultimately it is a personal risk decision if you choose to go to Turtle Island. You need to decide if based on the known facts on the ground at the time if they represent a risk level to you that you’re happy to take.

  • Kinabatangan River

  • 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.   

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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)

  • 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)

  • 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.

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