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Sunset on the Kinabatangan River with Borneo Dream

What makes the Kinabatangan River interesting?

If you are planning to visit Borneo, the Kinabatangan River is a must-see! And with a choice of six Borneo Dream tours – ranging from half a day to five days in length – we can offer the perfect Kinabatangan River experience for you.

We will look at these tours later in this article but first you may be asking what is so special about the Kinabatangan River? And why should you make a visit?

So let’s take a look at:

  • Where is the Kinabatangan River?
  • What kind of habitats surround the Kinabatangan River?
  • What wildlife can you expect to see in and around the Kinabatangan River?
  • What is so magical about the Kinabatangan River?
  • What kind of tours of the Kinabatangan River does Borneo Dream offer?

Where is the Kinabatangan River?

The Kinabatangan River runs from the mountains in southwest Sabah – in the northern province of Malaysian Borneo – to the Sulu Sea southeast of Sandakan. It is 350 miles long and is the second longest river in Malaysian Borneo.

The main two villages from which to visit the river are Bilit and Sukau. There is no direct transport to these villages, but they can be reached by private transport from Sepilok, Sandakan, Semporna or Kota Kinabalu. 

There is only one bridge across the Kinabatangan River, located around 67 miles from Sandakan. At one stage, another bridge was planned at Sukau but these plans were cancelled in 2017 due to concerns about the potential adverse effect on the local environment and pygmy elephant population.

What kind of habitats surround the Kinabatangan River?

There is a saying that a square inch of land in Borneo is more biodiverse than any other place on the planet! And the Kinabatangan River is living proof of this. The river is a wetlands area surrounded by high-biodiversity habitats, such as different types of forest, mangrove swamps, limestone caves and oxbow lakes.

Part of the river area is known as the Lower Kinabatangan Sanctuary in south eastern Sabah, a protected 28,000-hectare rainforest reserve established in 1999. The reserve provides a rich variety of habitats for flora, including a freshwater swamp forest, mangroves, bamboo and palms.

What wildlife can you expect to see around the Kinabatangan River?

As well as the amazing range of habitats we just mentioned, the Kinabatangan River is also home to thousands of animals, birds, fish and insects. According to the World Wildlife Fund, there are an estimated 222 mammals, 420 birds, 100 amphibians and 394 fish in the area. And these are only the ones we know about : as many as three new species are discovered in the Borneo rainforest each month. Sadly, many of these are likely to become extinct before their existence is even known.

Some of the living creatures that you may be able to see when visiting the Kinabatangan River are monkeys, orangutans, crocodiles, turtles, pygmy elephants, wild boar, hornbills, eagles, kingfishers and owls. To name but a few. No wonder that, for many wildlife lovers, the Kinabatangan River truly is the trip of a lifetime.

What is so magical about the Kinabatangan River?

Many visitors to the Kinabatangan River describe it as being magical. As well as the abundance of flora and fauna, there is just something very special about the river itself. You will notice this particularly if you stay overnight near the river, and can see animals sleeping in the trees above your head, beyond them the stars shining brightly in the clear black sky. Then early next day you will see the morning mist rising above the river, which gives a mystical and ethereal feel to the start of the day.

And then of course, there are all the sounds of nature! At all times of day and night the rainforest is abuzz with the mesmerising music of nature’s orchestra. The songs of exotic birds, chirps and calls of animals, and the rustling of branches, leaves, and bushes as creatures move past them combine together in an incredibly atmospheric wall of sound that you will never ever forget.

What kind of tours of the Kinabatangan River does Borneo Dream offer?

At Borneo Dream we are simply passionate about Borneo and are so excited for you to experience this beautiful country. Who better to use as your one-stop shop for your perfect holiday in Borneo?!

We can offer you a fabulous choice of tours to the Kinabatangan River to fit in with both the time you have available and your personal must-haves. You can choose from:

A late afternoon river cruise followed by dinner at a Lodge on the banks of the Kinabatangan River. 

A wildlife adventure including visits to Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary and Gomantong cave, two river cruises and a night trek in the rainforest. Accommodation is in a comfortable Lodge along the banks of the Kinabatangan River.

A wealth of wildlife encounter activities, including four river cruises, three treks in the rainforest, and visits to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and Gomantong Cave. Includes two nights’ accommodation at a Lodge located along the Kinabatangan River. 

  • Turtle Island and Kinabatangan River

This tour can be done over 3 or 4 days and brings together three popular wildlife attractions in Sabah – Turtle Island, Kinabatangan River and Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary. The 3 day trip includes an overnight stay on Turtle Island, one night at a Lodge along the Kinabatangan River, two river cruises and one trek. The 4 day trip includes an overnight stay on Turtle Island, two nights at a Lodge, four river cruises and three treks.

If seeing wildlife in Borneo is your priority, this is the tour for you! The Kinabatangan River and Danum Valley are two of Sabah’s most popular wildlife spotting locations, and the tour includes visits to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Sun Bear Conservation Centre and Gomantong Cave; four river cruises, three night walks, three jungle treks, one Oxbow Lake trek and one night drive. Your accommodation will be two nights at Nature Lodge Kinabatangan and two nights at Borneo Rainforest Lodge.

All tours include transport from/to either nearby accommodation or your arrival/departure airport.

We hope that this article helps you begin to realise just how interesting the Kinabatangan River is. Why not add it to your wish list for 2023 or beyond? And if you need help planning your visit, just get in touch with Borneo Dream and we’ll be happy to help.

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