The 560-kilometre Kinabatangan River is Sabah’s longest river, beginning in the Crocker Range in Southwest Sabah and ending at the Sulu Sea southeast of Sandakan. From the headwaters to its vast river mouth, the Kinabatangan passes through a diverse range of habitats, including dipterocarp forest, seasonally flooded riparian forest, oxbow lakes, nipah and mangroves. Whilst the upper reaches of the Kinabatangan River have been extensively logged, much of the lowland forest and mangroves have survived.
This vast floodplain forest contains a rich mix of vegetation that supports a remarkable diversity of wildlife; including proboscis monkeys, orangutan, gibbons, Bornean pygmy elephants, tarsiers, slow loris, macaque monkeys, crocodiles, freshwater sharks, Irrawaddy dolphins, hornbills and a variety of other birds.
In 2005 the Sabah government gazetted the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. This protected area essentially forms a narrow wildlife corridor that follows the river. Whilst the sanctuary now safeguards an area of 27,800 hectares, a range of conservation issues remain. A number of NGOs and researchers are active in the Kinabatangan, contributing to conservation projects and working to better understand the environment.
The Kinabatangan River has gained a justified reputation as one of the top wildlife watching destinations in Southeast Asia. Sukau, located 132 km from Sandakan, is the main centre for wildlife tourism along the river. Abai, 47 km from the mouth of the Kinabatangan, also has lodge accommodation and serves as jumping off point for boat-based wildlife watching tours of the lower Kinabatangan and its tributaries.
Borneo Adventure offers a range of multi-day tours focusing on the wildlife attractions of the Kinabatangan River. These include 2D1N, 3D2N and 4D3N tours and packages. These trips include overnight accommodation at the Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge at Sukau and the Abai Jungle Lodge. Some tours combine stays at both of these lodges and others include a night at MY Nature Resort in Sepilok.
All tours include morning and afternoon boat cruises so that you can see a wide range of wildlife. The tours begin with a pick-up at Sandakan airport (or your hotel) and include a visit to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and the Sun Bear Centre before departing Sandakan and travelling by boat to the Kinabatangan River.
To get an idea of the great wildlife watching you can experience on a tour of this destination watch our Kinabatangan video.