Tag: rainforest

Kinabatangan River – Wildlife Spotting in Borneo


One of the highlights of my visit to Sabah was the Kinabatangan River Cruise. I’d heard from other people in the hostel that it was an amazing experience so I booked a 3 day/2 night trip through the hostel I was staying at in Sandakan, Harbourside Backpackers. Other backpackers and TripAdvisor reviewers had said it was a brilliant place to spot wildlife, something I was very keen to do in Borneo.

Getting There

I was picked up from Harbourside at 11.30am and the van collected other guests from various other accommodation in Sandakan and Sepilok. The drive towards the Kinabatangan River is unremarkable – mostly it consists of palm oil plantations. We arrived at the resort, Borneo Natural Sukau Bilit Resort, at 2pm. The staff gave us a welcome talk and checked everyone in, then at 3.30pm it was time for an afternoon snack.

Wildlife Spotting on The Kinabatangan River

4pm was the first of four river cruises planned for the next few days. We were told it would be at least two hours long. We were lucky enough to see an orangutan on the other side of the river before we even got on the boat! Once on the boat, we saw another orangutan, a crocodile, lots of macaques, proboscis monkeys and a python.

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Tourist boats on the Kinabatangan River

By the time we arrived back at the resort, it was almost 7pm so time for dinner. Dinner was served buffet style with fruit for dessert. Once dinner was over, we went on a night walk in the rainforest. I’d put on a raincoat because I didn’t want to get any bugs on my skin – fuelled in part by the number of cicadas around the accommodation –  but it was so humid in the rainforest. We saw frogs and sleeping kingfishers in the forest. I didn’t expect to see any larger animals simply because a group of people walking through the forest makes a lot of noise.

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Sunrise over the Kinabatangan River – worth a 5.30am start!

The next day I woke up at 5.15am for the morning cruise. I was fortunate enough to see the sunrise, which looked beautiful. The morning cruise departed at 6am. We saw plenty of birds and monkey plus a few crocodiles. We returned to the resort before 7.30am for breakfast which was an odd mix of egg, beans, and chicken nuggets. We had an hour of downtime before our trek to the oxbow lake at 9am.

Time for Trekking

For the trek to the oxbow lake, we had to get a boat across to the other side of the river. From there, we walked through the rainforest to the lake, our guide stopping us intermittently to point out different trees or insects. We saw stick insects, butterflies, and a pygmy squirrel. Once we were at the lake, our guide told us that we could put our feet in the lake and the fish would nibble at the skin on our feet, basically like one of those ‘fish pedicure’ spa treatments that used to be popular.

Once some of the group had had their feet nibbled, it was time to head back to the resort for lunch. At 2pm we went for a walk to the local village. Our guide told us some interesting facts about life in the village, including when elephants come by and take bananas from the trees. We headed back to the resort for afternoon snacks before getting back on the boat for the 4pm afternoon cruise. On this cruise, we saw plenty of monkeys again, as well as proboscis monkeys, crocodiles, and birds.

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Monkeying around


We returned for dinner before 7pm then got an early night in preparation for a 5.30pm start.

The next morning, we awoke to a misty river. This made the setting more sinister when we saw crocodiles on the morning cruise. Once the cruise was done, we had breakfast and packed our things before checking out at 8.30am. The driver was happy to drop us off anywhere between the Kinabatangan River and Sandakan.

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Misty morning at the Kinabatangan River

Final thoughts

I had a great time on all of the river cruises and it was fascinating to see all of these animals in their natural habitat. It’s s shame that there is so little rainforest left in this area due to the number of oil palm plantations. I would honestly recommend the Kinabatangan River to anyone planning to visit Sabah. I paid 350RM (roughly £65 depending on the exchange rate) which included all transfers, activities, accommodation, and food. I felt like this was a good price given how knowledgeable the guides were and the quality of the accommodation and food.

Edit: I actually loved this so much that I decided to go to Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, in search of orangutans and other wildlife!

Want to share your experience on the Kinabatangan River? Let me know in the comments below!





The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre


One of the main attractions for me in Borneo was the diverse wildlife it has to offer, including pygmy elephants, sun bears and orangutans., so it made sense that The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre was one of my first stops. I was staying in Sandakan so at 9am, I took a bus to Sepilok for 6RM. The bus dropped me off right outside the centre.

I paid for my entrance which cost 30RM plus 10RM to take a camera. Lockers are provided free of charge at the entrance because visitors are not permitted to take any bags or food into the centre. This is because the orangutans are more than capable of stealing from people. Inside the information centre, there’s a number of photos of orangutans with cameras, water bottles and other items stolen from tourists.

Food is placed on the feeding platform twice daily, at 10am and 3pm. By the time I’d purchased a ticket and put my belongings in a locker, it was almost 10am. I made my way to the viewing platform to hopefully see some orangutans. I was surprised to see the viewing platform completely packed with people. 10am came and one of the staff climbed onto the feeding station holding a basket of fruit. Once he’d placed the fruit onto the platform, an orangutan appeared from behind a tree and helped himself to the fruit. He sat and ate, apparently unfazed by all of the tourists gawping at him.

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Orangutan eating fruit at the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre

Once he’d finished, he swung off into the trees away from all of the tourists. At that point, I headed over to the Outdoor Nursery to watch the younger orangutans being fed. The Outdoor Nursery is where young orangutans go once they’re old enough to start learning the skills to live in the wild. Orangutans are free to come and go from this area as they please but the younger, less experienced ones tend to stay in this area until they’re old enough to fend for themselves. Here we got to see a couple of young orangutans eating and playing. It seemed like the volunteers were trying to encourage them to eat from separate platforms but one orangutan in particular, was not happy about this. Once they’d finished eating, they went around the side of the building, presumably to their sleeping quarters.

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Two young orangutans playing in the outdoor nursery

I tried out the bird trail which was an easy walk through the rainforest but wasn’t lucky enough to see any birds. I headed back to the cafeteria at the main entrance for lunch. When I approached the entrance of the cafe, my friend was pointing at something by the door – an orangutan was opening the door to the cafe! He went inside before us and helped himself to a customers chips, before being shooed away by a member of staff. He looked so pleased with himself for stealing some chips.

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A gleeful orangutan and his stolen chips

At around 1pm, I headed to the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre which is across the road from the Orangutan Centre. It cost 18RM to enter. In the entrance is a video about the work that the centre does and why sun bears end up there. Apparently one of the reasons is because people think they’re cute (they are) and take cubs from their mothers to keep as pets. Fully grown bears are difficult to control so they end up being kept in small cages.

To see the bears, there’s a walkway around the centre and there are a couple of members of staff who will point the bears out to tourists. Looking for bears requires a bit of patience, especially as most seemed to be sleeping at the time I was there. I did manage to see a few, including a large one who kept growling at any approaching bears.

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A sun bear hidden amongst the trees

I headed back to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre to watch the second feeding of the day. This time was much quieter than the morning feeding, with perhaps only a quarter of the tourists. For this feeding, I was lucky enough to see a mother and baby orangutan. The baby was showing off to the tourists by swinging on the ropes whilst the mother enjoyed some food.

I really enjoyed seeing these animals in their semi-wild habitats. The staff and volunteers do a great job rehabilitating these animals back into the wild. It’s a shame that centres like this have to exist because these creatures are mistreated.

Got any thoughts? Share in the comments below!



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