The Kinabatangan River is an awesome place to see wildlife, and is still one of my top favourite places in the world to see animals – partly due to the great variety and fairly good density, bit also due to the beautiful surroundings of the river and its banks. However you just can’t do the river in a single day, you need to stay at one of the hotels in the rain forest…
and they are surprisingly plentiful!
Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge
Getting to the lodge takes several hours from Sandakan up the Kinabatangan river but the trip is worth it for the perfect setting… Not only this but we also saw a lot of Proboscis Monkeys and Macaques on the way along with many birds and a Crocodile.
All the staff here are very friendly and it seemed like everyone at the hotel turned out to see us arrive. We had an hour or so to settle in and freshen up before being served banana fritters before our evening river safari. The river safaris which they have here are amazing and we had 3 during our time there…
Wildlife at the Kinabatanguan River Lodge
Go on every safari they offer as we saw different animals each time! Species seen include Elephants, Proboscis Monkeys, Macaques, Orangutans, Hornbills, Storm Storks, Eagles, Crocodiles, Snakes and much more!
The hotel itself is in a beautiful setting and because of this it does not matter that it’s very remote with little to do (if you easily get sick of looking for wildlife and chilling out in the rain forest that is). Between safaris, dinner and chatting with fellow travelers there was not a huge amount of “spare time” left. However if you do have spare time use it to wander around the board walk between the rooms… Especially during the evening / night there are many amphibians, bats and moths etc to see.
The rooms at the hotel are basic but very comfortable, well maintained and clean. You only really have time to use your room for sleeping and freshening up so the basic nature of the rooms is not a problem.
Finally the food here was very nice from the breakfast to lunch and through to dinner. There was always a good selection and they tried to keep the items available mixed up so that we did not get bored of what was on offer.
There is one very interesting aspect of dinner here which made for a really nice atmosphere as well as giving everyone something to talk about. All visitors including men are asked to wear a Sarong to dinner… They are surprisingly comfortable and it really does make for a comfortable atmosphere… Don’t be the bloke who refuses to wear one!
Abai Jungle Lodge
Even though we headed to the Kinabatangan Riverside lodge at Sukau for our main stay along the Kinabatangan River, we stopped off here on our way to the hotel and again on the way back to Sandakan 3 days later. During our 45 minute stop each time we had a chance to sample the lunch available at the hotel as well as using the nature boardwalk.
The food here was delicious and they seemed to offer a variety of items which I had not had yet during our trip (it was a nice change from just chicken with noodles)… The cat fish in particular was very tasty… I have had catfish since this time (in Florida, and must admit that the second lot was horrible and earthy, so at Abai they either really know how to cook it or use great quality fresh local fish). However I must admit that we ate our food as quickly as possible to ensure that we had plenty of time to enjoy their nature walk.
Go to Abai for the Animals
The nature walk has a number of raised lookout platforms which bring you to the same level as Macaques and Proboscis monkeys which we saw from these. They also have Orangutans in the area which we saw right next to some of the rooms. We did not see a massive variety of animals here which was a shame because it looked like perfect habitat for amphibians and snakes. The walk alone is really enjoyable and I would recommend taking your time while walking around (taking around 30 minutes) and your patience may be rewarded.
Our guide said that there have been reports of tourists seeing Clouded Leopards grooming themselves right on the board walk before!
I couldn’t comment about the accommodation here, but from walking past many of the places whilst on the board walk it looks a little lower quality than the one we stayed in, but still very nice, comfortable and clean, so I wouldn’t discount it for future rips.