Most Diverse and Easily Accessible Wildlife in South East Asia

Visit Sabah's Hornbills on the Kinabatangan River

The Longest River in Sabah & Malaysia

Sunset over the Kinabatangan River in SabahThe Kinabatangan River is home to some of the most varied and easily accessible wildlife in all of South East Asia.

The Kinabatangan is Sabah’s longest river and the second longest in the whole of Malaysia. Rising from the eastern Witta Range of Sabah, the Kinabatangan River begins its 350 mile (563km) north-easterly course towards the Sulu Sea.

Orang Sungai, or River People, subsistence fishingAbout 20 oxbow lakes form part of the lower regions of the river. Created over time and separated from the main river as erosion and deposits of soil changed the river’s course, oxbow lakes are paradise for bird watchers.

River People, or Orang Sungei, live in small settlements spread out along the river. It’s fascinating to see their self sufficient, peaceful homes fully operational, making a living through fishing the lakes and rivers and farming vegetables on its banks. They use the forests of the Kinabatangan as a source of building material, firewood food and medicine.

10 Different Primates in 1 Location (11 including you)

Macques on the Kinabatangan RiverWWF (formerly known as the World Wildlife Fund and one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations) states that this area is one of only two known places on earth where 10 primate species can be found.

Some of these include orang utan, proboscis monkey, macaques, maroon langur and Bornean gibbon, most of which are endemic to Borneo.

Visit our Borneo Primates section to view images of these endearing animals.

Kinabatangan RIver KingfisherBird lovers will find the bird watching incredible. All 8 of Borneo’s hornbill species are seen regularly. Occasionally, 2 species of the gorgeous pitas can be spotted, as well as the Storm stork and the bizarre Oriental darter or Snake Bird.

Of the 200 other species of birds recorded in the area, 8 of these are on Malaysia’s Threatened Bird Species list.

Visit our Borneo Birds section for various bird images.

The Lower Kinabatangan is also home to Borneon pygmy elephants, which are a recently discovered species and endemic to this region.

Planning a Visit to Kinabatangan River?

Most of the wildlife lodges are concentrated around the Sukau area, which is very accessible and offers a wide range of facilities.

A Shy Pigmy Elephant peaking out from behind some Kinabatangan River shrubs

We prefer to travel slightly off the beaten track and found some wonderful lodges located in Kampung Bilit, a tiny village with about 150 inhabitants.

We use 4 different lodges depending on our travelers required comfort and budget from basic to boutique. The lodges offer very comfortable and clean accommodation, its quiet with very little disturbance made to the surrounding forest and unlike Sukau you don’t have lodge after lodge along the river-bank.

The staff at the lodges are mostly from Kampung Bilit and the guides are extremely knowledgeable about the local wildlife, plants and medicine, always ensuring that you are well informed on the diverse ecosystem that surrounds you.

Wildlife Adventures Programs

River Boat

A recommended length of stay is 2 nights / 3 days. During this time you’re offered various riverboat trips all of about 2 hours duration, jungle night walks or night riverboat trips. Also offered within the package is a 3 hour hike, to one of the Oxbow Lakes.

Our Wildlife Adventure Programs can can also be combined with trips to Turtle Island, Gomantong Caves, Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary and Labuk Bay.

Colourful, horned insect

On previous trips some of wildlife-spotted list includes Silvered Langur (adults and juveniles), Long Tail and Pig Tail Macaques, Proboscis monkeys (adults and juveniles), saltwater crocodiles, bearded pigs, rhinoceros, wrinkled and Asian black hornbills, giant moths, lantern bugs, leaf insects, frogs, scorpions, field millipedes and last but not least the Bornean Pygmy Elephants.

On our birds-spotted list we’ve noted Scarlet Rumped Trogon, Garnet Pitta, White Rumped Shama, Dollorbird, Stork Billed and Blue Eared Kingfisher, Storm Stork, Jerdon’s Baza, Crested Serpent Eagle, Oriental Darter, Woodpeckers, Purple Heron and Egrets.

There are a number of must do’s when visiting Sabah but in our opinion a stay at the Kinabatangan River should come very high on the list. Our Photography Collections section of the website shows many images of the wildlife that we spotted throughout our travels whilst researching Sabah. All images were photographed on location in the wild by Richard Swann (Downbelows Managing Director).

Visit the Kinabatangan River with Downbelow!
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