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Sabah, Malaysia

Kinabatangan River Safari

This is your chance to live out the fantasy of becoming a National Geographic documentary director. As you forge your way down the river have your zoom lens camera at the ready for the supporting cast of orangutans and proboscis monkeys lounging in the treetops. At times the stars of the show, the pygmy elephants, can be a little shy, hiding in the tall grass, but if you are lucky you can capture some epic water crossings.


The closest city to Kinabatangan River is Sandakan, which can be reached by flight from many of the major airports in Malaysia or overland from within Borneo via ground transportation. Most of the providers will arrange to pick you up at your hotel, bus stop or airport in Sandakan. Kinabatangan river is about 2 hours' drive from Sandakan.

A guide will help you spot all the hard to notice animals hiding away in the trees. Picking the right company for your travel style will help you relax and enjoy the nature around you.

No physical activity is required, just sit back and enjoy!

All year round but the area is especially good for birding from April to October. November to March can be quite wet, but that can be a good time to get deeper access to the river and see more wildlife deep into their natural habitats.

2 or 3 days depending on which option you pick!

In case you're curious about some of the activities mentioned in the options:

River safari (river cruise): Go down the Kinabatangan river at various times of the day to improve your chances of seeing all the various inhabitants of the jungle such as pygmy elephants, probosic monkeys, orangutans, hornbills, crocodiles and many more.

Jungle walks: Walking through the jungle will allow you to get up close and see some of the various smaller animals such as kingfishers and spiders during the night and on occasion monkeys and orangutans during the day.

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre: A research centre that takes care of orangutans that have lost their habitat or have been rescued after capture by humans. It’s a wonderful place to support and see the great apes up close during feeding times.

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre: A research centre for improving the habitat for Malayan Sun bears. A great opportunity to observe the world’s smallest bear up close.

Gomantong Caves: A fascinating natural experience. Descending into the cave, you can see lots of swiftlets flying about, crawling insects and if you are lucky, observe the exodus of the bats. You can also find locals working to collect the birds’ nests which are made into local delicacies.  Not for the faint at heart!

Although it varies from provider to provider, a typical itinerary will include:
- Morning or early afternoon pick up from Sandakan airport or hotel
- An afternoon river safari in Kinabatangan area
- A dinner followed by either a night river safari or night jungle walk
- A very early morning river cruise or jungle walk the following morning

If staying the second night, the itinerary would usually include an additional walk or river cruise in the afternoon as well as a night activity such as a safari or jungle walk.

Some of our partners will include additional activities such as a visit to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre or the Gomantong Caves.

On the last day, a transfer back to Sandakan, arriving late morning

Binoculars
Camera
Bug repellent
Sunscreen
Hat
Raincoat
Torch light
Light cotton top & light shorts/trousers
Sandals and sneakers
Sunscreen
Leech socks (if you choose to do a jungle walk)

You may like to stop by Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and the Sun Bear Rehabilitation Centre to learn more about wildlife rescue efforts in the area. These are included in some of the options as well!

Please note that all prices exclude Malaysian Tourism tax of RM10 per room per night. This only applies to non-homestay and non-dormitory accommodation. We totally get you - it's a bother to have to consider this extra charge all the time. We're looking to see if the providers can incorporate this into the price so please be patient with us.