Have you ever dreamed of seeing Orang-Utans in their natural habitat? Or watching proboscis monkeys eat? Experience the sunset on a river where elephants come to drink, birds fly and crocodiles swim? Then you need to know the Kinabatangan Wetlands, located in Sabah, Borneo. This blog post will take you on a virtual journey through the Kinabatangan Wetlands and explain what you can expect when visiting.
The Kinabatangan Wetlands in Sabah, Borneo
If I’d have to summarise our stay in the Kinabatangan Wetlands, I’d say „a dream“, because it sure felt like one. Driving up and down on the Kinabatangan river, experiencing wildlife first-hand without a fence in between. Watching the sunrise on the river, seeing how monkeys eat, sleep and play whilst hearing the chirping of the birds. This blog post will take you on this journey and explain what you can expect when visiting the Kinabatangan Wetlands.
Where is the Kinabatangan River located?
Before we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Kinabatangan Wetlands, we start with the basics: Where are the Kinabatangan Wetlands? Firstly, they’re located on the island of Borneo, the third-largest island in the world. Now Borneo splits up between different regions and the Kinabatangan Wetlands are located in Sabah. The region of Sabah is a unique place for nature enthusiasts, wildlife-lovers as well as people who want to experience new cultures.
Why should you visit the Kinabatangan Wetlands in Sabah?
First and foremost, the Kinabatangan Wetlands are the place for you if you love wildlife and nature, because it’s one of the best places to experience both. The Kinabatangan Wetlands encompass a vast area of approximately 26,000 hectares, comprising riverine forests, oxbow lakes, and floodplain ecosystems. It’s often referred to as one of the best places in Southeast Asia for wildlife viewing. And that’s for good reason, because it’s one of the best places to experience wildlife first-hand.
You should visit the Kinabatangan Wetlands in Sabah, when …
- you’re wishing to experience wildlife
- sleeping in a rainforest bungalow excites you
- bugs don’t make you jump up and run away
- proboscis monkeys, elephants, macaques or grey leaf monkeys are on your must-see list
- wildlife photography is exactly your thing
How much time should you spend at the Kinabatangan River?
Okay, when visiting the Kinabatangan Wetlands, you’re most likely visiting because of one of the previous reasons. As you may know, seeing wildlife is always combined with a good piece of luck. Hence, we would highly recommend to not rush through the area as it will be much more enjoyable if you have some time to really soak in all the experiences. I’d highly suggest to stay at least 3 days as the days are completely different on the river. One day you might be lucky and see proboscis monkeys, Orang-Utans and the other day you might see elephants and crocodiles.
Where to stay?
During our time in the area, we stayed at the Kinabatangan Wetlands Resort, the KWR. This resort is only reachable by boat and the journey will take you around 1.5 hours from Sandakan. On a good note, the transfers are already included in your price. Moreover, breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as coffee, water, and mango juice are also complimentary.
The KWR is located on a branch of the Kinabatangan River which is why it’s only accessible by boat and there are no land transfers. This will make your experience more tranquil and lets you enjoy the river safaris without seeing any other boats as the area is less frequent amongst the other resorts on the river.
How to get to the Kinabatangan Wetlands?
If you’re staying at KWR, you can simply drop by the Yacht Boat Jetty in Sandakan and they will take you to the resort and also back to Sandakan once your stay is over.
What can you expect when visiting?
1. Remarkable Wildlife Sightings
The Kinabatangan River, which runs through this region, is teeming with life. If Borneo wildlife is on your bucket list, there’s no way you can skip the Kinabatangan Wetlands. Proboscis monkeys, hornbills, crocodiles, and countless bird species are just a glimpse of what you can encounter on a jungle safari or river cruise. If you’re lucky, you can also see the pygmy elephants!
2. Jungle Safaris
Jungle safaris and river cruises are the best possibility to experience wildlife in the wetlands. When visiting the Kinabatangan Wetlands, you will be going on at least one river cruise per day. We stayed two nights at the KWR and here’s what we did:
- DAY 1: Catch the boat to the Kinabatangan Wetlands Resort / check-in / afternoon refreshments / afternoon cruise / dinner / night jungle walk
- DAY 2: Early morning cruise with coffee & sandwiches / breakfast / free-time / lunch / afternoon cruise / dinner / night river safari
- DAY 3: Breakfast / depart back to Sandakan
3. Guided Nature Walks
We also did a night jungle walk organised by the resort. Above all, it’s been a great opportunity to explore the lush rainforests at night and go on a guided jungle walk where you can get insights into the ecosystem’s intricate balance.
If you’re scared about the rainforest at night, don’t worry. The guides will take good care of you and most animals will naturally keep a distance from humans.
4. Immerse in Local Culture
The Kinabatangan Wetlands are still home to indigenous communities. During our morning cruise, we also stopped by Kampung Abai, which is a local fishing village. Many lodges collaborate with local communities, giving you the opportunity to learn about the traditional lifestyles and cultures of the indigenous people of Borneo. You can also check out the website of the Sabah Tourism Board as they do have some great information about the history and area of the Kinabatangan River.
5. Scenic Landscapes
The wetlands are not only about wildlife, but also offer stunning natural sceneries with its winding river, oxbow lakes, and dense rainforests. We especially liked the early morning cruise. Here you have the opportunity to see the sunrise on the river. The large palm trees on the left and right shine in golden light and you see sleeping monkeys in the high treetops.
Is it worth visiting the Kinabatangan Wetlands?
In conclusion, we’d definitely recommend visiting the Kinabatangan Wetlands. So far we had never experienced monkeys so close or even seen crocodiles. The River Safaris were very well planned and the guides made every effort to get the most out of the time. We often wondered how the guides could spot the hidden animals so quickly. All in all, the Kinabatangan Wetlands are a great experience that you should definitely do!