Borneo - Getting to know the Kinabatangan River

The Kinabatangan River Basin is an excellent place to see an impressive array of wildlife. It’s a real highlight for most visitors to Borneo - floating between the forested banks in small, open-top boats that are perfect for creature-spotting. Kin River connects a broad variety of fascinating habitats, from mangrove swamps, with their population of saltwater crocodiles, to the lowland rainforest, which is home to orang-utans (and plenty of conservationists).

Flowing through 350 miles of stunning scenery to Borneo’s north-east coast, the Kinabatangan is a treat for primate enthusiasts, with macaques and proboscis monkeys present in huge numbers - you see them hanging out in the treetops around (nearly) every bend in the river. Orang-utans and gibbons are present in lower numbers, but can still be spotted, especially if you have a practised guide.

Logging and palm oil plantations have encroached on the river basin so much that the forests are reduced to a narrow corridor, with the Kin at its core. Although not ideal from a conservationist’s perspective, this does mean the wildlife is more likely to be near the river. 

What to do on the Kinabatangan River

  • Spend a couple of days exploring the river, staying overnight at a simple but comfortable lodge by the water. You’ll go out in a small boat with a guide, the best of whom can spot animals from the tiniest hints - we’re frequently amazed by what they notice.  
  • Early morning excursions are a great time to spot animals out foraging for breakfast. On night-time boat trips, you can spot sleeping creatures - and watchful nocturnal predators - by scanning the riverbanks with a torch.
  • Spend a couple of hours planting trees with local villagers, as part of an organised conservation scheme.
  • Relax by the water on your lodge’s veranda - plenty of wildlife can be seen without even leaving your chair!