The sheer variety of primates, birds and reptiles that can be found along the banks of the Kinabatangan River make it an absolute must for wildlife enthusiasts; a corridor of life which has, sadly, been crammed into a small, yet protected, space. Exploring by boat or staying along the riverbank are the best ways to experience the region. Rainforest lodges work with the local community to ensure guests become part of the conservation initiative. Properties range from jungle camps to eco-lodges, with unrivalled access to some of the best spots on the water to watch wildlife.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
From fireflies flitting through the foliage to a never-ending frog chorus, there's always something rather magical about taking a boat out in Borneo after dark. Daylight boat safaris, meanwhile, are the best way to spot proboscis monkeys high in the treetops, and kingfishers, storks and crocs along the river's banks. Wooden feeding stations have been established along the water’s edge, ensuring the animals have the opportunity to eat when drawn to the river to drink. Although there are no guarantees that you'll see an orangutan or pygmy elephant, the slightest prospect of a sighting always creates an added air of excitement. Float off the main river and along the narrow tributaries, going deeper into the mangrove swamps, for an even wilder experience.
There's a unique buzz along the banks of the Kinabatangan. You'll notice it at first before it becomes background noise; a constant hum, which then stops suddenly. That silence is what makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It's probably your presence that's unintentionally caused the hiatus, but still, there's nothing to say that it wasn't something larger. Look up into the rainforest canopy and you might see a macaque monkey cradled above. Down on the forest floor all manner of critters are scurrying or slithering around. This is where you'll see monitor lizards, coiled snakes or flashes of colour from toucans, hornbills and brightly painted parrots. Wildlife watching safaris by day are always exciting, by night, they're something else entirely.
Stay at one of the lodges along the banks of the Kinabatangan River and you'll stand a greater chance of seeing wildlife. Just opening the doors to your veranda allows the sounds of the forest to welcome you to the day. From basic jungle lodges and wooden stilt cabins, to eco-chic options with swimming pools, riverside terraces and open plan lounge bars; wherever you stay, you're bound to find an idyllic place to sit, stare and take it all in. One property in particular, the Sukau Rainforest Lodge, is very well-established and the owners have gone to great lengths to ensure the resort’s environmental impact is minimised. There's a real community feel to the place, with the majority of staff recruited from the local villages.