The Kinabatangan Floodplains - Orangutravel
A visit to the second longest river in Malaysia by boat will reward you with one of the most fulfilling experiences in nature - the Kinabatangan is one of the wonders of Borneo, home of the most diverse wildlife you can ever imagine
  • 50 km, 3-days cruise of one of Borneo longest rivers
  • Night river cruising experience, among other activities
  • Be the guest of a local community who call the Kinabatangan home
  • Give your contribution to local eco-sustainable projects and activities
What's included
  • Round trip from Sandakan to Sim Sim
  • Boat cruise with local guides
  • Accommodation in family lodge
  • Meals in full board basis and activities
  • Entrance fees and permits
The Kinabatangan Floodplains
Any amount of people can join.

      The Kinabatangan River (locally known as Sungai Kinabatangan) is located in Sabah, eastern Malaysia, on the island of Borneo. It is the second longest river in Malaysia (560 kilometers from its headwaters in the mountains of southwest Sabah, to its outlet at the Sulu Sea, east of Sandakan) and the area surrounding it is remarkably known to host one of the most biologically rich and diverse ecosystem in the world. The floodplains of the Kinabatangan consist of five habitats – limestone, mangroves, dry forests, saline and freshwater swamps – while the lower Kinabatangan has one of the most diverse concentrations of wildlife in Borneo.

      A visit to the river by boat will reward you with one of the most fulfilling experiences  in nature. It’s not by chance that the WWF has dubbed the Kinabatangan as the “Corridor of Life”. Among many of the species you can spot during your cruise there are crocodiles, pigmy elephants, orangutans, proboscis monkeys, gibbons, hornbills, langurs and several other species of birds and mammals, insects and reptiles.

      To get the most out of this extraordinary area that is Kinabatangan, we recommend this 3-days itinerary along the river, covering about 50 km by boat, and including night treks where the only available light will be the moon’s. You will be in company of local guides and nature experts, and you will be taken to forest restoration areas managed by local communities, for a very friendly and sustainable eco-tour experience. Likewise, you will be hosted in a river guesthouse managed by a family of Orang Sungai (the “river people”), the biggest ethnic group that lives along the river edges. Their village, called Abai, is the closest to the river mouth that ends in the Sulu Sea. It’s reachable by a 2-hour boat ride from Sandakan (about 60 km) and during this cruise you will be able to catch charming views of the mangrove forests that characterize the coastal area, before the river makes its way into the floodplains.

      While in Abai, you will experience the local hospitality of the Abai people and participate in their day-to-day activities, consisting mostly of fishing using traditional fishtraps and old techniques, planting rice, or traditional boat making.

      Included in the excursion are the meals and transportation from Sepilok or Sandakan (airport or hotel) to Sim Sim village. The Sim Sim jetty is where the boat departs for Kinabatangan. After the river cruise is over on the third day, you will be taken back to Sandakan (to airport or Sepilok or to another destination, for example to Tabin or Danum Valley). If you wish, you can extend your staying at Abai for one or more days, just ask us for a quotation.

      Please be aware that since the Kinabatangan is a protected area, all the tour activities are organized in groups – therefore you might find yourself in company of other visitors. Each person visiting the Kinabatangan must register at departure.

      We recommend to have with you only a small backpack with the minimum necessary, because most of this excursion happens on small boats and if you happen to have a lot of cumbersome luggage it may be a problem for yourself or others. Therefore we recommend you’d leave your excess baggage in custody at your hotel in Sandakan or at the Sim Sim village baggage deposit. We also recommend to wear an adequate outfit and shoes, suitable for jungle and river trekking. Bring also insects repellent, a raincoat (even disposable), a hat, sunscreen and a flashlight for the night.


      1 Reach Abai village from Sandakan
      This itinerary assumes you will be arriving in Sandakan. If you arrive from the airport, meet your guide there. Otherwise, if you're already in town, you can meet with him or her at your hotel lobby. If you stay in Sepilok or other location nearby just tell us in advance. From Sepilok the departure is scheduled at 9.00 am. Once you have gathered with your guide, proceed with him and the driver to the Sim Sim village jetty. On the way from Sepilok you can also visit the local orangutan centre. Arrived in Sim Sim, there will be a boat waiting there, that will lead you to Abai, just in time for lunch. In the afternoon you will start the river cruise, with activities well into the evening.
      20150223 08:00Pick up at Sandakan (hotel or airport).
      20150223 10:00Orangutan center and nursery.
      20150223 11:00Continuation to Sim Sim village.
      20150223 11:45Boat departure from Sim Sim jetty.
      20150223 13:00Reach Abai village and have lunch there.
      20150223 14:00Check in and have some time for a shower and rest before the river cruise.
      20150223 16:30River cruise starts, with chances to see wildlife.
      20150223 18:30At sunset, you can try to catch the sight of millions of fireflies that gather around the river mangroves vegetation.
      20150223 19:30Dinner back to Abai.
      20150223 20:45Night walk in the nearby surroundings.
      2 Sukau
      On second day, after some morning activities with the local community, you will leave Abai and reach the lower part of the river, stopping at the small village of Sukau, where you will stay for the second night.
      20150223 06:00Early morning cruise to spot more wildlife and birdwatching.
      20150223 08:00Return back to Abai for breakfast.
      20150223 11:00Tree plugging activities with the locals.
      20150223 13:00Home cooked lunch by the orang sungai.
      20150223 14:00Leave Abai towards Sukau.
      20150223 15:00Arrive in Sukau and check in.
      20150223 16:15Afternoon cruise to spot more wildlife.
      20150223 19:30Local dinner.
      3 Back to Sandakan
      Take an early breakfast and return back to Sandakan - reach first Sim Sim, then a driver will drop you at Sandakan airport or hotel in town if you plan to stop more there. If you have plans to continue exploring Borneo from Sandakan, the driver can proceed straight to Lahad Datu airport or other destinations. In such occurrences, please notify us beforehand, as the departure from Sukau could be anticipated to 6:00 or 6:30 in the morning.
      20150223 07:00Breakfast in Sukau.
      20150223 07:30Boat departs back to Sim Sim.
      20150223 10:30Meet your driver at Sim Sim jetty and get back to Sandakan.
      20150223 11:50Arrival in Sandakan (estimated).
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