SUKAU -the amazing nature of the Kinabatangan River-
Sukau is a small kampong at the banks of the
Kinabatangan River. There is a small square with a mosque, a school and a cemetery. Houses, a few guesthouses, restaurants, a clinic and some small shops are located at a crossroads, which will lead you further into the village. The people are relaxed and friendly and it seems that tourism hasn't changed anything in the village. There are fruit trees and hibiscus flowers along the narrow road, on which waving children play and village dogs walk along with you. Electricity is available in the village, but that is not always the same. Sometimes the power goes out. There is still no clean running water and the villager relies on rain and river water from the Kinabatangan River. Sukau's weekly market on Friday, where locally made sarongs are piled alongside chickens, kitchen utensils and all kinds of jungle products; there is also a smaller daily market. The region around Sukau is surrounded by rainforest, giving you the feeling that you are staying on the edge of the jungle. There are two main rivers to explore here: the huge Kinabatangan
Kinabatangan and the much smaller Menanggol which you can visit.
Because only a few cars drive through the village, the road usually belongs to the monkeys! There is a small clinic in the village, but for serious treatments you have to go to the hospital in Sandakan. A bridge was also promised in 2010 to shorten the distance to the hospital in Lahad Datu, but this was canceled due to lack of money. Nowadays people still use the ferry, which not only transfers passengers but also cars.
In the evening, all local guides gather at the pier for a chat and a drink. That's the only nightlife you'll find here in Sukau. You will have to look for your entertainment in your guesthouse: in one of the lazy chairs overlooking the river.
Sukau is important because it is the gateway to the amazing nature of the Kinabatangan River. The Kinabatangan River is wide and it is the longest river of the Sabah. It runs 560 kilometers from the mountains in southwestern Sabah to the Sulu Sea.
There are two ways to go directly from Sandakan to Sukau. The first is via a direct minibus. A minibus departs from the waterfront every day at 1 p.m. in
Sandakan. The other way is to arrange transportation with a man named Choy. His telephone number is 019-536-1889. We advise you to check both options in advance.
If in doubt, take the bus in Sandakan to
Lahad Datu and get off at the roundabout on the road to Sukau. Just inform the bus driver so that he stops. Buses are waiting for travelers there. Then it takes another hour to Sukau.
Many consider this region the best place to observe wildlife in Borneo, if not in the whole of Southeast Asia. The Kinabatangan River is a refuge for rare animals, who have lost their native habitat due to logging and the planting of palm plantations. The Kinabatangan area was officially declared a nature reserve in 2006 to prevent further loss of habitat for these animals. Elephants, rhinos, saltwater crocodiles and a staggering variety of monkeys and birds feel at home along the banks of the
Sailing on a muddy river in a remote part of Borneo is an experience you'll never forget. Boats leave in the early morning or in the afternoon. These are the best moments for observing monkeys and birds. At night you can also take a trip on the river. This is a good way to spot saltwater crocodiles and lots of mysterious, shiny eyes in the trees. The small boats usually carry up to six passengers, either in the early morning, late afternoon or at night. A boat trip takes at least two hours, but there is never a guarantee that you will see wild animals. Prices for daytime boat trips are between $ 10 - $ 20; night boat trips cost a little more. Wild cats, crocodiles, large snakes, macaques and other mammals are regularly seen along the Kinabatangan River. Also note the many species of birds, including eagles, kingfishers and colorful hornbills. Extremely happy groups can see elephants and Sumatran rhinos, but these are very rare.
The dry season is the best time to visit the area. This is from April to October when the flowers around Sukau are in full bloom. The rainy period is from November to March. Due to the heavy rainfall, the river is flooded and they become small rivers. Unfortunately, boat trips are often cancelled due to heavy rainfall and photography is not the best time either. From Sukau you can easily visit the
Gomantong Caves (bird's nest soup) and Sepilok (Orang Utans and the
Sun Bears Rehabilitation Centers).
Sukau Greenview Bed and Breakfast
Sukau Greenview is a pleasant stay along the Kinabatangan River! We stayed here with some friends for two nights and unfortunately the monsoon came late to Sabah and seemed to have arrived during our weekend stay along the Kinabatangan River! Nonetheless we had some enjoyable river cruises, unfortunately didn't see too much as nature is not a guarantee during such weather conditions, although our time spent at Sukau Greenview was very pleasant. I don't recommend to do the night cruise during the rain... The rooms were basic but had everything we needed, the food was predominantly a self-serve basis (vegetarian options also), and the staff were friendly.
The nature guide's knowledge is average at best and failed to position the boat in optimal position for wildlife viewing. Again this is expected for the 'cheaper' accommodation alternatives along the river