Sukau River Cruises
Cruises on the River Kinabatangan are very popular among tourists. They are a very unique way to discover and experience the last remains of wilderness in Sabah. The Kinabatangan river is the longest river in Sabah. Despite the surrounding palm oil plantations a more or less wide stripe of jungle still stretches along the river on both sides. That is where the animals live to which the forest is their home. Animals would usually hide in the depths of the forest but today the forest is not deep anymore. Hence, animals can often be spotted while cruising the river. Boats usually go from the main river into the little channels on both sides of the river and take the tourists to untouched wilderness. It is a very unique and exciting experience that tenses all senses: the smell of soil and leaves, the noises of wild animals and rushing waters, the look of entangled green jungle, the feel of the humid hot air. Unfortunately all the motorboats bring the unavoidable inadequate noise but will be turned off from time to time.
Many tour operators offer river cruises as a package. They are available in all sorts of combinations so that everyone will find a suitable tour: short or longer, basic or luxury, more or less pricy. But it is also possible to organize the river cruise independently which gives more flexibility and freedom in choice. That’s what I did. Form other backpackers I had the contact details of the Sandipau Stay in Sukau. I got picked up from the hotel and was very welcome on the other side of the river in their newly set up B&B&RiverCruise. I could stay as long as I wanted and make as many boats trips as I liked. Price per night was 25 MYR and a boat ride 50 MYR. The place is family run and loved by backpackers due its family atmosphere and authentic style: you sleep on matrasses on the floor, there is no internet and no AC, the water comes from the river or from rain, and the food is freshly cooked every day from the local families and shared at the big table by everyone. It is living as the locals do! I found it relaxing and rewarding.
During my two nights stay I have done two boat rides and a short hike into the jungle with Tomi, the manager of the site. On the hike we followed the tracks of the Borneo pygmy elephants but unfortunately we did not see any. We also learned from Tomi that there is a tree that can provide water when a branch is cut and hold vertically water dripples. And it is quite tasty.
On the river cruises we saw plenty of animals, mainly monkeys, especially big groups of macaques, long and short tailed, as well as the colourful big-nosed monkeys: proboscis. Seeing them in the wild made me really happy as I had skipped visiting them in Sandakan. We also saw birds, especially hornbills, and we saw crocodiles from the distance. But even without spotting animals, just the cruise on the river is already an amazing feeling and experience.