Sukau Rainforest Lodge is set on the banks of the Kinabatangan River.
Every year, monsoon rains flood Malaysian Borneo’s Kinabatangan River basin, filling jungle waterways and nourishing the habitats of some of the planet’s most unusual species: wild orangutans, pygmy elephants, and proboscis monkeys. Perched on stilts near the river’s edge, Sukau Rainforest Lodge is your gateway into this rare and pristine wilderness.
Built of local hardwood and connected by raised walkways, Sukau blends into the rain forest while remaining just removed enough to make for a comfortable guest experience. Early morning and afternoon cruises in small electric river boats bring guests close to the wildlife that congregates at the water’s edge, and nature walks, excursions, and lectures by the lodge’s guides unveil the secrets of the rain forest the lodge was built to protect.
In the 1990s, palm oil barons were clear-cutting some of the most biodiversity-rich forests of Malaysian Borneo to make way for expanding plantations. To protect these jungles from destruction—and to celebrate Sabah’s natural wealth—native Borneans Albert Teo Chin Kion and Baton Bijamin pioneered the area’s first ecotourism company and ecolodge. Two decades later, Sukau Rainforest Lodge has developed into an integral part of the Kinabatangan River community, promoting sustainability initiatives to preserve the forest and sustain its people. About 80 percent of the staff come from the neighboring villages and have undergone extensive training through the lodge.
The lodge goes to great lengths to minimize its impact and maintain harmony with the rain forest, even reducing the light and sound it emits so as not to bother the wildlife. Built by local artisans, the entire complex is connected by wooden boardwalks, making it easy for guests to explore while at the same time avoiding erosion and allowing plants and animals to thrive undisturbed. Local wood carvings adorn the interiors, and the landscaping plays to the beauty of the native vegetation.
When you reserve your space through National Geographic Unique Lodges, you’ll be invited to meet one-on-one with the lodge’s in-house orangutan expert Suhailie, who goes by the nickname Mincho. Mincho spent ten years as an orangutan researcher in the Kinabatangan area before becoming a wildlife warden. He since discovered his passion for guiding and has been working for almost 13 years as a naturalist guide with a focus on orangutan behavior. Enjoy Mincho’s insights and stories from many years of working in the forests of Sabah.
Sukau Rainforest Lodge works with the local community on a number of sustainable tourism projects designed to promote conservation in the Kinabatangan lowlands. They have recently introduced apiculture (beekeeping) as an effective natural barrier to wild elephants that encroach on village farms. Elephants are instinctively repelled by the sound of buzzing bees and avoid places where bees and their nests are prevalent. In addition to mitigating the human-wildlife conflict, the apiculture project also creates an supplementary income source for the local people through the harvest and sale of jungle honey.
Other initiatives include reforestation, organic farming, securing clean drinking water for the nearby communities, life-skills training, and the lodge's Kinabatangan Wildlife Corridor Rehabilitation Project. A portion of the proceeds from every international guest is invested in conservation projects along the Kinabatangan.
Best Independent Accommodation of the PATA Tourism InSPIRE Awards, 2015
Sabah Tourism Awards Best Nature Lodge, 2013
World Travel Awards Asia’s Leading Green Hotel, 2010
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