The Kinabatangan River winds out of the mountains of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo’s easternmost state, and meanders nearly 350 miles to the Sulu Sea, creating a corridor of lush forests and wetlands. Seasonal monsoons and ocean tides flood the waterways here, fostering diverse habitats with some of the highest concentrations of wildlife in all of Borneo. The Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary was declared in 2005 to protect swathes of wilderness along the river, and Sukau Rainforest Lodge is perched on a bend in the river between two protected areas.
The lower Kinabatangan River basin comprises five distinct habitats: waterlogged and dry forest, saline and freshwater swamps, and limestone forests. In this hub of biodiversity, ten different primate species make their home—notably the proboscis monkey, the orangutan, and the Müller's Bornean gibbon—as well as more than 50 mammals including the Borneo pygmy elephant and the bearded pig.
Bird species number more than 200, and include Storm's stork, crested serpent eagle, brahminy kite, black-and-red broadbill, scarlet-rumped trogon, hooded pitta, buffy fish owl, long-tailed parakeet, maroon woodpecker, rufous piculet, black-naped monarch, Asian paradise flycatcher, and all eight species of hornbills found on the island.
Along with a team of naturalist guides who introduce guests to the rain forest on walks and river cruises, the lodge provides a self-guided booklet, a wildlife guide for the Sabah area, and an information gallery on the local flora and fauna. Guests may also enjoy reading about how the lodge was established in the book Saving Paradise: The Story of Sukau Rainforest Lodge.
Most inhabitants of the Kinabatangan region are Orang Sungai, which literally translates to “river people.” They have lived in the area for hundreds of years, growing small crops and vegetables as well as hunting and fishing. The Orang Sungai people hold a great respect for nature and have been known to thank birds and other creatures for the privilege of viewing them. Today, these people are deeply engaged in the hospitality industry as the area has become a hotspot for ecotourism.
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