Kinabatangan River is largest river of Sabah, the second longest river of Malaysia, located approximately 2 hours drive from the Sandakan Town. There are of course several ways you may explore the wildlife along the river.
Some of the animals you can expect from the wildlife by the river are Orang Utans, Proboscis Monkeys, Bornean Pygmy Elephants, Hornbill Birds, Kingfishers, Crocodiles, various types of snakes, some nocturnal primates like Western Tarsier and Slow Loris. We cannot guarantee you see all of them if you are considering to go there, but the possibility itself is exciting!
One of the easier and more convenient way of doing it is to go with a tour operator, reasons being (i) going with a group shares the cost, and (ii) hassle-free as everything you need is packaged, including accommodation and transfers.
How much should you be expecting to spend for each person? Prices can vary with the inclusions that you are expecting.
A rough idea of the package will be as follows:
- 1D1N Fan Dormitory @ RM 329.00/person
inclusive of accommodation for 1 night, transfers from and to Sandakan, meals (1 lunch, 1 dinner and 1 breakfast), activities (1 afternoon cruise and 1 morning cruise) and in-house guide
- 2D2N Fan Dormitory @ RM 385.00/person
inclusive of accommodation for 2 nights, transfers from and to Sandakan, meals (2 lunch, 2 dinner and 2 breakfast), activities (2 afternoon cruises, 1 morning cruise and one jungle trekking) and in-house guide
Night walk is an optional activity where we recommend. As mentioned, you might be able to see some nocturnal primates and other animals which are also very interesting. It will be RM 10/person/hour, which is very reasonable.
Day trip to the river is also possible. However, we would normally recommend to stay by the river overnight if your itinerary allows as the price is not such a big difference but you get more inclusions and you get to maximise the experience. The price for day trip will be at RM 245.00/person, and it is only inclusive of 1 lunch, 1 afternoon cruise and the transfers.
The Gomantong Cave is also an optional addition to the package with the cost of RM 50.00/person additional. The opened area of the cave is indeed smaller and not as fancy compared to many caves. Whether you like it or not, we will let you judge, but it is definitely an experience. ;)
SELINGAN TURTLE ISLAND
Being one of the islands categorized as the National Park, the accessibility to the island made more challenging, the capacity of human beings allowed each day is also very limited.
From the eyes of appreciating the nature, the effort of what people are doing on the island deserves an applause. Apart from the highlight of the island - the sea turtles, this place is already awesome with the beach they have for sunset, sunrise and sun-tan, what more the living creatures you can see from just snorkeling around and the sneaky monitor lizards around preying for little creatures as food.
Back to the highlight of this island, it is the fondness of Green Turtle and Hawksbill Turtle for the island as the place for them to lay their hopes of the next generations. By visiting the island, you will be able to witness the laying of turtle eggs, to learn about the hatchery, and to release some new lives towards their great adventure. You may also adopt the baby turtles to support their effort.
To go to the Selingan Turtle Island, it depends on your luck if you manage to get an availability and the price can varies with time. Roughly, it will cost around RM 690.00/person (minimum of 2 persons for 1 room). If you are traveling alone, you will be paying RM 850.00 inclusive of the single supplement charge. Basically, it will be a 1D1N trip, where you depart at approximately 10:00AM on Day 1 and back to Sandakan at around 8:00AM on Day 2. It will be a 1-hour boat ride to the island from Sandakan. During the day, you get to enjoy the beach and the snorkel. After 6:00PM, you will have food and wait for turtle time! The price of the tour will be inclusive of accommodation, transfers, meals (1 lunch, 1 dinner and 1 breakfast), activities (turtle time!) and in-house guide.
Note: If you ever go to the Selingan Turtle Island, please abide to the rules and regulations of the usage of camera, schedule set of go to the beach and the other safety regulations. Your cooperation will support the cause.
ONE DAY AT SEPILOK
You must have heard about the Orang Utan we have in Sandakan, and Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary is one of the places you can see them! Not just Orang Utan, you can also see the Sun Bear at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center, which is 2 minutes away across the road, and the Rainforest Discovery Center (RDC) that is 700 meters away.
To get there from the hostel, walk 3 minutes to the mini bus station, get a public bus at RM 6.00 per person per trip at 9AM or 2PM to Sepilok, the last bus that comes back to the town is at 4:00PM from the Sepilok. Suggested schedule for the day as follows:
9:00AM - Bus 14 from town to Sepilok (30-40 minutes bus journey)
10:00AM - Orang Utan first feeding & the Orang Utan Nursery (Entrance Ticket at RM 30.00/person, can be used for both feeding time of the day)
11:30AM - Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center (Opening time: 9:00AM-3:30PM, Entrance Ticket at RM 30.00/person)
12:30PM - Grab some food and walk to Rainforest Discovery Centre (Entrance ticket at RM 15.00/person) for some canopy walk and jungle trekking
2:30PM - Depending on time available after all the activities, may consider to go back to Orang Utan for second feeding at 3:00PM.
4:00PM - Last bus coming back to the town.
This, you can consider do it on your own without a guide. The bus fares and the entrances fees will cost RM 87.00 in total per person.
*Note: The entrance fee mentioned is applicable to non-resident.
LABUK BAY PROBOSCIS MONKEY SANCTUARY
In Borneo, we have this type of monkey that people find funny, introducing the nose-monkey. According to some online resources, Proboscis Monkey is found exclusively in Borneo. That exclusivity is a responsibility, which makes this Labuk Bay Sanctuary one of the good effort in encouraging the increase of their population. This will not be the only place you can see the Proboscis Monkeys in Borneo, but one of the experience worth mentioning is that you get to see them at a very close distance.
To get there from the hostel, you may get the shuttle bus that they arranged. The bus runs everyday in the morning at 9:30AM from the pick up point 3 minutes walk from the hostel with a fee at RM 20.00/person. The entrance fee will be RM 60.00/person. While the bus that comes back from the sanctuary will be at 3:00PM with the same fare.
Therefore, it will cost RM 100.00 for that day itself excluding the food, camera fee (RM 10.00) and etc.
*Note: The entrance fee mentioned is applicable to non-resident.
SUNSET AND FIREFLIES EXPERIENCE
If we are to rate some of the destinations with difficult access from places to places, Sandakan will be on the list for sure. Located approximately 40 minutes drive from the town, there is this small village that lives by a smaller river with mangroves. This is an amazing place for fireflies during the night.
The tour activities organised by the local villagers at the price of RM85.00/person include experiencing the local village life with some villagers' games and the river cruise along the mangrove where you will be able to experience throwing crab traps and collecting them on the way back just as the local villagers would do. Depending on your luck, there are also possibilities you will be seeing some wildlife like the proboscis monkeys on this cruise. Stopping by a small island, there you will be having a coconut drink and enjoy the sunset. After the sunset, you will return towards the village passing same or different route, to look for the firelies. As it is not a tour that is too touristic and the tour is in the wild, at times you will be seeing things that surprises you, in a good way of course. Then, you may opt to whether have dinner with them at the price of RM30.00/person, or we normally recommend our guests to just come back to town after the tour for dinner at around 8:00p.m. And that is the end of the tour.
As this place is not one of those place that it is easy access, we recommend our guests to take their transfer service at RM70.00/vehicle, which is reasonable for a return transfer accommodating a maximum of 4 people.
HALF A DAY WITH SANDAKAN'S HISTORY
Sandakan is one of the places that is affected by the WWII, and the incident is one that worth remembering. Walking along the some of the spots of the Sandakan Heritage Trail like The Parish of St. Michael and All Angels, The Agnes Keith's House would help you having a glimpse of what happened back then. Other places along the Heritage Trail might not be totally relevant to the WWII, but they are some really old buildings or places that we keep as heritage.
These places are all walking distance from the hostel, and most of them do not require an entrance fee; some do because they upkeep the place for your visitation, or require extra manning in providing the service. The walk along the trail may take one hour to two depending on how many spot you intended to do.
Another place that helps us understand the history or have a better image of the incident will be the Sandakan War Memorial Park that is seven mile from the town. You may take a bus from the town at the rate of RM2.00-RM3.00 per person to have them drop you at the junction, and you may walk about 700 meters to the Memorial Park. You will find a park nice for walking and some information of the incident, not bad spending an hour or two there.