'Sungai Kinabatangan' is Sabah's longest river and measures 560 km from its headwaters in the southwest of the state and empties into the Sulu Sea, east of Sandakan. It has a catchment area of about 16,800 km², covering almost 23% of the total land area of this State.
Logging and clearing for plantations have devastated the upper reaches of the river, but by a strange irony the riverine forest near the coast is so hemmed in by oil palm plantations that an astonishing variety of wildlife is easily seen.
WWF (formerly known as the World Wildlife Fund and one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations) states that The Kinabatangan is one of only two known places on earth where 10 primate species can be found!
Sightings of the unique Proboscis Monkeys are common among the mangroves in the late afternoon. One may also catch a glimpse of the wild Orang Utan, leaf monkeys, gibbons, macaques or the newly discovered "Borneo Pygmy Elephants. Though elephants and larger animals come and go- herd often break up to get through to plantations encroaching many areas.
Bird lovers will find the bird watching incredible: all 8 of Borneo's hornbill species are seen regularly. Occasionally, two species of the gorgeous pitas can be spotted, as well as the Storm’s stork and the bizarre Oriental darter or 'Snake Bird'. In fact, over 200 species of birds have been recorded sighting in the area!
On the 16th of November 1999, the Chief Minister of Sabah announced the Lower Kinabatangan area as a "Gift to the Earth". And henceforth, the State Government is giving its commitment to fully gazette and protect the 26,000 hectares of wetlands as wildlife sanctuary
Kinabatangan is indeed one of the best places to observe wildlife. It is the highlight of any nature-lover's trip to Sabah.
Nasalis Larvatus Tours Sdn Bhd operates Nature Lodge Kinabatangan and Agamid Nature Lodge in Kampung Bilit Kinabatangan.