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Written By Lively

If you’re looking to visit Sabah (or you’re already there), you probably want to experience some of the wildlife that the place is known for. It’s also likely that you’re quite adventurous and keen to try out some active sightseeing. It’s no surprise that so many tourists like to visit the Kinabatangan River.

This is the second longest river in Malaysia, and along its course, you will find a multitude of habitats, including dryland forests, limestone caves, lakes, and mangrove swamps. This provides so many opportunities for wildlife experiences, and there’s naturally a broad variety of tour options around and along the river.

But what if you’d like to explore the river on your own? How would you go about planning the trip? What will be the benefits of going on the trip solo? And if you compare this with the benefits of organized tours, how should you decide which is best for you?

The Benefits of Solo-Travel | Kinabatangan River Cruise

Why would anyone consider doing a solo trip to the Kinabatangan River while there are so many organised tours available? Well, one of the main reasons is flexibility, and another is adventure. If you are the kind of traveller who likes to take the extra mile during their exploration, then you may find that solo trips will give you lots of freedom and flexibility. You will enjoy the flexibility that comes with doing your own planning. From timescales to dates, doing a river cruise on your own means that you keep your own schedule.

How to Do It

If you do decide to take on the Kinabatangan River cruise on your own, what next? Well, you have two main options – book a private river cruise as part of an organized tour, or try making your own way down a village along the river and have a villager help you arrange the cruise. There are plenty of friendly local guides that are willing to help you charter a boat. This is ideal for people who don’t want to book a conventional tour.

Borneo Rainforest Lodges located in Danum Valley, is a perfect choice for those wanting total jungle immersion during their holiday in Borneo whilst staying in charmingly rustic yet luxurious lodge accommodation.

What to Consider

Choosing to go on a river cruise on your own, means that you have to plan every single detail of the trip on your own. Don’t forget to account for all those additions that are typically included in organized tours, such as accommodation, entrance fees, timekeeping, insurance, safety, licenses, and meals.

Every journey you take by boat should be subject to high safety precautions. Things like life jackets are mandatory, and make sure that you understand the emergency procedures before boarding the boat. Also keep in mind that the Kinabatangan River has diverse wildlife, including pygmy elephants and saltwater crocodiles. Don’t swim in the river and treat the jungle with great respect.


There are guest houses available in Villages around the Kinabatangan River. You can book your stay depending on where you plan to be along the river. Sakau and Bilit are some popular options where there’s plenty of accommodation. Book in advance in case the villages get busy.

Where to Stop

If you are planning to cruise the river on your own, you want to be specific about where you intend to visit. For instance, Sepilok is a popular destination where you can see water-based wildlife and the bankside. The Gomantong Caves and the Orangutan Sanctuary are other spots that shouldn’t be missed. Consider taking a trek to Turtle Island or the Danum Valley to complete your Borneo visit.

When to Go

Borneo is a great place to visit all year round. The dry season ranges from April through to October. Fruits and flowers are abundant and it’s easy to spot wildlife. The wet season starts in November and runs through to March may see heavy showers, especially during afternoons.