Kinabatangan River Cruise on Your Own

If you ever happen to visit Sabah, you will probably be interested in experiencing some of the wildlife that the natives are so proud of. You are also probably quite adventurous and looking forward to some active sightseeing. If you’re like most visitors, you will gravitate towards the Kinabatangan River cruise. Aside from that, another activity you can enjoy while visiting Sabah is the Kiulu white water raft trip.

The Kinabatangan River is Malaysia’s second-longest waterway. A multitude of habitats can be found along its course, which include dryland forests, limestone caves, mangrove swamps, and lakes. With numerous opportunities for experiencing wildlife, there’s naturally a great range of tour options both around and along this river.

What if you would like to explore the river on your own? How should you do it? What benefits does solo exploration provide? If compared with the benefits of organised tours, how can you decide which option is best for you?

Benefits of a Solo Kinabatangan River Cruise

Why should you consider a solo Kinabatangan River cruise when there are numerous organised tours available? Well, flexibility may be one reason. If you are a traveller that prefers to go the extra mile in your exploration, solo trips can help prevent you from feeling limited.

Or perhaps you may simply prefer the flexibility associated with doing your own things. From timescales to dates, a solo Kinabatangan River cruise is one of the best ways to keep your own schedule.

How to Go About a Solo Kinabatangan River Cruise

If you decide that a solo Kinabatangan River cruise is the route you want to take, what’s next? Two options are available to you – booking a private river cruise as part of an organised tour, or making your way independently down to a village along the river and arranging a river cruise with a villager.

Plenty of local guides are both able and willing to charter a boat. It’s the best option for those that don’t want to book a traditional tour.

Things to Consider

If you organise a solo river cruise, you will have to plan every element of the trip yourself. So, don’t forget all those additions typically included in organised tours, such as accommodation, entrance fees, timekeeping, insurance, licenses, and meals.


Any journey you arrange by boat should be subject to decent safety precautions. Life jackets should obviously be mandatory, and check that you know the emergency procedures before ever boarding a boat.

You should also keep in mind that the Kinabatangan River is home to diverse wildlife, which includes pygmy elephants and saltwater crocodiles. So, avoid swimming in the river, and treat the jungle respectfully.


You can book your accommodation based on where you plan to be along the river since guesthouses are available in villages on the Kinabatangan River. Sakau and Bilit are popular bases that offer plenty of accommodation. However, it can be a good idea to book in advance because the villages can get busy.

Places to Stop

If you plan a solo Kinabatangan River cruise, be specific about where you intend to visit. In tandem with a river to see the water-based wildlife and bankside, Sepilok is an equally popular destination. The Gomantong Caves and Orangutan Sanctuary shouldn’t be missed. A visit to Turtle Island or Danum Valley or a forest trek will complete your visit to Borneo. It’s all a matter of fitting it all in.

When Should You Visit?

Borneo is a year-round travel destination. The dry season is from April to October. Fruits and flowers are abundant and wildlife are very visible. The wet season, on the other hand, is from November to March and it brings with it heavy showers, especially in the afternoons.