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Going Wild at Sukau Rainforest Lodge: Orangutans & Other Stories

Spoiler: a Kinabatangan wildlife safari at Sukau Rainforest Lodge will include mesmerizing sunsets, orangutans, pymy elephants and lots of cuteness!

When I decided to visit Borneo, I must admit I didn’t know much about this huge and unique island.
I’ve always had this dream of seeing the orangutans in the wild, and when I read my friend’s article about how the palm oil industry is (not so slowly) destroying these beautiful animals’ habitat, I just knew I had to go. Before it was too late.

In a place this endangered it was fundamental, more than ever, to choose the right company to go with. After many researches I decided to go to Sukau Rainforest Lodge with Borneo Eco Tours because in terms of responsible tourism they are, hands down, the best company out there.

I didn’t know I was up for the trip of a lifetime in one of the best ecotourism spots in the world, and that not only I would spot the orangutans, but other animals as rare as the Pygmy Elephants as well!

Check out my video about this wonderful experience at Sukau Rainforest Lodge!


I’m not a morning person, but there’s something magic about waking up at dawn and gliding down the river in the morning mist.
Each tour based at Sukau Rainforest Lodge includes two daily boat safaris conducted on electric motored boats (to reduce noise pollution and stress to wildlife), one at dawn and one in the afternoon, to maximize your opportunities to spot orangutans and the other animals.

Our guide, Hazwan, was super knowledgeable and ready to tell us all about the widllife we encountered.
To say we were lucky is an understatement. On our way to the lodge we were able to spot right away a herd of pygmy elephants, which are quite rare to spot because they usually hide away from the banks of the river. There were also two babies which were the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen!


In the next two days we saw all the rest of the “Big 5 of Borneo”: hornbills, a huge crocodile, proboscis monkey (hold on! if you’ve never seen a picture of these super funny animals check it out now!) and them, the kings of the forest: the orangutans!
We spotted two orangutans, one of them with a newborn, eating fruits from a tree, and it was very emotional. a dream come true!




We also saw other birds and monkeys such as long-tailed macaques; boat safaris are such a great way to witness the magical nature show, and as you’re sitting on a boat all the time, it’s possible for anyone of any age to participate.

It’s also possible to go on a night cruise for a small surcharge: I didn’t go because I was really satisfied with all the animals we saw in the daylight, but at night time you get to see owls and other species that aren’t spottable in the daytime.


You know right away, when you are still on the boat that in two hours and a half brings you from Sandakan to Sukau, that Sukau Rainforest Lodge must be a special place.


Built on stilts in the traditional Sabahan longhouse style, the lodge is right on the banks of the Kinabatangan river. It’s no wonder National Geographic has included Sukau Rainforest Lodge in its list of “Unique Lodges of the World”!


Built of local hardwood and connected by raised walkways, Sukau Rainforest Lodge lays on the banks of the Kinabatangan River.
I love how the lodge really blends in with the forest, so much that in your room you look out of the window and all you see is trees. You are literally in the middle of the jungle, and isn’t this just simply amazing?

Twin room at Sukau Rainforest Lodge

Rooms are simple but nicely decorated, and they feature either two or three twin or queen beds.
You will not find televisions here, but honestly, who needs to watch TV when you’ve got the most amazing show right outside your door?

One of the lobbies at Sukau Rainforest Lodge

You can grab a book in the lobby and relax while listening to the forest’s sounds. The forest is never quiet.
Hot water is provided thanks to solar panels, and guests find a coffee-maker in the room as well.

When guests are’t busy on the safaris, they usually relax in their room or in the lobby area where snacks, coffee and tea are always available, or treat themselves to a massage in the lodge spa. There is also an elevated boardwalk, Hornbill Boardwalk, around the hotel grounds where it’s very relaxing to walk. The boardwalk is built with two elephant passes to allow for the migration of Bornean Pygmy Elephants through the property, and if you are suuuper lucky, it might be even possible to see an orangutan or an elephant from here!

Pool at Sukau Rainforest Lodge

Just recently a nice new pool was inaugurated, and trust me it’s going to be an awesome addition in one of those super hot days!

Breakfast, lunch, and (candlelight) dinner are served in the restaurant area by the river, and the food is incredibly good, especially if you consider that getting ingredients here isn’t easy at all.

Complimentary wi-fi is available in the lobby area. I usually get annoyed when there is no wifi in the rooms, but here, even if sometimes is hard to remember since the lodge is so nice, you are in the middle of the jungle!
Take advantage of the situation to just get away from it all, a digital detox is always nice.


And not just that. They must be the most sustainable tour operator I’ve ever worked with.

Borneo Eco Tours and its hotel Sukau Rainforest Lodge go way beyond the usual recycling programs most “eco” tour operators and hotels take pride in, and has done this since the moment they were born.
In fact Sukau Rainforest Lodge was built when its owner bought the land from a local villager, who wanted to create jobs and opportunities for his family (descendants) and his fellow villagers. He was a visionary in a time when selling his plot of land was deemed a taboo and frowned upon. Because of his willingness, he changed his community as the lodge brought not just jobs, but training, uplifting of knowledge and skills and many community projects that followed including rainwater tanks, medical projects, educational projects amongst others.

At Sukau Rainforest Lodge rainwater is filtered and chlorinated, and they rely on it 100% for water supply. Organic waste is composted while all other waste is brought back to Sandakan for recycling.
Over 80% of the staff employed is from Sukau’s neighbouring villages and have  undergone a training program which allowed them to learn new valuable skills.
These are just a few examples of the sustainable practices adopted at Sukau, but there’s more.

Borneo Eco Tours founded a community and environmental profit society called BEST Society, which has organized many projects in the past 16 years, from medical camps to school programs and the supply of 90 water tanks to local families.
Another very important project is the  community based ecotourism development in Kiulu Farmstay, which gives new job opportunities to the local communities.

These are just few of the reasons why you should choose Borneo Eco Tours for your Sabah trip.


Don’t trust what you read on the Internet. No seriously, and it’s a blogger telling you.

When I decided to go to Borneo in January, all I could read online was that it was the wrong time of the year, aka the rainy season, and that it would be harder to see the wildlife. Thanks God I didn’t let this stop me.
In the three days I was at Sukau Rainforest Lodge, it only rained a couple of (short) times, and it didn’t disrupt our plans at all. Actually, the rest of the time we had a beautiful weather with a clear blue sky and some gorgeous sunsets!

However, the best time to visit Sabah is considered the period that goes from May to September.


This is such a personal choice and there isn’t a univocal answer to the question “should I get malaria prophylaxis?” .
Before I left I was advised by a travel doctor to to take Malarone, the malaria prophylaxis that is supposed to have less side-effects. Nonetheless, I felt so sick that I had to interrupt the use, but this is certainly something personal and I have friends who had no side effects whatsoever.

None of my other trip companions took any anti-malaria drugs, and the staff at Sukau Rainforest Lodge told me that the risk has been recently lowered to “low to none” for the Kinabatangan area. There hasn’t been any malaria case in many, many years in the area, so if I went back, I probably wouldn’t take anything.

Still, it’s very important to use long-sleeved shirts and long pants especially after dark, and to use mosquito repellant all the time (dengue is also a risk).
In Kota Kinabalu I was only able to find 15% DEET repellant, so bring something stronger from home.

Consult your doctor before coming to figure out the best solution for you!
Rates for the three-day Kinabatangan Wildlife Safari start at RM 1495,00, approximately 325 euros.

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Borneo Eco Tours and Sukau Rainforest Lodge, but this review is only based on my personal opinion.


  • Stefania Guglielmi

    Stefania Guglielmi is the founder of Every Steph. Originally from Bologna, Italy, she's been traveling full-time since 2016 and has visited over 50 countries across 6 continents. She believes sustainable travel and luxury travel can go hand in hand and has been advocating for responsible tourism since 2014. Stefania's advice and travel experiences have been featured in important publications such as Business Insider, Refinery29, and Yahoo Money.

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Merci beaucoup

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