Borneo is all about nature and it’s home to some of the most incredible wildlife species in the world. Spending a few nights in the rainforest is the highlight on any Borneo adventure and the Kinabatangan River and the Danum Valley are two of its prime jungle places to visit. We help you decide whether you should visit both and, if you only have limited time, which one you should pick…
Kinabatangan River: Higher concentration of wildlife
If the most important thing for your wildlife experience is to tick off some of the amazing species that call Borneo home, then the Kinabatangan River offers the perfect location for this.
The areas of forest around the Kinabatangan River are smaller than the Danum Valley, which means that wildlife is more concentrated, so you are more likely to see a wider variety of species. Animals found along the river include the magnificent pygmy elephant, the endangered orangutan and the unique-looking proboscis monkey. A package to the Kinabatangan River often includes a night in Sepilok, where you can visit its famous Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre before heading to the river. This amazing conservation area is a semi-wild reserve, which is home to both rescued and wild orangutans.
Danum Valley: Immersive jungle experience
If your focus is the entire rainforest experience and not just the wildlife, then you can’t beat the Danum Valley. The Danum Valley Conservation Area is a 43,800 hectare tract of lowland primary rainforest, surrounded by further secondary rainforest. Staying in the Danum Valley is perfect if you want a truly wild experience. Borneo Rainforest Lodge is the only accommodation there, so you truly feel remote. Located two and a half hours from the nearest town, Lahad Datu, the journey takes you on winding roads, deeper and deeper into the forest until you reach the beautiful lodge right on the river’s edge. There is no boundary for wildlife, so the likes of mouse deer and sambar deer come down to the river after dark, butterflies flutter around the walkways and wild orangutans can even be seen in the trees around the lodge. The area of the Danum Valley is huge in comparison to the Kinabatangan River, so that does mean wildlife is more spread out. So, if you are hoping to see as many species as possible in a short space of time, the Danum Valley may not be the best choice for you. But, if you’re after an epic, once-in-a-lifetime, immersive stay, you can’t beat a few nights here.
The Kinabatangan is more relaxed, the Danum Valley is more active
The activities on offer in the Kinabatangan and Danum Valley vary quite significantly. From the lodges in the Kinabatangan, you’ll spend the day cruising along the river in small boats, searching for wildlife hidden amongst the trees. A knowledgeable guide will accompany you, and boats usually accommodate four to eight people, with trips in the morning and afternoon to maximise wildlife encounters. If you are staying at Abai Jungle Lodge, you’ll also have the chance to visit the village of Abai, where you can have lunch with a local family and get to know the people who call this part of Borneo home.
In the Danum Valley, the majority of the activities involve beautiful hikes from the lodge through the rainforest. One of the most impressive hikes takes you over the river, past an ancient burial site and up to a look-out spot, with views over the jungle canopy below. You’ll have a guide with you throughout, who’ll be able to help you track some of the incredible wildlife in this area. At night, there’s the opportunity for nocturnal walks or jeep safaris, for the chance to see nocturnal species like slow loris, flying squirrel and deer.
Danum Valley: Luxury accommodation
In general, accommodation in the rainforest is less luxurious than Turquoise Holidays offers in other destinations. However, the experiences on offer here are unbeatable and the accommodation is always more than comfortable. If you do want a more luxurious stay, then Borneo Rainforest Lodge in the Danum Valley offers this. The premium deluxe rooms are located along the riverfront and have been recently renovated to an incredible standard, considering you are in the middle of the jungle! These rooms are glass-fronted, offering views over the river and jungle beyond, as well as a small plunge pool and lovely bathroom. The lodge also offers deluxe and standard chalets, which are less luxurious, but still perfect for a few nights. It also has a fantastic bar, restaurant and lounge area, with great views and WiFi – it’s the perfect place to chill out between hikes! The food on offer is more varied than the lodges on the Kinabatangan River and of a very high standard.
Of course, if you want to spend five or six nights in the jungle and experience both areas, a stay on the Kinabatangan River followed by the Borneo Rainforest Lodge is absolutely possible and offers great variety.