The first tourist lodges on the Sungai Kinabatangan opened around the kampung of Sukau, 134km from Sandakan by road or 87km by boat. Still the easiest place to reach, it’s particularly popular with independent travellers as it’s possible to stay in the village itself on a B&B basis then charter boats as needed. Most of the all-inclusive lodges are on the riverbanks close to the village.

Many would argue, however, that Sukau is a victim of over-development. In July and August in particular, dozens of boats converge along the same narrow tributaries at the same times and shatter any sense of peace. Although many boats now use quieter electric motors when the current allows, some still do not.

Once tourism became well established in Sukau, a few operators decided to open lodges further upriver around the kampung of Bilit. Although not the undeveloped spot it once was, Bilit remains quieter than Sukau partly because there’s no public transport to the village – it’s upstream of Sukau and reached via a lower-quality road.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Malaysia features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

7 places to get off the tourist trail in Malaysia

7 places to get off the tourist trail in Malaysia

Already gaped at the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, lazed on a white beach in the Perhentians, met orangutans at Sepilok and filled a whole SD card with…

31 Aug 2017 • Marco Ferrarese insert_drive_file Article
9 tips for backpacking Malaysia

9 tips for backpacking Malaysia

Despite having turquoise-ringed tropical islands, misty rainforests, cosmopolitan and arty cities, colourful festivals and one of the world's most interesting e…

08 Jun 2017 • Marco Ferrarese insert_drive_file Article
26 awe-inspiring architectural wonders

26 awe-inspiring architectural wonders

From ancient temples to hyper-modern skyscrapers, these are just a few of the world's most incredible architectural wonders. Whether you're looking to wander l…

01 Feb 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook