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.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Malaysia features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Living the good life in Borneo

Living the good life in Borneo

Life in the beautiful region of Sapulot is relaxed and uncomplicated, and the communities who live here want to keep it that way. They are inviting visitors to …

02 Jun 2016 • Ros Walford insert_drive_file Article
7 reasons why Langkawi is Malaysia's ultimate island escape

7 reasons why Langkawi is Malaysia's ultimate island escape

Looking to unwind on a tropical island somewhere in Southeast Asia? Then head to the island of Langkawi, Malaysia’s ultimate escape from the country’s frene…

09 Feb 2016 • Stuart Forster insert_drive_file Article
Quiz: can you locate these national parks?

Quiz: can you locate these national parks?

National parks are some of the world's most awe-inspiring natural places, taking in mountains, glaciers, waterfalls and forests (sometimes all in the same one…

02 Jul 2015 • Rebecca Hallett help Quiz
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month