Sukau- Kinabatangan River Wildlife Observation
Sukau is located 97KM from Sandakan, in East Sabah (Borneo), Malaysia. It is famous for its river cruise along the muddy Kinabatangan river. The rare wildlife in Kinabatangan is truly a gem that attracts tourists and scientific researchers to this second longest river in Malaysia. There are many on-going wildlife conservation efforts in Kinabatangan managed by the State Government, local and international NGOs and field researches done by universities.
What makes Kinabatangan special is its natural ox-bow lake, part of Kinabatangan River is designated under Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat) and formation of limestone forests.
Kinabatangan river is rich in biodiversity, a haven for birds lover, orang utans, proboscis monkeys, Borneo pygmy elephants, crocodiles and more.
Borneo pygmy elephants with satellite collar around its neck. This is to enable researchers and enforcement officers to trace and study their movements in the forest.
Best Time to Visit
But is it really that easy to spot wildlife in Kinabatangan? The answer is yes and no. Depending on the season and weather, avoid December to February as it tends to flood during the wettest part of the year.
The fruiting season from April to October is a good time to spot animals and birds (usually the driest time).
Your boatman and guide also play a crucial role in making the effort to find these animals along the river. With years of experience, they will be able to tell when is the best time to head out to the river and find their favorite hangout spot.
Studies show that tourism and human presence along riverbank affect animals’ short-term stress level especially orang utans. There is an international best practices guidelines which tour operators need to follow. Limiting the number of tourists and length of time spent observing the wildlife can minimize the short-term stress caused by human presence. As tourists, we need to respect the boundaries of animals and keep our distance from them. Trying to get closer to the animals or touching them is strictly prohibited as it is dangerous and causing long-term psychological harm to them leading to abandoning their ‘home’.