Kinabatangan Awaits

By Jessica Yew, 15th July 2020

After a short jaunt in Sandakan with our friends Anton & Linn, we continued our journey to one of my favorite spots on the Kinabatangan Floodplains – the Tungog Rainforest Eco Camp. We simply call it the Eco Camp. 100% owned and run by the communities of Orang Sungai in the area, the Eco Camp is the only lodge on the river that sits within a forest reserve.

The co-op that runs community-based tourism in the area, KOPEL, has a long-standing joint venture with the forestry department of Sabah in the sense that they’ve been appointed the guardian of their environment. Aside from community-based tourism activities, they also manage the tree planting and silviculture projects of the immediate forest areas.

There is nothing quite like discovering the jungle from a boat as the early morning mist parts, and give way to the majestic Kinabatangan river. Cruising is such an easy and comfortable way to discover the wildlife of Borneo that the areas of Sukau and Bilit have seen traveler numbers rise sharply over the years. The river hasn’t yet fallen prey to mass tourism but boat traffic does get quite busy during wildlife sightings over the peak months of July and August. We sometimes advocate for visits to lesser-visited areas such as Abai which is all the way downriver, or upriver, where Eco Camp is located.

I love Eco Camp for its raw-ness; several raised A-frame huts built on the banks of an Oxbow lake, you sleep on a mattress on a raised floor, blanketed by a mosquito net. There is a spacious deck to relax and watch birds under the tree canopy right outside your sleeping area, and an indoor-outdoor ensuite below. The lack of electricity adds to the evening forest ambience. Camera equipment and other electronic devices can be arranged to get sent to their headquarters for charging, a mere 20 minutes boat ride away. The common area sits perfectly on a curve on the Oxbow lake, with a spacious deck from which you can observe kingfishers and squirrels do their cute-sy animal things.

Three nights spent at the Eco Camp provided the opportunity to walk again – a treat after all those hours sitting on bumpy safari drives at Deramakot. I call it the best-kept secret of the Kinabatangan because of its rustic charm and glamping without pretension, not to mention the extensive trails surrounding the property. Here at the Eco Camp, night cruises aside, one can go on a night walk in search of nocturnal mammals such as civets, slow loris and tarsier, and numerous other night critters. 2 early morning walks, 2 mid-morning walks, 2 afternoon walks, 3 night walks and 1 afternoon cruise later. A list of prominent species are listed here.

Wildlife sightings


Any Kinabatangan spots are staple for wildlife watching with an abundance of diurnal and nocturnal species, mammals as well as birds.



The best way to describe the lodge is simple and rustic, or glamping for non-hipsters. There’s an ensuite bathroom but with bucket shower (no hot water), no electricity, and sleeping in the A-frame huts can get a bit warm if it hasn’t rained much that day. Minor lack of essentials for the adventurous soul but real deal breakers for city dwellers not accustomed to being in the tropical jungle. It is not for everyone! Mosquitoes are abundant so repellent is a must during dusk and dawn. Food is staple Asian-style with rice and several dishes, both meat and vegetable.



Plenty of variety; day + night walks and cruises to keep all sorts of travelers happy.



One of the most affordable options for an adventure on the Kinabatangan Floodplain and your money goes directly into the community as an alternative income, and the conservation projects they manage.



For the right travelers, the Eco Camp is a dream come true in the jungle.

Kinabatangan Awaits is one of the four-part series of me and Charlie’s post quarantine adventures, a travel diary made for those who want to see what is happening in some of the best destinations in Borneo. If you are interested in visiting these places, we welcome you as we are traveling again. Watch this space for the next featured destination!

List of prominent species

Grey leaf langur, silver leaf langur, long tailed macaque, pig tailed macaque, proboscis monkey, slow loris, orang utan
Malay, small tooth, island palm
Lesser mouse deer, greater mouse deer
Plain pygmy, giant, prevost
Estuarine crocodile
Asian black, rhinoceros, wrinkled, wreathed
Little, intermediate, great
Oriental darter
Collared, stork-billed, blue-eared
White-crowned shama
Lesser fish eagle, crested serpent eagle, crested goshawk ,brahminy kite
Buffy fish
Maroon, buff-rumped
Black-capped, sooty-capped, white-chested
Borneon brown barbet
Ashy tailorbird