1. Research on Areas

Read up on the areas you are visiting and on what wildlife you like to photograph before you go. Get a copy of our complementary E-book from our website on 'Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary'.

They are many books on mammals and birds. Check out the website of Natural History Publications. The office is on Ground Floor, Wisma Merdeka, Kota Kinabalu.

On birds and mammals of Sabah and Borneo, read up on the books Birds of Borneo and Mammals of Borneo by our Conservation Fellows, Karen and Quentin Phillips.

2. Ways To Reduce Noise Pollution on Land Tours

On land tours, turn off the car engines. This will also reduce noise and vibration. On long day tours, make sure you drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. All our vehicles are equipped with filtered drinking water.

3. Ways To Reduce Noise Pollution on River Tours

On river tours, avoid using two-stroke outboard engines. They are not only polluting and noisy to the passengers but also the wildlife.

Use electric motors on the boat if you have one in order to get closer to the unsuspecting wildlife and to reduce noise and vibration. (All BET boats in Sukau are equipped with one).

4. Tip For Morning Photography

Most tourists go on dawn cruises when proboscis monkeys are just waking up from their sleep on treetops at the river’s edge. The noise from the river boats tend to drive many of them into the forest.

However, when most guests return to the lodge for breakfast, proboscis monkeys become more relaxed. Bring a short zoom like 24-70mm for wide angle subject and environment shots especially in morning mist.

5. Best Time For Picture

As the sun rises and as the mist dissipates, birds like hornbills, storm stork and animals like monitor lizards, crocodiles, langurs, macaques become more active and feed on the lower branches at the river’s edge. It is best to stay with one harem group and wait for action.

Without fail, they will move and leap from tree to tree or across the river. The best photos are often taken without other boats around when the birds and mammals are more relaxed. The light is also better after sunrise.

6. Wildlife Photography

For wildlife photography, bring a 200-500mm zoom lens or equivalent and a teleconverter x1.4 and a camera with shutter speed of 10-30 frames per second.

Use telephoto lens to take photos of wildlife farther away from under the trees to reduce angle of view of subject instead of getting close to the wildlife and looking up animals on tall trees. It is against the law to ask the guide/boatman to get onto the land in the sanctuary.

7. Shutter Speed

On moving boat, increase shutter speed or ISO to reduce blur. Increase your shutter speed to 1/2-3,000 per second for birds in flight. Many of my best photographs are taken during mid-morning and before late afternoon when there are fewer tourist boats around.

Proboscis monkeys and orangutan, like other animals are then more likely to show you their front side and not their back.

8. Private Boat

For serious photographers, it is best to stay out all day by arranging for private boat hire for the whole day. Bring a packed lunch and drinks with you. We also have an optional private “In search of elephant” tour.

9. Be Prepared

Work with the weather, not just at dawn and dusk. Always bring raincoat with you. Don’t put away your camera or cut short your river cruise just because it looks like it is going to rain. The rain or storm is usually for about an hour or so.

Some of my best photos were taken immediately after the rain when birds are very active. Just take out your raincoat and wait through the storm. Use hat with string when in the boat to avoid hat being blown off by the wind. Wear sneakers and long pants to be safe in getting in and out of boats.

10. Meet Our Residents

On the river cruise, you may not see a lot of flowers in the forest as compared with those at the lodge. So you are more likely to see many more sunbirds and insects around the lodge.

Keep an eye out for our 3 resident orangutans namely mother “Lucky” with her two male teenage orangutan “Day” and sibling “Hope”. Sounds of gong being struck six times mean orangutans have been sighted outside the room.

Written By Albert Teo
Managing Director of Borneo Eco Tours

Clear sky indicates the smoothness of the excursion

Have you ever explored the rainforest at night? On a boat? Do you know what species of animals lurk around at night? Let's take you on board as we cruise along the Kinabatangan river when the night unfolds.

When is the best time to do it?

Of course, at night. As the sun sets down behind the horizon and the dark start covering the sky, the night creatures start to dwell among the darkness. Before that, make sure the weather is on our side. If there is no sign of heavy downpours will drop anytime soon, and the sky is filled with stars. Then it's going to be a perfect time to do it.

What do you expect to see?

Forest along the Kinabatangan river is home to some of the most elusive nocturnal animals on this island. From the island's elusive wild cat Bornean Clouded Leopard, the ferocious Estuarine Crocodile, to the rarest nocturnal primates, such as the carnivorous Horsfield's Tarsier and others. Cruising at night in these waterways offers you a chance to see all these nocturnal animals. Of course, all sightings depend on luck, as all these animals mentioned are strictly wild, and some luck is needed.

Common sightings usually crocodile, an owl, and roosting birds like the kingfisher that can generally be spotted along the riverside. While the uncommon one, on the other hand, includes elusive animals such as the Bornean Clouded Leopard and nocturnal primates such as Loris and Tarsier.

From the top left to the right: Estuarine Crocodile, Blue-eared Kingfisher, Stork-Billed kingfisher and Buffy Fish-Owl

Is it safe to do?

Yes, our boat is made of fibreglasses and has all the necessary safety features, such as a life vest and fire extinguisher. Participants must put the life vest on during the excursion. Boat skippers also act as a spotter, equipped with high-power flashlights to assist during the cruise, not just for spotting purposes but also to ensure the safety during the excursion.

How do you spot all those animals?

The cruise boat is equipped with a high-powered spotlight; usually, the boat skipper and spotter rely on an eyes reflection of the animals. This eyeshine is produced by a special membrane called Tapetum Lucidum, a reflective surface of the membrane located directly behind the iris. 

To master this art of spotting, the spotter learns more than just spotting. They need to know how to differentiate the subject or the animals based on the eye colour reflection. Other knowledge, such as where and how to look at certain animals, is also crucial for the spotter to know.  

Top: Our boat skipper scanning the nook and crannies of the forest. Below: Our lodge guest taking part the search as well.

What to wear or bring?

Wear comfortable clothing, as at night the temperature is low compared to day time. Don’t forget to bring a long jacket to keep warm, as it can get chilly. Rain gear will be one of the essential to bring along, as weather can change in split second sometimes.

Make it as light as possible. Torch or flashlight can bring along, but during the cruise, advisable to switch it off to avoid attracting any unpleasant insects, such as wasps. Other essential items to bring such as a phone and cameras if you wish to do any photography and dry bags to keep your valuable things or equipment safe and dry.

The do’s and don't?

Observing animals in their natural environment requires proper guidelines that must be practised and adhered to, as we try to minimise our disturbance in their surroundings while awarding ourselves with the experience.

Here are some guidelines to follow:

⁃ Maintaining a safe distance from animals. Some animals will do their routine without disturbance if the distance is appropriate.

⁃ Never feed the wild animals

⁃ Lower your voice

⁃ Do not attempt to lure or attract the animals by getting their attention for your viewing or photography purposes. 

⁃ Avoid using strong-smelling substances. Such as perfume, as the animals are sensitive to this unfamiliar scent.

⁃ Flash photography is not recommended. Although it has never been proven scientifically to harm animals, please keep the well-being of the animals in mind and foremost.

Night cruise along the Kinabatangan river offers you a unique look into the world of nocturnal creatures that only can be found lurking at night. Its is the only way to experience this mysterious world of darkness.

Our lodge located in one of the “Biodiversity Hotspot” in Sabah. The area harboring a exceptional diversity and abundance of wildlife. We do arrange this nocturnal excursion every evening with minimal surcharge, and of course don't forget it all depend on the weather and sighting are unpredictable. 

It has got to be hands down some of the most magnificent places. If you'd like to go on the adventure this coming holidays, Kinabatangan is a place to be.

0800-1800hrs (Mondays-Fridays), 0800-1200hrs (Saturdays)

Sundays & Public Holidays

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