A Wildlife River Cruise in Borneo

Everyone knows Borneo to be home to the beloved orangutan. But there is another equally lovable species of monkey endemic to the island: the proboscis monkey.

Wildlife River Cruise Borneo

Easily identified by its enormous nose, the hilarious proboscis monkey most famously hangs out in the Kinabatangan River in the south of Sabah. We visited ten years ago, and it remains one of my favourite travel memories.

Unfortunately during our last visit to Borneo, we didn’t have time to make the journey to the Kinabatangan region, but we still wanted to give the kids the opportunity to see the “big-nosed monkeys” in the wild. So we hooked up with Amazing Borneo tours, and did a Wildlife and Fireflies Sunset Cruise on the Kawa Kawa River, also known as the “Little Kinabatangan”. It was one of the highlights of our visit to Kota Kinabalu.

Wildlife boat trip Borneo

Our adventure began with us boarding a small motorboat at the Kawa Kawa jetty and heading up the river. We were lucky, and came across a family of proboscis monkeys hanging out in a tree close to the river, within just ten minutes of setting off.

proboscis monkey Borneo
Photo courtesy of Amazing Borneo

Watching the proboscis monkeys playing in the wild really is a treat. Known in Indonesian as “Orang Belanda” (Dutchman) as the Indonesians remarked that with their pot-bellies and big noses, they resembled the Dutch colonisers, the proboscis monkey really is frighteningly human in its mannerisms. Seeing a large male sitting on a branch with its legs crossed and pot-belly hanging out was cause for much hilarity.

Wildlife cruise Borneo

We continued our trip up the river, being rewarded with two more proboscis monkey sightings, as well as long tailed macaques, water buffalo and plenty of birdlife. What we weren’t expecting though was such a beautiful sunset!

We arrived at the river mouth just in time to see the sky explode into a hundred shades of red and orange. A sensational sight.

Sunset on the Little Kinabatangan

After a traditional Malay dinner at the jetty restaurant, we then made our way by bus to another jetty to embark on our firefly-spotting mission. Within just a few minutes of setting off up the river, we came across a bush completely alight with fireflies – magical!

With clever use of a flashlight and a leaf, our boat guide enticed a few of the fireflies to leave their bush and fly into our boat – even landing on our hands, faces and life jackets – much to the delight of our kids who spoke about this for weeks! Very cool.

Sunset on the Little Kinabatangan

Note that the Kawa Kawa River is around a 1 ½ – 2 hour drive from Kota Kinabalu. We were staying at the Shangri-La Rasa Ria resort and so our transfer time was just under an hour.

Mum on the Move were guests of Amazing Borneo for the tour. This did not influence my review in any way, and all opinions expressed are honest, and my own.

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Wildlife River Cruise Borneo

3 thoughts on “A Wildlife River Cruise in Borneo”

  1. hi pleasebemail back if you can. we arebtravelling with a 4mnth old and 2.5yr old. would we be able to do the boat trip? do they provide life vests for babys and children?

    also how long in total did the trip take from rasa ria to the river. [email protected].

    • Hi – they did have small life jackets for children – but I don’t think they had anything for babies. You should contact Amazing Borneo to see if it is ok to take the baby on board. The trip from the Rasa Ria to the river was about an hour drive. I hope you enjoy!


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