Deramakot or Danum or Kinabatangan or Tabin

Deramakot Forest Reserve or Danum Valley or Kinabatangan River or Tabin – where to go for the best Borneo Adventure?

Deramakot Forest Reserve, Danum Valley Conservation Area, Kinabatangan River and Tabin Wildlife Reserve are the best of Borneo’s rainforests that are must visit place for any wildlife safari enthusiast.

For all the four popular Borneo Wildlife  destinations, one usually flies to Sandakan Airport. Road transport from Kota Kinabalu or Tawau is also possible.

Each of these Best Borneo attractions has so much to offer to explore the rainforest’s distinctive wildlife. In this post, we attempt to narrow down an itinerary in Sabah based on the number of wildlife watching potential, the amount of time spent on transportation, and the expense involved. Let us help you to decide what is the best place to go in Borneo – among Deramakot Forest Reserve, Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Danum Valley and Kinabatangan River.

One of these Rainforests in Borneo gives the Best Night Game Drive experience, one of these gives you the best hiking in an undisturbed and unaltered forest, one of these gives the unique experience of river safari to view the elusive pygmy elephants swimming, and one gives you very good chance to see wild cats crossing the safari road in search of food in an adjacent palm plantation. For one of these you must need to arrange the 4wd and guide and room in advance through some Tour Operator like us, Safari Acacia.

Continue reading for this interesting comparison you cannot find eslewhere.


Compare Accommodation of Deramakot, Danum, Kinabatangan, Tabin


  • Chalets maintained by Park HQ

Deramakot has only one accommodation option, run by park HQ. Deramakot’s accommodations are quite decent, especially given its remote location. There are air-conditioned chalets with four guest rooms and a living room in the HQ area. The rooms contain a fan and air conditioning, as well as bedding, blankets, pillows, and a towel. Every room has a private bathroom with a hot shower. There are also hostel rooms with its own bathroom.

Unfortunately, the rooms are most of the fully booked quite in advance. So Book Now to avoid disapointment.

Danum Valley

  • Borneo Rainforest Lodge (BRL)

This is the most luxurious property in Borneo, having their own Canopy and night walk/safari arrangements guided by senior experts. The rooms in all 30 chalets are really spacious and hard to imagine comforts and services are offered amidst the remote rainforest. It is one of a kind property to experience in the whole Malaysian Borneo. Standard (Jungle), Deluxe (Jungle/River), Premium villas are offered. Some of these categories of room offer Outdoor Bathtubs.


  • Danum Valley Field Centre (DVFC)

The field centre is primarily aimed at catering researchers and scientists, but of late they allow regular nature enthusiast to stay in (gender separated) dormitories and three categories (standard, deluxe, superior deluxe) of chalets (both fan-cooled/ac) and do shared activities like guided trek, night walk and night game drive.

Kinabatangan River

  • Kinabatangan Wetlands Resort (KWR)

Kinabatangan Wetlands Resort is a unique resort located in the Lower Kinabatangan-Segama Wetlands (LKSW), a RAMSAR-designated conservation area. The LKSW is the first RAMSAR site in Sabah and the largest in Malaysia on Borneo’s eastern coast. Kinabatangan Wetlands Resort is nested away from the hustle and bustle of the Sukau area where most of the casual daytrips are carried out, and where most of the hotels, homestays are located.


  • Sukau Rainforest Lodge (SRL)

Sukau Rainforest Lodge is another quite good option while adhering to an Eco-Lodge concept.


There are several other hotels, homestays in the Sukau and Bilit area, and at times the river is quite crowded with tourist boats. We usually recommend to stay in Kinabatangan Wetlands Resort to enhance your wildlife viewing experience, and ofcourse in Sukau Rainforest Lodge for the ultimate luxury and comfort.


  • Tabin Wildlife Resort (TWR)

This is the only option to stay in the largest forest, the whole Tabin Wildlife Reserve. Needless to say, the property is brilliantly maintained and the in house guides are experienced.

There are 10 units of chalets adjacent to a river, 20 units of wooden chalets scattered in the forest, and further away from the main reception are 10 more chalets, so-called the Hill chalets, a bit more secluded and private. All are air-conditioned.

Although currently off, usually a night-stay option on watchtower overlooking the nearest famous lipad mud  volcano is offered.

Transportation in Deramakot, Danum, Kinabatangan, Tabin


  • The usual Deramakot pick up point is Sandakan or Sepilok.
  • We also arrange transfer from Sukau as some guests visit Deramakot after the River Tour in Kinabatangan.
  • The entry point to Deramakot is via the Telupid town.
  • From Telupid a 4WD will transfer you to the Deramakot park HQ. Some of the roads are unpaved.

Danum Valley

  • The usual pick up point is Lahad Datu town.
  • From Sandakan and Tawau road transfer in van or public bus is easy.
  • From Kota Kinabalu one can fly in to Lahad Datu town.
  • A 2.5 hour drive (partly unpaved road) from Lahad Datu to Danum are usually included in the package.
  • Private unscheduled transfer from Lahad Datu are also arranged.

Kinabatangan River

  • If you wish to stay in the Kinabatangan Wetlands Resort, the return speedboat transfer is arranged from the Sandakan Yacht Club (~1.5 hrs). You are not going to use road transport.
  • If you stay in the Sukau village, you will be transferred by road. Usually guests arrive from Sandakan (~2 hours drive). Our partner, the multi award-winning property Sukau Rainforest Lodge is  located here.


  • The usual pick up point is Lahad Datu town.
  • From Sandakan and Tawau road transfer in van or public bus is easy.
  • From Kota Kinabalu one can fly in to Lahad Datu town.
  • A 1.5 hour drive (partly unpaved road) from Lahad Datu to Tabin are usually included in the package.
  • Private unscheduled transfer from Lahad Datu are also arranged.

Activities in Deramakot, Danum, Kinabatangan, Tabin


The greatest way to see a variety of species is to combine trekking with ‘spot lighting’ in 4WD vehicles. A journey to Deramakot would not be complete without a 4WD night safari. With a total of 7 hours drive time every full day, you can either divide the time into morning, afternoon, and night drives, or you can use all 7 hours at night in search of the elusive nocturnal creatures. We can make changes based on your choices.


The best thing we like about Deramakot Forest is the flexibility depending on the guest’s interest.



Unlike Deramakot, here the experience is more based on walking through undisturbed rainforest. Guided treks through several pristine nature trails offer an extraordinary experience of watching wildlife on foot. Night  game drives are also provided but it is quite restricted unlike Deramakot. 

For longer night game drives, some arrangements can be done though.


From BRL, the most popular trail perhaps is the Coffin-Cliff trail that leads to the natural Jacuzzi Pool and an ancient burial site of a local tribe. And how can one forget to mention the mystic viral images of the Canopy Walkway, suspended from the treetops that are 27 meters high above the forest floor.

Kinabatangan River

A mixture of river cruise, guided jungle trek, night walk are offered. Morning, afternoon and night river cruises give a different perspective of the area each time. It is absolutely a heavenly experience to go on a river cruise in the early morning through the foggy river. And no doubt to see the elusive pygmy elephants swimming and bathing and crossing the river will stay in your memory forever.


You will only miss the game drives. So we always recommend a 3 daystay in Kinabatangan followed by a few days in one of the other.


The main attraction of Tabin is the mud volcano, where the herbivores congregates for the mineral. There is a watch tower from where you view the herd of pygmy elephants or sambar deer and many other wildlife.


There are night game drives, leopard cats and other cats are common to see crossing the roads to enter the palm plantations in search of food. Squirrels and civets are also seen beside this road regularly. You can also do guided trekking, a special bird-watching tower is present to facilitate serious birders. A dip in the nearest waterfall is also arranged.

Wildlife Viewing in Deramakot, Danum, Kinabatangan, Tabin


Every night drive is unique. You are almost certain to observe some wildlife (for example, leopard cats). Some night drives have really exceptional guests, such as clouded leopards, marbled cats, stink badgers, and otter civets, but seeing these uncommon species requires a bit of luck. During the day, orangutans, elephants, long-tailed and pig-tailed macaques, gibbons, hornbills, and other animals are common.


Deramakot is a great spot to see orangutans in Borneo. The reserve’s orangutan population is believed to be around 1,400. The reserve also has 147 kinds of birds, including all eight species of Bornean hornbills, making it an ideal spot for bird watching.


There are around 300 unusual bird species and 120 animal species, including all 10 primate species found on the eastern side of Sabah. Orangutans, Bornean Pygmy elephants, Banteng, Malayan sun bear, Clouded leopard, Bearded pig, and various deer species call Danum Valley home.


Kinabatangan River

Orang Utans, Proboscis Monkeys, Pygmy Elephants, long- and pig-tailed macaques, crocodiles, monitor lizards, several kingfishers, all eight native hornbill species including the Helmeted Hornbill, Rhinoceros Hornbill, Bushy-crested Hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill, White-crowned Hornbill, Wrinkled Hornbill,  Black Hornbill, Oriental Pied Hornbills and a whole lot of interesting Bornean bird species are commonly seen.


Bornean Wild Cats are also seen here, including the flat-headed cats.


This area has some of the world’s most amazing and diversified vegetation and animals. Tabin is home to the rare Borneo Pygmy Elephant, Wild Orang Utan, and Clouded Leopard. The endangered Storm’s stork and bright Bornean bristlehead are among almost 300 bird species in paradise for Birdwatchers.

Palm oil farms surround 300,000 acres of tropical rainforest in Tabin Wildlife Reserve. Virgin lowland forest dominates the core, while secondary forest covers the rest.
A secondary forest (or second-growth forest) has regrown after a timber harvest until the disturbance is no longer noticeable. Secondary forests have heavy undergrowth, younger trees, and less biodiversity.
Tabin Wildlife Resort borders the reserve near palm oil farms. Although palm oil fields attract wild creatures drawn to the palm kernel, they are not typical rainforest sights.
All the routes are in the secondary forest and near plantations; there are no core paths to experience the “real rainforest” yet.

Cost of Tour in Deramakot, Danum, Kinabatangan, Tabin


4N5D for USD 1799 (MYR 8479) per pax, Ex- Telupid

when 2 pax sharing the same vehicle, accommodation on twin sharing AC chalet.

This includes the charge of private 4wd safari, private licensed guide/spotter experienced in Deramakot area.


  • BRL

3N4D for USD 1419 (MYR 6600) per pax, Ex-Lahad Datu;

On twin sharing basis in the Jungle Chalet of the Borneo Rainforest Lodge. All activities are shared guided as per the resort itinerary.

There are several categories of rooms available as mentioned earlier. Private guided activities can be arranged with additional charge.


  • DVFC

3N4D for USD 739 (MYR 3369) per pax, Ex-Lahad Datu

when 3 pax sharing the same vehicle, accommodation is on twin sharing basis with single supplement charge added. 

This includes the charge of an Experienced Guide Specialized in the Danum Valley Conservation Area throughout this trip.

Kinabatangan River

  • KWR

2N3D for USD 550 (MYR 2599) per pax, EX-Sandakan Yacht Club Jetty;

On twin sharing basis in deluxe chalet of Kinabatangan Wetlands Resort with all shared guided activities as per resort itinerary.

With additional charge you can have a private boat, and we can also provide private guide.



  • SRL

2N3D for USD 599 (2798 MYR) per pax.

On Twin sharing basis in Borneo Villa and activities as per resort itinerary.


  • TWR

3N4D for USD 679 (MYR 3130) per pax, EX-Lahad Datu;

On twin sharing basis in Tabin Wildlife Resort. Shared guided activities provided by the resort standard itinerary.

Private guide are provided with additional charge.

Map pointing Dermakot Forest Reserve, Danum Valley, Tabin and Kinabatangan River

RDC- Rainforest Discovery Centre | SYC-Sandakan Yacht Club | KWR- Kinabatangan Wetlands Resort | SRL- Sukau Rainforest Lodge | IC- Imbak Canyon | DFR- Deramakot Forest Reserve | BRL- Borneo Rainforest Lodge | DVFC- Danum Valley Field Centre | TWR- Tabin Wildlife Resort

Which Borneo Destination is the Best- Conclusion

  • Deramakot Forest Reserve is in any mammal watcher’s bucket list. Deramakot Forest Reserve is home to 75% of Sabah’s mammal species, with 55,507 hectares of mixed dipterocarp forest. The reserve’s wildlife includes iconic species including Orang Utan, Pygmy Elephants, Banteng (wild cattle), Maroon Langurs or Red Leaf Monkey, Colugo, Sun Bears, Flying Squirrels, Giant Squirrels and Clouded Leopards. Deramakot is one of the best places in Sabah to go animal watching. It’s especially wonderful for seeing Borneo’s varied cats. Deramakot is home to all five Bornean cat species: Sunda Clouded Leopard, Marbled Cat, Bornean Bay Cat, Flat Headed Cat, and Leopard Cat.
    With such diverse species, it may surprise you to learn that Deramakot is a logging concession. In fact, Deramakot is one of the Sabah Forestry Department’s flagship projects, where’reduced impact logging’ is conducted. This forest reserve is also the world’s longest-running Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified tropical forest, having been certified in 1997. There are 49,711 hectares designated for logging, 5,778 hectares for protection, and 18 hectares for community forestry.
  • The Danum Valley is the best place to be if you want to be in a pristine natural setting. There is a large area of very beautiful primary forest that is worth seeing just on its own. Wildlife is also common, but it’s not always easy to see due to its dense vegetation. Also this place provides two options, the field centre is quite reasonable whereas BRL brings unbelievable luxury amidst this remote ancient rainforest.

  • Kinabatangan River Tour offers the unique experience of Amazon-like river adventure and to spot the one very elusive species of elephants to swim in front of the boats. You cannot get this anywhere in Borneo. The proboscis monkey and the hornbills are also quite common to see here, and the flat-headed cat. If Kinabatangan has one negative point, that is the excessive amount of tourist boats, which is why we recommend to stay a bit away in a quieter area, KWR. 
  • Tabin Wildlife Reserve is unique as only it has the watchtower in front of the mud volcano where animals comes regularly to lik the mineral. It is unique as the safari road has palm plantation on one side and rainforest on the other, animals often cross this road in search of food and shelter, and guests get a very good wildlife viewing opportunity.

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