Experience the Kinabatangan River wildlife at The Last Frontier

The Kinabatangan River is located in the Sabah region of East Malaysia on Borneo island.

It is the second longest river in Malaysia and a popular destination to experience the surrounding rainforest and see some incredible animals in their natural habitat, like the orang-utans, pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys and many more.

Map of Borneo and Kinabatanagan River
Map of Borneo and the Kinabatangan River

We based ourselves at the excellent and gay friendly Last Frontier Boutique Resort in Bilit village, located almost 100m above sea level, in the heart of the rainforest.

Stef and Seb at The Last Frontier Resort
Stef and Seb in the middle of the rainforest, at the foot of the stairs that take you up to The Last Frontier Resort near the Kinabatangan River

THE LAST FRONTIER BOUTIQUE RESORT

The Last Frontier is the brainchild of power duo Jason (from Malaysia) and Gert (from Belgium) who spent almost 2 years building it from scratch.

It was opened in 2008 and has been going strong since, offering one of the most cost effective packages (room, full board and river/jungle tours) from all the accommodation options we researched around the Kinabatangan River area.

Gert and Jason at The Last Frontier
Gert and Jason with the The Last Frontier Resort near the Kinabatangan River, which they built from scratch themselves

Jason and Gert are both extremely passionate about the rainforest and taught us a great deal about the wildlife and the catastrophic effects from the growing logging and palm oil industries.

Jason is also one of the co-organisers of the annual summer Wildlife Festival at the Rainforest Discovery Centre in Sepilok, called “Rhythms of Rimba”, which aims to raise awareness and unite people passionate about conserving the biodiversity of the rainforest.

Dancing in the rain at the Wildlife Music Festival
Dancing in the heavy rain at the Wildlife Music Festival in Sepilok

538 STAIRS? ARE YOU CRAZY??!!

Yes we are and this was one of the best things about it!

The Last Frontier is unique because it is located at the top of a hill, unlike all the other resorts, which are squashed together by the Kinabatangan River.

So yes there's 538 stairs to keep you fit, but the rewarding views at the top make it all worthwhile and it means you are completely isolated from everyone and everything, right in the heart of the rainforest.

Stairs of The Last Frontier Resort
Stefan about to climb the 538 steps which take you to The Last Frontier Resort near the Kinabatangan River

OUR NEW FRIENDS AT KINABATANGAN

We made heaps of new friends during our walks in the rainforest and our boat rides on the Kinabatangan River. Here's a few of our favourites:

1. Olivia the Orang-Utan

Prior to our visit to The Last Frontier Resort, we saw orphaned orang-utans at the nearby Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre, who’d been rescued and rehabilitated so that they could be released back into the wild.

Orang-Utan photobombing Seb in Sepilok
This cheeky orang-utan photobombing poor Seb at the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre

In the rainforest surrounding The Last Frontier, there’s many orang-utans living peacefully in the wild. On one glorious morning, we met Olivia the Orang-Utan, who was munching away at the rambutans in the trees.

Olivia looked down at us staring up at her, dropped the rambutan shells on our heads and then moved on as if nothing had happened.

Oivia the Orang-Utan eating rambutan
Olivia the Orang-Utan spotted above us munching away the rambutan fruit in the Kinabatangan rainforest

It was incredible to see orang-utans in their natural habitat in the wild in the rainforest around the Kinabatangan River after seeing them at the Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok.

Stefan spotting Olivia the Orang-Utan at Kinabatangan
Stefan spotting Olivia the Orang-Utan above us in the trees and she looking back down to us

2. Esmeralda the Elephant and her family

On one of our boat tours on the Kinabatangan river, we stumbled upon Esmerelda the Pygmy Elephant and her family grazing on the river bank.

Esmeralda the Pygmy Elephant grazing with family
Esmeralda the Pygmy Elephant grazing with her family on the banks of the Kinabatangan River

The pygmy elephants are smaller than their African cousins and similar to other Asian elephants, like the ones we saw during our safari at the Udawalawe National Park in Sri Lanka.

Esmeralda and family grazing by the Kinabatangan River
Esmeralda the Pygmy Elephant peacefully grazing with her family on the banks of the Kinabatangan River

Want to know what makes Esmeralda and her family even more adorable? They’re excellent swimmers and unlike the orang-utans, can just swim their way to cross the Kinabatangan River. Olivia has to find a crossing to climb across.

As with Olivia, it was just extraordinary to see Esmeralda & co in her natural habitat, but she could have been a bit more polite and considerate by not photobombing poor Sebastien:

Esmerelda the Elephant photobombing Seb
Cheeky Esmerelda the Pygmy Elephant photobombing Sebastien at the Kinabatangan river bank

3. Patricia the Proboscis Monkey

Patricia the Proboscis Monkey and her friends are everywhere along the Kinabatangan River. She has a very distinct nose, which makes it very easy to spot her from far away:

Patricia the Proboscis Monkey
Patricia the Proboscis monkey, pondering what to graze on next by the Kinabatangan River

Patricia’s male counterparts on the other hand have much larger noses that hang lower than the mouth and can measure up to 10cm!

Proboscis male monkey spotted
The nose of the male proboscis monkey droops over their mouth and can grow up to 10cm in length

4. Melody the Macaque Monkey

There are plenty of macaque monkeys along the river. They are playful and very cheeky. Melody the Macaque Monkey made us giggle a lot: check out her face expression when she tried to photobomb her brother:

Melody the Macaque monkey photo bombing at the Kinabatangan River
Melody the Macaque Monkey photobombing her brother on one of the trees by the Kinabatangan River

The family of macaque monkeys we saw around Melody took a break from munching and playing, to clean and pick off dirt from each other:

Macaque monkeys preening each other
Macaque monkeys taking a break from munching and playing to preen each other by the Kinabatangan River

5. Bugs on steroids

There are a variety of bugs who seem like they’ve taken steroids.

Geraldine the Grasshopper had some quite nasty fangs if you tried to double cross her and you just wouldn’t want to mess with Angelina the Giant Ant:

Bugs on steroids: grasshopper and giant ant
Geraldine the Grasshopper on the prowl and Angelina the Ant ready for a punch up at the Last Frontier Resort by the Kinabatangan River

Another insect on steroids was Mariah the Moth, who comes out when the sun goes down. Here’s Mariah posing with one of her favourite friends:

Sebastien with Mariah the Giant Moth
Sebastien posing with one of his evening pals – Mariah the Giant Moth making her debut near the Kinabatangan River

AND DID WE MENTION THE AMAZING FOOD?

Jason has a culinary background, so every meal was a surprise and a complete joy to experience. We had the best nasi lemak we’ve tasted in our travels in Malaysia:

Sebastien with delicious nasi lemak
Jason photobombing Sebastien's proud nasi lemak dinner photo at the Last Frontier near the Kinabatangan River

We were really impressed with the high quality of the food, particularly when you take into account that they have to carry everything up 538 steps, in the heart of the rainforest, which is a 2 hours drive away from the nearest town.

Seb's nasi goreng lunch by the Kinabatangan River
Sebastien about to go face down into this plate of delicious nasi goreng at The Last Frontier near the Kinabatangan River

We loved our time at the Kinabatangan River with The Last Frontier team and definitely recommend a visit to anyone travelling in Sabah.

Kinabatangan River sunset
The sunset over the Kinabatangan River

For more about The Last Frontier and the surrounding rainforest and wildlife, check out their awesome video by clicking here.

OUR FAVOURITE TRAVEL TIPS

⭐️ TRAVEL INSURANCE — We recommend you always take out travel insurance before your next vacation. What happens if you suffer from illness, injury, theft or a cancellation? With travel insurance, you can have peace of mind and not worry. We love World Nomads travel insurance and have been using it for years. Their comprehensive coverage is second to none and their online claims process is very user friendly.

⭐️ SAFETY & SECURITY — All travelers (gay or not) can sometimes encounter danger when traveling. CloseCircle is your “virtual body guard” mobile app which provides security alerts and support wherever you are in the world. They have a 24/7 emergency response team monitoring their users who will contact you immediately if the SOS swipe button is activated. Support can include anything from practical advice, to free evacuation from areas with extreme weather or security risks. You can read more about CloseCircle in our article about how to stay safe whilst traveling.

⭐️ ONLINE ANONYMITY — A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a must in many countries: it allows you to surf anonymously and maintain your privacy whilst traveling. You'll particularly need it in countries where gay dating apps are blocked by the government. We recommend ExpressVPN, a reliable and cost effective service which we used and loved during our travels.

⭐️ HOTELS or APARTMENTS — When we plan a trip, we always look for the best hotel deals. We love Booking.com because not only do they have a comprehensive listing of accommodation options, they also offer the best prices. Added bonus: they provide 24/7 support and free cancellation for most listings.

⭐️ SIGHTSEEING and ADVENTURES — When we travel somewhere, we like to seek out the best experiences, whether it is cooking with locals in Bangkok, hiking on a glacier in Patagonia, or going on a wildlife safari in Sri Lanka. Our favorite place to look is GetYourGuide because they have over 30,000 highly rated activities, a user-friendly booking process with free cancellation and a 24 hour customer support.

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Check out our adventures in Malaysia in our travel video:

 

12 thoughts on “Experience the Kinabatangan River wildlife at The Last Frontier”

  1. Wow, you guys were so lucky to see so many animals, especially the orangutans – I am so jealous of that! As I think we told you, we spent all our time in Borneo searching for wild orangutans, including on the Kinabatangan river and we had no luck 🙁 I’m glad you managed to find some though and as always, it looks like you had a great time. We hope to go back to Malaysia one day.

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