Experience the Kinabatangan River wildlife at The Last Frontier

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 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


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


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

Rumour even has it that the male proboscis monkeys maintain a 24/7 erection…!

(Lucky Patricia!!)

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


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.

You can book your stay at The Last Frontier Boutique Hotel either by contacting them directly on their website or on booking.com. You can also check their Tripadvisor profile for more reviews.

For more inspiration:

  • check out check out Green Global Travel's excellent post about 26 weird animals across Southeast Asia and the rest of the world
  • watch our adventures in Malaysia in our travel video:


  1. Great Blog, you have sold it to me! Looking forward to visiting Malaysia 🙂

    • Thanks Mark. Do say hi from us to the boys when you meet them ❤️

  2. I’m absolutely in love! Missing Borneo was my only regret last time I did South East Asia. Not making the same mistake this time.
    See you at Tbex ?

    • Thanks Karina! Looking forward to meeting you too 🙂

  3. Orangutans!! So cool! We really wanted to make it to Borneo when we were in Malaysia a few years ago. It didn’t happen, but we will definitely have to check out the last frontier if we do ever make it there!

    • Oh yes yes you’d love it 🙂

  4. 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.

    • We were thinking about you guys here. Did you not see them at the Sepilok rehab centres at feeding time?

      • We did but we would have loved to have seen them in a proper wild environment too. Great photos of the proboscis monkeys by the way 🙂

  5. Lovely to see that you’ve jumped on the Nasi Lemak bandwagon 🙂

    • Ha ha ha – thanks Hani 🙂


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