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 habitats, like the orang-utans, pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys and many more.
We based ourselves at the excellent gay-friendly and gay-owned hotel called Last Frontier Boutique Resort. It is located in Bilit village, almost 100m above sea level, right in the heart of the rainforest.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the rainforest surrounding the fabulous Last Frontier, there are 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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’s male counterparts, on the other hand, have much larger noses that hang lower than the mouth and can measure up to 10cm!
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 facial expression when she tried to photobomb her brother:
The family of macaque monkeys we saw around Melody took a break from munching and playing, to clean and pick off the dirt from each other:
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:
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:
AND DID WE MENTION THE AMAZING FOOD?
Jason, one of the owners of The Last Frontier 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 all our travels in Malaysia:
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.
We loved our time at the Kinabatangan River with the super gay friendly team of The Last Frontier and highly recommend it to all gay travellers travelling to Sabah.
For more about The Last Frontier and the surrounding rainforest and wildlife, check out their awesome video.
Happy travels are safe travels
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Check out our adventures in Malaysia in our travel video:
For more inspiration:
- For more accommodation options, check out our stay at the Mulu Marriott in Borneo as well
- Read our gay city guide to Kota Kinabalu, a great base for exploring Borneo
- Find out what it's like to grow up gay in Malaysia in our interview with a gay local
- These are the best foods of Malaysia you definitely should try while there
- And don't miss these interesting facts about Malaysia while you're at it
- It's easy to get to Indonesia from Malaysia, and diving in the Komodo National Park in Indonesia is a must-do
- While these yummy foods of Indonesia are a must-eat!
- Learn some interesting facts about Indonesia before you go as well