Explore the rainforests of Borneo, swim with turtles on a paradise island and spot orangutans in their natural habitat – while staying in luxurious lodges, away from the crowds. Make your visit in Malaysian Borneo truly memorable by picking exclusive lodges, which allow you to experience the real Borneo.

Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Danum Valley

The award-winning Borneo Rainforest Lodge is the only lodge in Borneo, which lies inside primary rainforest and conservation area. You’ll be surrounded by the vast, untouched rainforest, where no modern man has stepped. Think of ultimate luxury and seclusion combined with unique nature excursions with a personal naturalist guide. I’d pick Borneo Rainforest Lodge for our “10 Lodges to Stay Before You Die” list.

Obviously, Borneo Rainforest Lodge is the best spot in Malaysian Borneo for authentic wildlife sightings. Hiking is allowed on private trails, which can take you to mesmerizing waterfalls, natural jacuzzi pools, dizzying viewpoints, and an ancient burial site. It’s possible to trek for a whole day chasing wildlife in their natural habitat. We loved our early morning walks (up to 4 hours) and were lucky to spot several orangutans. In addition to various trails, you can swim and tube down the clear waters of Danum River, take night safari drives, or just admire the unique views towards the home of truly wild orangutans. Don’t forget to visit the breathtaking canopy walkway, which has multiple viewing platforms! It’s simply the best canopy walk we’ve ever stepped on – and you can experience it in the privacy of your own hiking group.

Borneo Rainforest Lodge has only 30 rooms, built with locally sourced and sustainable materials. Deluxe rooms open to the ravishing Danum river (with private jacuzzis!), whereas standard rooms face the jungle with the best chances of spotting wildlife from the comfort of your bed. Orangutans had nested right above our cabin just a day before we arrived!

How to Get to Borneo Rainforest Lodge

All-inclusive rates cover 2-hour transfers from Lahad Datu (the nearest town and airport) – and daily activities with a professional naturalist guide. Driving through the vast secondary rainforest bordering the conservation area is an adventure as well: we spotted the rare Bornean pygmy elephants on both drives!

Borneo Rainforest Lodge is the only lodge in Borneo, which lies inside primary rainforest and conservation area
Danum Valley's Canopy Walkway is a dream come true for nature photographers
The relaxing lounge area of Borneo Rainforest Lodge
Dining hall of Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Malaysian Borneo
The deluxe chalet with a river view in Borneo Rainforest Lodge, inside the gorgeous Danum Valley

Lankayan Island Dive Resort

While most other islands in Borneo are already crowded, Lankayan remains a remote paradise for snorkelers and divers, or anyone seeking a secluded tropical island. Lankayan has just one exclusive dive resort and blissfully empty stretches of powdery sand. The Sulu Sea glimmers in the most perfect shade of turquoise, mixing with the hues of blue, inviting you for a refreshing dip. Float quietly to witness the paradisiac scene, wondering if you’re really there, before exploring the underwater treasures, which include healthy reefs, clouds of colorful fish, playful turtles and exciting rarities like jawfish.

On Lankayan, you can feed you Robinson Crusoe fantasies with all the modern comforts. All the cottages are right on the shore. We stayed in #25, the second last one, which stands on stilts, both upon water and sand, and boasts unobstructed views of the turquoise ocean. For the ultimate win, I’d recommend #26, but in Lankayan, you always win.

How to Get to Lankayan Island

Fly, drive or take a bus to Sandakan, a coastal town in Sabah area of Malaysian Borneo. The all-inclusive rates of Lankayan Island Dive Resort include transfer from the airport or Sandakan city to the port and 1,5-2 hours’ speedboat trip to Lankayan Island.

Just sit back and enjoy the paradise feel of Lankayan Island
The main building of Lankayan Island Dive Resort in its evening gown
Tiny Lankayan Island is an unspoilt paradise far off the coast of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo

Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge & Abai Jungle Lodge

It’s hard to pick just one lodge from the Kinabatangan River, which snakes for more than 500 kilometers from the Sulu Sea, through rainforests towards the mountains and “the lost world” of western Sabah. One of the richest ecosystems in the world is home to orangutans, proboscis monkeys, and countless of other exotic species – even the elusive pygmy elephants. Most of the lodges are clustered around the village of Sukau, where wildlife sightings are great, but constant boat traffic hinders jungle daydreams.

If you yearn to experience the real magic of Sungai Kinabatangan, start your exploration by cruising from the port of Sandakan to the mouth of Kinabatangan river. Glide quietly downstream while spotting wildlife in the thick vegetation hanging over the river, stopping to admire a herd of proboscis monkeys or even orangutans if you’re lucky. Spend a night at the simple Abai Jungle Lodge upstream. There are no roads and no other tourists in sight, just fairy tale river vistas. Take private walks with your loved one on the elevated pathways at the back of the lodge and share the experience of living in a National Geographic document.

The next day, wake early to sip coffee admiring the magical morning mist upon the river. Take a cruise to the Pitas Oxbow Lake spotting wildlife and zigzagging through a narrow channel and strangling fig-trees. Enjoy an exclusive jungle breakfast in the company of macaques and wild pigs. To experience all that Kinabatangan River can offer, cruise all the way down to Sukau village and spend the other night in the eco-chic Kinabangan Riverside Lodge.

We loved the true wilderness feel of Abai Jungle Lodge. Combining it with Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge made our river adventure just perfect. During our transit day from Abai to Sukau we saw 6 orangutans and a herd of rare pygmy elephants! Both lodges have gorgeous terraces looking the river and private, elevated pathways for exploring the jungle.

How to Get to Kinabatangan River: Sukau and Abai Villages

The best and the easiest way is to take a tour, as also many of the lodges are owned by the tour companies. In theory, you can get either drive or negotiate a transfer to Sukau village and most lodges offer cruises. There are no public boats. We loved to explore the Kinabatangan River from its mouth to all the way to the Sukau and Bilit areas – one of the advantages of traveling with SI Tours and staying at their two separate lodges.

A beautiful view from the Abai Lodge's deck to the Kinabatangan River in Borneo
A view from the Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge's deck in Borneo
Abai Lodge at the Kinabatangan River in Malaysian Borneo
Abai Lodge at the Kinabatangan River in Malaysian Borneo
Rare Bornean Pygmy Elephants at the Kinabatangan River in Malaysian Borneo

MY Nature Resort, Sepilok

MY Nature Resort was our first base in Borneo, offering just a perfect introduction to the treats of the rainforest. MY Nature Resort is tucked away from the other lodges and the Sepilok highway, offering an authentic jungle feel. Still, it’s a short walk from Rainforest Discovery Center, the third draw in Sepilok after the orangutans and sun bears.

The additional perks: the property is new and has the only pool in Sepilok (for now) and you are free to explore the surrounding rainforest on the elevated pathways. Flying giant squirrels show off at the restaurant’s terrace every evening: watching them glide past while munching fried bananas is evening entertainment at its best! Our cottage had a huge, private terrace overlooking the rainforest canopy – ask for a view.

The accommodation package includes tickets and guided tours of orangutan and sun bear sanctuaries and shuttle transfers from the hotel (twice a day, just 5-minute ride). You’ll also get own guide who can lead nature walks. Check out a separate article on visiting the sun bear sanctuary in Sepilok to get excited!

How to Get to Sepilok

This one is easy: just fly into nearby Sandakan from Kota Kinabalu or take a bus. Taxi from Sandakan takes less than 30 minutes.

Special thanks for these handpicked lodges for helping us arrange our adventures in Borneo.

If you are planning a trip to Borneo, check out our detailed 2-week itinerary for inspiration!

If you have visited Malaysian Borneo, which were your favorite lodges and why?

The cabins of MY Nature Resort, Sepilok
The swimming pool of MY Nature Resort - the only one in Sepilok
Stunning view to the rainforest from our private terrace in MY Nature Resort - it rains in the rainforest!
Orangutan at the feeding platform of Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Malaysian Borneo

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Stay at luxurious lodges while exploring the rainforests, reefs and rivers of Borneo! We handpicked the best lodges of Borneo to make your visit truly memorable.