In June 2023, I had the opportunity to visit the Kinabatangan River in Sabah and here is my Bilit Adventure Lodge review based on a 4D/3N birdwatching adventure in one of Borneo’s premier birding spots.
The Kinabatangan River is home to the best wildlife and birding experiences in Malaysia and is located in the state of Sabah, which is in north Borneo. This is also one of the world-renowned wildlife destinations that are sought after by many.
Bilit Adventure Lodge Review
Over the last three to four decades, wildlife and bird enthusiasts from worldwide have been visiting the Kinabatangan River to seek some of the most amazing animals and birds found along this mighty river. The endemic species are often on top of the list: the Bornean Pygmy Elephants, the unique Proboscis Monkeys, the Orangutans and the tropical birds.
As I have visited this majestic river since early 2000, I must have come here at least four to five times for various wildlife photography. On my recent trip, I was here to explore birdwatching at Kinabatangan, which is one of the highlights here.
The Kinabatangan River spans over 560 kilometres long, and only three sections of the river are open for wildlife and birding tourism, which are;
- Bilit – The inner part of the Kinabatangan River is less congested, and only a few lodges are located around here.
- Sukau – The mid-section of the Kinabatangan with a majority of lodges and resorts located here. Gets quite busy.
- Abai – The section closer to the river mouth, and only a few lodges are found here.
As I have stayed at Sukau before, it is the most commercial part of Kinabatangan, where a majority of the lodges and resorts are located. So, this time around, I opted for something different and chose Bilit Adventure Lodge for my birdwatching.
The tour was booked months in advance, and my bird guide (Thorp) was waiting at the Sandakan Airport. After meeting him at the arrival, we adjourned directly to the village jetty at Bilit before boarding a boat to take us across the river to the lodge.
It was a five-minute ride to the Bilit Adventure Lodge, and once we arrived, everything was arranged. After our welcome drink, there was some basic briefing about the lodge and our birding activities, and we went straight to our chalets.
I noticed that the entire lodge was built over the ground, with wooden walkways carefully constructed so as not to damage the rainforest grounds.
Photos of Bilit Adventure Lodge
Below are random photos taken at the Bilit Adventure Lodge at Kinabatangan, with captions describing each photo.
Foos at the lodge are all Halal, as the locals here are Muslims. There is no pork served, only chicken, beef and seafood. Choices for food are usually local Sabahan cuisine with Western dishes like spaghetti, pasta, french fries or potato wedges.
During peak season, the meals are buffet style, with five or six dishes with either rice or noodles. If it is low season, they will serve you individual dishes. Breakfast usually combines bread, jam and local noodles or rice. Tea is also served with biscuits, bread or sometimes local snacks.
There is no supper, so if you are the type that needs to eat late at night, you really need to pre-order ala carte dishes or bring your own snacks and drinks. A bar is available, while soft drinks are also sold at the common bar.
Chalets and Rooms at Bilit Adventure Lodge
Overall, there is a total of 16 standard air-conditioned rooms and 8 standard fan rooms with attached bathrooms. There is also a dormitory section for those who prefer budget-style accommodation.
The chalets are four units in a cluster, and several of them have been upgraded while a few more units are undergoing renovations, which should be ready by now. Each of the chalets is connected via the main wooden raised walkways. Below are photos of the chalet I stayed at, and you can see how modern and comfortable it is.
Activities at Bilit
The main activities are wildlife and bird watching, and come dusk, there is the optional night walk, which is conducted by the locals here and is part of the community-based tourism that gives back to the locals who work here.
Night walks were conducted by the local boatmen, while the preparation for leech socks and wellington boots was done by the local ladies. A small fee of RM10 for the walk and RM10 for the socks and wellington boots. The night walk also takes about 30-45 minutes on average, where you are almost guaranteed to see some nocturnal wildlife.
During the day, you can try to spot some birds or insects around the resort as the raised wooden boardwalk is connected to one loop around the area. For night river cruises, this resort does not conduct it due to safety reasons.
Bilit Adventure Lodge Information
- Location: Kampung Bilit, Kinabatangan, Sabah
- Website: Bilit Adventure Lodge
- Birdwatching Bookings: Contact Birdwatching Asia
For those planning to visit Kinabatangan for birdwatching, I am happy to recommend this lodge as it is quite peaceful and quiet compared to the neighbouring areas. If you found this Bilit Adventure Lodge review helpful, please do let the lodge operators know when you check in there.
If you require any birdwatching tours at Kinabatangan River or any other location around Sabah, you can contact us directly, as we will be able to assist you in the arrangements with the right contacts and guides.