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“fantastic wildlife experience, accommodations getting major facelift”

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Sukau Rainforest Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
international
Level Contributor
178 reviews
87 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 169 helpful votes
“fantastic wildlife experience, accommodations getting major facelift”
Reviewed 7 December 2010

My husband and I were referred to this lodge and we stayed 3 days. The renos that were getting done on the rooms are now complete but they are continuing with more improvements which could take a while. This made the experience very noisy during the day which was our only complaint. The tours of the river, cave and surrounding forest were amazing. Wild orangs, proboscis monkeys, hundreds of bird species, many of which are endangered, made this region a must see for us. The food was much better than anywhere else we ate in Borneo, and the focus on eco tourism and the hiring of local tribal people resonated with our philosophy. We would definitely come back.

  • Stayed December 2010, travelled as a couple
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2 Thank steff0566
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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English first
Milan, Italy
Level Contributor
145 reviews
35 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 75 helpful votes
Reviewed 10 September 2010

We have to say that the first impression of this place was not the best. They are undergoing a renovation progress and everything looked very run down, messy and a bit dirty...in one word nothing special. The only gust were the two of us (on our honeymoon) and a group of elderly American bird watchers!
Fortunately our room had just been renovated so it was all right: simple but very spacious, comfortable and super clean.
Just after arrival we went off to an afternoon cruise on the river and we understood why people come here! There where hundreds of monkeys on the trees, the nature was fantastic, and the colors of sunset on the river were really unbelievable. We where speechless!
At dinner the food was excellent, with a touch of home made that made it very tasty. The staff is fantastic: they only employ local people so most of them don't speak English very well, but their kindness and their will to please you are really unbelievable.
The guides for the river safaris have the best eyesight and can spot even a stick insect from meters of distance, even at night. The night and sundown safaris were our favorite, almost a "mystic" experience. After two days we where feeling totally at home and the initial bad impression had been wiped away by the fantastic nature and by the marvellous staff. Praise to Winston Marshall: if you meet him you're going to get the feeling that he's an old man, maybe a bit "gaga" like he says, but take the walk in the jungle with him and he'll tell you about his adventurous life and about his exclusive expertise: jungle tracking and survival!!!

I wish we could go back once they have finished the renovation of the main area because I'm sure it's gonna look great (and I must admit that it badly needed renovation). We loved the place and their super green philosophy of being one with nature: it ended up being one of the best days of our vacation.

  • Stayed August 2010, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
1 Thank roadtripping1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Sydney
Level Contributor
100 reviews
50 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 66 helpful votes
Reviewed 24 July 2010

Half of the lodge rooms are now renovated completely and the rest are underway - a perfect time to stay as guest numbers are presently halved. The renovation is very nice indeed, though I am unsure whether the full glass panels at the back of the rooms provide enough privacy. All in all, this is a wonderful place to stay - everything about it is terrific; the staff, the wildlife excursions and the general tranquility. There are many lodges on the river - from Sandakan, this is a 2 hr fast boat trip (a preferable way to arrive - some lodges do the journey by road! - not so good)

  • Stayed July 2010, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
1 Thank RobynBSydney
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Caerphilly
Level Contributor
71 reviews
50 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 56 helpful votes
Reviewed 6 June 2010

This lodge is run by Borneo Eco Tours and has a longstanding reputation as an eco lodge. We were warned that the lodge had pretty tired accommodation but was upgrading it. We were fortunate to be allocated one of only 2 rooms upgraded by the time of our visit and the other rooms looked like student accommodation from the 1970s so we were very glad about that! Our room was spacious enough but not especially well finished, so I'm not sure it will wear well. Approaching this lodge from the river with our excellent guide, Wan, and fresh from a sighting of pygmy elephant en route, we were pleased to get a warm welcome from the stylish manager Saat and his staff. Things took a downwards turn when we met up with 3 other guests for an initial briefing from the lodge naturalist Winston Marshall. This individual was rude from the outset and over the next couple of days was especially offensive and personally intrusive to a young American woman who arrived at the same time as we did; he was rude to us when we told him we were vegetarian as well. Mr Marshall gave us a brief and not very helpful summary about the lodge and the activities we would be offered - over the next few days we would find him uninformed about what was happening and pretty unhelpful (fortunately the rest of the team do their best to make up for this). He had clearly had bad experiences as a child during World War 2 and these seemed to have coloured his perspective on life and people; while other guests may find his experiences of historical interest, my husband and I felt we were having his strong personal views rather rammed down our throats (I would not like to be a Japanese guest at this lodge) and did our best to avoid him, especially as it soon became clear he is very very fond of Tiger beer...
The drains at the lodge are clearly giving them some trouble - this may be a temporary thing - but it was not pleasant to linger in the main lodge because of the pervasive smell of human excrement emanating from the toilets.
Dining for vegetarians was frankly woeful - we found cooks baffled by the concept of vegetarianism generally in Sabah but the guy here had no idea at all, even when he had it explained to him. After we were given a lunch of stir fried cabbage and boiled rice, followed by a dinner of stir fried pak choi and boiled rice we complained to the manager, who personally cooked us the best meal we had on our holiday - well done him, but let's face it, we were paying the same money as other guests who routinely had 3 or 4 tasty dishes to choose from while we had the cabbage! Sadly the cook did not learn from his boss and we were back on the bland veg for our last dinner at Sukau.
One other experience at this lodge which will either charm or infuriate you is that 'they' insist that you wear a sarong to dinner. Now a sarong is quite a comfortable garment I'm sure but we were not equipped with the items to go with it and none of the staff wear them. By and large the guests look ridiculous got up in these garments; we felt bullied and I felt really really stupid. We were supposed to be on holiday.
The wildlife you see round here is great but next time we will be finding a different lodge.

  • Stayed May 2010, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
6 Thank TheLewises
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Los Angeles, California
Level Contributor
103 reviews
54 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 94 helpful votes
Reviewed 10 May 2010

Prior to our arrival at Sukau Rainforest Lodge, I reviewed the comments other reviewers posted on Tripadvisor regarding the facilities, so I was preparing for a rustic stay. However, it was actually worse than what we had anticipated. Let’s start with the few positives first. We did enjoy the wildlife and river boat rides to the lodge and later on the day looking for the rainforest animals. Our guide had a great eye and could spot Monitor lizards among other creatures that were otherwise camaflouged. We saw a herd of pygmy elephants on the boat ride to the lodge, which was also wonderful to view. Those few hours, however, were the primary highlights of the overnight trip to the lodge. We do not think it outweighed the cost or the other problems we faced below and would not recommend using this company for a rainforest stay in Sukau.

Now on to the actual room….first of all, the room was incredibly small, and walls were paper thin. The bathroom was really tiny, and dingy. When I say tiny/small, I mean it is to the point where you can barely turn around in your room or bathroom. Further, the lodge only offered two complimentary small bottles of water during our stay, which I thought was outrageous considering the 750 USD that we shelled out for an overnight trip. It was especially frustrating given the great humidity in Borneo overall, and we were trying to stay hydrated throughout the day. The very small room we stayed in was practically a sauna since there was no a/c, and just one window in the room (and a small one in the bathroom). I understand that this is suppose to be an eco lodge, thus no a/c. And I have stayed at a number of other facilities in Africa that also do not use any a/c for conservation reasons with no problem. However, the small size of the room and the layout really make it completely unbearable to stay in even later on at night when it cools down a tad. Additionally, there were no mosquito nets available in the room. There were plenty of ants in my bed though. The lodge is undergoing some renovation to the rooms, so hopefully the aforementioned factors will be taken into consideration to seriously upgrade the facilities to match the prices asked for by the lodge.

We also were subjected to possibly the worst karaoke known to mankind, if not, the greater universe. The village adjacent to the lodge had a wedding celebration or party until 2 am, and the music and singing was so loud and awful, it was impossible for any of us to get any sleep. We finally asked the lodge staff to ask the villagers to chill out with the karaoke bonanza since it did not seem like there was any reasonable end in sight. Obviously, we were extremely disappointed with this event since we were expecting a peaceful stay, focusing on the wildlife and the rainforest in Sukau.

Finally, the staff—while largely friendly—could use additional training in customer service. Basic gestures such as assisting lodge guests with their luggage to the room, and extending farewells to departing guests were lacking.

  • Stayed May 2010, travelled with family
    • Value
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Helpful?
2 Thank Parabola
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Toronto
Level Contributor
268 reviews
222 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 319 helpful votes
Reviewed 12 April 2010

Our tour up the Kinabatangan River near Sukow overnighted for two nights at the end of March 2010 at this lodge. Our tour leader did not know that it was under major renovation so unfortunately there was much construction noise during the day. It certainly needs the renovation. The lodge bills itself as an eco-lodge. Thus there is no air-conditioning in the room, just one fan. There is little if any cross ventilation so the rooms are very hot. Water shortages meant very little hot water – the water is heated by solar panels so when the supply runs out everyone needs to wait until the next day. So if you go for an early morning excursion and others don’t, don’t expect hot water for your shower on the return as chances are it will have run out. The meals are served on the patio overlooking the river. The food is good and well prepared. The rooms themselves are clean.

This lodge is in the jungle so be prepared for animals. For example, some Australians were staying there at the same time as we did. When opening the door to their room there were three river rats in the room. They chased them out. Our interpreter said that it is common for snakes to visit as well although we did not see any, probably due to the construction noise.

The river excursions from the lodge were excellent. We saw many tropical birds, a mature salt water crocodile, monitor lizards, a wild orang utan, proboscis and macaque monkeys and a baby salt water crocodile. There were also many snakes.

The lodge will certainly be improved by the renovations. The staff was very friendly and accommodating. However given the heat of the day I would look for a lodge with some air-conditioning even only during the night. It would have made the stay more comfortable especially at night.

  • Stayed March 2010, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
3 Thank Canadian079
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Australia
Level Contributor
54 reviews
22 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 36 helpful votes
Reviewed 3 November 2009

We chose this company because it was one of the few that offered a 2 day, one night tour experience of the jungle.

We were picked up from our hotel and taken to Sepilok orangutan sanctuary for an information session and viewing of the orangutans. The experience was interesting but I felt as though we were in a zoo. A visit the previous day to the Lambuk Bay proboscis monkey centre was a better experience despite being located among the palm plantations.

After lunch in Sandakan we departed for our 2 hour trip along the Kinabatangan River with frequent stops and commentary to point out the numerous wildlife along the way. W were lucky enough have 2 sightings of orangutans in the wild.

The appproach to the lodge is welcoming with a dining area on the water. In the main reception area we were greeted with cold drinks and an information session. The rooms were a big disappointment - very small and basic and had certainly seen better days. The walls were extremely thin and the floor moved when the occupants next door walked around. A refurbishment is planned but they should not be charging these prices for this standard of accommodation.

We went on an aftrnoon boat trip which was good, but a little disappointing to see so many other boats from other lodges on the same narrow tributaries. Dinner was of a barbeque style down at the river with each tour group sitting together. The food was good as was breakfast the next day.

After dinner we went on the optional (pay extra!) night tour which was actually the highlight of the trip. Our guide had exceptional night vision and managed to find tiny birds in vivid colours along the river as we moved along in our boat. Considering the cost of the package the night tour should have been included.

The next day we headed back to Sandakan for a tour of the city including the war memorial. We were then taken to a restaurant near Agnes Keith House where lunch was supplied and told that our guide would be back almost 2 hours later. This was way too long to be left here and as a result most of us took the tour of the house to fill in time, only to find that this was included in the tour with the guide. In other words we paid twice.

All in all it was a good experience and comprehensive for travellers with limited time. I would not recommend this lodge until the accommodation improves though. It was an expensive 2 days although we did see plenty of wildlife and overall enjoyed the experience.

  • Stayed October 2009, travelled with family
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank n0maDz
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Sukau Rainforest Lodge

Property: Sukau Rainforest Lodge
Address: Sukau, Lower Kinabatangan River | 2 1/2 hours from Sandakan by boat, Malaysia
Region: Malaysia > Sabah > Kinabatangan District
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beverage Selection Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Room Service Spa Wheelchair access Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 10 Speciality Lodging in Kinabatangan District
Hotel Class:3 star — Sukau Rainforest Lodge 3*
Number of rooms: 20
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The award winning Sukau Rainforest Lodge nestles on the banks of one of Borneo's most important waterways, the Kinabatangan River, home to many of Borneo's magnificent wildlife. Immerse yourself in the tranquility of the rainforest and the cacophany of its inhabitants, its majestic birds, all 7 species of Borneo Primates including Borneo's iconic Proboscis Monkey, Orangutans in their natural habitat as well as herds of Borneo Pygmy Elephants. Sukau Rainforest Lodge offers the rare comfort and luxury in the midst of the Borneo Rainforest whilst retaining an Eco-Lodge ethos, the delicate balance of true sustainability. We promise to give you and your family an experience you'll always remember and one you'll never regret. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Sukau Rainforest Hotel Sabah
Sukau Rainforest Lodge Kinabatangan District, Malaysia - Sabah

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