“That’s the room David Attenborough stayed in.”

I’d just been given my room key at the Sukau Rainforest Lodge. And, if I heard the staff member who was showing me to my room correctly, I may well be walking in a wildlife legend’s footsteps. 

Not trusting my own ears, I asked a second member of staff – and then a third. 

Sure enough, I was staying in exactly the same room as none other than Sir David Attenborough. My ears really didn’t deceive me.

Although I’ve been travelling non-stop for over two years, it’s not often that I’m left stunned like that.

This trip to Borneo was a dream come true for me and, in that moment, it couldn’t have been any dreamier. I wanted to pinch myself.  

Acting much more calm and composed than I felt on the inside, I smile and stepped into my room to see where I would be spending the night.


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Sukau Rainforest Lodge

Location: Sukau, a tiny village along the banks of Sabah’s most important waterway: the Kinabatangan river.

In a nutshell: An eco-focused boutique lodge in the heart of the Borneo jungle in Malaysia.

How to get there: Fly into Sandakan – most likely via Kuala Lumpur and/or Kota Kinabalu. The lodge is a 2-hour drive and a 20-minute boat ride from the airport.

Sukau Rainforest Lodge Borneo

A wildlife lover’s dream

My room wasn’t the only area of Sukau Rainforest Lodge touched by the footprints of Sir David.

One of the newly opened villas (number 9) is named after him, as is the new boardwalk that takes guests out into the forest.

Perhaps most fun of all, though, is the boat. The boat that David Attenborough and the BBC crew used to film in October 2011.

Every morning, a breakfast buffet is served from it, and it’s like eating straight out of a broadcasting museum.

It almost feels a little wrong, but it’s the perfect way to recycle the vessel for today’s guests.

Boat used by Sir David Attenborough and the BBC crew when they stayed at Sukau Rainforest Lodge

Leading eco-tourism in Borneo

Recycling is one of the many eco initiatives at the heart of Sukau Rainforest Lodge.

Some, like the locally sourced hardwood and complete absence of plastic, are there in plain sight for you to observe. But most of their efforts take place behind the scenes. 

Sukau Rainforest Lodge is a perfect example of ecotourism done right – for impact, rather than just for show.

It was one of the first lodges in Sabah to be designed on ecotourism principles. Since its opening in 1995, it’s been leading the way for ecotourism in Borneo.

With bamboo sofas, solar-panelled ceiling fans and its fleet of electric powered boats, Sukau Rainforest Lodge works with nature so both its current guests and future generations can enjoy it.

Forest boardwalk at Sukau Rainforest Lodge

Into the Borneo jungle

If getting close to nature is your goal, the Sukau Rainforest Lodge should be at the top of your list.

Not only does it have one of the world’s most renowned wildlife expert’s approval, but it’s harder to get closer to nature than this.

Nestled where the Kinabatangan river tickles the depths of the Borneo jungle, I knew the lodge’s location before I arrived.

What I didn’t appreciate until that moment, though, was just how immersed in nature Sukau Riverside Lodge is.

It’s as deep in the jungle as you could ever want to be, only with the comforts and luxuries you wouldn’t want be to be without.

Gecko Bar at Sukau Rainforest Lodge Borneo
The Gecko Bar serves up a range of classic and locally inspired cocktails.

Creature comforts

Imagine waking up, looking out of your window and seeing nothing but the Borneo jungle. 

Yet, all around you, you have everything you need to feel right at home.

Sukau Rainforest Lodge isn’t just one of the coolest hotels I’ve ever stayed in, but also one of the most comfortable.

And, as someone who’s stayed in a LOT of hotels, that’s saying something. 

There’s a choice of two types of accommodation at Sukau Rainforest Lodge: a superior room or a villa.

Although pretty similar in size, each offers a unique way to experience the rainforest. 

All rooms come with access to the two plunge pools, a unique feature for the Sukau area. There’s also ample space to relax in the communal bar and other areas.

Plunge pool at Sukau Rainforest Lodge Borneo

Perched on the Kinabatangan riverside

Sukau Rainforest Lodge boasts one of the best hotel locations in all of Borneo – if not the world.

Perched on the edge of the Kinabatangan river, it’s surrounded by wildlife on land, under the water and in the skies above. 

Since no bridge is allowed to be built from the other side of the river, you can only access the lodge by boat. Even the laundry gets sent away – and food arrives – by boat.

This isolation certainly adds to its charm, as well as the experience of being out in the wilderness. 

It also makes Sukau Rainforest Lodge perfectly placed for exploring the jungle that surrounds it. 

Small (electric powered) motor boats wait to take up to 10 passengers out to explore from the waters.

On a 1-2 hour Kinabatangan river cruise, you might spot any of the local wildlife that inhabits the area.

This includes endemic species such as Bornean orangutans, maroon leaf monkeys and proboscis monkeys, as well as crocodiles, monitor lizards and other creatures that call Borneo home.

A river cruise from Sukau Rainforest Lodge in Borneo

Get closer to Borneo’s wildlife

A river cruise isn’t the only way to get close to wildlife at Sukau Rainforest Lodge.

The lodge boasts a 1,500-foot long boardwalk that takes you out into the forest.

It’s a great example of how the lodge doesn’t just merge into the forest, but was built to allow you to feel completely immersed by it without the need for a guide. 

The boardwalk is equipped with four viewing platforms and is raised off the forest floors to keep you leech-free.

Spend some time enjoying this private forest and you never who might join you – an orangutan, a civet or perhaps even a whole family of pygmy elephants. 

If you don’t want to venture out, the staff also host a daily ape talk. In this interactive session, you’ll learn all about Borneo’s orangutans.

It covers how they live and how researchers identify them by their unique markings. The talk lasts around 35-60 minutes depending on how many questions there are – and, in our case, how often the paradise tree snake hanging out overhead distracted us!

Sukau Rainforest Lodge Borneo

National Geographic Unique Lodges Of The World

In 2015, Sukau Rainforest Lodge joined the exclusive list of National Geographic Unique Lodges.

The highly selective list includes only the best eco lodges in the world, all of which give back to both the local environment and communities.

When you stay at Sukau Rainforest Lodge, you know you’re staying at a trusted eco lodge that has been thoroughly vetted by a sustainable tourism expert.

Love unique hotels? You’ll also love this epic hotel in Kuala Lumpur.

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A wild night in the Bornean jungle at Sukau Rainforest Lodge

Alajode UK travel blog and vlog by a female digital nomad
Jodie Marie Dewberry

Jodie has been travelling the world full time since 2017, sharing the most unique places in the world along with tips for living as a digital nomad. She is a passionate wildlife photographer and has worked with a number of prominent travel brands, including airlines, tourism boards, hotels and tour operators.

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