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“Great wildlife spotting location”
Review of Abai Jungle Lodge

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Abai Jungle Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Philadelphia, PA
Level Contributor
82 reviews
41 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 64 helpful votes
“Great wildlife spotting location”
Reviewed July 9, 2012

The rooms are basic and buffet food fine but the reason to come and stay here is the isolated location along the river. In stunning contrast to the sister Kinabatangan property up-river, the guests here compete only with each other for wildlife spotting rather than multiple boats from multiple properties. Furthermore, the river is much wider allowing competing boats to spread out. The contrast is stunning with a real feel of a river safari here rather than a traffic jam of boaters craning to see another macaque up-river. We saw crocodiles, numerous orangutangs and proboscis monkeys, a wide array of birds and luckier guests encountered elephants. Would definitely recommend two nights here and the avoidance of properties further up-river including the sister property where they will try to steer you in a package deal.

  • Stayed June 2012, traveled with family
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Thank mwsk_h
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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274 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
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Birmingham
Level Contributor
14 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
Reviewed June 23, 2012

Nature on your doorstep, great staff and food lodges in beautiful surroundings. Basic room but we didn't need or want anything more. The highlight is the wildlife. The guides are great at spotting everything. Highly recommended!

Stayed April 2012, traveled as a couple
Helpful?
1 Thank sarahstar
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, UK
Level Contributor
232 reviews
66 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 157 helpful votes
Reviewed May 1, 2012

I don't give many "Terrible" ratings but this lodge deserves it. There were some positives which I'll address at the end, but the issues are significant.
1. Abai in the midst of massive construction work. They’re building new boardwalks, new chalets and a new staff building. Construction supplies and debris are everywhere, and there was hammering and sawing all day long. The construction workers monopolize the lounge area every evening. The noise and activity almost certainly scare away the wildlife, because we saw very little on the boardwalks and around the property. For this reason alone I would avoid this property until the work is complete.
2. The lodge caters to day-trippers and tour groups who only stay 1 night. Maybe OK for some but not the kind of atmosphere we were seeking. We were the only guests staying for 3 nights. Even our guide was surprised we were staying 3 nights. The room next to ours was used as a toilet for the day trippers during the period it was being flipped, which was quite unpleasant and disruptive.
3. The chalets are very cheap and poorly designed. I don't mean basic, I mean CHEAP. Ours had 2 single beds and that was about it. Not even a simple bedside table, meaning books, glasses, alarm clocks had to go on the floor. There was no place to put your clothes so you can’t really unpack. Honestly we would have been better camping. The chalets each contain 3 units and they are VERY poorly constructed. We could hear normal conversation of the people next door, we could hear them in the toilet and we could literally feel them walking around. We don’t care for this much intimacy with strangers, especially on a wildlife holiday. Also, the sink drain leaked which meant there was constantly water on the bathroom floor.
4. The boardwalks are great, except for the lack of wildlife due to the construction noise. Unfortunately there was quite a bit of rubbish in the muck around the boardwalk. Empty bottles, cans, cigarette packs, plastic bags. Shouldn’t this be a pristine environment? I can’t understand why the staff doesn’t pick up the rubbish. Absolutely inexcusable.
5. They cut a lot of corners. For example, the bathrooms come with those ridiculous little squares of tissue instead of actual toilet paper. And instead of proper coffee, they made instant coffee in a 10 gallon pot the night prior and simply re-heated it in the morning. Almost impossible to drink it.

What salvaged this experience was the Kinabatangan river itself, which was beautiful and endlessly fascinating, and our guide Ronald who was outstanding. Our boatman Salan was also great. Ronald was knowledgeable and enthusiastic and he really made an effort to keep us away from other people and ensure we had good photography opportunities.

The staff at Abai were very nice, friendly and helpful. The food was fine but very basic, and it was always the same thing (you can do that when you cater mostly to day-trippers and one-nighters).

I don't know if there are other options along the river. If so, I would avoid this place until they get their act togther.

  • Stayed March 2012, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
2 Thank R A
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
East Anglia
Level Contributor
91 reviews
31 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 109 helpful votes
Reviewed April 30, 2012

If you are looking for haute cuisine and crisp white tablecloths and waiter service, you are in the wrong place.
This place is dedicated to wildlife viewing which largely depends on the guide and the boatman who work as a team to ensure you see as much as possible. The list of what we saw was very extensive - Orang Utans, Proboscis monkey, macaques, crocodiles to name but a few. Birds by the dozen and a magical firefly exhibition at night.
Some of sights can be brief so my best recommendation is that you take binoculars which are vital, and the best camera that you beg, borrow or buy!!! Preferably a DSLR with a long lens.
Our chalet (no air con but it did not inconvenience us) was basic but clean and comfortable. All the chalets are accessed from a wooden walkway and are all on stilts. We had the pleasure of having a huge wild pig (male) snuffling around in the undergrowth underneath.
The food is served buffet style with a limited range of local produce - the fish is so fresh (grouper for example) because it is caught less than hour way. The food is mainly Malay spiced which is actually ideal for the climate. Booze is limited to beer and wine.
If you can, please try to visit the village of Abai on the opposite bank. A gentle stroll round the village gives a small insight into how the locals live. Enjoy a light lunch of eg prawns in lime with a soft drink. Not only is it very relaxing, but Abai Jungle Lodge make a financial contribution to the village for their courtesy.
There is a jungle boardwalk and if you can put up with the cacophony from the frogs and cicadas, a night walk with a strong torch will produce even more wildlife sightings.
There is a sister lodge at Sukau further up the river where we stopped for breakfast on our way to Tabin and Danum (see our comments separately). We did not think that standards of cleanliness were nearly as good as as Abai (this was confirmed by a couple who we met up with later) but the wildlife may have been marginally better?
We stayed 2 nights, which on reflection was about right. You might want to consider adding one night at Sukau if you want more wildlife

Room Tip: No need to pick any special chalet - all offer great jungle views
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  • Stayed April 2012, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
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Helpful?
2 Thank ChooksonTour
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Brighton
Level Contributor
16 reviews
7 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
Reviewed April 18, 2012

Stayed for two nights at Abai as part of our honeymoon. We went as part of an SI tour, who I believe run the lodge. No a/c as it uses too much electricity and they're trying to be eco (uses solar as main power source). Rooms are a good size, strongish fan, clean bathroom. For what is essentially a safari lodge and should be expected to be rustic, I found the cabins compare very favourably against similar African safari lodges.
Surrounding jungle is packed with wildlife, saw loads of monkeys, orangutan, and an elephant.
Food was delicious - locally sourced and cooked very well.
Main selling point is the friendly and courteous staff - They found out we were on honeymoon and really made us feel special. They even managed to bake us a cake, which given the limited kitchen facilities was amazing. Overall, we had a brilliant experience here which really was the highlight of our honeymoon.

Room Tip: I believe all rooms are very similar, but some with double beds.
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  • Stayed April 2012, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
1 Thank GMackinder
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Level Contributor
30 reviews
20 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 42 helpful votes
Reviewed April 16, 2012

Having read the reviews we were very happily surprised by Abai. We found the cabins very comfortable (yes, damp, as there is no a/c), the service was great, and the food was excellent. Not a huge variety or spread of food but that was ok as what was there was quite good. You go out on boats in the am and later in the afternoon when the wildlife is more likely to be seen and we saw all kinds of monkeys, orangutangs, all kinds of birds. (No elephants unfortunately). Our guide, Albert, met us in Sandakan and escorted us to Abai and then to the sister hotel, Kin. Riverside Lodge. We actually preferred Abai to the Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge as the food was better, it had wifi, and we saw more wildlife. The river down here is also quieter, with fewer boats. There's not much to do when you are not on a boat but you can hang out and relax with a book on their river lookout towers.

  • Stayed March 2012, traveled with friends
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Helpful?
1 Thank KimSL10
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kuala Lumpur
Level Contributor
165 reviews
127 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 251 helpful votes
Reviewed April 14, 2012

I stayed here for 1 night as part of the 3D/2N Abai and Sukau Package Tour. It is about 75 minute speed boat ride from Sandakan Jetty to the Abai Jungle Lodge via SI Tours

The rooms are basic, but it had the important amenities - attached bathrooms, electricity the whole night, clean running water, a shower, and a fan. There are about 4 rooms in 1 block, and each block had a nice veranda and hammock for relaxing and wildlife viewing. Don't expect AC, but the rooms were clean and functional.

The food here is reasonably good - I had one average meal (lunch upon arrival) here but the rest of it was pretty good. We even had a Jungle Breakfast where they had an outdoor deck to serve the guests breakfast. It was certainly an experience to have breakfast out in the wild like at with nature all around you. The package tour I was on also arranged lunch at the nearby Abai Village and it was absolutely delicious.

This is a very memorable hotel - it has many highlights. Orangutans around the hotel, the nature boardwalk where guests can take off independently and view wildlife on their own, the Jungle Breakfasts, the decent food, and the warm and friendly staff. They provide welcome drinks, and warm towels upon arrival and also coffee and tea on a 24/hour basis.

While the river safaris at Abai are not the best, it is certainly worth it to stay at least 1 night just to enjoy the hotel, the lunch at Abai Village and the tree planting activity

I have some pictures from my trip and the lodge here: http://funtimesonearth.blogspot.com/2012/04/sandakan-3d2n-abai-and-sukau.html

  • Stayed April 2012, traveled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
4 Thank Lavy81
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Abai Jungle Lodge

Property: Abai Jungle Lodge
Address: 47 km from the river mouth of Kinabatangan River | Abai, Malaysia
Location: Malaysia > Sabah > Kinabatangan District
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Restaurant
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 10 Specialty Lodging in Kinabatangan District
Number of rooms: 30
Also Known As:
Abai Jungle Hotel Sabah
Abai Jungle Lodge Kinabatangan District, Sabah, Malaysia

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