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“Awesome wildlife at a Lodge with intense character”

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Bilit Adventure Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Level 5 Contributor
24 reviews
14 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 107 helpful votes
“Awesome wildlife at a Lodge with intense character”
Reviewed June 5, 2011

What the Bilit Adventure Lodge lacks in luxury, it more than makes up for with its character. The main draw in the Kinabatangen River Valley is the wildlife and believe me, you will not be disappointed. But with all the lodging options available, why not choose one that makes you feel at home? The staff at the Bilit Adventure Lodge made the trip more than just another entry in the travel journal; they treated us like one of the gang and viewing the wildlife with friend,s rather than a tour guide, greatly enhanced our Sabah experience.

The lodge is owned by the SWA (Sepilok Tropical Wildlife Adventure), a licensed tour operator that also owns a much more touristy lodge right near the Sepilok Orangutan Rehab Center. But if you've ventured all the way to Sabah, choosing an overnight package on the river is a far more enjoyable experience than a roadside hotel in a crowded area. You can book packages directly from the company or from virtually any third party tour operator in Sabah. A 2 night/3 day package is a perfect opportunity to experience all the area has to offer and make sure you choose a private guide; it will make a world of difference if one of the monkeys steals your heart and you just can't leave; we think group tours are far more impersonal. (We are biased but we think you should request the services "Loy Jungleman" , our guide, who we are proud to call a new friend on the other side of the world)

Our stay was part of a 6 night package that started at Borneo Rainforest Lodge and continued on from Lahad Datu. Loy and his driver picked us up right on time and we drove past rather ordinary scenery, passing numerous palm plantations for about 2 hours. You arrive in the small village of Bilit and hop on a quick boat ride across the river. The lodge itself is set among a lush rainforest setting and consists of a collection of buildings with 4 units each. The rooms are not luxurious by any means but the air conditioner was unbelievably fantastic after 3 heat filled nights in Danum Valley; that alone makes it worthwhile. The rooms are small but adequate enough with a small shower, a double bed with average mattress and pillows and an extra smaller bed. There's no need to do anything but sleep in the room anyway.

The animals are active at dawn and late afternoon so the river cruises are conducted at 6 AM and 4 PM to allow maximum viewing. The river and its environs are filled with a cornucopia of wildlife including more macaques than you can count and so many different birds that even an avid bird watcher would be impressed. We were very lucky to see a large male orangutan hovering in a nest which is unusual. The monkeys will often walk all the way down to the river and stare at you from two feet away while they search for food. Too much fun to describe ! There are also crocodiles; they are fun because you can go right up to them and almost touch them before they scamper away. The sad reality of why the viewing is so optimal is due to the limited space that's been imposed on the native wildlife due to the clearing of forest for palm plantations. There are pygmy elephants in the area but they were not around when we were there.

Our morning cruise was shrouded in a mystical fog that lifted just in time to see lots of birds including numerous hornbills, egrets, pittas and gorgeously colored kingfishers that glide along the river searching for fish. Monkeys seem to be more active in the afternoon. Our evening cruises were spectacular; Loy, our expert guide, was able to spot and explain a lot of the wildlife to us; we shared much of our California wildlife with him also, much to his surprise. The cruises will last until darkness and the drivers will always search for the best areas for viewing.

After the morning cruise, they took us to Gomantong Caves which are world famous for the swiftlets, whose nests are harvested annually by daring (crazy) people that scale the cliffs to collect the ingredients of one of the most expensive delicacies in Asian cuisine. The cave is dark and filled with mounds of never ending bat poo and millions of cockroaches. You can walk around in a circle inside the cave but do not touch anything and ensure you wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. Personally, we were not impressed with the caves as we find indoor caves with stalagtytes more impressive. The tour usually calls for a return trip in the afternoon to see the bats but we opted to hang out on the deckside and drink beer instead.

There are also night walks available but we didn't take them because leech socks are required (we had enough of that at Borneo Rainforest Lodge and our socks were filthy and wet). If you haven't taken one yet, we highly recommend them; look for slow lorises (we did not see any in Danum but wish we did)

The meals are served on the main lodge area which overlooks the river. Because it's an ecolodge, they keep the lighting and power to a minimum. Although considered basic by most others who posted, we found the lunch and dinner to be quite tasty, consisting of chicken in a Malaysian style fricassee sauce, whole prawns, beef, delicious fresh vegetables, fruit, and best of all, "chips" (they love French fries and because everything is cooked in palm oil, they taste better than McDonald's fries). Breakfast was a few fried eggs and some sausage made without pork (no pork can be found in Malaysia due to the Muslim population), toast and potatoes. Adequate but not awesome. And bring your own coffee if you need your fix; i

There's not much to do at the lodge in between cruises which is where the character part I mentioned comes part in. When not entertaining guests, Loy and his buddies mostly hang out on the deck playing the guitar. How they know so many American pop songs from the old days is beyond me. But unlike other resorts where the staff is the staff, here you can chat it up with your guide and the whole staff. If you are the kind of traveler that enjoys getting to know other people and their attitudes, culture and lifestyle, this place is for you. Our guide Loy obviously has a passion for the area and was genuinely interested in learning about us as much as were about Malaysia. Steven, one of the teenage staff, joked with us the whole time and the personality and warmth of the staff left us feeling sorry to go. Loy even offered to let us tap onto his IPhone's WiFi connection. In exchange, I offered him a Starbucks Via instant coffee which he had never tasted (They consider Nescafe is instant a luxury)

There are many choices in the area including cheesy looking lodges with "Koom-bi-ya" like group activities. Skip all that and treat yourself to the best wildlife viewing available in Sabah coupled with a small lodge run by a great bunch of people that try hard to please you. Highly recommended.

Room Tip: all rooms are the pretty much the same
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  • Stayed May 2011, traveled as a couple
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2 Thank rodi2008
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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St. Albans, United Kingdom
Level 2 Contributor
6 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
Reviewed March 18, 2011

We stayed for 3 days/2 nights at Bilit Adventure Lodge and had a fantastic time. We booked through Downbelow, but I understand it is actually run by Sepilok Tropical Wildlife Adventures.

The local staff were friendly and informative, and went out of their way to help us. We went on 3 boat rides along the Kinabatangan River, and were lucky enough to see elephants, crocodile, monkeys (including probiscus), and many birds. Our guide, Robert, was brilliant and was obviously very passionate about the area and its wildlife, and could spot animals from miles away! We also went on a jungle trek during the day, and 2 night walks, when we were lucky enough to see the western tarsier and banded civet. The lodge is run on an ecotourism concept, and therefore aims to reduce water consumption, light and noise around the area where possible, perhaps why we were lucky enough to see so much wildlife at night, given that many of the lodges further up the river had many lights on at night.

The lodges were on stilts and were accessed via a walkway. They were clean and spacious with air conditioning and hot showers. Food was good, with cooked breakfast available, and local food for lunch and dinner, and the restaurant overlooked the river.

We were picked up from the airport and dropped of as necessary and overall I could not fault the trip! Our stay at Bilit Adventure Lodge was one of the highlights of our trip to Sabah and I would love to return one day.

  • Stayed March 2011, traveled as a couple
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1 Thank alic0t
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reigate, United Kingdom
Level 2 Contributor
8 reviews
7 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
Reviewed February 26, 2011

Really friendly staff/family run company. The tour is well organised and we saw lots of wild life! The food was amazing. We couldn't have asked for a nicer room either! Mad our driver was fantastic!!

  • Stayed February 2011, traveled as a couple
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Thank themercertron
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level 6 Contributor
98 reviews
87 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 182 helpful votes
Reviewed July 10, 2010

There's a slew of resorts around Kinabatangan which have similar names, and so it's easy to get confused. We stayed at the Bilit Adventure Lodge as part of a package of days I organised with STWA (Sepilok Tropical Wildlife Adventures). They manage the Bilit Adventure Lodge and the accomodation next to the Orang Utan Sanctuary in Sepilok.

All the booking and organisation was handled by the wonderful Connie at STWA who was patient, attentive, helpful and very fast in getting back to me. She made sure that we made the best use of our time and I can't commend her enough.

STWA provided our guide who met us at Lahad Datu and stayed with us through Kinabatangan, Sepilok. Turtle Island and finally to the airport for our flight to KK. While some guides can be more nuisance than help, ours was excellent: a good wild-life spotter with a keen eye and ear for birds, but also seemed to know everyone everywhere which was very useful.

The drive to Kinabatangan was dull, passes through so much oil plantation. We got to the little jetty at Kampung Billit and it's a short run up the river to Billit Adventure Lodge.

Lets be honest, the Lodge is not going to win prizes for its buildings. But the beeding was clea, the showers work, the aircon was fine and the walkways between cabins and the dining area were sturdy. There's nothing wrong here but don't expect luxury.

The Lodge is run by Nelson, and his army of staff, family and associates. He is an affable man but his approach to customer service is much more how you would expect to deal with friends rather than guests - don't expect to be waited on hand and foot, ask for what you want and everyone will be happy. I felt very well looked after, and never wanted for things - just need to ask and it came.

Food was basic and a bit bland but it kept us going and I'd kind of got used to noodles with stuff by this stage.
The main draw with Kinabatangan is the river, and we went out for several trips - as a group and privately. The first evening river trip was OK - proboscis monkeys, macaques and lots of birdlife. Being on the river is great - the wildlife was good too.

Our second river trip was phenonemal and rates as one of the most memorable experiences of my life. We knew that a herd of pygmy elephants were in the area and our guide was fairly determined to find them. So we took a fast river boat up river quite a long way. We almost decided not to go because it was really raining hard - what a mistake that would have been. On route we saw a group of ten otters playing on the river bank; we saw five species of hornbill and many many eagles. Our guide kept pulling over to the side to look at damaged river banks, elephant dung, footprints.

We carried on up river and then suddenly and joyously our guide shouted "ELEPHANTS!" A herd of twenty or more - young ones and adults: some on the river, some on the shore. And for the next half hour we sat and watched elephants eat, elephants play and elephants clamber laboriously up a muddy bank. I've seen elephants elsewhere but seeing this herd of pygmy elephants this close, and so undisturbed by us was simply amazing.

We left them alone after half an hour and headed back down to Bilit. Our guide signalled to another boat about the herd and they went to see them - but by the time they got there the herd had vanished.

I came to Borneo mostly to see Orang Utans and elephants hadn't really featured in my "hope to see" list. So it was a suprise that my best wildlife moment was with them after al.

Other good wildlife spotting at Bilit came from our night hike which included Civets, Malay Badger, many sleeping birds and snakes. I went out twice, once on my own with the guide as no-one else was up for it.

The walk to the Oxbow lake was OK but not as good as the river trip. The other unmissable part of the stay was a trip out to Gomantong cave where Birds Nests are collected for soup. Not only was the cave itself a memorable experience but we also saw wild Orang Utans in the reserve where the cave is located. A bonus.

I really enjoyed Bilt. The wildlife was unsurpassed; the resort was friendly and I really liked all the staff, guides and helpers. It was unfussy and a bit scruffy but there was a genuine goodwill there and I felt really welcome there.

I would have loved to show the elephant pictures but sadly, the camera with these and many other pictures was stolen shortly after my return to the UK. But believe me, it was amazing,

  • Stayed June 2010, traveled as a couple
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4 Thank MollyZero
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed March 8, 2009

We spent 2 days and one night at Bilit Adventure lodge as part of a 5 day wildlife tour from Sepilok, and absolutely adored our time there.
The rooms were clean and had air con and were reached by stilted walkways. The main lodge where meals were served was open and over looked the Kinabantangan river. The atmosphere was one for friendly relaxation. Everyone working had the lodge were so helpful and nice. Food was great but other than water and beers there are no facilities to buy anything, so make sure you take anything else you might want with you.
The local wildlife is fantastic, (as are the insects) and we were lucky enough to do one of the night walks thru the forest. The guides were great in pointing out the various creepy crawlies and other animals.
We took our own walking boots and leech socks, but both were available to rent there for the walk if you were not prepared.
On our various trips from here, either by boat down the river or walking thru the forest, we were lucky enough to see Proboscis monkeys, macaques, hornbills, crocodiles, water monitors, pit vipers, and even a wild male orangutan.

If you like your luxuries this is not the place for you, however I went to Borneo wanting to experience the rainforest and for that, the Bilit Adventure Lodge was perfect. I'll definitely be making a trip back there someday!!

2 Thank tat2loo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Bilit Adventure Lodge

Property: Bilit Adventure Lodge
Address: Lot 3A Gr. Floor | Block 13, Jalan Tiga, Sandakan 90000, Malaysia
Location: Malaysia > Sabah > Sandakan Division > Sandakan
Hotel Style:
Ranked #10 of 28 Specialty Lodging in Sandakan
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$
Hotel Class:2.5 star — Bilit Adventure Lodge 2.5*
Number of rooms: 24
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Also Known As:
Bilit Adventure Hotel Sandakan
Bilit Adventure Lodge Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia

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