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Kinabatangan Caves – Elephant Trail Hike to Sukau Caves

Kinabatangan Caves – Elephant Trail Hike to Sukau Caves

A guide to visiting the hiddem gem of Kinabatangan Caves from Sukau.

If you’re planning your Kinabatangan River trip or looking for the Sukau Caves, then I bet that you’re already thinking about the Gomantong Caves. However, did you know that there is another epic Kinabatangan Caves system right near the river village of Sukau?

Located walking distance from the popular Kinabatangan River cruise village of Sukau, the cave trail leads through dense rainforest along a path carved out by elephants. This means as I found out, that you have to be particularly careful to avoid any territorial wildlife that calls the Sukau jungle home.

Featured in: The Ultimate 7 Day Sabah Itinerary

Limetsone cave near sukau kinabatangan
Olly gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, traveler, travel blogger & photographer for 5+ years with 600+ published travel guides. I visit every place I write about & share real tips from what I learn.

Top Sabah Travel Experiences

Sunrise over kota kinabalu, sabah

1. 2D1N Mount Kinabalu Climb

Climb Borneo's highest peak and most renowned World Heritage site (top tour company with hundreds of 5-star reviews).

Proboscis monkey, kinabatangan river

2. Kinabatangan River Cruise Must-Do

This 2D1N Sandakan tour from KK offers an incredible opportunity to spot orangutans in their natural habitat.

Bohey dulang on a tun sakaran marine park island hopping

3. Tun Sakaran Marine Park

An incredible island-hopping trip to top destinations around Semporna including Bohey Dulang viewpoint!

Sukau on the Kinabatangan River

For those looking to spend a little bit of time exploring the Kinabatangan River and to make the most of the incredible wildlife river cruises from here, then chances are you'll be staying in Sukau.

The village itself is quite small and positioned along the banks of the river itself. There are no ATMs or supermarkets here, so you'll need to prepare. To help you, I've written this guide on how to get to Kinabatangan, including advice on where to stay and tips for booking a wildlife river cruise.

Other Kinabatangan Cave and River Cruise Option

If you'd prefer to visit the larger Gomantong Caves, then you can book a cave and river cruise tour online. I didn't do this option since I decided to stay in Sukau over a few days. However, if you'd prefer a hotel pickup and a guided tour from Sandakan, then you can book this trip instead.

Kinabatangan river drone

How to Find the Sukau Caves

Of course, you can organize a driver or guide from Sukau to go to Gomantong Caves. Unfortunately, I didn't have a day to spare. So instead, I set out to explore the elephant trail leading to the Sukau Caves, as directed by my lodge owner.

You'll find the start of the trail at the very end of the road in Sukau, heading downstream. The area's official name is Tomanggong Limestone Area, and you'll find the start of the trail pinned under that name on Google Maps.

The best advice is just to follow the road downstream all the way past the lodges and small restaurants.

Once you reach a house that looks like it's the end of the road, just walk under the small makeshift bridge. Then, continue through the patch of palms and eventually cross a wooden plank leading into the jungle.

Tomanggong limestone area hiking sukau

Elephant Trail Hike From Sukau - Tomanggong Limestone Area

Hike Distance: 8 km return;
Total Length: 2-3 hours;
Hike Difficulty: Easy, but can be very wet and swampy.

As I mentioned previously, the trail has been carved out by local Pygmy elephants who roam the jungle area near the Kinabatangan Caves and river. As a result, the trail winds around and cuts back on itself several times, forcing you to cross deep sections of mud.

Overall, the trail is fairly flat, and you'll find small red and pink ribbons tied onto the trees which lead the way to the Sukau Caves. My advice is to keep an eye out for the tags and ribbons because it's pretty easy to get lost.

As you approach the cave, you'll need to follow the trail up the hill a little, revealing a huge cavern opening.

Tomanggong limestone area, sukau caves hike

Kinabatangan Wildlife

However, you will definitely need to be careful. Growing up in Australia, I tend to forget about wildlife hazards other than those of the venomous variety. Consequently, the outcome of the hike could have been much worse if I had unknowingly and innocently wandered into a pack of angry boars or a territorial bull elephant.

Truth is, we did run into a pack of boars and were chased by them. Read the bottom section for the story.

What to Expect at the Kinabatangan Caves

The hike itself is very beautiful, passing through the dense and damp jungle interior that you might expect of Borneo.

The Sukau cave itself has two main caverns. By the looks of it, it also descends deeper underground. There are bats everywhere in the main cavern, so you'll need to be prepared for that if you're a bit squeamish.

Sukau caves, tomanggong limestone area, kinabatangan caves
Kinabatangan caves bat cave

We Were Chased By Wild Boars

Yep. These things were monsters. If you haven't seen a Bornean wild boar before, I'll ask you to google an image of it. The thing is fierce and super scary looking when it's staring you down, grunting through the bushes in the thick of a swampy jungle.

Although we found the caves, we were forced to run away from an angry and territorial boar on the way back. Luckily, we both lived to tell the hilarious but in hindsight, a lucky tale of our great Sukau Caves boar escape.

Where to Stay in Sukau (Kinabatangan River)

While it's possible to stay in Sandakan and take tours into the Kinabatangan, staying on the Kinabatangan River is in my opinion, a must-do on any Sabah itinerary!

This region is one of the last remaining sanctuaries for wild orangutans, Bornean pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys, to name a few. Here are some great accommodation picks.

Room at borneo natural sukau bilit resort

1. Borneo Natural Sukau Bilit Resort

An amazing eco-jungle resort surrounded by lush greenery. Spot monkeys swinging from the vines from your own balcony overlooking the river.

Kinabatangan wildlife lodge

2. Kinabatangan Wildlife Lodge Mid-Range

Affordable but comfortable lodges on the doorstep of the Kinabatangan.

Outdoor garden view at sukau backpackers b&b

3. Sukau Backpackers B&B Budget

Cheap rooms right on the edge of the Kinabatangan River. The real-deal raw jungle experience and run by guys who organize cheap river cruises.

More Photographs of the Sukau Caves and Trail

Here are some more photos that we took along the trail to the Sukau Caves (Kinabatangan Caves).

If you decide to take the hike, let me know by posting a quick comment below.

Sukau caves cavern entrance
Sukau caves

More Sabah Travel & Adventure Guides

I hope the hidden gem of Sukau's awesome cave has convinced you to get out and explore the wild region of the Kinabatangan River. For more travel guides and adventure ideas, check out the list below.

Kinabatangan caves - elephant trail hike to sukau caves
Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure travel blogger & photographer. Traveling non-stop since 2018, I've published over 600 travel guides on We Seek Travel. These draw on my personal experience to share unique itineraries, accommodation tips, & fun adventure guides covering hikes, viewpoints, beaches, waterfalls, & tours. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.

Your feedback & updates are crucial to keep my guides factual & current. Got new info or updates? Drop a comment below or contact me directly.

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