The largest freshwater swamp or floodplain in Malaysia is located along the Kinabatangan river. The Lower Kinabatangan, especially the stretch between the Batu Putih village down to the tiny settlement of Kampung Abai not far from the river mouth, is one of the richest wildlife areas in Southeast Asia—also a brilliant bird watching area.
Among the many striking birds seen along the river are the hornbills, Rhinoceros Hornbill, Helmeted Hornbill, Wrinkled Hornbill, the rare Storm’s Stork and the endangered Oriental Darter which has already disappeared from the freshwater swamps of Peninsular Malaysia.
Raptors are also frequently seen, especially near the oil palm plantations. These include the Crested Serpent Eagle, Lesser Fish Eagle, Jerdon’s Baza, the Buffy Fish Owl (normally seen at nighttimes), the soaring Brahminy Kite, and the little White-fronted Falconet.
Other remarkably beautiful species of birds that can be spotted here are the slender white Great Egret, kingfishers, the Bornean Ground Cuckoos, the endemic Bornean Bristlehead, vivid Black-and-red and Black-and-yellow Broadbills and the Paradise flycatcher.
The best known limestone outcrop in the Lower Kinabatangan, in contains around nine caves and is the most important area for edible bird’s nest in all of Sabah. Inside the cathedral-like cave is home to the Edible-nest, Black-nest, Mossy-nest and Glossy swiflets on their differing nests.
For centuries, the Chinese have held onto the belief that these nests have medicinal properties. The harvesting of the birds’ nests is strictly controlled by Sabah’s Wildlife Department to ensure sustainability. Here, dark local race Peregrine falcons are usually seen catching bats too.