Borneo RFI – Kinabatangan River

Hi all

I’m visiting Sabah later in the year and wondered if anyone had been successful in looking for Flat-headed Cat in the last two or three years along the lower Kinabatangan (the most recent sighting on trip reports on here is in 2014). My understanding is that they have been less reliable recently, so any recent info would be appreciated.

Similarly, any recommendations for lodges in the area which have been happy to run nocturnal boat trips every night? I stayed at Kinabatangan Jungle Camp in 2005 who were pretty good; Greenview have also been mentioned as good in this respect as well.

Any advice would be very gratefully received!

cheers, Mike


  • Antee

    Stay away from Kinabatangan Jungle camp.
    Useless guides who didn´t knew the difference between civets and cats… (Civet cat must be a feline right? :))
    They refused to take me out on morning and evening boat trips although I paid extra money in search for Flat headed cat in night time.

    They didn´t knew where to look at all. A really bizarre experience.

    No need to say but… no, we didn´t find any Flat headed cat. 🙂

    I did asked them when was the last time they saw one and they couldn´t answer. I got the feeling no one had seen any “cats” at all of the guides at this lodge. At least last year.

    Greenview is alot better and overall cosy lodge. I only stayed here for regular boat trip though. Not in search for Cats.

    This year, I will have a look in Way Kambas instead.

    • mikehoit

      Thanks for the warning! That really doesn’t sound good – presumably you arranged to look for cats in advance as well? shame, as they were very good when I went and made efforts to find all of our target birds (wish I’d been more mammal focussed back then…)
      I’ll see what Greenview can do for me.
      Good luck in Way Kambas!

      • Antee

        Yes, I arranged it in advance and paid extra money for it.
        But still they didn´t give me a proper guide and wasn´t prepared for it at all.
        Simply because I don´t think they have a proper guide for it anymore. They don´t have the knowledge.

        It would have been more honest to tell me this on arrival or in mail conversation rather than pretend to look for Flat headed cats whith a guide who don´t know what a Civet is…

        People also use Osman homestay for this Flat headed cat search. Alternative borneo (the ones who run trips to Deramakot) use them.
        But as far as I know the sightings have been very poorly.

        • mikehoit

          That sounds fairly disastrous, very poor on behalf of the Lodge. In 2005 Robert Chong came out with us and couldn’t have been better really, disappointing that it seems to have gone downhill so much.

  • Shaun

    If you’re looking to save some money, you could also consider Uncle Tan’s Camp. I did a two night package with them for around £90, which covered meals, accommodation and two boat trips and walks through the jungle, two in the day and two at night. Not sure what your chances for FHC would be in their “territory” (every lodge seems to have their own piece of jungle) so I would contact them. Also, night boat trips every night is not the norm there but I’m sure arrangements can be made- they are “the customer is never wrong” types.

    • mikehoit

      Hi Shaun
      Thanks very much for that, I’ll definitely ask them. Given that I’ll have my partner with me for this part of the trip we might have to go slightly more luxurious (she’s happy enough to be out spotlighting all night, but there’s going to have to be a trade-off!).

  • markspen

    It’s a little bit away from those lodges but I saw one about a month ago not far from the Balat forestry field station on the Kinabatangan in Deramakot. The forestry guys said there was a good river not far away where they seemed pretty confident we could see them with the river at the right level. We didn’t see them on that river on the night we tried, and after that the river ended up being too low, which was slightly bemusing, but there was a FHC by the small river very close to the field station.

    We weren’t out much on the river at night so I can’t really say how reliable it is though.

    Good luck!

  • BrugiereDominique

    No report of this cat during last years along the Kinabatangan. I tried last year at Sukau Greenview without success. In a few days I will try again, but I have seen one a few days ago at Deramakot just 8m of my feet.

  • Richard Webb

    Mike, just to give a different perspective I don’t agree with Antee about giving KJC a wide berth. I went there in 2017 and 2018 and had excellent guides both times, Romzey is excellent. We didn’t see Flat-headed Cats but as others have found recently the water levels were simply too high. The guides couldn’t have worked harder putting in long hours and knew the rivers well including areas where I have seen the cat in the past. There are probably guides with less experience and knowledge but what people need to remember is many guides at lodges along the river are generalists catering to general wildlife enthusiasts not hardcore mammal guides. There are very few mammal specialists in my experience. There clearly have been some issues at KJC since Robert Chong stopped handling the bookings himself but if you do decide to go there I would specifically request Romzey as a guide.

    • mikehoit

      Hi Richard. Funnily enough I’m in contact with Romzey after he was recommended to me by birders. It seems he was getting disillusioned with KJC and is now running private tours included a homestay – I’m not sure if he’s also working for the camp as well though. I’ll be sure to report back!

  • mikehoit

    Hi Richard. Thanks very much for the comments on this, very helpful. I’m attempting to make my visit coincide with an evening low tide to see if that’s any better with the water levels.
    Funnily enough I’m in contact with Romzey alresdy after he was recommended to me by birders. It seems he was getting disillusioned with KJC and is now running private tours included a homestay – I’m not sure if he’s also working for the camp as well though. I’ll be sure to report back! Cheers

  • Richard Webb

    That’s interesting Mike. I look forward to hearing how you get on.


  • Alan D

    Hi Mike. We just got back from 3 weeks in Borneo including 3 nights on the river. There, we stayed at Sukau Rainforest Lodge and had nightly boat trips looking for mammals. The first night we really didn’t specify what we wanted to see so the boatman showed us too many roosting birds and crocodiles. The 2nd night we specified “no birds”…mammals only and cats especially. So, the boatman took us down a small tributary just downriver from the lodge which seems like great cat habitat. But, even though the water levels were lower than last year we had no luck with flat headed cat and the only mammals we saw were Mouse Deer and Civets (in a fruiting tree). The 3rd night was no better but the boatman seemed to spot something that might have been a cat but it disappeared too quickly off the shoreline for us to see. SRF is quite upscale and the boatmen don’t really seem like mammal specialists at all. The obviously cater to the general cell phone shooting tourist. But, we had no problem booking private night cruises all 3 nights (booked via AA Borneo) and their boats have electric motors and are comfortable. So, with the right guide it’s possible this could be a good base with enough luxury to please spouses to compensate for long mammal watching cruises :). We did see multiple daytime Colugos, Orangutan, and Silver Leaf Monkeys on the SRF property during the day.

    Last year we stayed at KJC and our biggest gripe with them is that they fed the wildlife and even hand fed civets at dinner. I voiced my displeasure at this and was pretty much ignored by the guides that did it. So, that is why we choose a different lodge this year. We had no night cruises last year at KJC due to rain unfortunately.


  • geomalia

    Here’s a bird-focused report from April 2018 with a sighting of Flat-headed Cat at Kinabatangan (see the beautiful photo on page 56):

    • mikehoit

      That’s great, thanks very much for passing that on. Quite the mouth-watering photo… and with the same guide that I’ve arranged my visit to Kinabatangan with. Not sure I needed my excitement levels raising any further – 26 days till I get to Borneo!


  • michael gordon

    has anyone tried skipping dinner, then take a boat as far into the menangol tributary as far as you can go in tge late evening. Just as it gets dark slowly cruise back to main river. With all the lodges at sukau finishing dinner and heading onto the river at the same time, it might work to totally change tactics and work from the far end.

    Obviously big lodges will whinge, but osman and romzey should be up for it.

    • mikehoit

      Great idea, I’ll give it a go. Hopefully Romzey will be up for it… Just need to convince the other half that a romantic picnic dinner in a small boat is the done thing.

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