Lodge Review – Sukau Rainforest Lodge

The lodge was ranked as one of the top 50 eco lodges by National Geographic Adventure magazine.  Based on this we booked 3 nights and 4 days here and had pretty high expectations of the lodge.

This was the first first lodge we stayed at when we arrived to Borneo and it didn’t start off very good.  The driver that picked us up from the airport didn’t speak much english at all.  It was my understanding we would have a driver and guide and that the guide would speak english.  It turns out that every other group we meet at the lodge had a guide except for us.  Not sure why or how this happened but the staff didn’t seemed surprised that we didn’t have a guide even though everyone else did.  To be honest, it didn’t really matter.  There wasn’t much for a guide to add any value.  The boat drivers did most of the work.

The accommodation was very, very basic.  A very small room with two single beds.  The lobby was pretty dated but had a nice local feel to it.  Half of the lodge was under renovation so it was a little noisy during out stay but we were warned of this before we booked.

The food was the same for almost every meal.  Nothing bad but nothing memorable.

The staff was friendly but didn’t seem to go out of their way to make the experience memorable.

The key draw for the lodge are the boat cruises on the river to spot wildlife.  This is one of the only places in the world to spot Proboscis monkeys.  Funny little creatures with long noses.  We had many sightings and this, even with the negatives about the lodge, is reason enough to stay in the area.  We even saw elephants which we are told are very rare.  They only come around every 3-4 months.  We  saw them crossing the river while following them in our boat which was a unique experience.

On the last day we were lucky enough to see an orang utan and her baby in a tree pretty close to the river.  There are a number of orang utans in the area but they are increasingly more difficult to spot due to the encroachment of the palm oil plantations.

What is sold on their website and confirmed over the phone and in an e-mail is that there was a morning and an afternoon cruise with options for hiking during the day and many other activities.  In actuality, you do a morning cruise from 6-8 am and an afternoon cruise from 4-6pm.  From 8am to 4pm there is absolutely nothing to do.  There is a short walk on a elevated boardwalk in the back of the lodge but that only takes 30 minutes.  Other than that all you can do is read, sleep, eat, relax which is not bad if that is what you signed up for. We did not.  We wanted an active vacation.

The other thing to note about the lodge is it’s claim to fame on being very “eco friendly”.  Eco lodges are a strange thing.  A lodge can do a few eco friendly things, provide less services, less amenities, and charge a lot more all in the name of being eco friendly.  The funny thing is that people tend to leave happy.  I think there should be two ratings for eco lodges.  The “in your face” eco lodge (i.e. Sakua Rainforest Lodge) and the “behind the scenes” eco lodge.  I prefer to stay at an eco lodge that does it’s part for the environment but it does so behind the scenes and doesn’t impact the guest experience.

Would I stay here again?  NO.  I’ve seen the Proboscis monkeys and once is enough.
Would I recommend it to a friend?  YES to the Sukau area but NO to the lodge.  No matter where you book only stay for 2 nights.  It’s all you need.  Do some research to see if there is another lodge in the Sukau area that gets better reviews.

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6 Responses to “Lodge Review – Sukau Rainforest Lodge”

  1. Richard Cox says:

    A highly informative review indeed! As my wife are leaving for Borneo within a month, we would like to know when exactly did you stay there, as we also have bookings in BRL, in Tabin Wildlife Reserve and the Sukau area (not SRL though we have booked our tour with Borneo EcoTours which owns that lodge). Thanks for responding.
    Richard Cox – Belgium

  2. nathan says:

    We’d stayed here from Feb 6 – Feb 9. What other lodge did you book in Sukau? I’d be interested to hear about your experience at the other lodge after your return.

  3. Richard Cox says:

    Initially, we also had a booking for SRL but since the renovation works aren’t finished yet, Borneo EcoTours granted us an upgrade to Bukit Melapi Lodge (aka The Proboscis Lodge) (http://proboscislodge.com). It seems to be a nice place. I’ll be glad to tell you about our experience after we have returned – that is to say if we leave Europe in the first place (Europe is now largely a no-fly zone because of the ash cloud of the Iceland volcano eruption)…

  4. Jenny says:

    We’re traveling here in April of 2011 and are planning to stay at the SI Tours lodges (www.sitoursborneo.com) — preferably the Abai lodge (we’re still working out the details). We will be traveling all the way from Boston, and will probably only visit Borneo once in our lifetimes. Our primary objective is to view orangs in their natural habitat, and I’m so paranoid that we’ll travel all of this distance and spend all of this money — and not find any! So, I am currently planning on 4 nights at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge, as well as 4 nights on the Kinabatangan. Am I crazy?!?

  5. nathan says:

    We were very lucky because you can’t ever count on seeing wildlife. I think you stand stand a good chance with 4 nights at each of these places but nobody can guarantee a sighting. The guide we had at BRL said that some guests have stayed for 3-4 nights and haven’t seen any orangutans. It’s rare but does happen.

    I would book a visit to one of the orangutan sanctuaries (Sepilok/Rasa Ria) just in case. They aren’t behind bars like in a zoo so it gives you the feeling like seeing them in the wild (the main difference is you are surrounding by lots of other tourists). It’s really the only way to guarantee a sighting. Good luck and I really hope you get to see them in the wild… it’s an experience you’ll never forget.

  6. John says:

    Just to update you on Sukau Rainforest Lodge, eventually they have completed major part of their new rooms reconstruction. Latest photos has been uploaded to TripAdvisor and on their official website at www-sukau-com.

    The latest news is about their winning on the World Travel Awards under the category of Asia’s Leading Green Hotel. Perhaps those who had experienced staying in their new renovated rooms can share their feedback and comment on it?

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