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Kiulu River White Water Rafting in Sabah

White Water Rafting Kiulu River

Kiulu River White Water Rafting is located at Kampung Pukak Kiulu in the Tamparuli district. It is about one and a half hours drive from Kota Kinabalu in Sabah or old Borneo.

Famous for white water rafting, the Kiulu river offers thrill-seekers from class 1 to class 2 (grade 1 to grade 2) water rapids.

This, too, depends on the rainy season as when we went on that day, there was one or two class 3 rapids because it had rained heavily in the last few days.

The good thing at Kiulu River Water Rafting is that ages 5 years old are accepted right up to 60 years, which is wonderful for adventurous families.

Kiulu River White Water Rafting

Class one and two rapids are common here.
Kiulu River Water Rafting was my first round of actual white water rafting in Sabah. The gang and I were there for the entire day with Alex, the owner of one of the water rafting companies, which run trips for both Kiulu River Water Rafting and Padas River Water Rafting in Sabah, Borneo.

The Kiulu River is actually the longest water rafting river in Borneo, with over 15 km. Be sure to see my posting on Padas Water Rafting with Class 3 and 4 rapids.

Kiulu River DavidMe having a moment with the sun

Photos of Kiulu River RaftingGearing up for the raft

After the scenic journey there, we stopped at a private location as we specially booked this trip. The rafting vans brought the water rafts to our start point, and they started to fill them with air. Manually mind you.

While waiting to gear up, we looked around the Kiulu river, checked the rapids and the water. I must say, the water was freezing cold at 10 in the morning.

Rafting Team Kiulu RiverThe water rafting team with me, 4th from the right

All geared up and ready to take on the rapids at Kiulu River. A quick detailed briefing was done by Alex, and we were told to listen very carefully as it will save our lives in the event anything goes wrong. So full attention was paid.

We are taught how to sit in the raft with one leg secured under part of the raft. How to hold the raft oar and, most important, what to do in the event the raft overturns.

How exciting, I thought. Then one of the boys brought out some suntan lotion, and we had some fun with it.

White Water Rafting Kiulu RiverIntense rafting for exciting rapids

Off we went, carrying the raft about 100 meters into the cold, freezing water of the Kiulu River. We had to carry it until it was deep enough to sit in it and start paddling. But wait, there is more.

Kiulu River Photo RaftingCaptain at the back steering the raft with his oar.

Before we start that journey, each raft has a captain who steers the raft, and these are employees of the company.

The captains are the ones who will guide you through your rafting journey, and by using his raft oar, he will steer the raft past the huge boulders and dangerous part of the Kiulu River.

These are experienced water rafters who have worked there for years, and they know the rivers inside out.

Kiulu River Rafting7 men white water rafting

The white water rafting captain will also shout commands to the rafters. Basic commands will be 'Forward Peddle', 'Backward Paddle' or 'Stop Paddling'.

This is to build momentum to each of the rapids we head for, and on reaching 20 to 30 meters of the rapid, he will shout for everyone to stop paddle.

Rapids at Kiulu RiverManoeuvring the rapids

We then glide with the rapid flow and go through the rapids in a bumpy ride, depending on the rapid class.

With this, you will be using a lot of arm strength, and everyone counts for the full effect.

Kiulu River Water Rafting5 man water rafting

So, after a round of white water rafting, we headed back to the checkpoint to gear up for the second round. 

Yes, we went a total of 3 rounds there. Some of us wanted to experience rafting in a large group and a small group.

Water Rafting Kiulu RiverWater rafting at its best

The next river rafting session was a 5-man-raft which was more challenging than the 7-man rafting. The raft needed more control, and the rapids felt much better on impact.

At times, the raft almost overturned, but he knew how to counter the overturn thanks to the experienced captain. Adrenaline was rushing through all our bodies on this trip.

Photo of Kiulu River RaftingThree men white water rafting

And eventually, we tried the 3-man-raft. Which I must say is the most challenging attempt. Alex mentioned that very few people get to try this.

On this round, Alex himself was the captain. Being the most experienced in the line, he himself said that it has been a long while since he rafted.

And boy, was he good! For this 3-man-raft, I took a break as my arms felt like jelly from the first 2 rounds of rafting down the Kiulu River. So, photography time instead.

I stood on a bridge over the Kiulu River and waited for Alex and the team to come by in their water raft.

You should have seen their faces, tired from the intense paddling and excitement of the rapids.

Kiulu river - Alex has a laugh about David flat out exhausted

At the end of the last rafting trip, one of my team members David, was totally exhausted and flat out!

Alex was laughing away, saying how city people are so weak. I somehow tend to agree with him on this.

A local Sabahan crossing the man-made bridge over the Kiulu River.

By the time we called it a day, all of us were exhausted and just took some time to admire the beautiful Sabah sunset over the Kiulu river in Borneo.

The gang chilling out with some beers admiring the Borneo sunset

Mark brought the beers from the icebox and threw them one by one to the 6 of us lying in the shallow waters of the Kiulu River.

Feeling the waters run through you and having a cold Tiger beer was the best thing to call it a day.

Again, this was my first proper rafting trip, and it was an amazing experience for me. After this, we went to do some Padas River White Water Rafting in the next few days.

Kiulu White Water Rafting Tips:

1. Please bring along spare clothes (including undies) and a towel
2. If you have a waterproof camera, strap it around your neck or wrist
3. There are no shops in the area so bring some snacks if you must
4. Sun Tan lotion!
5. Diving booties are perfect for this
6. Those wearing glasses, bring your safety rubber for the glasses


The price for White Water Rafting at Kiulu River is estimated at about RM200.00 per head for a full-day tour. This tour departs from Kota Kinabalu, and you will be back in time for dinner.

It is also best to inquire with the local tour operators in Kota Kinabalu city, Sabah, as many agents are selling this package.


Anonymous said...

AWESOME! crap. I wanna go.

around 200 for all 3 types of rafting?

CHEDU said...

what a wonderful experience that was. But u skipped i great part. The raft did OVERTURNED!!! and it was on purposed!!!! i tried to safe the raft from overturning but nope... dint work. and we went KABUSH!!! the best part off all this was seeing Sunny boy's face when he emerged from under the water, it was PRICELESS!!! memories it was....

Malaysia Asia said...

wayeyoung, thank you for the visit and the price is rm200 for just one round of rafting. I took a special package which cost much more than that.

Chedu - lol.. yes it did but no one took pics of that sudden moment. I remember clearly how we all struggled to get to the water surface. hahaha.

jocelyncoco said...

too bad i dunno how to swim ..if not i sure go !!=(

EVo said...

This is great stuff man...! didja take all these with an slr? smangat wei bring to water also! thanks for sharing bro! =)

Malaysia Asia said...

Hello Coco, thanks for the visit - Swimming easy to learn :)

Evo, haha yes and no. We had SLR and compact on this trip so all mixed up :) yeah, I love to bring my cam everywhere. Even crossing the river, I can hold the cam in the air and walk lol.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing such a nice article. Nice photo. White water rafting is a thrilling experience.For the best experience try the 40-mile long stretch of Futaleufu River in Chile. The Mckenzie River in Oregon or the Tongariro River is very famous for river rafting. You will never forget the beautiful experience rafting in magnificent rivers of Colorado like Arkansas, Dolores and Colorado.The Coruh River in Turkey is one of the top rated destinations. Don't forget to experience rafting in Victoria Nile River, Yangste River,Snake river, Salmon River,Savegre, Sarapiqui,Reventazon and Pacuare rivers. For more detail refer Cruise Destination

Jazmin said...

hi David,
thanks for sharing this thrilling experience :). Am going to KK in dec and thought of going for the water rafting too, but i'm a non-swimmer; do u think they will allow it? is it safe enough for a non-swimmer. i intend to go for the begineer's at kiulu river.

Malaysia Asia said...

Hello Jazmin, thank you for dropping by. Actually you need not know how to swim as they are very professional and you are always with a life jacket. The important thing is to listen when they give you a briefing.

Have a great rafting trip!


Ps. I am headed for another rafting trip middle of Nov in Perak.

Yzura Han_Ney said...

Great... Last year (Dec 2012) was the first time i experience a train ride from beaufort to Tenom and got through the Padas River. feel very excited and anxious to try water rafting when i saw the river water rapids and many rafter inside the train.. it was so cool...this year i plan to try water rafting at Kiulu first(as a beginner) before at Padas River...

Yzura Han_Ney said...

Last year (Dec 2012) was the first time my experience a train ride from beaufort to Tenom and through the Padas River.I feel very excited and anxious to try water rafting after i saw the padas rapids water and the rafter inside the train.. it is so cool i think and why not i try it...This year i plan to try water rafting at kiulu(as a beginner) before go trough the padas river... i really feel so exited for the next trip....