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Whitewater Rafting Adventure at Kiulu River in Sabah, Malaysia

Whitewater rafting in Kiulu River

Its been almost a week since I came back from Kota Kinabalu with fellow travel bloggers, Cebu Media and AirAsia officers for the inaugural flight of Cebu – Kota Kinabalu route.

Whitewater rafting in Kiulu River
Whitewater rafting in Kiulu River

When I first got the trip itinerary, I immediately get excited after seeing Whitewater rafting as part of our itinerary in Kota Kinabalu. Although I dont know how to swim, Im a huge fan of this water based adventure after experiencing it in Chico River in Kalinga and in Cagayan de Oro City. Whitewater rafting is all about conquering your fear and becoming a river warrior!

Ayn Latonio
Ayn Latonio’s “Me Time”

So you think theres nothing much to do in Kota Kinabalu? I really don’t think so! When the weather is warm and you’ve got a day to do something special in Sabah, Malaysia, nothing is better than getting out on the water. The Kiulu River is a beautiful, full river that flows through natural landscapes of the Sabah countryside.

Braving the rapids at the Kiulu River
Braving the rapids at the Kiulu River

On it’s banks you’ll see bamboo forests and a few small agricultural villages. And you can experience the river adventure in Kiulu with an experienced whitewater rafting guide who is used to novices (like me). You don’t have to have any previous whitewater rafting experience to enjoy the Whitewater Rafting Adventure at Kiulu River, Sabah, Malaysia. The water level is just class 2-3, and its really not that difficult for beginners.

Getting ready to conquer the mighty Kiulu River
Getting ready to conquer the mighty Kiulu River

The Trip

Our trip started at our Horizon Hotel in Kota Kinabalu. The van picked us up from the hotel and brought us upstream to the entry point. After waiting for an hour, the instructors gave a bit of information about rafting safely and gave us life vests, paddle as well as helmets. They also did a perfect job of explaining just what to do with our paddle.

Fish Feeding at the riverbanks
Fish Feeding at the riverbanks

To me, it seems like whitewater rafting is something you should learn before you get on a river like the Kiulu, but now I know differently. The secret is all in the guide. You’ll learn to follow a few simple instructions. Your job on the river is to either paddle or stop paddling, or perhaps put your paddle in the water without moving it. And the guide tells you exactly when to do what. It’s kind of magical to be paddling down the rapids, hearing what the guide says, and when you respond, the boat also responds just the way you want it to.

Tabing Ilog Cast
Tabing Ilog Cast (Mark, Cille, Melo and Mitch)

In the middle of our rafting trip, we passed by a river bank to do fish feeding. The farm caretaker sells fish pellets while the tour guides lead us to the area where we can throw the fish pellets and let it do the wonders. Minutes after finding our comfortable seat at the rocky river banks, we started throwing the pellets and we didn’t expect to see that huge number of fish jumping all over just to get a share of what we’ve been throwing left and right. They are too many to count and some of them are really huge. We really enjoyed it so much until we found ourselves back on the water for a bit more floating and paddling.

Most tours on the Kiulu also include lunch, on the banks of the river. In our case, we had our lunch after the entire rafting activity. We all enjoyed the food specially the grilled chicken and lamb chops:)

You can book your whitewater rafting adventure online or in any travel agency located near the Suria Sabah Shopping Mall in Kota Kinabalu.

Things to Know

Seriously, anyone can do this! If you want to go whitewater rafting, you should try this trip. It’s not dangerous and the rapids are exhilarating but not terrifying. Definitely listen closely to instructions and wear clothing and shoes that you don’t mind getting wet. After all, it’s a warm, sunny day in Sabah and you’ll be out on the water. Splashing just might happen!

This trip was made possible by AirAsia Zest – The Right Way to fly and Sabah Tourism Board – Visit Malaysia 2014. AirAsia Zest now flies to Kota Kinabalu from NAIA Terminal 4 in Manila and Cebu Mactan International Airport. Visit for flight schedules, promos and online flight reservation. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Written by Melo Villareal

Melo Villareal is the Online Publisher of He is an Accountant by profession who left the corporate world at the age of 23 to explore his beautiful country and the rest of the world. Today, Melo works as a part-time Social Media Manager for local and international clients. His full-time work focuses on discovering interesting culture, explore different cuisines and take memorable photos from local and international destinations he's visiting.

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