Malaysian Borneo has long evoked imageries of wild discoveries in the Western countries. Borneo is infact synonymous with adventure. The third largest island in the world, Borneo is stunning for its verdant jungles, with pockets of still untouched rainforest, longhouse-dwelling tribespeople, a reef-ringed coastline and offshore islands. Land and sea teem with exotic endemic species, many of which are endangered; it’s a veritable “adventure” destination. Despite having opened up greatly to visitors in the past few decades, Borneo remains a road less travelled, where new species continue to be discovered. However, the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak are now well equipped for visitors, offering an amazing variety of historic, cultural and natural attractions and we will explore the best of them on this tour.
This 11 days journey will bring you in the heart of Malaysian Borneo, discovering the unique and spectacular flora and fauna of the region, from orchids and hornbills to the elusive pygmy elephant and wild orangutans deep in the heart of the jungle. During this tour, you will have the rare chance of encountering wild orangutans, proboscis monkeys, and other creatures of the rainforest, visit hot springs and waterfalls, and get a better understanding of the local people by spending the night in a traditional village. A visit to a longhouse is often the highlight of a trip to Sarawak.
From Kuching you will head to the longhouses of the Batang Ai region of Sarawak, including the Upper Delok River, Lalang River and Menyang River. These locations are special owing to the natural environment and stunning scenery. Clean rivers and jungle streams, refreshing waterfalls and undisturbed tracts of rainforest allow you to combine a range of outdoor activities with a visit or stay in an Iban longhouse. Our trip combines a longhouse visit with a unique upriver experience. It will offer you the chance to enjoy the rainforest in an upriver Borneo setting and also see how the Iban live on the fringes of the jungle. After 2 days spent with Iban community you will be transferred again to Kuching from where you will take flight to Kota Kinabalu, the gateway to Sabah. From here with a couple of hours drive you will be catapulted in local culture of the Kiulu, the valley of the mist… This is a unique and completely off the tourist radar experience, Kiulu Farmstay is situated at Kiulu River, worthwhile for any travelers interested in becoming immersed in the local life of the Sabahans. This beautiful farmstay is a community-based ecotourism project that acts as a catalyst for community development and capacity building. Mt. Kinabalu will be your next destination, exploring all the richness that Kinabalu Park and Poring hot springs have to offer including the Poring Hot Springs, one-of-a-kind fish foot spa. After one night in the chilled climate of the highest Sabah mountain you will head into your final destination, the Sepilok Nature Resort, where you will visit the neighbouring Orangutans rehabilitation centre where the majestic apes roam semi-wild. Learn about the plight of their forest habitat and see them up close as the rangers feed them. You will also have the opportunity to visit the Sun Bear Sanctuary which is home to world’s smallest bear. As the home of most of the island’s remaining orangutans, responsible Borneo holidays here could play an essential part in securing their future.
From there we will further move into the jungle for 2 nights at an ecolodge in Sukau Rainforest. Here you can experience the best wildlife in Borneo as you go exploring for wildlife by river boat or overland, surely an experience of a lifetime. The ecolodge nestles on the banks of one of Borneo’s most important waterways, the Kinabatangan River, home to many of Borneo’s magnificent wildlife. Immerse yourself in the tranquility of the rainforest and the cacophony of its inhabitants, its majestic birds, all 7 species of Borneo Primates including Borneo’s iconic Proboscis Monkey, Orangutans in their natural habitat as well as herds of Borneo Pygmy Elephants. The ecolodge offers the rare comfort and luxury in the midst of the Borneo Rainforest whilst retaining an Eco-Lodge ethos, the delicate balance of true sustainability.
Registration can be requested for group travel or for self-travel. For group travel, registration is not binding. Upon reaching the minimum number of members necessary for the formation of the group, usually 4 or 6 people, you will be asked for confirmation of booking and payment of a deposit.
Day 1: Kuching
Arrive Kuching airport meet with our representative. Transfer and check into hotel. Rest or explore on your own the city.
Overnight in Kuching.
Day 2: Kuching-Batang Ai National Park
Early morning pick up (around 8 am) from hotel in Kuching and transfer to Batang Ai reservoir (around 4,5 hrs). A visit to a longhouse is often the highlight of a trip to Sarawak, offering a glimpse into the lifestyle of the various tribes who have for generations lived in the remote interior of Borneo. While there are many areas in Sarawak where longhouses can be visited, Ulu Ai is one of the best. What makes Ulu Ai so special is the natural environment and stunning scenery. Clean rivers and jungle streams, refreshing waterfalls and undisturbed tracts of rainforest allow you to combine a range of outdoor activities with a longhouse visit. Along the way stop at Lachau Bazaar. There will be three stopovers along the route: I) Serian, a predominantly Dayak trading town, II) Chinese farm house to see how pepper and cocoa are grown and (III) at Lachau for lunch. The journey passes through scenic countryside of rice fields, rubber, cocoa, pepper and oil palm plantations, which intermingle with luxuriant tropical rainforest, rivers and mountain ranges. Stroll around the shops and the small native market and have an early lunch in a local coffee shop. Upon arrival at the river jetty, proceed by motorized longboat for about 45 minutes, crossing the Batang Ai Lake, passing through scenic views, rice fields, fish farms to reach the Longhouse. Proceed to the longhouse Nanga Sumpa for a warm welcome tour the longhouse, watch the natives at work such as making mats, baskets, handicrafts and mending fish nets. Join the natives in their daily chores, like feeding their livestock, washing clothes and so on. After dinner, socialize with the longhouse dwellers, witness cultural performances and presentation of gifts before retiring for the night at the IbAn lodge.
Overnight in Ulu Ai. (B/L/D)
Day 3: Batang Ai National Park
After breakfast hike the jungle trails along the river. Then continue upriver by longboat. Our destination is the scenic Enseluai waterfall. Along the way (if conditions are suitable) your boatman may stop to demonstrate fishing Iban-style using a jala or throw net. Arrive at the waterfall and have time to relax, swim and enjoy the rainforest surroundings. Enjoy a riverside BBQ lunch prepared by your Iban hosts. Return to the lodge. After dinner visit Nanga Sumpa longhouse. Relax on the ruai (common verandah), spend time with the Iban people and enjoy some local rice wine.
Overnight in Ulu Ai.(B/L/D)
Day 4: Batang Ai – Kuching – Kota Kinabalu
After breakfast travel downriver to the Batang Ai Lake jetty and transfer by van/coach to Kuching airport for flight to Kota Kinabalu. Arrive at Kota Kinabalu, check in at your hotel. If time you can explore explore Kota Kinabalu on your own.
Overnight in Kota Kinabalu (B/L)
Day 5: Kota Kinabalu- Kiulu
After breakfast drive approximately 45 minutes to countryside with a short stop at Tamparuli Suspension Bridge and the nearby local market, passing the scenic view of the Kiulu Valley, the valley of the mist. After lunch you take a village walk which will offer you stunning landscapes of the scenic valley as you pass through local school, lush paddy fields, hanging bridge before returning back to fig tree. If time and weather permits, take a dip at the sensationally cooling Kiulu River. After dinner, have a good chat with local people about the village history and folktales before sleeping. (If you’re keen for more adventure and cultural experience, there are many optional activities for you to try such as quad biking, cycling, buffalo riding, water tubing, cultural activities and photo taking with the traditional costumes. So be sure to ask your host!).
Overnight in Kiulu (B/L/D).
Day 6: Kiulu
After breakfast, take a morning walk to visit local plantation and garden. Thereafter, enjoy lunch before proceeding to Boribi walk to experience firsthand paddy plantations, picking and collecting local vegetables and fruits, as well as fishing with a net. Head back to fig tree to learn local culinary as you get ready for dinner – a unique learning experience that offers you the opportunity to interact and be taught directly by a local resident cook. After dinner, sit back and enjoy Silat kampong presentation and participate in traditional activities such as Sumazau dance and trying out local drinks.
Overnight in Kiulu (B/L/D).
Day 7: Kiulu-Mt Kinabalu
Drive 2 hours overland to the foothills of Mt. Kinabalu. We will make a short stop at Pekan Nabalu market to sample local fruits in season and to stretch our legs. You will later visit the Kundasang War Memorial Park to learn about Sabah’s history and for great photos with the majestic Mount Kinabalu (if weather permits). Thereafter, we proceed to the Education Centre and Mountain Garden in Kinabalu Park Headquarters. If weather permits, take a guided walk on one of the trails to explore the cool montane forest.
Overnight stay in Mt Kinabalu (L/D)
Day 8: Mt Kinabalu-Sepilok
After breakfast drive to Poring, east of Kinabalu Park HQ to walk amidst tropical lowland rainforests leading up to the treetop canopy walkways. Enjoy lunch, before visiting the Kipungit Waterfall, stopping for a soak here or in the rejuvenating hot sulphur public pools. If the weather permits, treat your foot to a delightful but very ticklish fish massage at the Moroli River in Luanti which will almost certainly leave you in giggles. After lunch, we head onwards by van for approximately 4 hours to Sepilok. Check in in the lodge for the overnight.
Overnight in Sepilok. (B/L/D)
Day 9: Sepilok-Sukau
After breakfast proceed to Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre where you’ll learn about the plight of the Orang Utan and see firsthand the conservation efforts. Watch a short introductory video show about the Orang Utans and the rehabilitation efforts ongoing at the Centre and then proceed for ten minutes stroll through the rainforest on wooden boardwalks which takes you to the viewing platform where we’ll witness the feeding of the orang utans. If the Orang Utans are feeling particularly friendly, you may even get the chance to get up close to the Orang Utan so be sure to hang onto your belongings. Thereafter visit the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre to learn about conservation of the world’s smallest bear. Later transfer by land to Sukau and cool down with a refreshing drink and cold towel upon arrival while our friendly manager helps you check-in. After some rest enjoy a candle light buffet dinner overlooking the mighty river. Be sure to try on in-house Sarongs (local wear) which is cooling and helps keep away any mozzies.
Overnight in Sukau. (B/L/D)
Day 10: Sukau
An early morning call to catch the rainforest waking up is in store. If conditions are just right, you might even wake to a surreal heavenly experience shrouded in mists. After a light breakfast, we embark on a morning river cruise in search of waking wildlife and birds which are most active in the morning on our way to the Kelenanap Ox-Bow lake. Return to a full breakfast, taking the time to just immerse yourself in the surroundings. After breakfast, proceed for an educational walking tour along the lodge’s Hornbill Boardwalk with our in-house naturalist after which you’ll have some time to relax. After afternoon tea, we head out onto the river once again in search of more wildlife. Breathe in the rainforest and capture the moments as we return at sunset from our final river cruise. Candlelight dinner.
Overnight in Sukau. (B/L/D)
Day 11: Sepilok-Sandakan airport
After breakfast transfer to Sandakan airport for you return flight. For those who have added an extension (Pom Pom Island or Mataking), transfer to Semporna and departure to the selected island.
All the itinerary has been designed in order to promote direct or indirect benefits for local communities, environment and cultural heritages.
The Ulu Ai Tourism Project – a partnership between tour operator and the local Iban community – offers an alternative to the usual ‘staged’ forms of cultural tourism found in Sarawak. It forges a sustainable partnership between hosts and visitors, whereby visitors experience the local lifestyle on the host’s own terms. Tours focus on society and environment, rather than on performances and demonstrations. The experience benefits hosts, visitors and local wildlife. Travellers to Ulu Ai stay as guests of the longhouse dwelling Iban people, who benefit economically by providing a range of tourism services. Local entrepreneurship and various community & conservation projects are supported by the project. Another unique and completely off the tourist radar experience, Kiulu Farmstay is situated at Kiulu River, worthwhile for any travelers interested in becoming immersed in the local life of the Sabahans. This beautiful farmstay is a community based ecotourism project that acts as a catalyst for community development and capacity building. Tucked away in a beautiful valley with a selection of community-based activities offered, this is one of the best options to have a glimpse into local life.
Some of the activities are orginize in cooperations with BEST Society, the only NGO set up by a tour and lodge operator in Malaysia. What began through working with the environment and communities in Sukau expanded into other areas in dire need of poverty alleviation or environmental intervention throughout Sabah including up north in the Kudat and Kota Marudu districts, Kota Kinabalu, Kundasang, Kampung Kiau and now the Kiulu area.
Travelling is safe throughout Borneo. We advise precautions be taken when travelling to the islands off Semporna that include the Sipadan Resorts, Pom Pom island and Mataking island. Although security has been bolstered at these locations, the recurring incidents in this area in 2014 casts sufficient doubt that compels us to advise our travelers to exercise extreme caution when visiting these areas and if you’re uncomfortable with the risks, to avoid these areas altogether.There has been no further incidences in the Semporna/Sipadan areas since July 2014 however we continue to remain vigilant and take precautions where necessary to ensure the safety of our guests. Sukau is approximately 2.5hrs each way inland from the sea and thus the significant distance forms a huge deterrent to any threats from the Philippines. Armed groups usually target the offshore island and coastal areas because it is easier for them to make a getaway across the Malaysian-Philippines border. There is a permanent military-police presence in Sukau village that is only 10 minutes by boat away from Sukau Rainforest Lodge.
Malaysia, despite being a tourist destination, is a Muslim Country, therefore it is advised that you following carefully a code conduct which respects local culture to avoid any hassles or unwanted troubles along your journey. In particular, avoid to show affection in public places, such as hugging, kissing etc., as this behaviour is not appreciated by local people.
You are also advised to follow a certain dress code. The tropical days in Borneo are hot and humid, so we recommend lightweight cotton clothing. Casual wear is acceptable for most occasions in the city while tours to the interior, long trousers and t-shirts may be more appropriate. Let’s not forget thin towels, sun hats, sunscreen, insect repellent and leech socks. For most tours, bring along your swimming costumes, as there are chances to slake off the tropical heat with a dip at a river or waterfall. We highly recommend women to wear a sarong when bathing and dipping in rivers or waterfalls. Sarongs are easily obtained locally and are usually quite cheap. Please remember that all persons should dress modestly, especially female visitors. Moreover, we recommend you bring light rainwear such as raincoats, ponchos and waterproof jackets because there will be encounters with rain. If you are climbing Mount Kinabalu, you will need warm clothing.
Dengue Fever and Malaria are present in Borneo. Dengue Fever is a viral disease with flu like symptoms that is transmitted by mosquitoes that bite during the DAYTIME and in URBAN regions. There is no vaccine for dengue fever and prevention is based upon insect repellents, nets and insecticides. Malaria is transmitted by a type of NIGHT biting mosquito. Whilst cases of malaria do occur in rural and undeveloped areas of Borneo, risk of malaria is LOW in towns, cities and touristy areas. Nonetheless, it is advisable to apply insect repellent to all exposed areas of skin, avoiding eyes and mouth. Please avoid aftershave or perfumes. These smells can attract mosquitoes, especially during the evenings. When a leech has already gotten to you, do not panic! We strongly recommend that you DO NOT Pull, Burn or Squeeze the leech out. This will result in the leech vomiting harmful bacteria back into your system. Leeches fall out on their own once full.
Malaysian time zone is GMT/UTC +8.00, so chances of jet lag cannot be ignored. It is advised that you get onto Malaysian’s time zone as soon as you leave home and try to eat and sleep on local time. Also, if you reach Maleysia early in the day, try to stay awake – this will help the body’s internal clock to reset.
A conscious approach to travel requires a considerable capacity and willingness to adapt and adjust to the local environment and culture. If you wish to travel with us we request you to be open enough to experience local culture, religious and traditions without bias and pre-conceived ideas you might have before the departure and which belong to our Western cultural way of thinking. Exploring with fresh eyes, with patience and openness, you will be able to access the real essence of Asian cultural heritages through the places and people you are going to meet; if you are ready to do this effort you will really enjoy the beauty of a completely different cultural tradition, the extraordinary of the nature, the solemnity of temples, the holiness of the waters of countless rivers and oceans that flow through this magic land…
We selected beautiful and traditional heritages resorts with all the facilities throughout the tour. All the structures have been selected carefully according to criteria of social and environmental impacts. Whilst in Batang Ai and Kiulu we have selected community based accomodation like a homestays such as a traditional IBAN longhouse and community farm. In Sukau and Sepilok you will be hosted in beautiful eco-resorts as to experience the essence of Borneo’ Wildlife.
Private vehicles o mini-buses with AC according to the number of participants for all the itinerary from Kuching to Sandakan; a direct flight will connect you from Kuching to Kotakinabalu. Boat ride for cruise in Batang Ai reservoir and in Sukau.
The climate in Borneo is essentially tropical and can be visited by tourists throughout the year thanks to a pleasant climate during all the year. There is no especially good or bad season to visit; lowland areas are always hot and humid and rain is a real possibility every day, all year around. “Wet” season is considered fro October to February that can affect boat links to offshore islands and visibility for divers. However, high season is considered from July till Septemper.