For the wildlife and nature enthusiast looking for a new kind of “wild” island adventure, travel to Borneo is a true source of inspiration. The fascinating, giant flowers of the rafflesia, jewel-like bird-winged butterfly and “man of the woods” — the orangutan — are just the beginning to an unfinished list of the rich biodiversity found in these ancient forests. Join International Expeditions’ Borneo tour exploring the hidden realms and this island’s wild heart. Discover some of Earth’s oldest and most biologically diverse rainforests, soaring canopy walkways, cathedral-like caves and rich coral reefs on this captivating small-group Borneo tour.
Borneo’s Best Wildlife Adventure
Our Borneo expedition tours premier wildlife areas – Mulu, Likas Wetlands, Mount Kinabalu, Sepilok Forest Reserve, Poring Hot Springs, Turtle Island National Park, Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary and the Danum Valley. From an urban wetland to canopy walkways cutting through lush swaths of jungle, home to the endemic species of Borneo, travel with IE on the most comprehensive journey into the wild heart of Sundaland.
You don’t have to sacrifice comfort and five-star service to explore Borneo! Travel with IE and you’ll spend 17 nights in comfortable hotels, indulgent spas and award-winning lodges — like Sakau Rainforest Lodge, winner of more than seven accommodation awards, including National Geographic ADVENTURE’s Top Jungle Lodges.
A Breathtaking Borneo Tour
Luxuriant rainforests blanket the mountains and valleys of the world’s third largest island, Borneo. These rainforests and their wealth of species flourished in an uninterrupted cycle of growth for millions of years. On our Borneo expedition, you’ll discover how this important corner of the world still offers the curious visitor a glimpse into environments that are complex beyond comprehension, yet simply beautiful.
U.S. / En Route / Kuching
Fly independently to Kuching, Sarawak. A day of our Borneo expedition itinerary is “lost” crossing the International Date Line. Once you arrive in Kuching, the balance of your day is at leisure to relax. Spend tonight at the Pullman Hotel. (Meals Aloft)
After a briefing by our Expedition Leader, tour the city of Kuching. Visit the Sarawak Cultural Village at the base of Mount Santubong. This living museum showcases the ethnic diversity of Sarawal with dance performances and traditional architecture. Enjoy a dinner sampling local delicacies before returning to the Pullman Hotel. (B,L,D)
Kuching / Mulu National Park
Fly to Mulu and check in to our accommodations at the Royal Mulu Resort, our home for two nights. Designed to reflect the same style as the ethnic longhouses, Royal Mulu Resort is built on wooden stilts, with the buildings connected by a series of wooden walkways. Renowned for both its biodiversity and karst features, Mulu National Park is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most studied karst area in the world. The park features 17 vegetation zones and is home to millions of cave swiftlets and bats, as well as playing host to the world’s smallest mammal — the Savi pigmy shrew — and some of Earth’s largest insects. Other wildlife that we may encounter at Mulu includes both long-tailed and pig-tailed macaques, three species of leaf monkey, bearded pigs and Bornean gibbons. Mulu is home to some of the world’s biggest caves, and after lunch we explore the Deer and Lang’s Caves. This evening we watch the nightly exodus of bats before returning to our resort. Twelve species of bats have been recorded at Deer Cave, including the wrinkle-lipped bat. (B,L,D)
Mulu National Park
Continue our exploration at the Cave of Winds, where millions of years of calcite deposits have built majestic columns and stalagmites in the King’s Chamber. Walk to Clearwater Cave, formed by a roaring underground river. Visit some of the nomadic Penan community, who has lived in this rainforest for centuries. The Penan people have a remarkable understanding of the rainforest, relying on it for food, medicine and building shelter. After a picnic lunch, spend our afternoon at the Mulu Canopy Skywalk. Stretching more than 1,500 feet, the Mulu canopy walkway is the longest tree-based walkway in the World. We climb as high as 80 feet into the canopy to walk among the ferns and vines for a look at the rainforest’s web of life. (B,L,D)
Mulu National Park / Kota Kinabalu
Enjoy a morning at leisure before we fly to Kota Kinabalu. Sabah’s capital, Kota Kinanbalu – called KK by the locals – sits on the South China Sea overlooking clusters of coral islands. Spend two nights at the Hyatt Regency Kinabalu Hotel, located in the heart of KK’s shopping and entertainment district. (B,L,D)
Kota Kinabalu / Likas Wetlands Bird Sanctuary
After breakfast, we head out for a morning tour of the Likas Wetlands Bird Sanctuary. Formerly known as the Likas Mangrove, this sanctuary is the only remnant of a once extensive mangrove forest. Nine species of mangroves grow in this urban wetland, where more than 85 species have been recorded. Likas is an important feeding and breeding ground for many migratory birds. Among the species we can expect to find are breeding colonies of purple herons, rufous night herons and black-crowned night herons. The mangrove canopy plays host to white collard kingfishers, stork-billed kingfishers and spotted doves. After an afternoon tour of Kota Kinabalu, the evening is at leisure to explore on your own. (B,L)
Mount Kinabalu National Park
Drive over the ridges of the Crocker Range, through padi (rice) fields and Dusun villages, to the foothills of Mount Kinabalu, Southeast Asia’s highest mountain. By the time we reach Kundasang we are at an elevation of 5,000 feet. After checking in to the Kinabalu Heritage Resort we visit the Education Center and Botanic Garden with its extensive collection of native plants including over 1,000 species of orchids, 26 species of flowering rhododendrons, nine species of carnivorous pitcher plants and many more. (B,L,D)
Mount Kinabalu National Park
Begin our day with a bird walk, taking in some of the striking endemic Whitehead’s trogon and greater racket-tailed drongo among other species. After breakfast, head to Timpohon Gate to begin a moderate climb that takes us to approximately 7,000 feet on 13,301-foot Mount Kinabalu, the highest summit in Borneo. As we begin, giant tree ferns and hanging mosses give the forest a feeling of enchantment. Oak trees are dominant here; over 40 species of this family have been recorded. Mount Kinabalu is also known for its variety of wild orchids, with approximately 1,200 species found in the park. Also of particular interest are pitcher plants, which have adapted to the nitrogen-poor soil by supplementing their diet with nutrients from insects that are trapped and digested within the plant. Reaching higher elevations, we begin to enter the clouds, an ideal environment for luxuriant plant growth. Return to our resort and relax before dinner. As the sun sets on Mount Kinabalu, enjoy a panoramic view of this breathtaking region from our hotel. (B,L,D)
Mount Kinabalu / Poring Hot Spring / Sepilok
After an early breakfast we depart for Poring Hot Springs, on Kinabalu National Park’s eastern boundary. While Mount Kinabalu is best known for its montane forests, the Poring area is lowland rainforest. Explore the jungle trail that leads up to the treetop canopy walkway, where we have the opportunity to experience life in the rainforest canopy, over 150 feet in the air. From this unique vantage point, observe flying lizards, Prevost’s squirrels and red leaf monkeys. Keep your bird list handy to add many of the area’s species, including Asian fairy bluebird, Whitehead’s spider hunter and gold-whickered barbet. For those who wish, the natural hot springs offer a relaxing swim. Also evident in the reserve is perhaps one of the greatest wonders in the botanical world — the giant rafflesia. This parasitic plant is devoid of leaves, stems or roots, and the buds can take up to 18 months to mature. The rafflesia’s dramatic blooms last only a few days. This afternoon we continue east to the Sepilok Forest Reserve. We overnight at the Sepilok Nature Resort. (B,L,D)
Our Borneo expedition itinerary is set up so that we are first for the morning orangutan feeding. The Sepilok Forest Reserve has long been the site of a program where orangutans rescued from captivity are carefully reintroduced to the wild. Our experience observing these great apes face to face is unforgettable, and the photographic opportunities are excellent. Return this afternoon to the reserve to explore the rainforest and its wildlife. The Sepilok Forest Reserve is also home to mouse deer, wild boar, and water fowl, while the mangrove swamp and waters shelter dugongs and dolphins. (B,L,D)
Sepilok / Selingan Island
After breakfast, we set out for Selingan (Turtle) Island. Selingan Island has been developed to house the headquarters for Turtle Island National Park – one of Southeast Asia’s most important breeding grounds for green and hawksbill turtles. The park is made up of three islands — Pulau Selingan, Pulau Bakungan Kecil and Pulau Gulisan, and Selingan offers beautiful white-sand beaches and clear waters for snorkeling. Our accommodations at the Selingan Island Chalets are basic but comfortable, and allow us to witness the arrival of the turtles at night as they come ashore to lay eggs. This afternoon we can swim and snorkel in the clear waters, where coral reefs are teeming with life. Our evening is spent watching the green turtles with a park ranger, who may invite you to help in his work as they transfer eggs to a hatchery or release young turtle hatchlings into the sea. (B,L,D)
Selingan Island / Sandakan / Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary
As we continue our Borneo adventure, travel back across the bay to Sandakan, a thriving port city. Visit the local market, a hive of activity, before taking a boat to the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, home to the highest concentration of orangutans in Malaysia. And, while there is no guarantee we will see them, the sanctuary is also home to the rare Borneo rhinoceros, a subspecies of the endangered Sumatran rhino. Check into our rooms at the Sakau Rainforest Lodge, our home for two nights, and enjoy lunch before our afternoon exploration. During this late afternoon foray into the riverine forests, we should have an opportunity to observe one of Borneo’s more unusual residents, the proboscis monkey. Most groups of proboscis monkeys include a dominant male, and a harem of several females and their young. The dominant male is noted by his enormous pendulous nose, long white tail and husky stature. His odd nose is a matter of sexual dimorphism, and the females seem to find it attractive. Bachelor groups consist of all males and an encounter with a harem results in an incredible commotion as the dominant male defends his family. Rivers are very important to the proboscis monkey, as every night they sleep in trees adjacent to the river. So our evening boat excursion is the ideal time to spot these creatures as they return to the water’s edge — a spectacular end to any naturalist’s day! As night falls we return to the award-winning Sukau Rainforest Lodge. (B,L,D)
Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary
Rise to the calls of gibbons and hornbills, and board a boat headed up the Kinabatangan River. Pass through a narrow branch of the Kinabatangan, entering an oxbow lake as we try to spot proboscis monkeys. Thick patches of hyacinths are found along the shore, and small frogs and dragonflies rest on the floating vegetation. Macaques and leaf monkeys stir in the trees, while higher in the canopy a large nest of foliage may reveal the whereabouts of wild orangutans. On a short nature walk near our lodge, look for signs of Asian elephants, most concentrated in this region of Borneo. Other animals we might encounter include silver and red leaf monkeys, long-tailed macaques, and an array of butterflies and other insects. Set out by boat for a longer journey up the Mennangul River, giving us more time and opportunities to see the wildlife of this area. Chinese egrets are common, as are oriental darters that surface, skip along the water and take flight. Along the river’s edge stork-billed and rufous-backed kingfishers perch, waiting for their next catch. Mammals we may encounter in this area include small-clawed otters and wild pigs. As the sun sets listen for proboscis monkeys. We have the opportunity to observe their fascinating and often amusing habits. We may take a walk on the trails behind the lodge or take a boat cruise in search of nocturnal wildlife. (B,L,D)
Our Borneo tour itinerary takes us from the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary to Gomantong Caves. A short walk through the forest brings us to the cave entrance. The caves are home to bats, crabs and swiftlets, the nests of which are harvested for bird’s-nest soup. Continue toward Lahad Datu, a small town in southeastern Sabah. Following lunch we continue into the remote interior of Sabah. As we enter the Danum Valley conservation area, pass through forests where a unique technique of selective logging is practiced. Trees are carefully identified for their productive yield, and removed with care to avoid damaging the surrounding trees — an alternative to the clear cutting that has devastated other regions. Spend three nights at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge, located on the Danum River in the heart of the reserve. After checking into our rooms we familiarize ourselves with the surrounding trail systems and take a short hike to a canopy walkway system located near the lodge. Red leaf monkeys, pied and rhinoceros hornbills, and occasionally Asian elephants and orangutans are commonly seen in this area. A night safari is an extraordinary opportunity to discover the sights and sounds emanating deep from within the rainforest. (B,L,D)
An early morning nature walk is the perfect opportunity to observe wildlife at this peak activity time. The bubbling sound of the Borneon gibbon carries on the morning air. Over 220 species of birds have been recorded in the Danum Valley, including the colorful Baird’s trogon, great argus pheasant and Borneon bristlehead. After breakfast, hike to the top of a nearby ridge where an ancient burial site is located. Stop at a waterfall to refresh ourselves before returning to the lodge for lunch. This afternoon finds us exploring along the Danum River, where we might encounter mouse deer, red leaf monkeys and a county of birdlife. Watch the trees for Draco flying lizards, seen as they glide from tree to tree, and hornbills foraging in the canopy. As night falls, the haunting symphony of the Emperor cicada fills the air. Take a drive to spotlight for nocturnal animals. We may encounter the Western tarsier, a tiny prosimian with enormous eyes that enable it to see well in the dark. (B,L,D)
Take a short hike to the canopy walkway observing the wildlife along the trails. There have been numerous sightings of wild orangutans, and we look for signs of their presence. The walkway offers an excellent vantage point for studying birds and mammals. Visit the Danum Valley Field Center, established to research and document the abundant flora and fauna of this region. Explore the grounds along the Segama River and learn about the ongoing research being conducted before returning to the lodge late this afternoon. After dinner we take a drive in search of nocturnal animals. (B,L,D)
Danum Valley / Kota Kinabalu
After breakfast drive to Lahad Datu for our flight to Kota Kinabalu. Check into the Hotel Hyatt Regency Kinabalu and enjoy time to relax and reflect on our Borneo adventure before our farewell dinner at a local restaurant. (B,L,D)
Kota Kinabalu / U.S.
Transfer to the airport for flights home. Re-crossing the Date Line, you “gain” a day on your return to the U.S., arriving back on the same day. (B, Meals Aloft)
All prices are in US dollars and do not include international airfare, unless otherwise noted.
Prices displayed are based on the lowest season base price and assume double occupancy. Prices are shown in U.S. dollars and may or may not include administrative fees, taxes, meals, airfare (where applicable) and Single Supplements. Cancellation penalties, blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.
Options and Extras
What's included in the price of IE’s Borneo travel packages?
- Small group limited to 16
- Full day on Turtle Island for snorkeling & chance to observe nesting sea turtles
- Two nights at Sepilok for more opportunities to see & interact with orangutans
- Services of experienced local expedition leader
- Daily wildlife excursions on foot & by boat with local naturalist guides
- Four canopy walkway excursions, including Poring Hot Springs
- Bat viewing at Deer Cave
- Meals at local restaurants
- 48 meals
- 17 nights’ accommodations at comfortable hotels, lodges & award-winning resorts
- Tips to porters, drivers, local guides & waiters for included meals
- Transfers on group arrival & departure dates
- $115 park fee for 2012 (subject to change)
Are visas required for Borneo travel?
A visa is required to enter Malaysia. U.S. and Canadian citizens are issued a three-month Malaysia visa upon arrival in Kuching, free of charge. No passport photos are required. You do not need to obtain a visa in advance for Malaysia.
What vaccinations are required to travel to Borneo?
Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if entering Malaysia from an affected area. North American and Malaysia are not yellow fever affected areas. No other vaccinations are required to enter Malaysia. Borneo is a malaria-affected area, and you should take every precaution to protect yourself. The CDC recommends that all travelers to Southeast Asia be up-to-date on vaccinations for measles/mumps/rubella (MMR), diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT), poliovirus, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid and Japanese encephalitis; however, you should consult with your personal physician. Your physician can prescribe anti-malarial drugs for your trip. There are different forms of malarial prevention, each with different risks. Talk to your physician to find out which is right for you. Please note: According to the CDC, chloroquine is not an effective anti-malarial drug for Borneo.
How active is IE’s Borneo travel package?
A trip to Borneo is an active vacation that calls for good health. The excursions involve a great deal of walking, standing, and stair climbing, most of which will be in hot weather. You will have to climb/descend stairs and negotiate places where the footing is uncertain. Borneo is not a destination for anyone with serious difficulty walking.
When is the best time to visit Borneo?
There really is not a bad time to visit Borneo. The “dry” season, or “southwest monsoon season,” is from May to October, though rain can occur at any time during the dry season. The “wet” season or “northeast monsoon season” is generally from November to April. While the rains can be strong during the wet season, they are short-lived and quickly give way to clear skies. Those who visit Borneo and plan to be outdoors, like our trip, should be prepared for heat, humidity, and sudden downpours that can occur at any time. Temperatures are cooler at the higher elevations of Mt. Kinabalu National Park. Rain is common year round.