Trip Ref #10425
11 days off work
Up to 12 people
Sandakan International Airport, Malaysia
Chalet · Guesthouse · Cabin · Homestay · Hotel
No previous experience is needed, but you’ll be off-trail and on uneven terrain so a decent level of general fitness is required
Hike old-growth rainforest, eyes open for clouded leopards, sun bears, proboscis monkeys and the Bornean orangutan
Wind down the wild Kinabatangan River, swim beneath waterfalls and snorkel amidst coral reefs and technicolour marine life
Bunk down in river-side eco camps, rainforest resorts, cultural homestays, beachside bungalows and wooden cabins beneath Mt Kinabalu
Welcome to Borneo
Touch down in Sandakan, meet your host and be whisked over to the Sepilok Nature Resort, located beside the world-renowned Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve. Take a stroll around the grounds before meeting your guide in the early evening to chat through the adventure and get to know your fellow adventurers over a welcome dinner.
Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary
As the forest wakes, take a canopy walk before returning to fuel up on breakfast. Skip over to the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary where captive orangutans are reintroduced into the wild. Head out for an afternoon hike in the Sepilok Forest Reserve and continue to the canopy walk at dusk to see giant red flying squirrels emerge from their nests and glide between the trees. The wildlife continues after dinner with a nighttime stroll in search of nocturnal wildlife before hitting the hay.
Danum Valley Conservation Area
After breakfast, you'll jump into the van for your overland transfer to the Danum Valley. On arrival at the Danum Valley Field Centre, you’ll have time to sit back, relax and enjoy your new surroundings. In the afternoon you’ll hike one of the best remaining examples of Borneo's old-growth forests, with a thick tropical canopy and a variety of wildlife. Following dinner, it's time to lace up the boots again in search of nocturnal creatures.
Deeper into the Borneo forest
Rise before dawn and head out for a sunrise session to see the wildlife, often most active first thing in the morning. After breakfast you'll hike through forests that are frequented by gibbons and orangutans. Your guide will lead the group through the forests, pointing out signs of orangutans and other wildlife in the Danum Valley. After dinner you'll set out into the twilight for an evening walk to listen to the sounds of the forest.
Another early start as you sip a pre-dawn coffee and head out to glimpse more iconic Borneo wildlife. Spend the morning around the centre and take a dip in the Ulu Segama River to cool off. In the afternoon you’ll spend more time on the trails trying to track wildlife, before returning to the centre in the late afternoon, in time to watch the sunset. After another full day in the forest, you’ll enjoy a well-earned meal and then fall asleep, serenaded by the trilling hum of the forest one last time.
Wave goodbye to the Danum Valley as you jump back in the van and head for Batu Puteh, Kinabatangan. You'll then board a boat and start making your way down the Kinabatangan River until you reach your camp. Once settled into camp, you'll hop back into the boat for a wildlife river cruise where dense trees blanket the riverbanks and birds flutter overhead. After dinner, embark on a night walk within the camp area for chances of spotting nocturnal wildlife such as the tarsier, slow loris and sleeping birds.
Forest restoration project
It's another early morning as you hit the boardwalk surrounding camp for some birdwatching. After a yummy breakfast, it's time to give back. You'll jump into the boat and head over to the local forest restoration project site and participate in tree planting. Here you'll learn about the community effort in their forest restoration project. Spend the afternoon relaxing or join the locals in some fishing before taking to the river for another wildlife cruise. Tonight set out on a torchlight hike, in search of yet more nocturnal wildlife.
Rise and shine for one last wildlife cruise to hopefully get a final glimpse of orangutans, proboscis monkeys, crocodiles and the pygmy elephant. After breakfast take a boat ride to meet up with the van to make the journey to Kinabalu Park. In the afternoon you are free to enjoy some well-earned downtime.
It's time to lace up those boots and spend the day exploring the UNESCO World Heritage site, Mount Kinabalu. Wander around the trails and see the endemic birds, orchids and beautiful landscapes of the mountain. Enjoy a delicious dinner before calling it a night.
Welcome to Sayap Village
After breakfast it's time to make the journey to Sayap Village, which sits at the foot of Mount Kinabalu. On arrival you'll be welcomed to the village and introduced to your host family. After lunch, your guide will introduce you to the local culture in a Dusun village. The Dusuns are the biggest ethnic group in Sabah, most living subsistence lifestyles. Explore the village farmlands and learn how to cook a local dish, before sitting down and enjoying a traditional Dusun dinner with your host family before calling it a night.
Hidden wonders of Sayap Village
Grab an early breakfast before heading out for a hike within Aura Montoria, considered one of the hidden wonders of Sayap village. The trail will wind through giant trees, hidden waterfalls and caves, you'll continue towards Prayer Hill for stunning views of the valley below and the perfect spot for lunch. Cool off with a swim in the clear rock pools before returning to the homestay for dinner.
Where the jungle meets the sea
After breakfast and a hot coffee to start the day, you'll say your goodbyes to your host family and make your way to a quiet slice of paradise off the coast of Kota Belud. Settle into your tranquil hideaway and take a refreshing dip in the calm waters of Mengkabar Bay, or take a stroll along the sandy beach before watching the sunset.
Snorkel and relax
With the ocean on one side and thick jungle on the other, you'll get to explore both worlds today. Snorkel amidst the colourful coral reef and tropical fish, eyes open for pods of dolphins or a sea turtle or two. Once back on land explore some of the nearby trails or simply relax in one of the many hammocks dotted around. End your day with a delicious local Malaysian dinner.
For travellers looking to scuba dive, an optional diving package can be booked for an extra charge, see Optional Extras for the price. Please request this at the time of booking (this is subject to availability).
Enjoy your breakfast while taking in the fantastic panoramic views of the ocean before transferring to the coastal city of Kota Kinabalu on the South China Sea. In the afternoon you are free to enjoy some well-earned downtime or explore the city. You'll share a final evening together with your group, sharing memories, adventure stories and probably the odd photo of an orangutan from your time in Borneo.
Bid farewell to Borneo
Your adventure ends today as you enjoy a final breakfast before transferring to the Kota Kinabalu airport in time for your onward journey.
Expert, local, English speaking guides
4 nights in a chalet, 3 in a guesthouse, 4 in a cabin, 2 in a homestay and 1 in a hotel
All meals throughout the adventure
To and from the start and everything in-between
All your snorkelling gear
Flights to and from the meeting point
Tips for your guides
Some meals as described
Visas where required
Chalet · Twin share
Chalet · Twin share
Day 3 – Day 5
Guesthouse · Twin share
Day 6 – Day 9
Cabin · Twin share
Day 10 – Day 11
Homestay · Twin share
Day 12 – Day 13
Chalet · Twin share
Hotel · Twin share
What is the food like?
The Malaysian part of Borneo is an ethnic melting pot of Chinese, Malaysian, and indigenous peoples who have coexisted on the island for centuries. The result is a spectacular variety of spices and flavours that influence the local cuisine. Borneo staples include grilled fish, barbecued prawns, fried rice, noodles, and local vegetables seasoned with garlic, ginger, and rich sauces. The rainforest provides many of the locals' favourite treats, including bambagan (a giant, mango-like fruit) and the rambatan (a juicy, sweet fruit similar to a lychee). Fish and chicken based soups with noodles cooked in a hot clay pot are very traditional.
Vegetarians, vegans and other dietary requirements and allergies can be catered for - please just request on your passenger info form.
What is the accommodation like?
Spend two nights at the Sepilok Nature Resort, hidden amongst a veritable treasure trove of tropical plants, grasses, huge trees and spectacular orchids in bloom. The quaint bungalows of the Sepilok Nature Resort are within walking distance of the world-famous Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, home of the last wild orangutans of Northern Borneo. Set in a spectacularly landscaped private area of manicured lawns and rolling hills, the fully air-conditioned (and very comfortable) twin bed chalets feature beautiful lake or jungle view verandas and private bathrooms with hot water.
Spend three nights at the Danum Valley Field Centre which was established in 1986 as a facility for conducting research and supporting scientists in rainforest studies. Today, it’s one of the leading field centres in Southeast Asia. You'll stay in the Resthouse, in a comfortable private room with a fan and attached bathroom overlooking the fertile primary forest of Danum Valley Field Centre.
Spend two nights at the Tungog Rainforest Eco Camp, which is operated by the community co-op KOPEL Bhd. This is a community initiative with over 300 members participating from four villages surrounding Batu Puteh Village. KOPEL Bhd is 100% owned and operated by a local community here in Kinabatangan.
This small eco camp has 12 A-framed huts, each built within the fabric of the rainforest. Each hut has a mattress on the floor and a mosquito net. Under the house is a private bathroom with a western toilet and basic shower. The eco camp believes in a zero energy spreadsheet, which means there is no electricity in the camp including the rooms. However, not to worry, the rainforest is very cool and comfortable at night.
Spend two nights at the Kinabalu Pine Resort, the perfect place to experience Kinabalu National Park and its surroundings. The wooden cabins have wide open porches facing Mount Kinabalu and have en-suite bathroom.
Spend two nights in a unique and raw cultural immersion that is hard to come by. You'll stay in a local home and go farming with your host, learn to cook local dishes, hike through secondary forests and explore caves, rivers and swimming holes, with Mt Kinabalu in the distance. The homes are simple with private rooms with single and/or queen beds with linen and blankets. All toilets and showers are communal.
Spend two nights at the Bigfin Beach Resort, located on a beautiful sandy beach in Mengkabar Bay, directly opposite Pulau Pandan Island. There is no road access to the resort, it's only accessible by boat from the tiny Mengkabar Village. It has private hilltop en-suite chalets, all with fantastic panoramic views of the ocean and surrounding coastline. Onsite facilities include a restaurant/bar, hang out areas, water sports, jungle paths and PADI Scuba Dive Centre.
Spend your final night at the Jesselton Hotel, a beautifully restored colonial hotel, with original colonial period features, fixtures, furniture and finishes. With a total of 44 guestrooms that come with classic furnishings and elegantly designed interiors, the hotel provides an exquisite personalised getaway, each equipped with modern en-suite bathrooms.
For solo travellers looking for their own space, an optional private room can be booked for an extra charge, see Optional Extras for the price. Please request this at the time of booking (this is subject to availability).
Sandakan International Airport
Anytime on Day 1
Kota Kinabalu International Airport
Anytime on Day 15
Transfers are only included if you arrive on Day 1 and depart on Day 15. If you would like to arrive early or extend your stay, your host can arrange airport transfers for an extra cost. See the Optional Extras section for details.
Sandakan International Airport (SDK) and Kota Kinabalu International Airport (BKI) are accessible via various flights from the UK, mainland Europe and US. Flights generally connect through Kuala Lumpur.
What about all the carbon?
We've crunched the numbers to work out the total carbon footprint of this trip, and plant enough trees to suck 2x as much back out the atmosphere.
Enjoy 12.5% Off Outdoor Gear
In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 12.5% discount to use at Cotswold Outdoor, Snow + Rock and Runner's Need.
What do I need to bring?
- Soft overnight duffel bag or rucksack
- Daypack (20+ litres)
- Waterproof jacket
- Waterproof trousers
- Breathable wicking layers
- Fleece jacket or similar
- Lightweight trousers/shorts/skirt
- Underwear & socks
- Something to sleep in
- Hiking boots (worn-in)
- Cotton or silk sleeping bag liner
- Sleeping bag (1 season)
- Travel pillow or pillowcase
- Universal travel plug adapter
- Power bank or solar charger
- Passports (and visas)
- Travel Insurance documents
- Ear plugs
- Insect repellant
- Personal first-aid kit (inc. blister treatment)
- Personal items (biodegradable toiletries, sanitary wear etc)
- Toilet kit (toilet paper, biodegradable bags to carry paper out to dispose of)
- Quick-dry towel
- Alcohol hand-gel
- Headtorch or torch
- Reusable water bottle (x1 litre)
- Biodegradable wet-wipes
- Energy bars and snacks
- Water purification tablets/treatment system
Payable Before Departure
… Per Person
Optional Private Room Upgrade
Payable Before Departure
Optional Private Room Upgrade
… Per Person
Private Airport Transfer One Way
Payable Before Departure
Private Airport Transfer One Way
… Per Person
We’re still waiting to collect any reviews from other travellers on this trip. However, all our hosts go through an extensive vetting process to ensure that your adventure is awesome.
Everybody with basic levels of fitness can enjoy this trip. Hikes can be a bit of a muddy slog, through thick forest at times, but there will be plenty of breaks and time to take in the surrounding views, wildlife and enjoy the rainforest. The activities aren't strenuous, the aim of this trip is to breathe in and soak up the natural wonders of Borneo while immersed in your surroundings.
Sure can! Over 50% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.
Tips are not included in the trip cost. These are entirely at your discretion but there is an expectation to tip for good service. Your guide will help with advice, however, we suggest the below as a guideline per person:
Guides: $10 USD per day
Of course, you are free to tip more or less, and the amount should be reflective of your perception of service and quality - a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
The tap water in Borneo is not always friendly on the stomach for those who haven't been in Malaysia for a while. There is purified water in each accommodation which you can use to fill up each morning, so be sure to pack a reusable water bottle or two.
The best time to visit Borneo is during the dry season from March to October. During those months the climate is typically tropical with temperatures ranging from a cool 22°C/71°F in the evenings to a sultry 34°C/93°F in the daytime. Relative humidity is consistently high and typically 70-90%.
You will need to take everything with you as the tour starts and ends in different cities, however, you do not need to carry it all with you whilst you hike.
Our recommended travel insurance provider is Campbell Irvine.
Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our adventures. Your insurance should include adequate protection for overseas medical treatment, evacuation/repatriation, your baggage and equipment and the specific activities involved on your adventure.
Your insurance policy should also include specific Covid-19 cover, including cancellation and curtailment cover if you, your travel companion or a close relative are diagnosed with Covid-19.
We fully endorse Campbell Irvine as their insurance offers all of the above, so get in touch with them or call on 020 7938 1734 to get your insurance sorted. We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book your adventure, just to cover you for any last minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!
We automatically convert prices from the local currency that a host receives to your chosen currency. We update our exchange rates on a daily basis so this does mean that prices displayed on the site are subject to currency fluctuations, which is why you may see them change over time.
If you wish to change the currency you pay in, head to the bottom of the page.
All of our group adventures are specially designed for adults to enjoy (18+) as we want these adventures to bring together outdoorsy people who are truly like-minded. Children can be accommodated on some private departures.
You're in good company. Our adventures are typically made up of a mix of solo travellers and small groups of two or three friends who simply love adventure, pushing themselves and meeting awesome like-minded people. See here for more info about our lovely bunch of Much Better Adventurers.
Want to book a private trip? Just tap ‘Private Group’ in the dates and prices tab.
Your trip is led by carefully curated local hosts and expert guides. See here for more info about the guides we work with.
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