Borneo is one of the world’s greatest wildlife watching destinations. With iconic species such as Orangutans & Pygmy Asiatic elephants coupled with 15 species of hornbills, many endemic species such as Proboscis monkeys and rarities like clouded leopards and sun bears the island of Borneo is a true treasure trove of wildlife. Some of these species are among the rarest in the world and with so much deforestation occurring throughout South East Asia there are fewer and fewer pockets of rainforest left each year. Some of these species are intensively studied and we have a very good chance of seeing them, some are not protected very well at all and so they will be harder to find, but over the last few years our network of guides throughout the country have been scouring the forests and reserves looking for new locations for ecotourism and hopefully sites for rare and endangered species. In doing this we happened to come across a location which produces more sightings of incredible and highly targeted species than anywhere else in the world.
Sunda Clouded Leopard
Asian Pygmy Elephant
This morning you will be collected at the airport in Sandankan and then be driven to the Kinabatangan River (~2 hours). Here you will check in and then have lunch and then afterwards we will be taken on the river for our first river cruise / safari. The Kinabatangan wildlife sanctuary is one of only two known places on Earth where 10 primate species can be found living wild together. The enigmatic Bornean orangutan and the curious looking proboscis monkeys are the two most sought after primate species here however the ubiquitous long-tailed (or crab-eating) macaque is the most common.
Other than the primates mammals are well represented here however most species are nocturnal or very elusive. The largest inhabitants are Borneo’s own endemic sub-species of Asiatic elephant (the Borneo pygmy elephant) which we will try to see.
Another fairly common and large inhabitant here is the largest reptile in the world, the saltwater crocodile. This part of the river traces through lowland forest and mangrove swamps near the coast provide sanctuary for them.
Bird watchers usually find the Kinabatangan simply incredible while they spot incredible bird species from the famous Borneo’s hornbills to the rare Storms storks.
We will also head out in the evening to try and find nocturnal species such as flat-headed cats.
For the next two full days we will explore the river and its banks three times a day, in the early morning, afternoon and at night. The morning is the best time of the day for primates and birds, the cooler temperatures allow the various species to come out of the dense canopy and feed on the fruit and leaves along the river banks. During the afternoon attention switches slightly to elephants, as they come down to the river to cool off and then with the spotlight after dark we will be on the trail of the flat-headed cat. But throughout these days we will leave no stone un-turned in our quest to see as many wonderful species as possible and immerse ourselves in the wilderness of this pristine forest.
Tabin Wildlife Sanctuary
This morning we will depart after breakfast from the Kinabatangan River and travel to Gomantong Cave, this is one of the world’s most famous caves and was immortalised in the BBC’s Planet Earth series due to the enormous mountain of guano and the millions of cockroaches and other invertebrates that live there. The forests around the caves are home to many species of wildlife including orangutans. The cave is some 90m high and full of wildlife, alongside the innumerable invertebrates including the odd looking long-legged centipedes there are four species of swiftlet (white-nest, black-nest, mossy-nest and white-bellied) and around 27 species of bats (mostly wrinkle-lipped bats which number around 2 million in the cave). The nearly self-sufficient ecosystem inside the cave is completed with predators including bat hawks and pythons that feed on the bats and swiftlets as they come and go from the caves.
From the caves we will stop at the town of Lahad Datu where we will meet our new driver and get into the vehicle owned by the Tabin Wildlife Sanctuary. Once we get to the sanctuary we will check in, have lunch and head out into the forest for a guide walk with one of their expert local guides. Nestled within the rainforest beside the Lipad river, the resort is home to a surprising variety of birds, insects and small mammals, even right beside the buildings of the resort it is possible to see several species and discover the rich variety of jungle herbs, some endemic, used for generations by local folks for the treatment of various ailments.
In the afternoon we are likely to visit the active Lipad mud volcano which provides a mineral salt lick for wildlife. After trekking through the rainforest for around 20 minutes, we arrive at the elevated bare area of the mud volcano which is frequented by wildlife (elephants, bearded pigs, sambar, muntjacs and other species) and birds. The adventurous among us can try the effects of the volcanic mud, said to be responsible for a fine complexion, by applying the mud to their skin. Trek back to the resort along elephant trail, which is a great way to experience the forest and spot elusive species that live in the dense forests here.
After dinner we will head out in a vehicle with our guide and a spotlight to see what animals are active along the roads running through the forest. This is a specially arranged extra long night drive, to increase our chances of seeing animals. It is possible for Sunda clouded leopards, flat-headed cats and sun bears here but it is more likely that we will find various flying squirrels, civets, yellow-throated martens, slow loris as well as reptiles and amphibians. There is a population of Sumatran rhinos here as well, although I think the last one was seen in the wild here in the 1980’s.
Tabin Wildlife Sanctuary
Today you will further explore the forest in the morning, afternoon and then after dark. We will trek along various trails, visit a watch tower and spend some time up there and wait for animals fly past, emerge from the forest and cross the road or climb along the canopy and into view. We will also drive the roads in search of as many species as we can find. In between our excursions into the forest we will return to the lodge for our meals and a little rest. After dark we will have our second (specially arranged) extra long night drive.
At dawn we will head out in the vehicle (or walk – we will confirm this on the day) before breakfast, this is our last chance for seeing wildlife here before we leave for our next destination. After breakfast we will leave for the town of Lahad Datu again and there meet our new driver and vehicle and head into the depths of pristine Danum Valley. Prior to 1995, Danum Valley Conservation Area (DVCA) was an informal protected area in the Ulu Segama Forest Reserve. It is a mixture of primary, undisturbed, predominantly lowland rainforest with an outstanding complement of Borneo flora and fauna. The forest is full of wildlife we will explore the park with one of the lodge’s expert guides, we will be in our own small group and will be able to focus on the species we want to target first. The forest has a network of trails and canopy walkways and watch towers. Like in other places we will head out into the forest in the morning, afternoon and then at night, we will have a combination of walks and drives. As well as many of the species that live in the other forests we have been to and will visit next we will hopefully see western tarsiers, otter civets and have good sightings of orangutans here.
Once again like our other destinations we will come back to the lodge for our meals and rest in the middle of the day, but like elsewhere we are staying the wildlife and forest comes straight into the lodge grounds. There are many species of birds here and many of them are found in the grounds of the lodge.
For the next 2 full days you will enjoy privately guided hikes and drives around the forest, exploring the walkways that take you up into the canopy to get eye-level views of the primates and birds, and network of trails. You will head out in the morning, afternoon and night to get the largest overview of animals here as possible and as normal we will head back to the lodge for our meals.
Deramakot Forest Reserve
This morning we will leave the Danum after breakfast and drive back to Lahad Datu and once again change drivers and carry on to the town of Telupid and then change vehicle to a 4×4 and continue on-wards to Deramakot Reserve. This 55,000 hectare reserve is home to many of Borneo’s large and iconic species including elephants, orangutans, Borneo gibbon, banteng and several elusive species which are seen here with more regularity than anywhere else in the world. It is these species which are the real highlight for us and our main targets when here. They are also largely nocturnal and so we will head out into the forest at night for extended drives and hikes. This is to maximise our chances of seeing the wonderful Sunda clouded leopard, sun bear and marbled cat, but along with these species several other rare species have been seen here such as Sunda colugo, Sunda pangolin, banded linsang and the forest is also home to the rarest cat here the bay cat. As long as we are not too tired after a long journey to get here from Danum Valley we will head out after dinner to try and see our first nocturnal species in Deramakot.
Deramakot Forest Reserve
For the next five full days we will hike and drive the roads and trails deep into Deramakot, our timings will vary and be dependent on weather, animal behaviours and their recent sightings. The reserve here is mature secondary and primary lowland rainforest, the large reserve is bordered with another, equally large, protected forest. As a result we will undertake extensive drives every night, often until late into the night, or starting in the middle of the night and heading out into the early morning, in the hope of seeing the forests charismatic wildlife. Along with the targeted Sunda clouded leopard, sun bear and marbled cat we will hopefully see more common species such as various civets, flying squirrels and leopard cats. As well as the incredible list of mammals here the forest is also full of birds and boasts list of over 250 species; with luck it is possible to see 70 or 80 species in a day including many Borneo specialties. Some of the birding highlights here might include great argus and crested fireback pheasants, great-billed heron, large green, thick-billed and little green pigeons, giant, banded, blue-headed and black-headed pittas, white-fronted falconet, various leafbirds, various hornbills, various malkohas and trogons.
A good deal of flexibility is needed on this section of the trip as our local expert guides will dictate the best ways and the best times for us to head into the forest to search for wildlife and this is decided on a day to day basis. After 7 long-nights or spotlighting and hopefully many successful sightings we will be ready for the luxury back in Sandankan tomorrow.
This morning we will have breakfast and depart from Deramakot and head back to the large town of Sandankan and our accommodation. However before arriving at the hotel we will visit Labuk Bay Sanctuary which is home to the world’s only proboscis monkey sanctuary. The owner of this plantation saw that the monkeys were dying out because of the development and deforestation of their mangrove habitat and decided to keep his free from palm oil and set up small feeding stations to supplement the diet of the resident troop of proboscis monkeys and Sundaic silvered langurs. Since then the place has become popular with tourists as it is the only place where you can get very close to these species and the populations have increased well. Afterwards you will arrive at the hotel and the rest of the day is free.
Sepilok Reserve & Home
This morning you will leave first thing and head to Sepilok, hidden among a veritable treasure trove of tropical plants, grasses, huge trees and spectacular orchids in bloom, the world-famous Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve is home to some of the last wild Orang-Utans of Northern Borneo. This is largely in because of the work being done at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre which was founded in 1964, to rehabilitate orphan orangutans. Today around 60 to 80 orangutans are living free in the reserve. As well as rescuing other wildlife like sun bears, gibbons, Sumatran rhinos and elephants the center is open for us to visit and see some of the semi wild orangutans as they learn how to be fully wild animals again. From here you will depart to the airport to catch your afternoon flight home.
Please note that the itinerary stated above is correct as our planned intentions for the tour. However adverse weather conditions and other local considerations can necessitate some modifications of the itinerary during the course of the tour; any changes will be made to make the best of the time and weather conditions available to us.
This tour is available on different date (subject to availability) please contact us for more details about running this tour on a date which suits you more.
Borneo’s climate is very tropical. This means one minute the weather is hot and humid, the next it is raining in sheets. However, in general, throughout the year, the temperature during the day remains in between 21-30C. As with all tropical climates, Borneo has a rainy season and a dry season. The dry season lasts from May to September. The wet season however is harder to define and forecast. September is the height of the dry season and this should improve our chances of seeing wildlife, particularly along the rivers in Kinabatangan. However you should always expect rain in Borneo – at any time of year.
Everything mentioned in the above itinerary is included. Including accommodation, all transfers, guides, activities and most meals are included (however lunches and dinners in towns and cities are often not included). There will be bottled water provided on request throughout the tour.
We will also have our own private vehicles for transfers and excellent local drivers. We also use expert local guides in Deramakot Forest Reserve and the senior naturalists in Sukau and Tabin Wildlife Sanctuary too who have years of experience working these areas and all safari activities are included. All your park entrance fees are also included. We include around 7 hours of spotlighting a night in Deramakot as well as specially arranged extra long night drives in Tabin. Also included is a good selection of field guides about the local wildlife as well as a selection of documentaries about Bornean wildlife. If you wish to watch any of these they will be available of the tour leader’s laptop and the books are available for you to use on request.
We recommend you bring along your own binoculars or spotting scope as well as appropriate clothing; which should be both light and durable walking clothes and also light wicking. Long sleeves are good to keep you out of the sun. Any medication, books or other items of a personal nature is of course up to you to bring along. Oh and please bring plenty of memory cards or film for your camera.
We provide a comprehensive species list of all the vertebrates present in the areas we are visiting as well as some of the best field guides and reference books for the areas we are visiting. There is usually a spare pair of binoculars but in a group of 4 people these do not stretch too far. We also provide a spot light for nocturnal viewing and if we can send a zoologist escort we will also bring a thermal imaging scope.
Nearly everything is included in this tour. The only things not included are international flights, travel insurance (contact us for more information one what is required from your insurance policy), any food bought outside of the three main meals, drinks outside of any offered with the meals and the bottled water provided each day and any items of a personal nature such as souvenirs and tips. Any applicable departure taxes and not included (but maybe included in the cost of your flights). Please check before departure.
We do not book international flights, however we do recommend certain airlines that have good connections to and from our tour start and exit point. We are based in the UK and so recommend these airlines based on what is best available from our home airports (in London and Manchester for example), however we can recommend flight options for you based on wherever you are travelling from.
Good airlines to get from the UK to Malaysia is KLM or Air Malaysia, both have a few different options for arrival and departure from Kuala Lumpur and provide competitive prices and a good standard of service on board. Flights from KL to Borneo are easy to connect and Air Malaysia and Air Asia run regular flights to many destinations in Sabah and Sarawak, Borneo.
Visas and Health Information
All UK passport holders and most other nationalities are not required to have a visa issued in advance for Malasyia. You can get a visa on arrival at Kuala Lumpur airport, but it is recommended you seek advance from the Malaysian embassy or consulate in your home country for more information.
There are no mandatory vaccinations needed to visit Malaysia, but it is recommended to be protected against TB, polio, typhoid, tetanus and hepatitis A as well as taking a form of malaria prophylactics (although this is not mandatory). Please consult your doctor about your individual requirements for visiting Indonesia as soon as you have decided on this trip.
Bobbie Borowski - Colorado, USA
Jess Ross - Canada
Monty Ross - Toronto, Canada
Ms. April Brunelle - Canada