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This 10 day adventure through the jungles of Sabah provides ample opportunity to spot the incredible endemic wildlife found on the island of Borneo. Along the way we search for wildlife from a boat along winding waterways, sample a natural fish spa and take a night walk to look for endangered species in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve.
Explore Tour Leader
4 nights comfortable hotel
1 nights simple lodge
4 nights comfortable lodge
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Kota Kinabalu; KK as it is affectionately known by the locals. The small capital is a cultural melting pot and its inhabitants are a mix of Chinese, Indonesian, Filipino, Indian and of course Malay. This blend of influences makes KK a foodie's dream, with fusion restaurants popping up all over town and street-food stalls serving up classics like Nasi Goreng (fried rice with spices) and satay alongside curries and kimchi. Tonight has been left free to explore the city's vibrant foodie scene.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Kota Kinabalu at any time. If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Kota Kinabalu International Airport (BKI), which is 30 minutes from the hotel. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information over breakfast on day 2.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to visit the waterfront for a bite to eat and a visit to the fruit market.
Jesselton Hotel (or similar)
We set off this morning to explore the sights of KK. Having been bombed extensively during World War II, KK's architecture is awash with modernity, occasionally interspersed with the remaining historical buildings, mosques, ramshackle and handicraft markets. We first visit Tun Musthapha tower, and with being the tallest building in the city this skyscraper encapsulates the city's new and modern feel. Continuing on we get a feel for the cultural diversity of the city when visiting the beautiful Chinese temple of Puh Toh Tze followed by the impressive State Mosque. This much-photographed mosque features intricate examples of Islamic architecture with its gold motifs decorating its grand dome. We end at Signal Hill, where the observation platform offers great views over the city skyline.
This afternoon has been left free to relax or to further explore the city. Alternatively, there is an optional trip to the nearby Mari Mari village, a traditional settlement that celebrates and preserves the indigenous tribes of Borneo.
After a leisurely breakfast we leave the city limits and after approximately two and a half hours reach the Crocker Mountain Range, home to the highest mountain in South East Asia - Mount Kinabalu (4095m). We will travel to the small village of Tanak Nabalu where we share lunch with the local villagers. The people here are from the ethnic Dusan tribe, most of which now offer their services as guides and porters up to Mount Kinabalu's summit. We spend time with them learning about their ancient cultures and customs over a hearty lunch of Hinava. Similar to the Peruvian dish ceviche, Hinava is a raw fish dish which originates from Sabah's Kadazan Dusun tribes. Mackerel is the traditional fish used in Sabah, and this is marinated in lime and served with red chilli, ginger, shallots, Bambangan seeds, and prawns.
After lunch we enjoy a gentle stroll through the Botanical Gardens taking in some exotic species of flora such as slipper orchids, a variety of pitcher plants, yellow rhododendron and much more. En route we stop at the World War Two Memorial Park, which commemorates the thousands of Allied forces, including British and Australian, that lost their lives at the hands of the Japanese empire. We then make the short drive onto the town of Kundasang, our rest stop for the night.
Perkasa Hotel (or similar)
This morning we travel east and visit the Poring Hot Springs, an incredible collection of natural geothermal pools dotted throughout the forest. Here we can take a dip in the natural mineral-rich waters and spot monkeys and birds on the canopy walk that traverses the springs. There will also be an option to visit an Orchid Conservation Centre.
We then move on to a Rafflesia farm. Known as the 'corpse flower' due to its strong smell, it is possible the largest existing flower. From here we drive onto Sepilok, approximately a four hour drive where we plan to arrive in the late afternoon.
Sepilok Jungle Resort (or similar)
This morning we set off on foot to the Sun Bear Conservation Centre. Sun bears are the smallest bears and their survival has been threatened by decades of ongoing deforestation. In the wild, they play a key role in ensuring the health of the forest. Here, orphaned or confiscated sun bears are cared for and rehabilitated, with the ultimate goal to return them back into their natural habitat.
We then carry on walking to the Sepilok Orang-utan Sanctuary. A highlight for many of Borneo's visitors, Sepilok is home to the largest of the three orang-utan rehabilitation centres in the world. Covering over 4,000 hectares of forest, the centre was established in 1964 to rehabilitate captured, injured or abandoned apes. So far about 100 'wild men of the forest' have been brought to the centre, and there has been a remarkable success rate with up to 75% having returned to the jungle. The animals are taught how to make nests and how to survive in their natural habitat. We plan to visit the centre in time for feeding when, along with the resident apes, females who normally live in the jungle, come to supplement their diet after the birth of their young.
After lunch we will drive to Sukau, located along Sabah's longest river, the Kinabatangan. After some rest time we will set off for our first river cruise, hoping to spot some of the endemic wildlife dotted among Sukau's myriad waterways.
For those feeling energetic, tonight we will go on a night walk in the jungle for a chance to spot nocturnal animals like the civet cat, tarsier, slow lloris as well as owls, frogs and a variety of insects.
Bilit Rainforest Lodge (or similar)
Waking to the distant calls of gibbons and hornbills, we rise for breakfast before joining a morning river cruise to Kelenanap Oxbow Lake. The Kinabatangan River area plays host to an incredible array of wildlife - a total of 10 primate species including proboscis monkeys, langur moneys, wild orang-utans, gibbons and macaques are all common sightings here. The area is also known for pygmy elephants, Malay sun bears, clouded leopards, crocodiles and the Sumatran rhino. Birdlife is just as prolific, with all eight species of hornbill present, not to mention kingfishers, ospreys, storks and eagles.
We embark on another river cruise this afternoon where we hope to be able to spot some more of this varied wildlife from our boat with the help of our expert guide.
After dinner this evening there will be the chance to go back out for an optional night cruise - an excellent opportunity to see the water lit up by fluorescent light, hoping to see the shine of a pair of eyes staring back at us.
We head deeper into the rainforest today on our three and a half hour drive to the Reserve of Tabin. On the route this morning we see many reminders of man's interference with nature. Much of the route to the conservation area has been de-forested and replaced with vast swathes of palm oil plantations. Malaysian Borneo and Indonesia account for over 90% of the world's production of palm oil, and the drive today gives first-hand experience of the problem it causes by displacing endemic and endangered wildlife and flora. The guide will add some extra insight into the palm-oil industry, a complex issue that isn't pleasant to witness, but is very much a reality in modern-day Borneo. Fortunately the Tabin Wildlife Reserve has long been kept as a conservation area, meaning the rainforest here has remained entirely intact.
The Tabin Wildlife Reserve was created in 1984 to preserve some of Sabah's most endangered species, and covering an area of some 122,000 hectares it the largest in Malaysia. Tabin is home to the Sunda Clouded Leopard and the Borneo Elephant, as well as seven of Sabah's primates and a huge array of bird species.
In the afternoon we head out for our first walk, along the Elephant trail to the Lipad Mud Volcano. This small active volcano provides a mineral salt lick and thus attracts a multitude of wildlife which we hope to spot. A variety of animal footprints are usually visible across the mud, and the adventurous can try out the effects of the mud which is said to be excellent for skin care.
Our accommodation for the next two nights is the Tabin Wildlife Resort, a charming collection of wooden chalets built on stilts that look out over the river and surrounding hills. The chalets are comfortably appointed with en-suite facilities and a ceiling fan, and the resort also has a restaurant and bar.
Tabin Wildlife Resort (or similar)
We rise early this morning amongst the birdsong and gibbon calls to travel to the core of the reserve, climbing the observation tower to discover some of Tabin's near 300 species of birds. Here we hope to spot species such as the Bronzed Drongo, Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot and Purple-throated Sunbird, to name but a few. We then move onto Orang-utan Release Centre and learn about the important work the centre plays in the final step of releasing rehabilitated Orang-utans back into wild. From here we continue on foot, through the lush steamy rainforest to Lipad Waterfall, where it's possible to take a dip in the natural pools and brave a refreshing shower under the falls.
The afternoon has been left free to relax in the natural surroundings, or perhaps try out the Tabin Rainforest Foot Soak - a mixture comprised from a natural blend of locals herbs to ease those weary feet.
After dinner there we will head out on a night walk, to keep an ear and eye out for some of the nocturnal wildlife found nearby the resort.
There is a final chance for another nature walk this morning before we leave our accommodation behind at lunch time and drive to Lahad Datu, the region's nearest city and provincial airport. We fly back to Kota Kinabalu, where the last evening is free, perhaps to pick up souvenirs at the city's night market, or to get your last fix of the flavoursome Malaysian cuisine.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Kota Kinabalu.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Kota Kinabalu at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like an airport transfer today, you need to depart from Kota Kinabalu International Airport (BKI), which is 30 minutes from the hotel.
Temperatures are high all year round, between 23°C at night to 32°C during the day. Borneo is tropical and only lies a few degrees north of the equator. Rainfall can be expected at any time of year though will be greater between November and January. Seasonal weather patterns can be unpredictable.
3 Pin Flat
Temperatures are uniform throughout the year, with conditions on the coast more humid. Day-time temperatures reach around 31°C and then drop at night to about 23°C. There is no clearly defined wet and dry seasons, though the southwest monsoon (September to November) and the northeast monsoon (November to February) bring rather more rain. On the west coast rain tends to fall mainly in short lived thunderstorms, and the sky clears quite quickly.
Mari Mari cultural village visit - MYR 275 per person based on 4 participants. Rate may change depending on total numbers Orchid Conservation Centre - MYR 13 per person Night Cruise in Sukau - MYR 130 per person, minimum two people Foot soak treatment - MYR 55 per person, duration 30 minutes
Pack essentially for hot conditions as there is year-round humidity in the lowlands. Lightweight rainwear/umbrella is essential all year. Plastic ponchos can be purchased locally. Long sleeves, long trousers and sturdy walking shoes are highly recommended for the jungle walks.
Light-weight walking boots or walking shoes are the best for time in the jungle though expect them to get wet and muddy as we may have to cross some streams. Also bring trainers or canvas shoes for wearing when travelling. Sandals are useful when relaxing.
One main piece of baggage and a day pack.Remember you may be expected to carry your own luggage so don't overload yourself. Hard suitcases are not suitable for this trip.
Bring a torch (preferably a head torch), a water bottle, insect repellent (we recommend atleast 50% DEET), suncream and a towel. Binoculars are useful for wildlife viewing, especially from the boat in Sukau.
Boat, Flight, Minibus
The trip features a varied mix of accommodation with comfortable, central hotels in the cities and towns, and jungle lodges offering a more basic experience with variable hot water and limited air-conditioning. Accommodation in Sepilok and Sukau comprises of twin-bedded jungle lodges with en-suite facilities and air-conditioning, whilst the Tabin Wildlife Centre offers charming wooden en-suite chalets with twin beds and a fan.
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
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Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Malaysia: Visas are not required by UK, Australian, New Zealand, US and Canadian citizens. All passports must have at least 6 months validity after departure from Malaysia. Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against malaria, typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria, infectious hepatitis and polio. Consult your travel clinic for latest advice on different prophylaxis available against malaria. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against malaria, tetanus, infectious hepatitis, typhoid, diphtheria and polio. Consult your travel clinic for latest advice on different prophylaxis available against Malaria. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.