The Wilds of Borneo
Wild. Untamed. Natural.
Full of natural jungle and wild animals! Wild Boars, Macaques, Elephants and Orangutans.
Private Tour of Borneo
We highly recommend a private tour of Borneo. To drive to, and find, the wild animals and accommodation in the depths of the jungle on your own would be a very challenging experience, and it’s doubtful that you would have the inside of knowledge of a professional local guide.
Just take a look at this fabulous Itinerary created by our private tour guide, David Tseu (We’ve added prices in Canadian dollars):
- Meet & Greet at Kota Kinabalu Airport (AirAsia Zest) – 6:40 pm
- Transfer to Gaya Center hotel check-in ($65C per person per night)(Dinner is on own expense)
- Breakfast at 0700 am and check-out at 0800 am
- Transfer 2 hours to Kinabalu Park for a stopover at Nabalu Village for a rest, handicraft/fruits stalls and coffee before heading to
- Kundasang War Memorial and road-side stalls in Kundasang.
- Have lunch before continuing 3.5 hours journey to Sandakan, passing through the Crocker Range highland
- Check-In at Sepilok Nature Resort for an overnight stay.
(Sepilok Nature Resort / Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner Included – $130C pp night)
- Breakfast at 0800am before going out at 0900 am
- Visit the Labuk Bay Proboscis Sanctuary for the encounter with our endemic primates – Proboscis Monkeys. Lunch is provided.
- At 1400 pm, visit the Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Center – video presentation, feeding platform & the outdoor nursery.
- At 1630 pm, head to walk the 100-feet high steel canopy at the Rainforest Discovery Center (RDC) to admire the pristine jungle of Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve.
- Listen to the dusk calls of cicadas and chorus of night insects before heading back to lodge for the evening. Dinner is provided.
(Sepilok Nature Resort / Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner are provided)
- Breakfast at 0730 am and check out at 0830 am
- 2 hours journey to Kinabatangan River area
- At 1030am, visit the Gomantong Cave, known for its Bird-Nest harvesting for centuries
- Explore the cave cavity and its surrounding forest for wild Orang-Utans, Red-Leaf Langurs and other wildlife
- Check-in at Myne Resort river lodge in Bilit Village
- Lunch will be provided at 1300 pm
- Rest at leisure after lunch
- At 1600 pm, a River Cruise to search for wildlife along the Kinabatangan River
- Back to river lodge at dusk around 1830 pm and dinner is provided and served at 1900 pm.
*Optional – A night jungle safari to search for nocturnal creatures at 2130 pm (Weather permitting)
(Myne Resort / Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner are provided ($350 pp night)
- Early morning river cruise at 0630 am to look for more wildlife along the river
- At 0830 am, back to lodge for breakfast
- At 1000 am, go for a jungle trekking to look for more wildlife and learn of the jungle flora and fauna
- Lunch is served at 1300 pm and rest at leisure for the afternoon
- At 1600pm, head for another river cruise on a different part of the river to search for more wildlife
- Back to river lodge at dusk around 1830 pm and dinner is provided and served at 1900 pm
*Optional – A night river cruise to search for nocturnal creatures at 2130 pm. (Weather permitting)
(Myne Resort / Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner are provided)
- Breakfast at 0800 am and Checkout from Kinabatangan area at 0900 am
- Journey back to Kota Kinabalu (KK)
- Along the way, stop for lunch and a tea factory tour at the Sabah Tea Plantation Garden
- Late afternoon arrival in KK for hotel check in. Free at leisure for the night. Dinner is on own expense.
(Horizon Hotel / Breakfast & Lunch are provided only / Dinner is on own expense, $125C night)
- At 0900 am pickup for morning trip for relaxation to one of the TAR Marine Park Island.
- You can just laze around sun-tanning on the sand or snorkelling
- Lunch is provided on island. Depart island jetty after lunch
- Rest at leisure in the afternoon with no activity
- 5 pm – pickup for a visit to the Mari Mari Cultural Village for an insight of the 5 largest local native tribes in Sabah (Dusun, Kadazan, Murut, Rungus & Lundayeh). Enjoy their house architecture, culture, music, performances and cuisines.
- Local high-tea is provided at Mari Mari Cultural Village at 800pm.
- Transfer back to hotel
(Horizon Hotel / Breakfast and Lunch are provided only / Dinner is on own expense)
- Transfer to KK Airport for flight (1320 pm) to next destination. Bon Voyage.
(Breakfast is provided only)
– Private Tour (Not SIC – Sit in Coach)
– Licensed & Permitted Tour Transportation with Licensed English Speaking Tour Guide
– Meals as stated (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
– Drinking Water (Bottled)
– 1 night x Gaya Center Hotel @ KK City (Superior Room)
– 2 nights x Horizon Hotel @ KK City (Superior Room)
– Sepilok Nature Resort @ Sandakan (Chalet Type) 2 nights
– 2 nights x Myne Resort @ Bilit Village (Chalet Type)
– Park Permits, Conservation Fees & Entrance Fees
– Tour Visits : Sepilok Orang-Utan, Rainforest Discovery Centre, Labuk Bay Proboscis Sanctuary, Kinabatangan River, Gomantong Cave, Kundasang War Memorial, Kinabalu Park, Nabalu Village, Mari Mari Cultural Village, TAR Marine Park
– 3 x Kinabatangan river cruises, 1 x Night River Cruise, Jungle Trekking (Day & Night – weather permitting)
– Some Meals are NOT provided & ON OWN EXPENSES
– Tipping/Gratuity is at your discretion
– Camera/Video Fees at certain site visits
– Medical/Travel Insurance
– Flight Ticket to next destination
– Any other item(s) not in the tour itinerary
What to Bring:
– Camera (Telephoto Zoom Lens), Torch/Head Light, Binocular, Charger for Phone/Camera
– Raincoat, Extra Clothing (Quick-Dry), Flip-Flop, Good Walking/Hiking Shoe
– Extra Local Currency, Swimming Attire, Waterproof Bag, Cap/Hat, Sunglasses, Sun-Lotion, Insect Repellent, Personal Medication & Toiletries
The cost of this Private Tour of Borneo was MYR 11,350.00 (for a 2-persons tour) or $3451.00 CAD but keep in mind that this was in January 2017, and prices fluctuate.
*If you would like to take a private tour of Borneo, you can find David Tseu here.
PRIVATE TOUR OF BORNEO
Day 1: Arrival in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo
Flying into Kota Kinabalu, for our private tour of Borneo, the sky was clear and we had a good view of one of the biggest islands in the world. Our excitement grew.
The airport was unlike most in the world because it was so colourful.
After we landed and had gone through Customs & Immigration in Kota Kinabalu, David was there to meet us.
As we drove from the airport to Kinabalu, we saw a clean city, lush and green everywhere, surrounded on one side by the sea and on the other side by the jungle. Beautiful.
We passed by the Kota Kinabalu Night Market called Pasar Malam Sinsuran Kota Kinabalu.
David told us a bit about the history of Kota Kinabalu. The British built the town high on the hill overlooking the ocean, so the KK (Kota Kinabalu) that we see today was actually built on land reclaimed from the ocean.
The Gaya Centre Hotel, Kota Kinabalu
Our hotel was the Gaya Centre Hotel, all decked out for Chinese New Year, with celebrations to begin in a few days. We were right across from a mall too.
On the streets too, people were already starting to celebrate Chinese New Year. The people smiled shyly.
The hamburger I had that evening in the hotel lounge was dripping with a sweet heavy dressing and served with limp McCain frozen fires. Note to Self: stick with local foods when travelling; they don’t know how to make Western food – nor should they. T had chicken noodle soup, a wiser choice, especially given that he had an upset stomach.
Day 2: Sandakan, Private Tour of Borneo
The first real day of our private tour of Borneo we were up at 6:30 to have breakfast and meet David at 8:00 am. There was a huge buffet breakfast covering the entire top floor, mostly Asian dishes, but they did have scrambled eggs, toast and coffee. The clientage was 99.9% Asian.
An open air balcony outside the buffet areas offered some nice morning views of the bay.
David arrived in long pants, socks and walking shoes, looking ever so much like David Suzuki. The convenience alone of being picked up and driven on a private tour is worth as much as being taken to the best places to view the wild animals.
We headed out of Kota Kinabalu and into the mountains, climbing higher and higher on the twisting modern highway winding through thick jungle towards Sandakan.
As we climbed higher, the cloud forest fog enveloped the highway.
A short stop for a forest walk began with this mesmerizing lake.
Our next stop was in the little village of Nabalu with a big open market. David pointed out some of the unusual jungle fruits and vegetables that we’ve never seen – one tasted like a lichi fruit, and the giant white grapefruit (2MR=70c CAD) was sweet as an orange. There were fresh spices too, like cinnamon sticks. We browsed through racks of clothes where I bought a leopard print sun dress for $5C (15MR).
There was even some roots in a bottle that promised to make you as strong as a boxer – even David winked at that.
On a private tour of Borneo or any other country, you get a true feel for the genuine culture just by attending simple things like local markets. You are mixing with the local people shopping and seeing how they interact, what they shop for, what they eat at home, the clothing they wear and so on.
More fog bathed the mountain drive in mystery, but it cleared just enough for us to see the famed Mount Kota Kinabalu.
Take a gander at this winding highway… gorgeous views….
Mount Kota Kinabalu
When we passed the famous hike-able Mount Kinabalu, I wished we had the time and energy to climb to the top as many have expounded is well-worth the trouble.
As the fog lifted, I took more and more artsy shots of Mount Kota Kinabalu, and the flowers.
The Death March
Our second stop was at the British-Australian-Bornean Kundasang War Memorial to the Death March when 3000 prisoners had been marched across the jungle hundreds of miles. 18 men survived. Eighteen out of three thousand (note that some references say only 6 out of 2500 survived)! At any rate, Australian and British POWs who had been captured at the Battle of Singapore in February 1942 were shipped to North Borneo to build a military airstrip and prisoner-of-war camps at Sandakan, North Borneo (Sabah), right where we were at that moment.
Prisoners had been forced to work at gunpoint, and were often beaten while also receiving very little food or medical attention. In 1945, Allies bombed and destroyed the airfield. The Japanese Commander decided to move the remaining prisoners into the mountains to the town of Ranau, 260 kilometres (160 mi) away. Any POWs who were not physically fit enough or collapsed from exhaustion were either killed or left to die en route. There are 3 gardens in the Memorial, one for each of Australia, England and Borneo, as well as the names of all the men who died.
At the entrance to the memorial, I sat down on the edge of the sidewalk to take some photos of the surrounding area while picturing the horrific circumstances of those thousands of men forced to march and march… over the huge hills and through the thick jungle… without food… beyond endurance.
We could have read about the Death March, but being on a private tour of Borneo right there where the men had been buried brought a depth of understanding and reality you’re less likely to get from simply reading about it.
Take My Picture
But there was a happy side to the memorial as well. People visiting the memorial, many of which were Muslim, shyly but excitedly asked if they could have a picture taken with me. Of course I agreed, and as we exchanged photo-taking, we laughed and joked like old friends.
This baby wasn’t nearly as enthralled with a foreigner as his parents were. Take a close look: his expression is priceless.
Many of the people of Borneo are Muslims. We were a little surprised to see so many Muslim people but David explained that the main religions in Sarawak are Islam, Christianity and Buddhism. Like the rest of Malaysia, Borneo’s mixed -race population practices mutual tolerance and respect for the various religious beliefs. How progressive. David said that when one ethnic group has a special festival or religious celebration, many other ethnic groups participate in a quiet respectful way.
Borneo is owned by 3 other nations: Indonesia (73%), Malaysia (26%) and Brunei (1%), with Indonesia owning 73%.
Our third stop was at a Crafts Market where we bought a Bornean flute and a traditional Bornean gong framed with a tiny musical instrument set inside.
Our lunch stop was our first taste of Bornean food, which because of the many ethnic groups offers unending choices of foods: Indian, Malaysian, Seafood, Chinese, Tribal.
We stopped at a Food Mall with at least two dozen kiosks. David insisted on buying T three beer because in Chinese culture – more is better.
Because we didn’t have a clue what any of the dishes were, David helped us choose a variety of food to share including Lechon Pork, Lechon Chicken, Ginger Relish, Satay Chicken, and Fried Sea Ferns. I didn’t care much for the Sea Ferns, but everything else was delicious.
On the way back from a difficult to use squat-bathroom (though it was clean as a whistle), I spotted an older woman who smiled and agreed to let me take a few photos.
Chinese New Year was starting the next day, and celebrations would be non-stop for two weeks. Everyone would have at least 3 days off – except David, poor soul.
The Crocker Range
It was a beautiful 3 hour drive through the mountains and we learned that the jungle is a mysterious place full of insects and orchids and wild cats. David said that the Bornean Pygmy Elephants used to migrate for miles up and down the river until the government built a bridge in the middle of the river such that there was no pass-through for the elephants, so now their migration route is only half as long. Apparently they were going to change the bridge, but the recommendation had been voted down. The orangutans of the jungle also migrate. Indeed, the wilds of Borneo seemed like they could be an alternative to the African Safari.
Palm Oil is a big industry in Borneo, and the trucks on the highway that we were seeing were carrying over $6000 worth of palm oil on each little truck. Many trees in the jungle have been clear-cut to make way for the Palm Tree Plantations we saw fairly often along the way.
We were enjoying the panoramas and local scenes as we wound the modern highway through the mountains when suddenly we came upon a landslide.
The back-end of this truck had been buried in the mud beneath the landslide.
After hours of driving, we were getting closer to our destination.
Sepilok Nature Resort
Finally turning off the highway, and driving down narrow dirt roads for about 30 minutes, we were completely blown away when we arrived at the Sepilok Nature Resort in Sandakan, our accommodation for the next 2 nights.
A luxurious resort built around a small lake in the thick of the natural jungle was an absolutely marvellous ‘sight for sore eyes’ at the end of the long drive.
Our Villa was spectacular! Wow. In the middle of the jungle. Incredible.
After settling into our lovely villa, surrounded by tropical plants, grasses, huge trees and spectacular wild orchids, we sat along the water listening to the sounds of the jungle.
Dazzling jungle and lake views as we walked down for supper.
Enjoying our supper: spring rolls and potato-cheese croquettes for appetizers, and pizza, which was excellent. The hotel rate included all meals but drinks were not included, and they were little pricey at $4 CAD for a beer or an ice coffee, but they were brightly refreshing in the hot steamy weather of the Bornean jungle.
So that was just the first day of our Bornean Jungle Tour, and it was mild compared to the amazing adventures on the days to follow. Stay tuned for wild animal adventures and real head hunters on our private tour of Borneo.