Welcome to Borneo! Your adventure begins in the animated city of Kuching. You will be collected from the airport and transferred to your hotel, where you'll meet your tour leader and small group for a 6pm welcome meeting. If you arrive early, you may like to take a stroll along Kuching’s scenic waterfront, stopping in at a local cafe to watch life unfold in front of you, or visit the Borneo Cultural Museum. After your meeting, your leader will help you get acquainted with the city on a walk to one of Kuching’s food courts that’s popular with the locals, where you can sample all manner of traditional delights under one roof. Kuching really is a food lover’s paradise!
This morning, begin your journey to Batang Ai National Park. The remote and lush rainforests of this park are alive with the calls of hornbills and gibbons, and home to the highest density of wild orangutans in central Borneo. The Iban people have called these rainforests home for 400 years, with entire villages living under one roof in longhouses built alongside the river. Hidden away from the modern world, these communities have retained centuries-old traditions. Stop off at the native market in Lachau where you can pick up locally made goods like woven baskets and traditional Iban clothing, and something tasty for lunch. Then take a longboat down the Delok river to your accommodation for the evening. Arrive at the serene and secluded Nanga Sumpa lodge, tucked away among vegetation on the riverbank. The operator of the Nanga Sumpa Lodge has had a long-standing relationship with the community, creating jobs and involvement so people benefit from tourism, as well a scholarship fund to boost children's education in the community. Tonight, you'll enjoy a traditional dinner at the lodge.
After a peaceful breakfast surrounded by nature, take a 2-hour walk through the jungle, passing local farms, orchards, and plantations as your leader shares stories from the region and teaches you about foraging for edible delights and local medicinal plants. Next, take a longboat up the river to the beautiful Enseluai waterfall. Keep your eyes open in case of a rare orangutan sighting! Here, you'll enjoy some time to relax, swim and soak up your idyllic surroundings. At a scenic picnic spot, you'll see how local ingredients turn into a wonderful meal. In the afternoon you'll cruise back to Nanga Sumpa and enjoy a village walk. After dinner, visit a traditional longhouse and spend time with the Iban people who will be happy to introduce you to their way of living. Hang out on the common veranda, share some rice wine and enjoy an unrivalled insight into the unique Iban culture.
Wake up to the songs of birds under a luxuriant canopy of trees. After breakfast, take a longboat out of the rainforest and make the journey back to Kuching, stopping off for lunch at a local coffee shop along the way. Spend an evening at leisure in Kuching. The name Kuching literally translates to ‘cats’, and the city has fully embraced this moniker. A wander of its streets will unearth giant cat statues, spray-painted cat street art and even a cat museum! If you’d like to dive deeper into the city’s fabulous food scene, your leader can recommend some splendid spots to eat.
Say goodbye to Kuching and take a flight to Mulu National Park. The national park is unbelievably diverse and spectacular to look at, full of rainforests, mountains, caves and karst formations. Your leader will be able to provide insight on how the park’s weird and wonderful geographic features came to be. In the late afternoon, visit Deer Cave and Lang Cave, which are reached by following a scenic jungle walk along a three-kilometre plank path, passing through peat swamp, alluvial flats and limestone outcrops. Watch millions of bats fly out of Deer Cave at sunset and see the large ring-shaped formations they make as they circle higher up the cliff face, before moving out across the rainforest in spiralling ribbons. Get ready to give your camera batteries a good workout because this landscape surprises at every turn. Return on the same path and head to your accommodation for the evening, gorgeous forest bungalows tucked away in the national park.
Today, join your leader for continued explorations of Mulu National Park where they will help you uncover more of the unusual and varied landscape. First head to Wind Cave – located along the Melinau River, the cave is named for the cool breeze that blows through it. Your leader will share details on the formation of the cave as you explore fascinating stalagmites and columns. Later, discover the caverns and crags of Clearwater Cave, one of the longest caves in Asia. The rest of the day is free for you to relax and take in the magnificent scenery.
Today you will take a flight to Kota Kinabalu, the bustling capital city of the Sabah state. With a modern metropolis, traditional charm and charismatic locals, Kota Kinabalu has something for everyone. In the late afternoon, head to one of the city’s rooftop bars and enjoy a cocktail while watching the sun set over the stylish skyline. The rest of the evening is free for you to explore. The city’s exciting food scene is best experienced like a local, so for dinner tonight, be sure to ask your leader for advice on hidden treasures away from the main tourist trail.
Enjoy a free morning in Kota Kinabalu, a city overflowing with possibilities. You may like to go snorkelling in Tunku Abdul Rahman Park and search for marine life, or perhaps take a tour to the cultural village. If you’d prefer to stay in the city, you can visit the colourful handicraft market on the waterfront or explore the vibrant Chinatown. Your leader will be on hand to help you plan activities for the day. Later in the afternoon, head to a local vegetable and fish market, learning about and sampling regional snacks along the way. End the tour with a tasty and fresh dinner at a local restaurant.
Take a flight to Sandakan, then visit the Sandakan War Memorial. Here you will learn about the city's past as you stand on the same ground of the former Japanese POW camp. This site also marks the starting point of the tragic Sandakan Death Marches. Next, head to the jetty for a boat ride to the Kinabatangan Wetlands Resort, your Feature Stay accommodation. Nestled on the banks of the Kinabatangan river, the resort offers matchless access to local wildlife. Wooden boardwalks cut through the jungle and connect spacious and bright chalets which serve up marvellous views of the surrounding mangrove forests. A world away from Borneo’s busy cities, this is a place to really connect with nature. This afternoon, take a river cruise, where your leader will help you spot some exotic local creatures. Wild elephants seldom reveal themselves, but crocodiles, macaques, wild orangutan, proboscis monkeys, hornbills and kingfishers are more easily seen. Enjoy dinner at the resort before heading back out for a night-time wildlife walk. Geared up with a headlamp and leader in tow, set out in search of interesting insects or other animals that pop up after dark.
You might awake to the call of a Bornean gibbon, or perhaps a hornbill. Enjoy an early morning cruise through the fog as the sun rises, including light refreshments on board while searching for more birds and wildlife. Keep an eye out for long tail macaques and pig tail macaques – ask your leader about the difference. Return to the resort for breakfast and search the property with your leader for some insects, plants and birds. This afternoon, set off for another river adventure, exploring small tributaries by boat in search of more interesting creatures. Later, head out for a night-time cruise where you will be on the lookout for nocturnal animals – perhaps a wide-eyed slow loris hanging from a tree. Enjoy dinner back at the resort.
Return to Sandakan by boat and visit the orangutans at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. Watch and photograph these delightful creatures as they swing into view on ropes and vines. It is important not to interrupt the orangutans, to aid in their successful re-introduction to their natural environment. Check in at the outdoor nursery where young orangutans, born in captivity or orphaned, are cared for. You will also visit the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, seeing the world’s smallest bears in large forest enclosures as they are rehabilitated after being rescued. This evening, tuck into some of Sandakan’s famously delicious seafood during a final dinner with your group and leader.
Your adventure comes to an end after breakfast. If you would like to extend your stay, we can arrange additional accommodation (subject to availability). Flights depart most days from Sandakan to Kota Kinabalu or Kuala Lumpur.