Visiting some of Borneo’s best mammal watching nature reserves and national parks, this small group tour provides opportunities to see a host of rare mammals including the elusive Sunda clouded leopard.
The itinerary begins in Sepilok where we have the opportunity to visit the world renowned orangutan rehabilitation centre before moving on to the Kinabatangan River. Here, we explore the river in search of proboscis monkeys, silvery langur, and, if we are lucky, Asian elephant.
We continue to Deramakot Forest Reserve for a seven night stay and with good reason – this is the best location for seeing many of Borneo’s rarest mammals such as binturong, marbled cat, Sunda clouded leopard, slow loris and Malay sun bear. However, the highlight of Deramakot is to spot the Sunda clouded leopard – one of the world’s rarest cats. Despite being elusive and endangered, these cats are seen regularly in this reserve.
Day1: Depart UK
Depart the UK on an overnight flight to Sandakan via Kuala Lumpur.
Day2: Arrive Sandakan
On arrival in Sandakan, we meet our local leader at the airport who will accompany us throughout the itinerary. We then transfer by road to our accommodation close to the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, and the rest of the afternoon is free to relax around the lodge.
Day3: Visit Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary & transfer to Kinabatangan
After breakfast, we visit the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary to see these iconic primates and learn more about the rehabilitation and conservation work that happens here. Following our visit and a spot of lunch, we then transfer to the jetty to catch our boat transfer to the Kinabatangan River. We may see a variety of species as we head upstream, including proboscis monkey, grey-headed fish eagle, long-tailed macaque, Bornean bristlehead and silvered langurs.
We arrive at our accommodation in time for dinner and there may be an opportunity to look for some nocturnal species around the lodge later in the evening.
We have the full day to explore the wetland wilderness of the Kinabatangan by boat. Heading out on to the water in the morning and afternoon, we maximise our chances of seeing the excellent wildlife this area of Sabah has to offer. Even more so, as we extend our afternoon boat cruise into the evening to spot some of the nocturnal species before returning to our accommodation.
Day5: Gomantong Caves & Deramakot Forest Reserve
This morning we move on from the Kinabatangan and take a boat ride of around an hour and a half further upstream to the small village of Sukau. From here, we have a short drive to the remarkable Gomantong Caves, Sabah’s largest cave system and home to several species of bat and cave swiftlets.
From the caves, we proceed to the Deramakot Forest Reserve by road, taking around four hours. Arriving at our lodge in the late afternoon, we are free for the rest of evening after dinner as we prepare to explore this reserve and search for its excellent wildlife.
Accommodation: Deramakot Lodge, 7-nights
Days6-11: Deramakot Forest Reserve
Over the course of the next six days we explore the Deramakot Forest Reserve to find some of Borneo’s rarest mammals. We take a series of daily walks and night drives in the reserve in order to maximise our opportunities to see the diurnal and nocturnal wildlife whilst returning to the lodge for our meals throughout the day.
During our night drives in particular, we will be looking for the Sunda clouded leopard – one of the rarest cats in the world. Deramakot is arguably the best place in the world to these incredible felines.
In addition to the mammals, there is a great deal of birdlife for us to enjoy as well as we explore the reserve. More than 250 species have been recorded here and it is possible to see more than 50 different species in a day.
Day12: Return to Sepilok
We spend our final morning in the Deramakot to enjoy its wildlife one more time. Afterwards, we return to Sepilok by road, the journey taking approximately four hours.
Accommodation: Sepilok Nature Resort, 1-night
Day13: Transfer to Sandakan & depart
Following breakfast, we are free until our transfer back to Sandakan Airport in the late morning, to check in for our return international flights back to the UK via Kuala Lumpur.
Day14: Arrive UK
We arrive back into the UK early in the morning.
Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 14 daysfrom £3,195 pp
Duration and price excluding international flights: 12 daysfrom £2,595 pp
Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary is renowned for its work in rehabilitating orphaned orangutans, However, set in primary lowland rainforest, the reserve has much more to offer. The forest boardwalks make exploring easy, the birdwatching is superb and there is a tremendous variety of snakes and frogs to see.
Where: Sabah State
Ideal for viewing: Bornean pygmy elephant, mouse deer, orangutan, slow loris, western tarsier
Excellent for: Photography tours with Nick Garbutt, Orangutan watching
The Kinabatangan River snakes through Sabah’s lowlands for 560kms to reach the Sulu Sea. Along its length, a river safari will reveal a mosaic of riparian forest, oxbow lakes, nipah swamp and mangroves which supports a wide variety of mammal and birdlife who have grown surprisingly tolerant of human presence.
Excellent for: Wildlife festivals, Photography tours with Nick Garbutt, River safaris, Orangutan watching, Birdwatching
Sabah’s largest cave system is set in the heartland of a beautiful rainforest reserve, an impressive sight and home to many thousands of bats and cave swiftlets. Bat hawks linger nearby to prey on the bats as they leave their roost, and macaques, langurs and orangutans are regularly seen in the surrounding forest.
Where: Sabah State
Ideal for viewing: Asian fairy bluebird, cave swiftlet, crested serpent eagle, forest macaque, orangutan
Excellent for: Orangutan watching
Covering an area of 55,500 heactares in the state of Sabah, the Deramakot Forest Reserve is one of the finest wildlife areas in Borneo. The reserve is home to over 250 species of bird and 75% of Sabah’s mammals, including marbled cat, Bornean pygmy elephant and Sunda clouded leopard.
Where: Sabah State
Ideal for viewing: Sunda clouded leopard, binturong, marbled cat, buffy fish owl, Bornean pygmy elephant
This simple lodge, situated close to the Sepilok Forest Reserve entrance, is extremely comfortable and convenient for visiting the nearby Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary. It offers spacious accommodation in air-conditioned chalets, set in beautiful tropical gardens and connected by boardwalks to the main building.