A two-week suggested itinerary in Borneo, visiting the best places to see Sabah’s incredibly varied wildlife.
From the varied habitats of Kinabalu National Park to the endearing orangutans at Sepilok Sanctuary, probiscus monkeys swinging through the trees on the Kinabatangan River, and the wonderful Borneo Rainforest Lodge in the Danum Valley (one of our favourites), Sabah offers a first-class wildlife experience, with the added benefits of good infrastructure, ease of access and top quality accommodation.
Day1: Depart UK
Day2: Arrive Kota Kinabalu
On arrival at Kota Kinabalu you will be met and transferred to your hotel in the city. Once you have checked in, the remainder of the day is free to relax after the journey, and maybe to see something of the city.
This morning you will be transferred to Kinabalu National Park, arriving in time for lunch. Once you have checked in you can choose from the various activities and walks.
Accommodation: Hill Lodge, 1-night
Day4: Return to Kota Kinabalu
Today you have a further opportunity to explore the vicinity of the national park headquarters before packing up for departure. On the drive back to Kota Kinabalu, you will make a stop at Poring Hot Spring, where you can bathe in the restorative waters. On return to Kota Kinabalu you are free for the evening.
Accommodation: Shangri-La Tanjung Aru or Shangri-La Rasa Ria, 1-night
Day5: Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary
This morning you rise early for the transfer to Kota Kinabalu airport to check in for the short flight to Sandakan in the northeast of Sabah. On arrival at Sandakan airport, you will be met and transferred to your acommodation in Sepilok. , where your one night stay is on full board basis. In the afternoon you will visit Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary to learn about these endearing creatures and hear about the remarkable rehabilitation work that is done here.
This morning you transfer to the jetty for the boat trip along the lower reaches of the Kinabatangan River, stopping for lunch at a sister lodge en route. After lunch you continue on the river for another hour or so to you reach your accommodation. Once you have settled in, the remainder of the day is free to relax or to enjoy a wildlife activity.
During the two full days you spend here, you will have a full programme of wildlife activities to enable you to understand the complex ecosystem. These may include an early morning bird walk, boat trips on the river, jungle walks, a night excursion - all accompanied by the lodges local naturalist guides.
Early in the morning, depart overland for Lahad Datu (approximately 2 hours' drive). You'll then join a scheduled transfer (another 2 hours) to Borneo Rainforest Lodge in the delightful Danum Valley, arriving in time for lunch. In the afternoon, depart for a guided walk on a nature trail (400 metre boardwalk circuit) and the canopy walkway. Weather permitting, you will be able to go for a night drive/walk to spot some of the wild animals here.
Kinabalu Park is dominated by the peak of Mount Kinabalu, and is probably one of the most important biological sites in the world. It harbours a remarkable botanical diversity with as many as 6,000 species of flora and fauna, over 600 species of butterflies, 320 species of birds and 100 species of mammal.
Where: Sabah State
Ideal for viewing: Bornean ferret badger, oriental small-clawed otter, rhinoceros hornbill, serpent eagle, sun bear
Excellent for: Photography tours with Nick Garbutt, Birdwatching
Danum Valley is arguably Borneo’s premier wildlife location and boasts all ten of Sabah’s primate species. Early morning is the best time to enjoy the canopy walkway through the surrounding lowland rainforest and view the stunning birdlife. It also offers maybe the best chance to see orangutan in the wild.
Where: Sabah State
Ideal for viewing: Asian elephant, Malayan sun bear, banteng, Sumatran rhino, orangutan
Excellent for: Photography tours with Nick Garbutt, Orangutan watching, Birdwatching
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
Suggested accommodation options are shown below.
for further recommendations.
The remarkable Borneo Rainforest Lodge lies in pristine jungle in the heart of Sabah’s Danum Valley. Considering the remoteness of its location, this unique, award-winning property offers an extremely high standard of accommodation in a wonderful setting, blending in with the surrounding rainforest.
Accessible by boat or road transport, this lodge consists of timber-built chalets connected by walkways. There are various spots around the lodge for viewing the surrounding nature and wildlife, including a bird observation tower and a jungle trail where red leaf monkey and wild orangutan are often seen.
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.
An award-winning beach resort, the luxury Tanjung Aru enjoys a magnificent setting in Kota Kinabalu, with splendid views of the neighbouring islands and mountains - the perfect place to relax at the start or end of your Borneo adventure. Facilities include two swimming pools, a spa and watersports.