Borneo in Style
Borneo is prime bucket list territory; a destination where you can tick off seeing wild orangutans, rainforest trekking and enjoying an idyllic beach break, all in one holiday. If you've had it on your list for years and are now ready to make the trip, do it in style on this all-encompassing, luxury 15-day trip.
Itinerary at a Glance:
- Take a helicopter ride over Mount Kinabalu
- Spot orangutans, pygmy elephants, sun bears and all manner of weird and wonderful wildlife
- Relax on the soft sandy beaches of Gaya Island
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When To Travel
All of the holidays we create are completely tailor-made to you
Day 1: International Flight
Your adventure begins as you head to the airport and board a late morning international flight to Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital. The overnight flight takes roughly 13 hours.
Day 2: Arrive and Settle In
You'll arrive into Kuala Lumpur in the morning and transfer across to the onward flight to Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Malaysian Borneo's Sabah State. Your bags will be checked through and the flight takes just under three hours. At the airport you will be met by a driver and transferred to your hotel.
You'll be staying at the luxurious Shangri-La Rasa Ria, which is set in 400 acres of lush rainforest on the edge of a soft sandy beach. The drive will take around 40 minutes.
After the long flights, spend the afternoon in the sun, breathing in the fresh sea air and sinking your toes into the sand as you settle into the holiday mood. Then perhaps opt for a rejuvenating spa treatment to really enter into the spirit, before settling down to watch the sun set with a cocktail as you wait for your fresh Malaysian dinner at Tepi Laut Makan Street restaurant. We'll ensure that a dinner reservation is made for you, and perhaps even a post-flight rejuvenating spa treatment.
Day 3: Relax and Enjoy a Beach Dinner
Spend your first full day in Borneo back on the beach enjoying the sunshine. Dip in and out of the pool or sea and try your hand at some of the watersports on offer at the beach. For those that want to be a bit more active, there is also horse riding or golf on offer at the resort.
Come evening we've arranged a special dining experience for you. Starting just before sunset you'll meet with your personal host to make food and wine selections for later in the evening. Then, wander along the beach as dusk falls, before sipping a cocktail to the backdrop of a breath-taking Borneo sunset. As the sun sets, take a seat in your personal beachfront gazebo to be served a delicious five course meal.
Day 4: Mt Kinabalu From Above
Get up early this morning to take to the skies on an unforgettable helicopter flight over Kota Kinabalu. You'll be driven to a nearby landing pad and once aboard the helicopter your first fly over is Mount Kinabalu - the highest peak in Southeast Asia.
With the captain as your guide, learn about the myths and legends of Mount Kinabalu and listen to stories of the locals making offerings to the spirits believed to live there. Then, enjoy the views while soaring over the Crocker Range, an ancient rainforest and serpentine of rivers, before you sweep down and see the charming rustic villages in the shadow of Mount Kinabalu. As the lush tropical greenery slowly gives way to vast paddy fields you'll soon find yourselves heading back to the city, where you can do one last circle before you land.
Afterwards it's back to the hotel for the afternoon to relax and pack your things ready for tomorrow's move.
Day 5: To Sepilok
Take a private transfer back to the airport early this morning, in time for your short flight to Sandakan. Once landed there you'll be transferred to your hotel by the Sepilok Kabili Reserve. You'll have time to settle in, take in your new-found jungle surroundings and enjoy a spot of lunch.
This afternoon it's time to spot some of the area's most famous residents - the orangutans. Visiting Sepilok's Orangutan Sanctuary you'll have your first experience of the wildlife Borneo is so famous for and can see for yourself how beautiful and intelligent these apes really are. This is the world's largest orangutan rehabilitation centre and gives visitors and researchers alike the opportunity to observe orangutan in their natural habitat.
As darkness falls, it's time to explore the jungle on a privately guided night walk. With many nocturnal species taking up residence in the rainforest this is one of the best times to spot wildlife.
Day 6: To Kinabatangan River
This morning, visit the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre for the chance to see some rescued sun bears in close proximity. The smallest bears in the world, sun bears are endemic to Southeast Asia and are increasingly threatened by poaching and deforestation so centres like this one are hugely important in ensuring these cute, tree-climbing bears are still around in years to come.
After visiting the sanctuary you'll be transferred to the nearby jetty and then make a two-hour journey around the coast and in to the mouth of the Kinabatangan River, past local villages and rainforest to your new lodge. Enjoy the views as you cruise and then settle into the lodge with lunch and some time to relax. Later this afternoon, head out on a boat cruise up the river in search of wildlife - notably proboscis monkeys, pygmy elephants and fireflies - and to watch the sun set from the water.
Day 7: River Cruising
Rise early today and head back to the river for a cruise to the nearby ox-bow lake, Danau Pitas. Here you'll enjoy a picnic breakfast as you spot wildlife and take in your tropical surroundings. After breakfast, continue along the river to visit a local fishing village where you can interact with the local Orang Sungai people and observe the daily activities in this tiny fishing village. It's then back to the lodge for lunch and a rest.
Come afternoon, explore the lodge grounds in search of interesting plants and birds before you set off for another river adventure, this time searching for wildlife along several small tributaries. Dinner will then be served at the lodge and you have the opportunity to go out on a night cruise to spot nocturnal wildlife.
Day 8: To Danum Valley
This morning, say goodbye to the river as you depart upstream for an hour or so toward your next jungle adventure. Continue your journey by road for around two hours toward the ancient rainforest of the Danum Valley. You'll have to stop to register your entrance into the national park at the Danum Valley Park Headquarters in Lahad Datu, and from there you'll start to get deep into the forest on a further three and a half hour shared lodge transfer.
Arriving at Borneo Rainforest Lodge the long journey will all seem worth it as you see the exceptionally beautiful surroundings and are met by your private nature guide, who will fill you in on what rainforest adventures you'll be having whilst you're here.
Day 9: Rainforest Adventures
You'll almost certainly wake early today, as the sounds of the rainforest awakening permeate through the lodge! Use this to your advantage and make an early start on your trek today to arrive at a stunning view point overlooking the lodge before the heat of the day makes the uphill trek too tough.
Your private guide will teach you about the endemic flora and fauna of the rainforest as you walk, until you arrive at the viewpoint to soak it all in. Here, you will also find an ancient Kadazandusun burial site. As you make your descent, your guide will take you to a natural Jacuzzi pool where you can enjoy a cooling dip and even a fish pedicure - a very weird sensation!
After lunch at the lodge, either explore the rainforest further on foot with your guide, or opt to float leisurely down the river on a water tubing adventure. This evening, your guide will accompany you on a night walk through the rainforest for a closer glimpse of the nocturnal species.
Day 10: DO Go Chasing Waterfalls
Today, your guide will accompany you to explore some of the lush waterfalls within the Danum Valley. You will trek to Fairy Falls and Serpent Falls, where you can reward yourselves with a cooling dip.
As you walk through the jungle, keep your eyes peeled for a flash of orange in the canopy - perhaps a passing orangutan or red leaf monkey - or a rustling of leaves on the rainforest floor - the sign of a mouse deer or civet cat. After lunch back at the lodge you may then opt to explore further on foot, trekking along the Segama River with your guide, or simply relax at the lodge and enjoy the sounds of the rainforest.
Day 11: To The Beach
Rise early for your final morning in the rainforest, and perhaps head out for a trek with your guide just after dawn, alternatively you might like to return to the canopy walkway for one last panoramic tree top view. After breakfast you'll then make the bumpy transfer back to Lahad Datu, were you'll catch a short domestic flight to Kota Kinabalu.
Once landed here you'll be collected and driven from the airport to the jetty, where the boats to Gaya Island depart from. After so many days in the dense rainforest enjoy the open sea views for half an hour or so, and then dock onto the sandy shores of your beachfront hotel for the next four nights. Once you've checked in, head straight to the beach for an afternoon drink in the sun and then a leisurely dinner.
Days 12-14: Sun, Sea and Sand
Over the next few days you'll have plenty of time to spend relaxing on the beach and by the pool, perhaps with a good book or a mood boosting playlist. We also suggest interspersing this downtime with some of the many cool activities on offer at your hotel and on Gaya Island in general.
Use a yoga class to clear your head, a craft workshop to test your creativity and a diving lesson to explore the colourful unknown of the underwater world. You might also want to do some kayaking or paddle boarding in the sea or go on a hike into the rainforest.
Meals will all be fresh and leisurely, with seafood and authentic Malaysian cuisine aplenty. We recommend using one of you evenings to enjoy a private beach barbeque dinner too - a really special and super-romantic experience.
Day 15: Home Time
Spend your last morning in Borneo soaking up as much Vitamin D as possible and then enjoy a leisurely lunch before being collected and taken to the airport in time for your evening flight. As with the inbound journey, you'll be stopping on route, with the first two and a half hour flight to Kuala Lumpur followed by an overnight flight to London that takes just under 14 hours, arriving back in the early morning.
Holly and Frances are our experts for this itinerary and as seasoned travellers they have the inside track on the most memorable adventures.