Wildlife & Beaches of East Malaysia
Mix exploration with true relaxation - this itinerary includes plenty of opportunities to unwind in some of Malaysia's most memorable locations. Meet the nation's iconic orangutans, hang out in both the jungle and a glamorous metropolis and yet still return home revitalised after a stay at one of the world's most soothing spa retreats.
Itinerary at a Glance:
- Visit orphan orangutans and sun bears in Sepilok Nature Resort
- Go wildlife spotting by river boat in the Kinabatangan Wetlands
- Take a walking tour of Kuala Lumpur's highlights
- Unwind at the magnificent east coast spa retreat of Tanjong Jara
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When To Travel
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Day 1: Fly to Kuala Lumpur
Make your way to the airport for your direct overnight flight to the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.
The flight leaves in the late morning and takes roughly 13-hours which means you'll have a chance to catch up on the latest movies or perhaps do a little more background reading on your forthcoming Malaysia experience. If you're travelling with children, our specially designed Sharkey and George packs are a treat both for you and for them.
Day 2: Onwards to Sepilok Nature Reserve
On arrival in Kuala Lumpur this morning, transfer onto your connecting flight to Sandakan in Malaysian Borneo, a journey time of around three hours.
It's then just 30 minutes by private transfer to your lakeside lodge accommodation on the edge of the Sepilok Kabili Nature Reserve. Enjoy a tasty late lunch before relaxing in the tranquil surroundings.
Within easy walking distance is the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, a wonderful place to see how young orphaned orangutans are taught the skills they need to survive in the wild. Go at feeding time (3pm) to see them at their most adorable.
Day 3: Sepilok Discoveries
Today you're free to spend as much time as you like visiting the tiny rescued sun bears at the nearby Bornean Sun Bear Sanctuary.
The smallest bears in the world, these loveable little creatures are under threat from hunting and forest degradation and the sanctuary works to keep them safe and rehabilitate them into the wild when they're ready.
In the afternoon explore the Rainforest Discovery Centre, complete with a canopy walkway to enable you to view the forest from among the treetops, a visitors' building with informative exhibitions and a Plant Discovery Garden featuring a wealth of native plant species.
In the evening, you're treated to a private two-hour guided night walk to discover the many nocturnal animals that inhabit this glorious ecosystem, including huge variety of insects and small mammals - a favourite with younger audiences.
Day 4: Along the Kinabatangan River
Your last morning at Sepilok is yours to choose whether to simply relax in the sunshine or re-visit the orangutan or sun bear sanctuaries for a final time.
At 11am set off for Sandakan Jetty where you'll board a boat bound for your next hotel, on the banks of the Kinabatangan river, around two hours away. You'll pass through local villages and leafy rainforest. On arrival at the lodge, enjoy a leisurely lunch before a late afternoon riverboat cruise with fellow guests up the peaceful Kinabatangan River. Budding naturalists and Planet Earth devotees will revel in the jungle surroundings, eyes peeled to spot proboscis monkeys, elephants, hornbills, gibbons and dozens of exotic bird species. On your return to the lodge, compare notes over supper and perhaps take an evening stroll along the resort boardwalks to spot some of the area's nocturnal residents amid the incomparable sounds of the rainforest.
Day 5: The Early Bird Catches the Worm
As all wildlife enthusiasts know, early risers are richly rewarded.
At 6.30am cruise to the crescent-shaped Kelenanap Oxbow Lake, which offers the best opportunity to witness the morning rituals of the wildlife there. The stillness of the lake and relative protection of the lush vegetation has created an ecosystem that's quite different from that of the flowing river. Grab your binoculars and scan every inch of the shore and treeline - you won't be disappointed.
Having worked up a good appetite, breakfast is very welcome. A tour along the Hornbill Boardwalk with the resort naturalist afterwards will provide a wonderful insight into the medicinal and traditional uses of the flora of the jungle here.
After lunch, spend some time relaxing with a book or taking a restful siesta before heading out in the late afternoon to observe the antics of many primate species that become active at this time of day. With the afternoon light losing its glare, it's also a perfect opportunity to capture the most amazing wildlife photos - unless your subjects turn out to be camera shy, of course.
After supper back at the resort, there's even a chance to take a night river safari to experience this incredible ecosystem under cover of darkness.
Day 6: Return to Kuala Lumpur
Today you'll leave the wetlands behind and take the boat back to Sandakan in time for a domestic flight (just under three hours) to the Malaysian capital.
You'll be met at the airport for a private transfer or around 50 minutes to your chosen city centre hotel.
After settling in you can decide how you'd like to spend the evening in this vibrant, modern city. We can make an advance dinner reservation for you at an upscale eatery serving Malay cuisine such as Bijan, or the award-winning French/Asian hotspot, Cilantro. If you're feeling adventurous you could simply join the locals and dive straight into the mouth-watering fusion of Malay, Chinese and India food at one of the street food markets.
Day 7: Kuala Lumpur Walking Tour
After a good night's sleep, it's time to explore the history and heritage of this eclectic city on foot, with an early start and the insights of your own private tour guide to help you get the most out of your visit.
You'll begin at Masjid Jamek, otherwise known as Friday Mosque. This ancient, graceful building, with its white fringed, Moorish style arches and delicate minarets, is flanked by two converging rivers, marked by a stunning contemporary fountain.
In the streets that surround the mosque, you'll find garland-makers creating and selling gloriously vibrant marigold garlands and offerings as well as traditional teas and sweet Indian snacks to revive you on your walk.
Continue on to the capital's historic colonial centre where your guide will explain the multitude of influences that led to the buildings' stunning architecture, from art deco to Mogul and gothic to Tudor.
At Central Market, browse the stalls of local designers and craftsmen before completing your tour at Chinatown, a veritable feast for the senses - the hokkien mee noodles are a must. Afterwards, continue your exploration of the city at leisure or return to your hotel for a refreshing swim.
Day 8: East Coast Retreat
Today, it's time to leave the metropolis behind as you head by private transfer to the blissful sanctuary of Tanjong Jara, around four-and-a-half hours away on Malaysia's east coast.
Here, the aim is complete rejuvenation of body and soul, and we can think of no more beautiful setting in which to complete your transformation. Begin with a pre-booked spa treatment on arrival, the perfect way to revive your spirits after a long journey, then settle into your exquisite accommodation with its finely tuned blend of the contemporary and the traditional.
- Choice of superb restaurants, including beachfront, riverside and garden settings
- Exercise sessions, games and a variety of activities and excursions
- Unique spa with choice of treatments
- Snorkelling and diving opportunities
Day 9: Tanjong Jara Home Cooking Experience
Whether or not you're competent around the kitchen at home, the experience of shopping at the local market under the knowledgeable guidance of a local chef and then creating authentic Malay dishes with a small group of fellow students is a complete delight.
With the freshest of seafood, warming spices and fragrant herbs plus the secret tips provided by your expert tutor, your first Malay culinary creation is unlikely to be your last.
After devouring your own home-cooked masterpiece, spend the afternoon relaxing by the pool or at the beach.
Day 10: Tanjong Jara Jungle Trek
Stretch your legs and explore the area's incredible natural landscape by joining your guide for an exhilarating trek through the jungle to the base of the impressive Chemerung Waterfall.
Here, mountain waters cascade down a 980ft drop into crystal clear rock pools where you can indulge in a cooling dip as a reward for your exertions. With a packed lunch and chilled refreshments provided, all you have to remember is your swimsuit, a hat and suitable walking boots.
Afterwards, return to the resort for a well-earned rest.
Day 11: Tanjong Jara Bicycle Tour
Spend the day chilling out by the pool, being pampered at the spa or watching the soothing ebb and flow of the waves lapping the shore.
As the temperature begins to cool in the late afternoon, hop on a bike for a glimpse of the gentle, slow-paced life here on the palm-lined east coast. This charming guided tour weaves along the golden shoreline to the neighbouring fishing village where you can sip kopi kampong with the good-natured locals overlooking the brightly painted boats bobbing in the shallows. It's an easy ride, with plenty of stops to take in the views.
Day 12: Tanjong Jara Dining Experience
After a final full day of doing exactly as you please around the resort, this evening's unforgettable experience is all about the setting.
A single private table is laid out on the rocks right beside the sandy beach for a truly magical, romantic dinner. With the moonlight reflected in the calm waters of the bay and a gentle breeze rustling the palm fronds behind, this scrumptious five-course meal is certainly one to be savoured.
Day 13: Depart for London
After a leisurely morning and lunch at the resort, your private one-hour road transfer will bring you to Kuala Terranganu in time for your flight to Kuala Lumpur, where you will connect onto an overnight flight back to London, hopefully arriving home well-rested from your travels.
Holly is our expert for this itinerary and, as a seasoned traveller, has the inside track on the most memorable adventures.