Explore a mystical land of incredible natural beauty and rare wildlife on this Sabah Adventure tour. With its collection of unique animals, ancient traditions, hot springs, tribal villages, loveable orangutans and incredible views, Sabah has something for everyone. Experience the very best of this part of Borneo – climbing Mt Kinabalu, watching elusive sea turtles lay their eggs and sharing laughs with local village hosts – every minute of this incredible adventure will stay with you for life.
Day 1 Kota Kinabalu
Selamat datang! Welcome to Borneo, Malaysia. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on Day 1. If you arrive early, you can immerse yourself in history of this intriguing city between the Borneo jungle and the South China Sea at the Sabah State Museum. You can also visit the Mari Mari Cultural Village, or perhaps explore the islands off Kota Kinabalu, excellent for swimming and snorkelling.
Day 2 Dusun Village
Today you will travel by minivan to a Dusun village, nestled amid picturesque hills in the shadow of imposing Mt Kinabalu, the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea (approximately 2 hours). The Dusun people, the ethnic group of our guides on Mt Kinabalu, are wonderfully warm and friendly people, and while here you’ll have the opportunity to learn about their way of life and spend a night in a village. Depending on the weather, you will take a hike through the surrounding fruit and rubber plantations. Your leader can point you in the direction of the river for a great way to cool off afterwards! To ensure we share our business around the community, we split up our groups to stay in a couple of different family homes. All the homes are in waking distance from each other and you will usually have other group members with you at each home. Enjoy a cultural performance in the village tonight after dinner.
Day 3 Mt Kinabalu National Park
This morning say goodbye to your new friends from the village and travel into the unspoiled wilderness of the World Heritage-Listed Kinabalu National Park (approximately 1 hour). Take some time to enjoy the surroundings and prepare for the climb. There are nature trails through the lowland tropical forest and a Botanic Garden to explore. Otherwise, just relax this afternoon and take in the cooler climate. Your leader will provide a safety briefing about the climb and assist with any last minute questions. Stay overnight at Kinabalu Park in a lodge with shared bathrooms. Nestled among the lowland forests, this is the perfect place to chill-out before the climb.
Day 4 Mt Kinabalu National Park
Rise early the next day to begin the climb up Mt Kinabalu. It’s not an easy trek as it is uphill all the way, and you’ll need to be prepared to tackle a trail made up of steep steps that vary considerably in size. Altitude can also affect you regardless of your fitness level, so everyone will take the trek at their own pace. It’s important that you have educated yourself about the dangers of altitude sickness and its symptoms prior to the climb so you know what to look out for. Ensure you have warm layers, waterproof gloves, hat, head torch, waterproof jacket and good walking shoes/boots. The top of the mountain can be deceptively cold. There’s no rush, so take your time and enjoy the pristine environment – this is an area that boasts a remarkable variety of plant life, including some 1,000 species of orchid and the extraordinary carnivorous pitcher plant. You will cover 6 kilometres on the first day (approximately 4-6 hours) and stop at a resthouse near Laban Rata (3,272 metres) for the night. The resthouses have very basic, mixed gender, multishare bunk rooms. Additional blankets can be hired from the park office if you are feeling the chill. Go to bed early, so you’re ready for the final ascent in the morning.
Day 5 Mt Kinabalu – Poring Hot Springs
Rise around 2am in order to catch the sunrise at the summit of Mt Kinabalu (4,095 metres). It’s difficult walking, but you’ll feel a huge sense of achievement once you make it. The view from the summit is incredible – the jungles of Borneo in one direction, the South China Sea in the other, making every inch of the climb worthwhile. Be warned though, the temperature can change very quickly up on the mountain, so bring clothes for all weather conditions. The climb from Laban Rata to the summit takes 2-4 hours and, due to the altitude, can be hard going even for the very fit. The first section from Laban Rata is along man made steps passing through vegetation. Once clear of the treeline you will be walking up a series of wooden steps all the way to the final check point at Sayat Sayat. The window for climbing the summit trail is quite narrow so climbers need to reach Sayat Sayat check point by 6am to continue and must listen to the instructions of the mountain guide and leader about continuing – their decision is final when it comes to safety on the mountain. After Sayat Sayat there is a rope marking the trail all the way to the summit. Waterproof gloves are recommended to protect your hands from rope burn (as well as to keep them warm). After witnessing the morning sunrise, return to Laban Rata for a well-earned breakfast, and then descend the mountain (approximately 3-6 hours) to enjoy a rewarding lunch at the bottom. Once everyone is down from the mountain you will continue on to Poring Hot Springs by bus (approximately 1 hour). Tomorrow you will be able to soothe your mountain-weary limbs in pools developed by the Japanese during World War II, where warm sulphur water – believed to have healing properties for the skin – is piped into several open-air baths. Depending on the time of year it might be possible to see the Raffelsia flower nearby. Rafflesia’s are the world’s largest flower and can grow up to 1 metre in size! Tonight you will stay at a hostel located right inside the springs complex itself, with a light and airy lounge room for you to relax in. The hostel has single bunk beds and the bathroom is shared.
Day 6 Poring Hot Springs
Poring Hot Springs is an ideal place to kick back for a day to recuperate after the Mountain climb. There are a number of optional activities from which to choose. There are graded paths leading through rich lowland forest to mountain rivers, waterfalls and bat caves – with birds and other wildlife often seen along the trail. A walkway in the tree canopy provides magnificent views or there’s a visit the enchanting butterfly farm. You can choose to trek to the lovely Laganan Falls or just laze about in the hot and cold pools.
Day 7 Kinabatangan River
Today, journey by private bus into the steamy rainforest to Bilit, a small village on the banks of the Kinabatangan River (approximately 5 hours). Take a short boat ride to the comfortable jungle lodge where you’ll spend the night. The lodge is located right on the riverbanks and is a good place to spot wildlife. In the early evening as the sun sets, head out by motorised boat in search of wildlife such as macaques, orangutan, proboscis monkeys and, if you’re lucky, even pygmy elephants. In the evening take a night walk in search of the western tarsier. Rubber boots and leech socks are available to hire. The lodge tonight is comfortable with private bathrooms.
Day 8 Sandakan
Today take another early morning cruise in search of wildlife. After breakfast, say goodbye to the Jungle Lodge and hit the road in a private mini van to the coastal city of Sandakan (approximately 3 hours). Along the way there’s the option to stop at the Gomantong caves (additional entrance fee). The caves are renowned for their valuable swiftlet nests, which are edible and harvested for bird’s nest soup. Birds’ nest collection is an ancient tradition, but nowadays locals must have licenses to climb to the roof of the caves and collect the nests, and penalties are imposed on unlicensed collectors. The nests are particularly prized in Chinese culture due to their rarity, and supposedly high nutritional value and exquisite flavour. This stop is also a great chance to spot orangutans swinging among the trees. Arrive in the busy city of Sandakan and see the strong Cantonese influence, evident in the lively harbourside market, the many Chinese temples and the local cuisine. Here there is free time to catch up on laundry, internet and banking as well as to explore the city.
Day 9 Turtle Island
This morning, leave your large bags at the hotel and walk 15 minutes to a nearby jetty. Travel by speedboat, past small fishing villages and bamboo fish traps, to Turtle Island Marine Park (approximately 1 hour), where green turtles come ashore to lay their eggs every night of the year. In the afternoon, there’s time for swimming, snorkelling or some quality time lazing about on the beach of this tropical island. Snorkelling gear is available for hire. In the evening, be touched by the sight of giant green turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs under the moonlight, and watch the researchers as they release protected hatchlings and guide them in their frantic dash to the ocean. It’s a moving experience that makes you think more than twice about trying illegally traded turtle egg delicacies. Beware that this is a very delicate environment and you must follow instructions from your leader and the local rangers to ensure minimal impact on the turtles. You will spend the night on the island tonight.
Day 10 Sepilok
After breakfast, return to the mainland (approximately 1 hour), collect your bags, and continue by minibus to a guesthouse located near the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (approximately 45 minutes). The centre was set up to help re-introduce these wonderful creatures back into the wild after a life of domestication or having been orphaned. From the viewing platform, you can watch and photograph these charming creatures as they swing into view and eat the supplementary diet of bananas and milk that is laid out for them twice a day. Human contact must be kept to a minimum and it’s essential that you follow the instructions of the park, as directed by your leader. Also included is a new nursery where you can view young orangutans as they learn how to climb on a specially constructed jungle gym. The viewing area is behind one-way glass so as to not disturb the animals. To see more of Borneo’s creatures there’s the option to visit the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center. Here rescued Sun Bears that have spent many years mistreated and locked away in cages are cared for, with hopes of rehabilitation and reintroduction into the wild. There’s also the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary where you can watch up close the amazing proboscis lazing and feeding – an experience that can only be found in Borneo. A thirty minute walk from your guesthouse is the Rainforest Discovery Centre, which also has a 147-metre long, 28-metre high canopy walkway with spectacular views of rainforest giants. Your accommodation is located about 10 minutes walk from the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.
Day 11 Kota Kinabalu
In the morning get some insight into the Sandakan’s past at the emotive War Memorial, built on the site of a Japanese POW camp. This site also marks the starting point of the tragic Sandakan Death Marches, on which 2,400 POWs were forced to walk through the jungles of Borneo. By the end of the march, only 6 Australians survived, and only because they had escaped. We then transfer to Sandakan airport and fly to Kota Kinabalu (approximately 1 hour). The flight usually gets back in the afternoon, so the rest of the day is free for your own activities. Do some last minute shopping at the large shopping centres or take a wander down to the night market to pick up something more local. You’ll end this colourful Sabah Adventure with an optional final group meal.
Day 12 Kota Kinabalu
Your Sabah Adventure comes to an end today. There are no activities planned and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. If you are staying in Kota Kinabalu longer, then there are some additional activities that your leader can assist with booking. It’s best to pre book these activities with your leader on Day 1. There’s a scuba dive trip from Manukan Island to see the wonderful underwater world of Borneo, or an optional fun, interactive and educational visit to Mari Mari Cultural Village to see how indigenous ethnic groups of Borneo used to live.