Best of Borneo small group tour

Description of Best of Borneo small group tour

Discover the wonderful wildlife of Borneo on this 12-day small-group adventure tour. Don hiking boots and explore the remote Tabin Wildlife Reserve in search of wild orang-utan, proboscis monkeys and over 300 bird species including the magnificent hornbill. Relax aboard riverboats and cruise the waterways of the Kinabatangan River to further search for river life - observe treetop life and watch families of proboscis monkeys playing along the river's edge and don't forget to look for herds of pygmy elephants. Travel to Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre to learn a little about the important work they're doing and observe the feeding of the orang-utans. End your Borneo adventure with time to relax on pretty Gaya Island and enjoy activities including swimming, snorkelling and jungle hikes.
Single supplement: £820 pp. Min 6 people, max 12.

Day-by-day experiences

Day 1Fly to Borneo.
Day 2Land Kota Kinabalu and transfer to a city centre hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure.
Day 3Enjoy today at leisure, why not head to the night market to sample some local dishes? (B)
Day 4Fly to Lahad Datu and drive into the Tabin Wildlife Reserve. The reserve was established in 1984 and is home to a range of wildlife including pygmy elephants and is a release site for orang-utans from Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre. This afternoon trek to the Lipad mud volcano which attracts an abundance of wildlife. Climb to the top of the observation tower to spot the birdlife before returning to the lodge. This evening enjoy a night safari in search of nocturnal inhabitants. (B/L/D)
Day 5Rise early for a bird walk in search of some of the almost 300 species of birds which call the reserve home. Return for a hearty breakfast before heading out once more into the lush rainforest for a hike to the Lipad Waterfall. Take a dip in the cooling waters or explore the surrounding jungle vegetation. Return to the lodge to sample the Tabin rainforest foot soak to relax tired muscles. This evening head out on a dusk drive to search for more nocturnal wildlife and after dinner enjoy a night walk in search of sleeping frogs, birds and other nocturnal wildlife. (B/L/D)
Day 6After an early breakfast depart Tabin and re-trace your steps to Lahad Datu. Change vehicles and drive to the Kinabatangan River. Check into the lodge and enjoy free time to relax. In the late afternoon head out on the water to search for the resident wildlife. (B/L/D)
Day 7This morning travel downriver to the next lodge. This journey is not only a transfer but also a great way of further searching for the resident wildlife so keep your eyes open! Arrive and check in. Before lunch cross the river to the nearby local village to take part in their tree planting programme. Late afternoon enjoy a further cruise in search of wildlife including families of proboscis monkeys, hornbills, reptiles, pygmy elephants and wild orang-utan. After dinner take a guided night walk around the nature boardwalk to search for nocturnal creatures. (B/L/D)
Day 8Rise early for a further boat journey to the Pitas Lake, the early morning cool is a great time to discover the wildlife. Return for breakfast and then depart the river region for the boat journey to Sandakan. Arrive and drive to Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre to watch the morning orang-utan feeding - there should also be the chance to see the juveniles in the nursery. From here continue to the Bornean Sun Bear Centre which rescues sun bears and helps rehabilitate them back into the wild. From here transfer to MY Nature Resort for the evening at leisure. (B/L/D)
Day 9Morning free at leisure. Transfer to Sandakan airport for the flight to Kota Kinabalu. Transfer to the jetty and cross to Gaya Island Resort for the remaining few days free at leisure. (B)
Day 10Free day at the resort, why not visit the on-site Marine Centre to discover the coral reef displays and learn about the work they do to rescue turtles. (B)
Day 11A further free day at the resort, there is the opportunity to enjoy guided jungle hikes with the resident naturalist and the resort offers a full PADI dive centre and snorkelling programmes. (B)
Day 12Return to the mainland and drive to the airport for the flight back to the UK. (B)

Travel Team

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08 Oct 2019
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Responsible tourism

Best of Borneo small group tour

Carbon reduction

Your holiday will help support local people and conservation. We must also reduce CO2. Learn about the CO2 emissions of this holiday and how to reduce them.


This group tour visits Tabin Wildlife Reserve which is considered to be the largest wildlife reserve in Malaysia. The reserve comprises a rectangular area of approximately 300,000 acres in the centre of the Dent Peninsula. Created in the year 1984, Tabin has been declared a Wildlife Reserve primarily on account of the large number of animals inhabiting its forests, some of which are highly endangered. The three largest mammals of Sabah, namely Borneo Pygmy Elephant, Sumatran Rhinoceros and Tembadau are all found within the reserve. Nine species of primate are present, as well as three species of cats all of which are on the protected wildlife list. Of bird species, 4 families representing more than 300 species have been recorded. Tabin Wildlife Reserve was listed as an important bird area.

This holiday visits the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre. Founded in 1964, Sepilok was established to rehabilitate orphaned and often injured orangutans and rehabilitate them back into the wild. Located on the edge of Kabili Sepilok Forest Reserve, the facility provides medical care for orangutans and other wildlife species including gibbons, Sumatran rhinos and the occasional injured elephant. The Centre works like a halfway house for the orangutans: it provides a semi-wild haven in the protected reserve outside the confines of the Centre but twice a day meals are provided for those animals who feel the need for it. Entrance to the Centre for these feedings is chargeable and all funds go back to the centre to help fund the important work they are doing here. The Centre is also an important education tool for visitors to learn about the orangutans and the Centre’s work and help promote it to possible future visitors.

Accommodation: YTL Hotels, owner of the Gaya Island Resort, operates an in-depth sustainable development policy at the resort. In 2012, Gaya Island Resort began working with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Sabah to put together a program to work with a group of small-scale local fishermen committed to line fishing which reduces the damage to marine life, contributes to the conservation of healthy oceans and improves the livelihood of local fishing communities. As a result, the resort now serves “The Catch of the Day” on its menu at Fisherman’s Cove Restaurant, highlighting their efforts in supporting the sustainable fishing industry and creating awareness for hotel guests.

Many lights in public areas on Gaya Island Resort have been retrofitted with motion sensors so that they are automatically switched on only when needed and incandescent and halogen bulbs have been replaced with lower wattage bulbs to reduce energy consumption. Heat exchange equipment and heat recovery hot water tanks are used to help conserve energy and reduce electricity used by air conditioners. The heat produced by the air conditioning unit compressors is captured to heat water for the use of resort guests.

As Gaya Island lacks a viable natural source of freshwater, the resort uses a reverse osmosis technique to produce clean water safe for consumption. This system was put into place prior to the opening of the resort to avoid the use of water barges, an unsustainable and environmentally unfriendly method of supplying water to guests. The reverse osmosis plant also treats wastewater from guest villas, producing grey water which is used to water the resort gardens. At a cost of RM2.5 million, the desalination system has been fully functioning since May 2012, supplying the whole resort with clean water safe for drinking.

Gaya Island Resort is located in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park and the resort has established a Turtle Rescue Centre and Marine Sanctuary in an effort to create awareness about the marine life and how they can help sustain and promote healthy sea life. The Sanctuary cares for and protects the reefs, marine biodiversity and is the first Turtle Rescue Centre in Malaysia. In the wild, the number of injured or ill turtles has increased significantly over the years. Sadly, the waters around the globe are strewn with rubbish often mistaken for food by animals. Turtles eat jellyfish as a main source of protein often leading to them ingesting plastic bags by mistake. As the turtles’ food source is depleting, turtles may resort to eating garbage which can lead to serious illness or death.

As the safety of the turtles inhabiting the area is a pressing issue, GIRMC gets involved through the rescue of injured or ill sea turtles. The major highlight of GIRMC is the turtle holding tank where injured turtles that are discovered within the seas around Gaya Island are placed. These turtles are studied, and the cause of injury or illness is determined. They are then treated, nursed back to good health and monitored. After the turtle’s recovery and stabilisation, the turtles will be released back into the wild.


Our local Borneo ground agents employ only local guides and drivers thereby keeping all moneys paid to staff in the local community. Where possible, food served to guests at the lodges is sourced locally thereby providing a further income to local residents.

Abai Jungle Lodge is located next to Abai village en-route from the Sulu Sea to Sukau. In conjunction with the Abai villagers, the Abai Jungle restaurant was built with food sourced from Abai village and their fishermen. A donation is made for each diner towards the Abai Homestay Development Fund to go towards the upgrading of village facilities with the provision of household goods, school uniforms, seeds etc.

Abai Jungle Lodge came later and was built behind the restaurant. The lodge uses many environmentally friendly practices including the use of biodegradable and environmentally friendly shampoo and soaps in guestrooms, rainwater collection and a reverse osmosis water treatment system which purifies the water in an energy efficient and cost effective way. The lodge also introduced their ‘tree planting and lunch with the villagers’ programme where for every person who partakes in this activity, a donation is made to the village as well as the tree itself which helps generate an extra income for the village. Over the years the lodge owners have donated useful items such as motor and fibreglass boats to the villagers.

Handmade baskets produced by the indigenous Penan community are sold in Gaya Island Resort’s gift shop to shows support for the Penan community, contributing to their income and also keeping local handicraft skills alive.

In conjunction with Orangutan Appeal UK, for every booking to Borneo we adopt our chosen Sepilok orangutan, Gelison, in your names for a year. Orangutan Appeal UK works to support the orangutans of Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre which provides 24hr essential care for orphaned and injured orangutans with the aim to rehabilitate them into the wilds of the adjacent Kabili Sepilok Forest Reserve and beyond. Funds from the adoption costs go towards funding the Centre’s work providing food, medical care and a safe refuge for the orangutans as well as being an important educational tool for visitors.

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