Best of Borneo small group tour

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08 Oct 2019
including UK flights
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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Best of Borneo small group tour


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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