Borneo tailor made tour on a shoestring

Our best-loved Borneo budget holiday handpicks locally-owned ecolodges as your base, offering the chance to help out at village conservation projects providing a unique insight into both natural protection and local culture in this important wildlife habitat.
Kota Kinabalu Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre Evening river cruise on the Kinabatangan River Pitas Lake Abai Village Sandakan Sepilok Nature Resort Sun Bear Centre
£1395 excluding flights
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10 Days
Borneo, Malaysia
Tailor made
More info
Includes private transfers, accommodation, tours and meals where indicated.
Prices vary according to the time of year.
Price is per person based on 2 sharing throughout.
Flights and stopovers also available, please ask.
Make enquiry

Description of Borneo tailor made tour on a shoestring

This is our favourite 'starting point' for every tour to Borneo. The itinerary is super flexible and you can start in Kuala Lumpur or Kota Kinabalu - everything can be tailored to your preferences - and excellent value too!

The wild highlights will be featured within this suggested Borneo tour itinerary with a rainforest cruise along the River Kinabatangan unveiling a wide range of indigenous wildlife, including: monkeys, hornbills, monitor lizards, pygmy elephants and the lesser-spotted wild men of all Borneo tours, orangutans.

After your river cruise you'll come face to face with orangutans at the world-famous wildlife sanctuary of Sepilok with additional visits to the Sun Bear conservation centre helping travellers piece together the balance between research, rescue and protection that takes place within the jungles of Borneo.

Complete your visit to Borneo with a relaxing few days at the idyllic Gaya Island Resort. Stretch out and laze on the golden private beach, soak in the large pool or keep your wildlife adventure alive by exploring the island's dense jungle with the resident naturalist. For water lovers, there is a marine research centre and turtle rehabilitation program, scuba diving, snorkelling, kayaking and paddle-boarding.

Throughout this tour of Borneo you'll be accompanied by an English speaking guide to help you begin to understand local lifestyles and learn more about the natural environment.

As professional tour operators we love Borneo and aim to give all responsible travellers the best possible experience to ensure they leave feeling relaxed and enlightened and eager to come back for more. This itinerary is an excellent starting point to build your personalised Borneo adventure and is suggested as a result of our own experiences in Sabah, regular client feedback and up to date information from our resident Borneo guides.

To suit your budget, dates or personal requests, we can extend, modify or reorganise a Borneo tour that's designed specifically for you; simply speak to a specialist so we can advise how to make the most of your time in Borneo!


Day 1:Arrive into Kota Kinabalu airport where you will be met by one of our representatives who will transfer you to the Horizon Hotel. The remainder of your day is at leisure to explore the city.
Day 2:Kota Kinabalu city: Today enjoy a full day at leisure to explore the sights of Kota Kinabalu city - ask us for details for day excursions here if you wish. (B)
Day 3:Sepilok & Abai: An early start this morning when you will be transferred to the airport for the short flight to Sandakan. Here you will be met and taken to visit Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, where captive Orangutans are reintroduced into the wild. Witness these spectacular creatures at their feeding stations in the rainforest, followed by a video presentation on the Orangutan rehabilitation programme. (This is only a short en-route stop off and you will spend 2 nights here from Day 6). After your visit head to the jetty to board your boat cruise to the Lower Kinabatangan River Sanctuary, passing pristine mangrove forests and searching for wildlife. This is a wonderful journey of discovery which starts from the waters of Sulu Sea of Sandakan Town through magnificent scenery of the Mangrove Forest. Here you will take your lunch at Abai Jungle Lodge Restaurant. At dusk, head out again on a cruise in search of Proboscis Monkeys, birds, reptiles and other wildlife. As night falls witness the spectacular sight of glittering fireflies on the mangrove trees before returning to the lodge for dinner. (B,L,D)
Day 4:Abai: Early this morning depart on a boat trip wildlife spotting as the sun rises over Pitas Lake, returning to the lodge for breakfast. After breakfast visit Abai Village to participate in a local tree planting project. It creates a great community interaction from a social and natural protection of wildlife and it offers you the opportunity to chat about each of our very different cultures. Following lunch, return to the lodge where you will be at leisure to relax or explore the boardwalk independently looking for wildlife. As dusk falls head out on a cruise along the Kinabatangan River in search of wildlife before it settles down for the day. Return to lodge for dinner in the evening. (B,D)
Day 5:Sepilok: After breakfast you will head back to Sandakan on an hour’s boat cruise along the Kinabatangan River. Upon arrival enjoy a visit to the markets in Sandakan before taking lunch at a local restaurant. Afterwards return to Sandakan Jetty to join your transfer to Sepilok Nature Resort. (B,L)
Day 6:Sepilok: A full day at leisure to explore Sepilok or visit the local Sun Bear Centre; a conservation centre for the world’s smallest bears who are in danger of becoming extinct (entrance fees to be paid locally). (B)
Day 7:Kota Kinabalu: Depart Sepilok today and transfer back to Sandakan airport for your short flight to Kota Kinabalu. Here you will be met and taken to the beautiful Gaya Island Resort & Spa for your last 3 nights in Borneo. (B)
Days 8-9:Gaya Island Resort: Days at leisure to enjoy the facilities of this resort where you can relax, enjoy the numerous water sports or maybe snorkel from the white sandy beach. (B)
Day 10:Depart Borneo today, transferring back to Kota Kinabalu Airport for your return flight home (own flight arrangements). (B)

Price information

£1395 excluding flights
Convert currency:
Includes private transfers, accommodation, tours and meals where indicated.
Prices vary according to the time of year.
Price is per person based on 2 sharing throughout.
Flights and stopovers also available, please ask.
Make enquiry

Departure information

This trip can be tailormade throughout the year and can be adapted to suit your interests, budget and requirements as necessary

Travel guides

Tacked onto the northern tip of Borneo, Sabah lays claim to more than its fair share of the earth's riches. Altitude aficionados can get their fix on ...
‘Orang-hutan’ means ‘person of the forest’, and this term was originally used to refer to forest dwelling humans as well as their shaggy, branch swing...

Holiday information

Tailor made tour:
We offer a complete tailor made service allowing you to decide when you go, where to stay and what to do, to create a unique holiday for your individual requirements by our travel experts. We would be happy to telephone you to discuss your requirements and options. Our staff have intimate knowledge of this destination, so do please include your telephone number when you complete the enquiry form.
Our top tip:
Take some leech socks if you're heading into the jungle - they love an exposed ankle.
Trip type:
Tailor made to your preferences and budget.
Activity level:
6 nights luxury lodge/hotel, 3 nights luxury beach resort.
Solo travellers welcome. Single rooms available.
9 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 4 dinners.
accommodation, transfers, listed tours and activities, some meals.
Our partners behind this holiday promote inclusivity on all their trips and across their business and we are all committed to ensuring travellers face no discrimination on any part of the trip they control.
Dietary requirements:
We can cater for vegetarian and vegan diets.


54 Reviews of Borneo tailor made tour on a shoestring

4.5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 03 Jan 2023 by

EXCELLENT. Read full review

Reviewed on 23 Oct 2022 by

Watching a turtle lay 98 eggs and then releasing 40 + babies into to sea... It was an amazing adventure. Read full review

Reviewed on 23 Sep 2022 by

It was all memorable and exciting.....from beginning to end it was amazing!!! Read full review

Reviewed on 07 Aug 2022 by

Very good. Read full review

Reviewed on 08 Jul 2022 by

For me it was definitely spotting all the wildlife on the sunset and sunrise jungle river cruises - proboscis monkeys, wild Orangutan, fireflies and a crocodile to name but a few. Read full review

Reviewed on 17 Jun 2022 by

The river cruise, seeing wild elephants, orangutans, proboscis monkeys, crocodiles, fire flies to name just some of the wildlife! Read full review

Reviewed on 02 Jun 2022 by

Couldn't have asked for better. We were most fortunate going just as Malaysia is opening up as there were very few tourists. Read full review

Reviewed on 23 Sep 2019 by

The most memorable part of the holiday was when a mother and baby orang-utans stepped out in front of us on the walkway and allowed us to walk casually behind them for over 40 minutes, just breathtaking. Read full review

Reviewed on 31 Aug 2019 by

This was a truly amazing holiday one crossed off my bucket list. From the communication from the operator planning in detail our personalised itinerary to the knowledge and organisation of the tour group. Read full review

Reviewed on 11 Jul 2019 by

We had the most incredible time. It was a life-changing experience: cruising the river and spotting fireflies, crocodiles and proboscis monkeys Read full review

Reviewed on 12 May 2019 by

The overall holiday was a great success but going into the jungle by small boat and seeing all the wildlife in their natural habitat was truly amazing. Read full review

Reviewed on 16 Apr 2019 by

We loved seeing wild orangutans after learning about the rehabilitation center, glimpsing Pygmy elephants through the bush along the river and watching the monkeys playing and going about their day-to-day lives. Read full review

Reviewed on 22 Sep 2019 by

The most exciting part of the holiday was seeing a wild orangutan with her baby! Read full review

Reviewed on 17 May 2019 by

We loved every part of our holiday. We loved the authenticity of the places we stayed at, the people, the food and the cultural exposure. Read full review

Reviewed on 14 Oct 2018 by

We saw 6 orangutans in the wild, and seeing a mother making a nest for the night while her youngster watched us and messed around like a little kid was enchanting. Read full review

Reviewed on 27 Sep 2018 by

The most memorable part of the holiday was...seeing a young orangutan with its 6 day old baby just 3 feet in front of us on the walkway at the sun bear conservation centre in Sepilok. Read full review

Reviewed on 05 Sep 2018 by

Fantastic, once in a lifetime which I would love to do all over again. Read full review

Reviewed on 16 Aug 2018 by

Very hard to say (what was the most memorable moment) but watching the proboscis monkeys on the Kinabatangan river surrounded by the sounds of birds. Secondly at Puau Tiga a tropical island - the beautiful surroundings stunning beach and trees, an absolute get away from it all. Read full review

Reviewed on 17 Apr 2018 by

The highlight was the opportunities to see wildlife and amazing birds and butterflies at very close quarters. It was a wonderful adventure and exceeded our expectations. The organisation was faultless, accommodation clean and comfortable, food excellent... Read full review

Reviewed on 13 Sep 2018 by

The most memorable part of the trip was the wildlife at Abai Lodge and My Nature Resort as well as the beach at Bunga Raya Resort. Staff were extremely friendly. Read full review

Reviewed on 27 May 2018 by

The most memorable was danum valley -Borneo Rainforest Lodge. Seeing wild orang-utans and flying squirrels. Read full review

Reviewed on 25 Apr 2018 by

Seeing the fabulous Rafflasia flower in full bloom. A great experience, the local people and guides, staff and everyone we met were the smiley most polite and helpful we have ever met Read full review

Reviewed on 08 Oct 2018 by

Orang-utans Read full review

Reviewed on 17 Nov 2017 by

The river cruises at Abai Lodge was the most memorable. Seeing so many of what we were told was hard to see, especially the elephants, and doing the safari with a group of people with great sense of humour, including the guide. Read full review

Reviewed on 08 Nov 2017 by

Coming face to face with crocodiles, orangutans and elephants was the highlight. Read full review

Reviewed on 19 Oct 2017 by

Our stay at Abai Jungle Lodge was definitely the most memorable and exciting part of our trip. The location alongside the Kinabatangan River was incredible and it was a real privilege to be able to sleep on the outskirts of the jungle, listening to the sounds of animals all around us. Read full review

Reviewed on 04 Sep 2017 by

The adult male Orangutan we saw on our boat trip from Abai jungle lodge to Kinabatagan jungle lodge and the pygmy elephants we saw at the riverside on our first boat cruise and much more besides!! Read full review

Reviewed on 05 Aug 2017 by

So many memorable moments - Sepilok and the Kinabatangan river trips to view the wildlife were totally unforgettable. Watching from the boat as an orangutan built its nest for the night, and the family squabbles of the proboscis monkeys. Read full review

Reviewed on 26 May 2017 by

The highlight was seeing a herd of around 60 pygmy elephants crossing the river. Terrific! Read full review

Reviewed on 23 Apr 2017 by

Seeing wild elephants and snorkelling with sharks was the most memorable. Read full review

Reviewed on 11 Aug 2017 by

Seeing the Orangutans and other wildlife in Borneo and along the Kintabatangan river. Read full review

Reviewed on 14 May 2017 by

The most memorable was the river trips from Abai Jungle Lodge & time spent at the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok. There were some absolutely magical moments and a lifelong dream of seeing Orangutans, especially the wild mother and baby we saw, was fulfilled. Read full review

Reviewed on 25 Apr 2017 by

Seeing the wildlife in their natural environment was the most memorable. Read full review

Reviewed on 05 Sep 2016 by

10/10 - 100% - Fantastic - thank you Read full review

Reviewed on 31 Aug 2016 by

All of it. We loved every aspect of our holiday Read full review

Reviewed on 16 Sep 2016 by

Best bits: Seeing a herd of wild elephants from 10 ft away; Having a wild orangutan walk alongside us on the Boardwalk; Getting chased by an irate macaque (not our fault!). Read full review

Reviewed on 29 Jul 2016 by

Tabin was amazing an oasis in the rainforest. The second was Sepilok and the Orang utans, a wonderful experience to see how they work with the animals. Read full review

Reviewed on 21 Mar 2016 by

Extremely well organised, countless opportunities to see wildlife and meet local communities, absolutely excellent all round experience Read full review

Reviewed on 15 Oct 2015 by

Seeing a wild Orangutan swinging through the trees carrying a baby was magical as were the elephants on the river bank, the Proboscis Monkeys, birds and night-time fireflies. It was magical. Read full review

Reviewed on 17 Mar 2015 by

There were so many memorable bits! Each section of the holiday was so different and varied so all had different elements to make them special. 10/10! Read full review

Reviewed on 03 Aug 2015 by

Get straight over to Sandakan and Sepilok to enjoy the wildlife and rainforest! Read full review

Reviewed on 26 Jun 2015 by

Seeing the stars while on the night time river cruise... Magical! Read full review

Reviewed on 14 Apr 2015 by

Experiencing 60+ elephants swim across the river in front of us was pretty special. Seeing the orangutans wild and protected was my husband's lifetime dream. Sitting having breakfast in the rainforest with the cacophony of sound from the insects was deafening. An unique experience from start to finish. Read full review

Reviewed on 10 Nov 2014 by

9.5 out of 10 Read full review

Reviewed on 25 Aug 2014 by

Fantastic if you like non commercial back to nature holiday that is environmentally friendly Read full review

Reviewed on 23 Jul 2013 by

Excellent, well thought out itinerary. The most memorable parts were Travelling into the jungle to stay at Abai Jungle Lodge and the river cruises. We saw wild orangutans, snakes, big spiders, Proboscis monkeys and more all in our hotel. Read full review

Reviewed on 13 Jun 2013 by

If we had to name a specific high I think it'd have to be the private river cruises that we went on from the Abai Jungle Lodge. They were each so magical, romantic and different - I can't describe how wonderful they made us feel. But in truth the trip was packed with moments like this - hearing a turtle breath, seeing pygmy elephants up close and wild!! Read full review

Reviewed on 21 Apr 2013 by

I enjoyed every aspect of my holiday. However, diving among turtles, in the beautiful turquoise waters of Lankayan Island, was definitely a particularly exciting and memorable moment...All the local people were delightful and could not do enough to help. Borneo is a very beautiful place and I hope to go back very soon. I would not hesitate in recommending this holiday. Read full review

Reviewed on 03 Feb 2013 by

It was amazing.. A day didn't go by without me having a 'moment'...the highlight here was seeing the orang-utans at the rehab centre, what a great sight to see them feeding...finally our most special time was spent on Lankyan Island, a paradise of turquoise sea and white sands, walking into the warm seas and seeing the most fantastic range of marine wildlife all feeding on the protected reefs circling the island just inches from your feet! Read full review

Reviewed on 09 Sep 2013 by

A great holiday, seeing animals in their natural habitat is fantasic and the local people and guides were great and very knowlegeable. Read full review

Reviewed on 10 Jul 2013 by

All of the time on the river lodges was fantastic. The guides were great & a packed programme allowed us 2 c as much wildlife as poss. The lodges were lovely & sepilok lodge was stunning. SeliganiSland was very basic though allowed the turtle viewing though we luckily also saw them on lankayan which was also beautiful Read full review

Reviewed on 19 Mar 2013 by

A memorable holiday for me and my son. The entire trip is memorable, but I suppose the 2 nights in the river lodge were especially good fun. Read full review

Reviewed on 16 Mar 2013 by

Absolutely superb. Every day was memorable. Definitely one of the best holidays of my life. Read full review

Reviewed on 09 Jan 2013 by

Brilliant! Climbing Mt Kinabalu was exhausting but unforgettable and the river wildlife spotting cruises at night were another highlight. Read full review

Responsible Travel

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we've screened this (and every) holiday so that you can travel knowing it will help support the places and people that you visit, and the planet. Read how below.


We work with the Orangutan Appeal UK, the only not-for-profit charity that works directly with the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary in Sandakan. Clients have the option to sponsor an orphaned Orangutan named Canyon who was being kept illegally as a pet and was taken in by the sanctuary when she was 2 years old. She is now 5 years old and progressing well. The money goes directly to the Sanctuary in Sepilok to continue their excellent work. Clients receive an ‘adoption certificate’ and regular email updates on the progress of Canyon and of course if you’re lucky you may see her when you visit the Centre.

On this tour, you will visit the famous Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah, founded in 1964, to rehabilitate orphan orangutans. The site is 43 square kilometres of protected land at the edge of Kabili Sepilok Forest Reserve. Today around 60 to 80 orangutans are living free in the reserve. The facility provides medical care for orphaned and confiscated orangutans as well as dozens of other wildlife species. Some of the other animals which end up being treated at the centre include sun bears, gibbons, Sumatran rhinos and the occasional injured elephants.

During the tour you also have the opportunity to visit The Borneo Sun Bear Centre, a conservation centre with the aim to raise awareness and encourage research on the world’s smallest bear. Found throughout mainland Asia, Sumatra in Indonesia and Borneo, the exact number of Sun bears in the wild is unknown, making it even more pressing to reduce pressure on a species that is classified as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List and at risk of becoming endangered unless circumstances threatening their survival improve. The BSBCC, the first and only facility of its kind in the world, is a non-governmental organisation set up in 2008 through collaboration of the Sabah Forestry Department, Sabah Wildlife Department and LEAP.

Gaya Island Resort and Spa is committed to ecologically-sustainable practices to minimise its carbon footprint within the environment. Therefore, it is a walking resort with minimal motorised vehicles used for operational purposes. Set within a marine park, Gaya Island Resort is located in an area where human activities have already been restricted, but the resort has always aspired to embrace a proactive role in embarking on conservation programmes to preserve the beauty of its natural environment, better protect the local wildlife and raise awareness for sustainable seafood choices. With the help of a passionate and dedicated team, the resort has several eco-friendly initiatives in place that range from conservation through education to rescue programmes.

Since its launch in October 2013, the marine centre has rescued, treated and cared for multiple endangered green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) and one critically-endangered Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata). To date, the centre has released four turtles - Bobby, Ninja, Carmen and Nick Jr. all of which have undergone rehabilitation and research. The marine centre is also home to four coral reef display tanks for educational purposes as well as producing coral fragments that will be returned to the sea. Outside the turtle rescue centre is a 14,000-litre recovery tank, which provides a safe and stable environment for sick or injured sea turtles to have the best chance for survival. This recovery tank also houses a coral nursery that establishes an artificial environment to aquaculture coral fragments that will be returned to the sea to help rejuvenate and enhance the natural reefs.

Committed to leading the community in marine conservation, the Gaya Island Resort Marine Centre advocates three conservation pillars – Turtle Rescue, Coral Reef Restoration and Conservation through Education.

his programme aims to lead by example; by not selling endangered species like sharks and humphead wrasse, but by choosing products that have minimal impact on the environment, and by providing engaging education opportunities for guests and staff to further their appreciation of conservation. The resort has weekly conservation talks, a Marine Biologist for a Day Programme and it encourages guests to become involved in future external outreach programmes as volunteers or sponsors. The marine centre also provides outreach to the local fishing communities by training the fishermen in using less harmful fishing practices, educating on the benefits of conservation and implementing a recycling programme to reduce floating debris.

In a combined effort between Reef Check Malaysia and YTL Hotels, the resort also conducts a school outreach programme with the local primary school. Using a combination of audio-visual materials, creative activities and fresh pastries from the resort, this programme seeks to engage the children while at same time educating them on recycling and the need for conservation.


Our local ground operator owns and operates a number of eco-lodges which are included in this itinerary. Accommodation has all been locally built and is run and operated by local people. The main purpose of these trips is to interact and contribute to local communities and projects and understand the need to minimize any negative impact on the local environment. Our ground agents only employ local guides to accompany our clients. All food in the lodges is sourced locally, helping the local rural communities wherever possible.

The Abai Jungle Lodge operates a tree planting and optional lunch programme with the local Abai villagers as part of your time there. This programme has been introduced by the Lodge as a way to directly contribute money to the local village community, plus it helps guests learn a little about the way this traditional community lives. The Lodge owners pay a small fee to plant a tree in the village with the proceeds going to the villager whose land it is planted on – the choice of villager plot rotates around the village to keep it as fair as possible.

Gaya Island Resort recognises the importance of people when it comes to running a successful hospitality business. Local staff are cared for and given employment and education opportunities.

They also recognise their duty to be a good neighbour and are an active partner of local communities, working closely with schools and charitable organisations to educate, support and engage the communities in close proximity to the areas in which we have operations. They aim to support the communities through initiatives that have widespread benefit and contribute to improvements in community life and environmental sustainability.

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