Borneo holiday, culture and wildlife

“Swapping luxury for basic, but comfortable accommodation and public transport where possible, this Borneo trip is all about experience and it delivers it by the bucketload.”


Kota Kinabalu | Manukan Island | Sandakan | Orangutan feeding at Sukau | Gomantong Caves | Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre | Kinabatangan River cruise | 2-night stay in a traditional longhouse | Tea plantation tour | Poring Hot Springs | Kiau Village | Kuala Penyu | Pulau Tiga

Description of Borneo holiday, culture and wildlife

On this small group Borneo holiday, you’ll discover the culture and wildlife of the world’s third largest island, in the company of a small group of likeminded travellers and expert local guides. Lush and covered in rainforest, Borneo is part of both Malaysia and Indonesia and is also home to the petite kingdom of Brunei, yet is very different in feel to the rest of South East Asia. It has a huge and diverse range of flora and fauna with new species added each year as more and more of the island’s remote areas are explored.

Kicking off your journey in Kota Kinabalu, you’ll spend ten days exploring this fascinating island, with highlights including a visit to the orangutan sanctuary at Sepilok; snorkelling amongst the magnificent marine life at Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park; two nights staying in a traditional style longhouse in the rainforest; and time swimming and relaxing at the tiny tropical island of Pulau Tiga.

During the trip you’ll stay in simple but comfortable guesthouses and hotels, and use local transport as well as private transfers, allowing you a real insight into the local people and their way of life.

Travel Team

If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. The Travel Team.

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Departure information

This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
Our top tip:
You'll have free time in Kota Kinabalu, so have a think about what you'd like to see there before you go.
Trip type:
Small group, max. 12 peeople.
Activity level:
4 nights hotel, 5 nights nature resort, 2 nights longhouse.
Solo travellers welcome. Single rooms availabe at hotels and resorts for a surcharge.
11 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 5 dinners.
Accommodation, transfers, transport, entrance fees, English-speaking local guide.

Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your holiday will help support conservation and local people.

This tour spends a lot of time in the wonderful national parks of Borneo, which are home to many species found nowhere else on earth. By visiting these parks we contribute to crucial conservation and research projects designed to ensure the long term well being of the wildlife that lives here. We work with local guides in the parks who know the areas well – these are from the communities that surround the parks and this therefore ensures that these vital areas are seen not just as the preserve of wealthy western tourists but as a valuable source of employment and income for local people, thus further contributing to conservation and acting as a discouragement to unsustainable use of the parks’ resources. We issue guidelines to our travellers about the importance of leaving these parks as they were, and taking all litter out when we leave.

We work with our local suppliers to highlight best practice in terms of environmental issues, an important effort in a country where the environment is often taken for granted and green thinking is still in its infancy.

We spend time at Sepilok Orang-utan Sanctuary on this trip. The sanctuary carries out important work in rescuing orphaned and captured orang-utans and rehabilitating them so that they can eventually be returned to their natural environment. It also raises awareness of the plight of orang-utans in Borneo, a land where they come under intense human pressure. The fees that we pay to visit here contribute to maintaining this important project, which plays a significant part in the conservation of this endangered species.

The Impacts of this Trip

Our philosophy is to only use small and locally owned suppliers, meaning that the income remains within the country and creates a real economic contribution. We also feel that the passion inherent within such suppliers means that your experience will be enhanced. We also try to engage with our suppliers on an equal basis – getting the lowest possible price usually isn’t the best outcome for local communities and is ultimately unsustainable. We aim to always treat our suppliers fairly and with respect; they are after all part of the key to our success and to us working together is much more than just a business arrangement, but an ongoing relationship that we aim to ensure truly benefits everyone involved.

We believe that tourism is a double edged sword that needs to be wielded very carefully. Our philosophy is to have a limited amount of departures – usually between one and three a year - for each of our itineraries. By limiting our presence in areas where local culture can be quite fragile, we hope to avoid as much as possible the phenomenon whereby an area changes in character due to repeated and prolonged exposure to tourism. We want to visit an area as friends, not intruders and to ensure that what we see will also be there for others to enjoy for many years to come.

We only employ local staff and unlike many operators we believe that to send a foreign Tour Leader along to accompany your trip is an unnecessary burden on your wallet and our carbon footprint. We believe that locals know best. Our local operators only use locally owned accommodation. This means your money stays in the area to benefit the local community. When possible we use local transport, (i.e. rail or bus) and we always use local restaurants, markets and shops and encourage our clients to interact both financially and socially with the communities that they are passing through. In doing this your travels are supporting and encouraging the development of local services.

We only work with operators who are as committed as we are to putting something back into the communities we visit. This may include giving a percentage of the profits from each tour to a foundation to help street children or local conservation projects. Furthermore, in order to allow our clients to make an informed decision on where a greater proportion of their money should be spent, we avoid including pre-paid full board meals where possible. Local restaurants and cafes then benefit.

Our groups average only six clients, and many tours operate on a private basis with just two travellers. This has much less impact when travelling through rural areas, reducing our environmental and social affects. Finally to emphasise our commitment to Responsible Tourism all clients will receive a copy of our Travellers Code of Conduct with their travel documents.

This tour visits local Penan settlements - the Penan are the original inhabitants of Borneo and once lived a traditional hunter gatherer lifestyle in the forest. We spend time with these people learning about their traditions - this helps to maintain these traditions in the face of modern pressures and helps younger generations to understand that there is value in preserving them.


1 Reviews of Borneo holiday, culture and wildlife

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 14 Aug 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Seeing the orangutans and elephants in the jungle.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Rainforest trekking can be strenuous in the heat. Would advise stout footwear and poles if at all unsteady.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Certainly benefited local people and supported conservation. I worry about the number of plastic water bottles we got through and there is no infrastructure in place for recycling.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Absolutely brilliant! The itinerary was was interesting and varied. The 2 guides, Bong and Sham were first rate in every aspect possible. The beach days at either end of the trip were an excellent idea. The last nights on Pulau Tiga with the sun setting were just magical. A couple of the places we stayed in, the accommodation (bath/shower rooms in particular) looked very tired and in need of a little bit of TLC. This is the only negative comment in what was a memorable trip in every other aspect.

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