On this 22-day adventure, you will cross Malaysian Borneo. You'll start in the state of Sabah, where you'll do river safaris, visit the island's northernmost point, and hike the highest mountain in Malaysia. Then, you'll head to the state of Sarawak, where you'll explore bat caves, stay in the heart of the jungle, and spend time in the eclectic city of Kuching. Throughout your here, you'll see many unique species, including orangutans and the rafflesia flower, the largest flower in the world.

Highlights

  • Hike the impressive Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia's highest mountain
  • Bathe in soothing hot springs at Kinabalu National Park
  • Contemplate the raging sea at Borneo's most northernmost point in Kudat
  • Keep a lookout for wild orangutans at Batang Ai National Park
  • See Kuching's "Floating Mosque" from the scenic Waterfront

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival at Sandakan Sandakan
Day 2 Sandakan Wildlife Encounter Day Sandakan
Day 3 Kinabatangan River Cruise Sukau
Day 4 Wildlife Watching in Kinabatangan River Sukau
Day 5 Kinabatangan to Kundasang Kundasang
Day 6 Kinabalu National Park Kundasang
Day 7 Kundasang to Kudat Kudat
Days 8-9 Kudat Free Days Kudat
Day 10 Kudat to Kota Kinabalu Kota Kinabalu
Day 11 Kota Kinabalu Free Day Kota Kinabalu
Day 12 Gunung Mulu National Park Mulu
Day 13 Gunung Mulu National Park River Adventure Mulu
Day 14 Mulu to Kuching Kuching
Day 15 Kuching Free Day Kuching
Day 16 Kuching to Batang Ai Lake Nanga Sumpa Lodge
Day 17 Batang Ai National Park Lubok Antu
Day 18 Jungle Hikes in Batang Ai Lubok Antu
Day 19 Back to Kuching Kuching
Days 20-21 Kuching Free Days Kuching
Day 22 Depart Home  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival at Sandakan

Sandakan waterfront
Sandakan waterfront

Your Bornean adventure begins upon arrival at Sandakan Airport. A representative will be waiting to greet you before taking you to your accommodation.

The rest of the afternoon/evening is free for you to explore Sandakan at your leisure. You can also rest in preparation for your trip.

Day 2: Sandakan Wildlife Encounter Day

Hanging bridge at the Rainforest Discovery Center
Hanging bridge at the Rainforest Discovery Center

Start your day with a visit to two of Sandakan's most famous highlights: the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center and Sunbear Center. Both of these centers work hard to rescue, rehabilitate, and study orangutans, one of Borneo's most famous animal residents. Orangutans are the only great apes found in Asia, so getting to see them up-close is a unique experience. Your visit will also help support the centers' efforts.  

Enjoy local lunch before continuing on a canopy walk at Rainforest Discovery Center. This forest reserve is a beautiful wildlife education center where you will have the opportunity to enjoy more flora and fauna. Birdwatchers particularly love the center for the numerous species that reside within.

Day 3: Kinabatangan River Cruise

Kinabatangan River
Kinabatangan River

Take advantage of a free morning to walk around Sandakan before meeting up with the group for a local lunch.

After lunch, you will start a 2.5-hour boat ride along Sabah’s longest river, the Kinabatangan, on your way to Sukau. Observe wildlife as you pass through coastal mangroves  before eventually crossing the upper reaches of the river.

Once you arrive at your lodge, take a moment to rest and refresh. You will then embark on a wildlife-watching afternoon river cruise. Each boat comes equipped with an electric motor that provides a more peaceful experience for you and the animals. A naturalist guide will help you spot plants and animals along the way, and provide interesting information about the nature that surrounds you.

Finish the day with a candlelit dinner overlooking the riverbank.

Day 4: Wildlife Watching in Kinabatangan River

Boating along the Kinabatangan River
Boating along the Kinabatangan River

Start an early day with yet another incredible river cruise up the Kinabatangan to Kelenanap Oxbow Lake. As the sun rises, you will get to see the surrounding forest come to life.

You'll return to your accommodation for breakfast, and then begin an educational tour through the lodge’s property. An in-house naturalist will accompany you and teach you more about the Kinabatangan ecosystem.

After lunch, you can join an Orangutan Talk activity, which will give you valuable information on these beautiful primates.

The afternoon promises more excitement as you go on a second riverside safari and try to catch some of the wildlife you missed the day before. As the sun sets, admire the stunning river landscape and see nocturnal life begin.

Day 5: Kinabatangan to Kundasang

View of Mount Kinabalu from Kundasang Town
View of Mount Kinabalu from Kundasang Town

After breakfast, you'll return to Sandakan by boat before beginning your transfer to Kundasang.

Sit back and enjoy the 4-hour drive as you venture into Borneo's inland landscapes. On the way, you'll make a quick stop at a delicious roadside restaurant to enjoy local dishes.

Upon arrival, you'll check in and spend the rest of your day relaxing at your accommodation, where you'll have diner.

Kundasang sits on the foot of the impressive Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia's highest mountain. Virtually everywhere in town boasts the mountain as its beautiful backdrop.

Day 6: Kinabalu National Park

Poring Hot Spring at Kinabalu National Park
Poring Hot Spring at Kinabalu National Park

In the morning, you'll start an exciting day at Kinabalu National Park, Malaysia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Enter the park and explore its Botanical Gardens, which boast more than 5,000 species of plants and flowers. A trained ranger will give you a tour of the area—one of the most biodiverse places in the entire planet.

Afterward, hike on your own through some of the park's short trails before meeting back up with the group to visit Kundasang War Memorial and Gardens. Here, you'll learn about Bornean WWII history, pay respects, and enjoy stunning views. 

After grabbing a local bite, you'll head to Poring Hot Spring for a canopy walk and a soothing sulphur bath in Japanese-styled open air tubs. Dip in the natural mineral-rich hot springs, surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens. There is also a cold water pool nearby for those who prefer cooler temperatures.

Finish the day back at the resort for dinner.

Day 7: Kundasang to Kudat

Bak Bak Beach in Kudat
Bak Bak Beach in Kudat

Enjoy breakfast at the resort, and spend your last morning in Kundasang relaxing and taking in the views of Mount Kinabalu.

A little before midday, you'll start a scenic drive through rural Sabah to the Kudat Peninsula. On this 4-hour drive through the Bornean countryside, you'll pass through rice fields and small villages surrounded by mountains.

You'll arrive in Kudat Town in the early afternoon and have the rest of the day to rest or explore at your own pace. We highly recommend heading to a beach or visiting a local market.

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Days 8-9: Kudat Free Days

Sign at Tip of Borneo showing where the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea converge
Sign at Tip of Borneo showing where the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea converge

Enjoy some free time to explore beautiful Kudat on your own!

One of the most popular activities is nearby Tanjung Simpang Mengayau, also known as the Tip of Borneo. The northernmost point of the island, this is where the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea converge, making for temperamental waters that perfectly complement the rocky coastlines.

You can also opt for a cultural experience and visit a Rungus village, home to one of Malaysia's ethnic groups. Some Rungus villages open their doors for visitors to come and see their way of life and their bamboo longhouses. 

If you want something more laid back, you can always head to Kelambu Beach. This is the perfect place to get some sun, swim, and relax.

Day 10: Kudat to Kota Kinabalu

Local treats at Kota Kinabalu market
Local treats at Kota Kinabalu market

It is time to leave Kudat and head back south to Kota Kinabalu.

You'll arrive at your destination in the afternoon and have the rest of the day to spend at your leisure. As the capital of Sabah state, Kota Kinabalu is a bustling city famous for its hectic markets and coastline.

Rest from the long drive by wolfing down some delicious market food and shopping for souvenirs. You can also catch a beautiful sunset at the beach.

Day 11: Kota Kinabalu Free Day

Kota Kinabalu's
Kota Kinabalu's "Floating Mosque"

Take the day to explore Kota Kinabalu at your own leisure. 

Mostly everyone who visits the city places the Kota Kinabalu City Mosque on top of their to-see list. Also known as "The Floating Mosque," this beautiful place of worship overlooks Likas Bay and is popular because of the reflection it creates with the water. Other major landmarks include the Sabah State Mosque—the largest in the state—and the Sacred Heart Cathedral

You can also go to Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, which is a popular spot for diving and snorkeling. Turtles, corals, and numerous specious of fish greet curious visitors. The park is made up of five islands, so you can relax in beautiful beaches after you've explored underwater life. 

If you want a more cultural day, consider the Sabah State Museum, where you will learn about the history of the region and gain a deeper understanding of Malay-Bornean culture. You can also go to the Islamic Civilization Museum or the Sabah Art Gallery.

Day 12: Gunung Mulu National Park

Limestone pinnacles at Gunung Mulu National Park
Limestone pinnacles at Gunung Mulu National Park

This morning, you will take a flight to Mulu, which is located near Brunei.

After checking in at your accommodation, you'll head straight to the magnificent Gunung Mulu National Park, famous for its sharp limestone pinnacles and deep caves. 

On this guided tour, you'll hike moderately easy trails and walk through Deer Cave and Lang Cave.  Explore unique underground worlds before heading to the Bat Observation Deck View, where you can see hundreds of bats. 

End the day by relaxing back at your accommodation.

Day 13: Gunung Mulu National Park River Adventure

Melinau River at Gunung Mulu National Park
Melinau River at Gunung Mulu National Park

Today, you'll head back to Gulung Mulu and ride a longboat along the Melinau River.

You'll stop to visit a Penan Village, home to the Penan people. This group is one of the last-remaining nomadic communities in the world, but is being encouraged by the government to settle into longhouse villages. You will be visiting one such village and interacting with locals to learn about their way of life.

Afterward, you'll continue upstream over rapids and arrive at Clearwater Cave and Wind Cave, which you will explore with your guide.  After exciting the caves, you will be able to enjoy lunch at a picnic area. You can also take this free time to swim in the river.

Hop aboard the boat and return back to the park’s visitor entrance. You'll have the rest of the day is free for you to explore additional park trails at your own pace.

Once the sun sets, it is time to head back to your accommodation.

Day 14: Mulu to Kuching

Scenic view of the
Scenic view of the "Floating Mosque" and mountains from the Kuching Waterfront

Enjoy your last morning in Mulu at leisure before heading to the airport to take a flight to Kuching.

Upon arrival at Kuching Airport, a driver will greet and transfer you for to your accommodation in the city centre.

Spend the rest of the day exploring Kuching on your own. The capital and largest city of Sarawak state, Kuching is crossed by the Sarawak River. One of the best ways to spend an early evening is by walking down the city's iconic Waterfront. You'll pass by some iconic landmarks such as the "Floating Mosque" and the State Legislative Assembly.

Day 15: Kuching Free Day

State Legislative Assembly in Kuching
State Legislative Assembly in Kuching

Get ready for a free day in exciting Kuching. If you didn't visit the Waterfront last night, now is the time to do so. 

There are so many beautiful places of interest in this city, that it is often hard to decide what to see. Don't miss the pink and gold State Mosque of Sarawak, or the Tau Pek Kong Chinese Temple. You can also learn more about the region and its indigenous groups at the Sarawak Museum and the Sarawak Cultural Village

For a sillier yet entertaining option, go cat hunting (no, not literally!). Kuching is Malay for "cat" and the city has developed an interesting obsession with felines. You'll find figures all over the city, including the giant Cat Statue at its entrance. Head to the Cat Museum to understand the animal's cultural significance. 

If you want to sightsee and relax at the same time, consider taking a river cruise. A scenic ride along Sarawak River will allow you to see some city highlights without having to move much.

Day 16: Kuching to Batang Ai Lake

Fishing is one of the activities you can enjoy at Batang Ai Lake
Fishing is one of the activities you can enjoy at Batang Ai Lake

After breakfast, meet your group for a long day of driving. 

Although you'll be in the vehicle for about 5 hours, the journey will have interesting stops along the way. The first stop is Serian, where you will do some shopping at a local market. You'll then continue until you reach Lachau Village and stop there for lunch. The final stretch of the car ride will end at the Batang Ai boat ramp. 

Leave the car behind and board a longboat. An Iban boatman will navigate the vast and beautiful Batan Ai Lake for approximately two hours until you reach your lodge.

End the evening with a visit an Iban longhouse, where you will meet the native Iban people.

Day 17: Batang Ai National Park

Baby Bornean orangutan
Baby Bornean orangutan

Today, you'll get to go into the heart of the Batang Ai National Park. Hike one of the short jungle trails along the river to get you pumped for the rest of the day, then meet back with the group to continue the journey by longboat.

The first stop in your longboat ride is Jambu Longhouse, which houses a small community of eight families. This village is the furthermost and most isolated community on the Delok River, so not many people get to visit.

Continue the journey upriver until you reach the scenic Enseluai Waterfall, where you'll have time to relax, swim, and enjoy the rainforest. You will also recharge your energies with a riverside lunch prepared by your Iban hosts.

After lunch, you'll ride the longboat for another 15 minutes to the junction of Delok and Lalang Rivers. Then, it'll be time to rely on your own feet for a 2-hour hike along a rainforest trail that crosses wild orangutan habitat. If you're lucky, you might get to see these beautiful apes in their natural environment. 

The trail will lead you to a jungle camp, where you will be lodging for the night. Settle in and relax or swim in the river.

After dinner, you can spend a quiet evening at the camp or go on a 30-minute guided night walk.

Day 18: Jungle Hikes in Batang Ai

Orangutans are the only great apes in Asia
Orangutans are the only great apes in Asia

After breakfast, start a guided hike on one of the area's many trails, searching for wildlife.

Return to the jungle camp for lunch and enjoy a well-earned rest. If you're full of energy, you can go for a swim in the clear jungle river by the lodge, or help collect jungle ferns and bamboo shoots for dinner.

In the late afternoon, you'll follow your guide on more jungle trails. Keep your eyes up and try to spot movement in the canopy of tall trees—wild orangutans may appear before you.

Before darkness sets, return back to the jungle camp for dinner.

Day 19: Back to Kuching

Kuching City Mosque
Kuching City Mosque

It's an early morning today, as you have one last breakfast at the lodge before boarding a longboat back to the Batang Ai dock.

You should be back on the road before midday, on your way to beautiful Kuching. Of course, there will be several stops for lunch and rest.

You'll arrive back to the city in the late afternoon and then have the rest of the day off to explore.

Days 20-21: Kuching Free Days

Kuching's Chinatown
Kuching's Chinatown

For the next two days, you'll be free to continue exploring the many wonders of Kuching. 

Take advantage of your time by visiting one of the several parks and reserves that are in and around the city. Go to Semenggoh Nature Reserve to see wild and rehabilitated orangutans and other species. Gunung Gading National Park is for those who want to see the extremely rare rafflesia flower, the largest flower in the entire world! Anyone curious to see Sarawak's oldest national park should head to Bako National Park, where there are mangroves, cliffs, grasslands, and more. Finally, you can snorkel and see turtles at Satang Turtle Island National Park

If you haven't yet bought souvenirs, spend the day shopping at the Main Bazaar, which is really a row of shops on the city's main street. You'll be able to find traditional crafts that make for perfect gifts. Another place that is great for shopping is Chinatown.

Foodies have to include a visit to the Open Air Market, where food stalls offer traditional Chinese and Malay dishes. Another option is the Kubah Ria Complex, which has almost 50 different cafés, stalls, and restaurants with something for every taste.

Day 22: Depart Home

Panoramic view of Kuching
Panoramic view of Kuching

Your grand Malaysian Borneo adventure has come to an end. A representative will accompany you to the airport and help you check in to your flight. 

Safe travels!

Map

Map of Grand Malaysian Borneo Adventure: Sabah & Sarawak States - 22 Days
Map of Grand Malaysian Borneo Adventure: Sabah & Sarawak States - 22 Days