Sabah is an area rich with culture, astonishing wildlife, incredible natural landscapes, and wild adventure that, when combined, make this Malaysian state a true gem of Borneo. Some lesser-known experiences and off-the-beaten-trails throughout Sabah are a must-see to truly embrace the beauty and diversity of this stunning tropical destination. With expert insight, you'll find the best spots, views, markets, and food to experience Sabah as the locals do.

Highlights

  • Cruise among the Mantanani Island Group for a day of snorkeling
  • Hike to the Lupa Masa Jungle Camp which will serve as a base for other treks
  • Visit Kinabalu National Park and hike with a park naturalist
  • Scout native wildlife on several four-wheel-drive safaris throughout the day
  • Take a speedboat to Libaran Turtle Island where you might see turtles ashore to lay eggs

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Kota Kinabalu Kota Kinabalu
Day 2 Explore Kota Kinabalu and the Mantanani Islands Kota Kinabalu
Day 3 Arrive in Poring and Trek Through the Jungle Kota Kinabalu
Day 4 Day at Leisure in Poring Poring
Day 5 Visit the Kinabalu National Park Poring
Day 6 Go on a Night Safari in Deramakot Kundasang
Days 7-8 Take a Sunrise Safari in Deramakot Sandakan
Day 9 Visit the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center Sandakan
Day 10 Enjoy Libaran Turtle Island Libaran Island
Day 11 Visit Nature Lodge Kinabatangan Libaran Island
Day 12 Go Searching for Wildlife in Kinabatangan Sandakan
Day 13 Make the Most of Free Time in Sandakan Sandakan
Day 14 Departure From Sandakan Sandakan

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu

Upon arrival at Kota Kinabalu International Airport,  meet your driver at the Arrival Hall to transfer to your accommodation. The drive will take approximately one hour. After arriving at your accommodation, check into your room, and spend the rest of the day at leisure.

Day 2: Explore Kota Kinabalu and the Mantanani Islands

Kota Belud
Kota Belud

Enjoy breakfast at the resort, then go on a one-hour drive across scenic landscapes to the Kuala Abai Jetty in Kota Belud. Cruise towards the Mantanani Island Group, which consists of three islands, namely Mantanani Besar, Mantanani Kecil, and Lungisan.

After an hour's ride to reach Mantanani Besar, there will be a safety briefing on the use of the equipment. Following the briefing, you'll ride the boat to one of the snorkeling locations. Swim, float, and snorkel before returning to the island for lunch at the lodge. After lunch, hop on the boat to visit another snorkeling site. In the afternoon, cruise back to the mainland and onwards by road transport back to Kota Kinabalu where you will arrive in the early evening.

Day 3: Arrive in Poring and Trek Through the Jungle

Sunset in Kota Kinabalu
Sunset in Kota Kinabalu

Take breakfast at the resort and spend your morning relaxing at the beach or pool. Check out in the late morning, and meet your driver in the lobby. Sit back and relax as you transfer to Poring, an approximately two and a half to three-hour drive. As you get closer to the mountain, the winding roads provide great views over the valleys and the peak of the mountain.

Have lunch at a restaurant in Poring where you can leave your larger luggage in a safe-room. From here you and your local guide will start trekking into the jungle to the Lupa Masa Jungle Camp. The hike will take approximately one hour. Arrive at the camp in the mid-afternoon and make yourself comfortable. Just a few steps from your room runs a crystal clear river where you can swim to cool down too before a vegetarian dinner at the camp.

Day 4: Day at Leisure in Poring

A bird's eye view of the rainforest
A bird's eye view of the rainforest

After breakfast, you can plan your activities with the day at leisure. Consider exploring the surroundings of the camp along trails through the jungle or visiting the waterfalls within proximity to the camp. So, ask your guide for suggestions this day. Lunch and dinner are served at the camp. After dinner, relax by the river and read a book while listening to the sounds of the rainforest.

Day 5: Visit the Kinabalu National Park

Kinabalu National Park
Kinabalu National Park

After breakfast, pack your things and check out. Trek back to the Poring area, meet your driver, and store your luggage inside our vehicle to reach the Canopy Walkway at 200 feet above the ground, a rare opportunity to get a bird’s eye view of the rainforest. Lunch will be at a local restaurant, after which you'll visit the Butterfly Farm or take a dip in the open-air Japanese Style bathtubs with hot sulphuric water. Afterward, transfer to your accommodation at Kundasang and check-in.

After a short rest, meet your guide again and head to Kinabalu National Park, driving through scenic countryside with its beautiful mountain range. Covering an area of 754sq km, it is crowned with Southeast Asia's highest mountain, Mt. Kinabalu (4,095m). Take the opportunity to enjoy the majestic view before arriving at Kinabalu Park. Go on a guided walk along the nature trails with a park naturalist and guide, then visit the Mountain Garden or Plant Research Centre. See the smallest orchid in Borneo and discover the diverse vegetation. Learn about the flora and fauna of the park at the Exhibition Centre and see interesting slideshows of animals and plant species unique to Mount Kinabalu. Return to the resort where dinner will be served.

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Day 6: Go on a Night Safari in Deramakot

Travel from the Sandakan waterfront to the Deramakot Forest Reserve
Travel from the Sandakan waterfront to the Deramakot Forest Reserve

After breakfast, transfer to Telupid and Deramakot Forest Reserve, which is located approximately 190 kilometers from Kundasang. The first part of the journey from Sandakan to Telupid is on paved roads. Arrive in Telupid for lunch, then for the two-hour journey to Deramakot field base. Four-wheel drive vehicles are used for this stretch of the journey for roughly 70 km of sometimes bumpy gravel tracks. 

Upon arrival check-in to the park-style chalet accommodation. Then go on a forest walk near the base station. After dinner, go on a four-by-four night safari to look for wildlife. After nearly two hours of ‘spotlighting’ and searching for wildlife, you will return to the lodge to overnight.

Days 7-8: Take a Sunrise Safari in Deramakot

A colorful local bird emerges from the jungle
A colorful local bird emerges from the jungle

Rise before the sun for a pre-dawn four-wheel-drive safari. Drive along the various tracks in the reserve looking for wildlife before returning to the lodge for breakfast. After breakfast go on an optional jungle walk or catch up on some sleep. Return to the lodge for lunch, then enjoy the afternoon at leisure. You'll go on another four-by-four wheel night safari after dinner. Overnight at the lodge.

Day 9: Visit the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center

You can see orangutans at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
See orangutans at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

Receive an early morning wake up call and depart on a dawn walk through the rainforest. Return to the lodge and have breakfast before transferring to the Sepilok area, about a three-hour journey. Arrive and get dropped off at your accommodation at Sepilok where you can check into your room. Visit the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center and nearby Sun Bear Center to get up-close and personal with our closest relatives, the orangutan. The newly-opened Sunbear Center has a wealth of information on sun bears and the rescue work too.

Take lunch at a local restaurant, and after lunch, return to your accommodation. In the late afternoon, proceed to visit Labuk Bay where you will get to meet the pot-bellied monkeys that primarily live in the mangrove forests of Borneo. From a safe distance, you can take some great photos of these unique long-nosed creatures. Return to the accommodation, and have dinner at the lodge.

Day 10: Enjoy Libaran Turtle Island

A baby turtle makes its way to the sea
A baby turtle makes its way to the sea

After breakfast, depart the lodge and transfer towards Sandakan, an hour's drive. Arrive at the Sandakan Yacht Jetty, and board the speedboat that will take you to the Libaran Turtle Island. Once on the island, check-in and spend the rest of the day as you wish. You can go for a swim in the sea, read a book, or just relax on the beach.

In the afternoon, there is a village walk you can join. Dinner is served at the resort, followed by a briefing on turtle conservation. At night, turtles might come ashore to lay their eggs. If this is the case, the ranger will wake you if you wish. If you’re lucky, you might help the rangers with releasing baby turtles into the sea too.

Day 11: Visit Nature Lodge Kinabatangan

Cruising the Kinabatangan River
Cruising the Kinabatangan River

Enjoy your breakfast by the beach and then check out. Drive through the narrow, winding road of Bilit village and arrive at Bilit Jetty. Our friendly boat captain will arrange your bags in the boat, assist you with your safety jacket, and transfer you across the river where you will begin your wildlife adventure starting at Nature Lodge Kinabatangan

You'll be welcomed with a refreshing drink at the reception area and our friendly staff will conduct an orientation. You will be briefed at the lodge on safety procedures and activities during your stay. Collect your room keys and settle into your room. The adventurous boat cruise will start in the late afternoon, so be ready at the jetty 10 minutes before departure.

Day 12: Go Searching for Wildlife in Kinabatangan

Take a river cruise in search of wildlife

Wake up to the sound of birds and get ready for the morning river cruise. Meet your guide at the jetty, and enjoy the morning breeze while you search for wildlife along the river bank. The wildlife is most active during the early morning and in the evening. Most of them have stayed there overnight and they will look for food before moving into the forest, away from predators and hot sun.

You then have a bit of time around lunch to catch up on a book, take a nap, or sign-up for other activities. Meet your guide for a walk along the Kinabatangan River. In the late afternoon, join in another afternoon river cruise to sight more wildlife and birdlife. Each river cruise offers different sightings, so you may recognize some of the wildlife and birdlife from the wildlife presentation or your nature guide will help you identify other animals. After dinner, go for some night trekking to watch sleeping birds and nocturnal creatures of the jungle.

Day 13: Make the Most of Free Time in Sandakan

Cross the Kinabatangan River
Cross the Kinabatangan River

Wake up early and depart the lodge with a two-and-a-half-hour transfer towards Sandakan. Arrive and be dropped off at your hotel where you can check-in. Spend the rest of the day at leisure with plenty of time to do any additional activities you may want to schedule.

Day 14: Departure From Sandakan

Depart Sandakan
Depart Sandakan

Enjoy breakfast at the hotel, and after check-out, meet the driver for a transfer to the airport. Say goodbye to Sabah, the land below the wind, and board your flight home.

Map

Map of Discover Sabah: Off the Beaten Path in Malaysian Borneo - 14 Days
Map of Discover Sabah: Off the Beaten Path in Malaysian Borneo - 14 Days