Best of Borneo
Sabah contains geological wonders, wildlife sanctuaries, and rainforests yet to be explored by man; Sarawak adds indigneous longhouse stays, street-food culture, and eccentric colonial history.
Covering the highlights of both states, with a fine balance of scenery, wildlife, and indigenous culture, this itinerary is a tasting menu of Borneo’s delights.
Transport in detail
Transfers will be by car (mainly on bumpy roads) and boat, with three internal flights. There’s one heavy transport day where getting from Kinabatangan to Gaya Island requires a boat, car, plane, car and another boat, but we promise it’s worth it!
This itinerary really showcases the many faces of Borneo, including its human culture, natural diversity and famous wildlife
It includes both of Malaysian Borneo’s orangutan sanctuaries, giving you the best chance of a sighting
It’s great for active types, with tough hikes and no “down” days
Things to consider
Wildlife experiences are unpredictable by nature, so sightings are never guaranteed (though you’ve got an excellent chance)
You’ll need a good level of fitness, especially for the challenging Mulu hike
Even if you travel in the “dry” season, always expect rain in a rainforest
Some accommodation is pretty basic — but in the jungle that’s part of the fun!
Have other ideas? Great! Bring them to us, and we’ll craft an itinerary that suits you.
Borneo is best-known for its orangutans, but Kuching is all about the humble mog. No-one knows how the city got its name (kucing is Malay for cat), but as you explore its backstreets by bike, you’ll see that the locals have enthusiastically embraced the theme! Along the way, learn about the city’s colonial history, dating back to when this was an independent kingdom ruled by the “White Rajahs”. Then, cross the Sarawak River with your bikes and compare city life with the laid-back, rural streets and wooden houses of a traditional Malay Village. Kuching is renowned for is street food, from crimson Sarawak laksa to rainbow-colored layer cake, so be sure to hit the market before you leave.
Cycle through the streets of the “City of Cats” on the lookout for feline murals and statues
Contrast city life with a traditional Malay village on the opposite side of the Sarawak River
Sample a smorgasbord of street food in the culinary capital of Malaysian Borneo
There was a time when the name Borneo was synonymous with fearsome headhunting tribes. Those days have passed, but the Iban people have retained many of their (less fearsome) practices. Indeed, their traditional way of life preserves a sense of community that most developed societies lost long ago. Traveling by boat, you’ll head deep into the forest to meet them, joining in with the locals as they feed livestock, weave mats and baskets, or gather food in the jungle. The Iban still live in huge longhouses where up to 30 families sleep under one roof, and spending the night here is one of our absolute highlights of life in Borneo. Just be sure to bring your earplugs!
See the rainforest from the river on a boat ride deep into Batang Ai National Park
Spend a night with the Iban tribe in a traditional longhouse
Learn all about life in the jungle, including traditional handicrafts, shooting blowpipe darts, and maybe having a go at Iban dancing
The finer detail
- Breakfast every day
- Six lunches: two in Batang Ai; one in Kuching; one in Mulu; two at your lodge on the Kinabatangan River
- Three dinners: one in your Batang Ai longhouse; two in your lodge on the Kinabatangan River
- One full-day experience: explore Mulu's caves by boat and walk the canopy walkway
- Five half-day experiences: cycling tour of Kuching; two orangutan rehabilitation centers; the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center; walk through Mulu's Lang & Deer caves
- Overnight stay at an Iban longhouse in Batang Ai, including cultural activities
- Two night stay on the Kinabatangan River, including wildlife spotting activities
- All entrance fees to sites included in guided experiences
- All internal transport & accommodation
Logistics and journey times
Car transfer from Kuching Airport to Hotel (30 mins)
Car and boat transfer from Kuching to Batang Ai (4.5 hour drive & 1 hour boat)
Car and boat transfer from Batang Ai to Sri Aman (1 hour boat & 1.5 hour drive)
Car transfer from Sri Aman to Kuching (3 hour 40 min drive, with sightseeing break)
Car transfer from Kuching to Kuching airport (30 min)
Flight from Kuching to Mulu (1 hour 35 min)
Car transfer from Mulu airport to Mulu National Park (5 min)
Car transfer from Mulu to Mulu airport (5 min)
Flight from Mulu to Sandakan (40 mins)
Car transfer from Sandakan airport to Sepilok (25 mins)
Car and boat transfer from Sepilok to Kinabatangan (30 min drive & 2 hour boat)
Car and boat transfer from Kinabatangan to Sandakan airport (1.5 hour boat & 30 min drive)
Flight from Sandakan to Kota Kinabalau (50 mins)
Car and boat transfer from Kota Kinabalu airport to Gaya Island (25 min drive & 20 min boat)
Car and boat transfer from Gaya Island to Kota Kinabalu airport (20 min boat & 25 min drive)
What's not included
- International flights
- Meals not mentioned
- Entrance fees to any sites not included in guided experiences
- Tips for guides & porters
- Tourist taxes & any National Park fees