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You and Borneo meet in Kota Kinabalu - we think this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Get hot and sweaty climbing up Mt Kinabalu, then hot and wet-ty soaking in the Poring Hot Springs on the way down. Plus, orangutans in Sepilok! And (potentially) elephants along the Kinabatangan River! Try not to indulge in too much ikan panggang (stingray - a local delicacy), but we won't blame you if you do. This 11-day adventure of what Borneo has to offer is certainly a challenge, but is well worth the rewards along the way.
Day 1: Kota Kinabalu
Kick things off in KK: Kota Kinabalu. The locals finally settled on a name meaning ‘City of the Revered Place of the Dead’. Earlier choices were Deasoka (below the coconut tree), Singgah Mata (pleasing to the eye) and Api-Api (fire!). You’ve got the whole day free to explore this capital of Sabah state (depending on when you get here of course) before you join up with your crew at a 6 pm welcome meeting tonight. Take some time to explore this balmy city between the jungle and the South China Sea and perhaps visit the Sabah Museum and the State Mosque. Why not escape the hustle and bustle of Kota Kinabalu and take a walk up Signal Hill, which offers great views over the city.
Day 2: Kinabatangan River
This morning you’ll head over to the airport for a flight to Sandakan (approximately 40 minutes flight time). When you touch down, you’ll hop on a private minibus and head to Sandakan War Memorial, built on the site of a Japanese POW camp. This site also marks the starting point of the tragic Sandakan Death Marches, on which 2400 POWs were forced to walk through the jungles of Borneo. You then continue on for a drive through the steamy rainforest to your homestay for the night (approximately 2 hours). This afternoon you’ll have the option to visit Batu Tulug burial caves, where more than 100 wooden coffins (estimated at 250 years old) were discovered in the limestone hill. Speculate about who they belonged to and just how they got them up there while you admire their beautiful carvings. If you’re still feeling active, then challenge the locals to a game of volleyball or a football match. You’ll spend the night in a family homestay and enjoy a local meal cooked by your hosts, followed by an evening cultural performance.
Day 3: Kinabatangan River
After breakfast, you will say goodbye to your hosts and make the short journey by minivan and boat to an eco-lodge on the banks of the Kinabatangan River (approximately 40 minutes). The lodge is right in the heart of a nature lover's wilderness paradise. This morning there’s loads of stuff planned to keep you busy. Kick things off with a walk through the jungle to work on your wildlife spotting skills, then head over to a community-based reforestation project. One of the very few uncool things about Borneo is that about half of the world’s timber comes from here. In 1975, 73.7 per cent of the country was covered in rainforest, now it’s only 50.5 per cent. You can do your part to put the trees back where they belong by getting your hands dirty and planting some yourself. Later, get to know the local cuisine with an included cooking lesson. In the early evening as the sun sets, climb aboard a boat to get down with the local wildlife on a dusk cruise up the river. Keep an eye out for wild orangutans, proboscis monkeys and maybe even pygmy elephants if you’re the lucky one. Tonight, you’ll snuggle down for a sleepover in an authentic community-run eco camp bush hut.
Day 4: Sepilok
Wake up early if you want to check out more of the jungle creatures with the option to do another river cruise this morning – just tell your leader if you're all about your wildlife. Later in the morning, you will leave your jungle eco-lodge and drive in a private minivan to Sepilok (approximately 2 hours). From there you’ll swing by the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and meet the world’s cutest red heads. These distant relatives will tug on your heartstrings – watch them eating bananas while hanging upside down like no one’s watching. If you thought things couldn’t get any cuter then you'd be wrong – you’ll also check out the nursery where young orangutans learn how to climb on a specially constructed jungle gym. You’ll spend the night in dorm rooms at a jungle lodge in Sepilok. If you want, there’s the option to take a night wildlife walk this evening.
Day 5: Sepilok
Today, what to do is up to you! You're pretty close to the Rainforest Discovery Centre. Here you can feel like your red-headed mates from yesterday by getting high up into the trees. The RDC has a 147-metre long, 28-metre high canopy walkway with downright spectacular views of the giant rainforest trees. Look out for all the birds overhead, and maybe even a few flying squirrels. There’s also the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary (them funny fellas with the big noses) where you can watch up close the amazing bachelor proboscis lazing and feeding – an experience that can only be found right here in Borneo. If you can’t get enough wildlife there’s also the chance to see more of Borneo’s creatures at the newly opened Sun Bear Conservation Center. Here they’ve rescued mistreated Sun Bears and hope to rehabilitate and reintroduce them into the wild. You'll spend another night in the jungle lodge in Sepilok.
Day 6: Kinabalu National Park
This morning travel via Kudasang by minibus into the unspoilt wilderness of the World Heritage-listed Kinabalu National Park (approximately 5 hours total). Take some time to hang out, enjoy the surroundings and do your stretches for the climb. There are some beautiful nature trails you can follow through the lowland tropical forest and a Botanic Garden to explore – this 5-acre garden is an excellent showcase of the diverse plant life on the mountain, as flora from all over the park has been replanted here. It’s home to 4500 species of plants, 289 species of birds and 290 of butterfly. Numbers can be boring, but that’s pretty cool. Otherwise, just relax in the afternoon and take in the cooler climate. Before you depart your leader will give a safety briefing about the climb and answer any questions you might just have thought of. Stay overnight at the park's headquarters in dormitory accommodation with shared facilities. Nestled amongst the lowland forests, this is the perfect place to chill-out before the climb.
Day 7: Mt Kinabalu
Rise early the next day to begin the climb up Mt Kinabalu, South East Asia’s highest point at 4095 metres or 13,435 feet (compared to Everest’s 8848 metres) and you’ll remember – sometimes for the effort, mostly for the scenery – every single step. For real, this is not an easy walk – it’s uphill all the way, and you’ll need to be prepared to tackle a trail made up of steep steps that vary considerably in size. Altitude can affect anyone, regardless of fitness level, and it will certainly slow you down a fair bit (it's important that you educate yourself about the dangers of altitude sickness and its symptoms). Ensure you have warm layers, waterproof gloves, a hat, a head torch (for the final part of the climb), waterproof jacket, good walking shoes or boots and extra socks! The top of the mountain can be deceptively cold. Pack a light overnight bag for the climb as you’ll stay overnight on the mountain. There’s absolutely no rush so take your time and enjoy the pristine environment – this is an area which boasts a remarkable variety of plant life, including some 1000 species of orchid and the extraordinary carnivorous pitcher plant. You’ll cover 6 kilometres on the first day (approximately 4-6 hours) and stop at a resthouse near Laban Rata (3,272m/10734ft) for the night. The resthouses have very basic, mixed gender, multishare bunk rooms, and additional blankets can be hired from the park office. Make sure to get some shut eye early as you’ll be getting up at 2 am to hit the trails again, making for the peak.
Day 8: Poring Hot Springs
Rise around 2 am in order to catch the sunrise at the summit of Mt Kinabalu (4,095m/13435 ft). It's difficult walking, but you'll feel a huge sense of achievement. And yes, the view from the summit is incredible – the jungles of Borneo in one direction, the South China Sea in the other, making every inch of the climb worthwhile. The climb from Laban Rata to the summit takes 2-4 hours and, due to the altitude, can be hard going even for the fit. The section up to the summit consists of man-made wooden steps, sections where climbers need to hold onto a rope with both hands and a path through a boulder field. The new trail is about 400 metres longer than the old route. Waterproof gloves are recommended to protect your hands from rope burn (as well as to keep them warm). After witnessing the epic morning sunrise, return to Laban Rata for a well-earned breakfast, and then descend the mountain (approximately 3-6 hours) to enjoy a rewarding lunch at the bottom. Once everyone is down from the mountain you will continue on to Poring Hot Springs by bus (approximately 1 hour). Tonight you will stay at a hostel located right inside the springs complex itself, with a light and airy lounge room for you to relax in. The hostel has a few different room types, some have bunk beds, some with multiple beds and the bathroom is shared.
Day 9: Poring Hot Springs
Poring Hot Springs is an ideal place to kick back for a day to recuperate after the mountain climb. Maybe soothe your peak-weary limbs in warm sulphur water pools, believed to have healing properties for the skin. Otherwise there are graded paths leading through rich lowland forest to mountain rivers, waterfalls and bat caves, with birds and other wildlife often seen along the trail. A walkway in the tree canopy provides magnificent views or there's a tropical garden to visit. Depending on the time of year it might be possible to see the Raffelsia flower nearby. Rafflesias are the world’s largest flower and can grow up to 1 metre in size! Spend another night here in the hot springs complex.
Day 10: Kota Kinabalu
Drag yourself away from the Hot Springs and drive around 2.5 hours back to Kota Kinabalu. The afternoon's free for you to check out some optional activities – if you’re feeling all cultural then maybe take an interactive and educational visit to Mari Mari Cultural Village to see how indigenous ethnic groups of Borneo used to live. If you are after something even more active, like a scuba diving trip to nearby islands or a day of mountain biking, then you could stay on a couple of days longer in KK. This evening it'll be time to go out with your new mates – maybe do it over a delicious optional dinner. Your group leader also has some great recommendations for bars on the waterfront, so spend the night hopping with them and enjoying the city’s nightlife.
Day 11: Kota Kinabalu
With no activities planned for today, your Sabah adventure comes to an end today and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. If you would like to spend more time in Borneo, good for you! We’ll be happy to book additional accommodation (subject to availability).
- Kinabatangan - Cultural Show
- Sandakan - War Memorial
- Kinabatangan River - Afternoon wildlife cruise
- Kinabatangan River - Morning River Cruise
- Kinabatangan River - Cooking lesson
- Sepilok - Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
- Mt Kinabalu - 2 day climb
6 Breakfast(s) Included
4 Lunch(es) Included
4 Dinner(s) Included
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The trip was both both educational and exciting. I very much enjoyed the sights and culture.
The itinerary was just as I expected! The guide was very good as were the accomodations
Intrepid did such a great job. I never had to worry about where I was supposed to be and it felt so good not to worry about a thing but just to enjoy myself. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable about culture and history.
Taiwan people very friendly. Accommodation were centrally located and easily accessible. Did extra activities then in brochure which was greatly.
Larus our tour guide did an excellent job and was very attentive to our needs. He is very knowledgeable and has a great sense of humor.
Our guide Tarang chandola was exceptional. Courteous, knowledgeable, organized, polite, professional and went above and beyond taking care of our needs and requests offen anticipating what that might be. He made sure we all had the best possible time and offered suggestions to meet the needs of everyone on the tour. This made the trip even more enjoyable.
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