Borneo orangutan vacation

“All about wonderful wildlife, this trip sandwiches a jam-packed jungle experience of orangutans, elephants and brilliant birdlife between days spent relaxing in luxury.”


Kota Kinabalu | Lahad Datu | Danum Valley Conservation Area | Coffin Trail trek to Kadazandusun | Kinabatangan River Cruise | Overnight stay in a jungle lodge | Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre | Opportunities for trekking, snorkelling and diving

Departure information

This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
Our top tip:
Take some hiking boots - there are some excellent optional jungle treks.
Trip type:
Tailor made to suit your preferences.
Activity level:
7 nights luxury resort, 6 nights comfortable lodge.
Solo travelers welcome. Single rooms available at resorts and some lodges.
9 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 5 dinners.
All flights, accommodation, transfers, tour guide, listed excursions.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Borneo orangutan vacation


On this vacation you will spend time in the Danum Valley Conservation Area staying at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge, the only lodge in the region. The Danum Valley Conservation Area covers 43,800 hectares of protected lowland rainforest and is home to an astonishing variety of plants and wildlife including more than 340 species of birds, 124 species of mammals, 72 species of reptiles, 56 species of amphibians and 200 species of plants per hectare. The Lodge takes its eco-friendly credentials very seriously, they are committed to try and minimise guest and staff impact on the environment as much as possible. Some of the principles they have introduced include simple things like keeping guests on set trekking paths through the jungle, paper, plastic and aluminium can recycling in the nearest town but also more complex ideas such as the filtering of water for drinking thus avoiding the need for plastic water bottles: guestrooms have jugs of filtered water and the bar only sells canned drinks, no plastic is allowed. Also used cooking oil is collected from the kitchen and filtered to make oil for the restaurant table lamps and refuse sacks are made from biodegradable cornstarch not plastic.

The stilted timber guestrooms are built to try and minimise heat build-up in the rooms and thus avoid the need for in-room air-conditioning: the ceilings of the rooms are insulated with a 10cm-thick layer of mineral wool which keeps heat out and allows natural ventilation to pass through. The bathrooms are centrally located in the guestrooms and constructed of concrete which, while not inherently an eco-friendly substance, when placed in shade works to absorb the cooler air around it and act as a cooling ‘agent’ for the entire room.

There is an on-site organic garden where a lot of the restaurant’s salad and vegetables are grown: the gardens are fertilized by a combination of food waste and a homemade organic compound created by the lodge. This organic compound, called EM-1, is a combination of molasses, yeast and organic microbes mixed together and used in their organic fertilizer but also as a substance to neutralise odours from the septic tanks. Borneo Rainforest Lodge established a project in conjunction with the authorities of nearby Lahad Datu town to produce 300,000 EM-1 ‘mud balls’ to be thrown into the sea around the fish market to remove excess fish waste and neutralise the smell from the water.

The Lodge is also the site of an ongoing scientific study into the feeding habits of the local orangutan population and the effects of fluctuating fruit supply. This is being conducted in conjunction with the staff and guides of the lodge and with their full cooperation.

This vacation visits Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre. Founded in 1964, Sepilok was established to rehabilitate orphaned and often injured orangutans and rehabilitate them back into the wild. Located on the edge of Kabili Sepilok Forest Reserve, the facility provides medical care for orangutans and other wildlife species including gibbons, Sumatran rhinos and the occasional injured elephant. The Centre works like a halfway house for the orangutans: it provides a semi-wild haven in the protected reserve outside the confines of the Centre but twice a day meals are provided for those animals who feel the need for it. Entrance to the Centre for these feedings is chargeable and all funds go back to the Centre to help fund the important work they are doing here. The Centre is also an important education tool for visitors to learn about the orangutans and the Centre’s work and help promote it to possible future visitors.

This trip also stays in Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort which offers an involved corporate social responsibility scheme split between EMBRACE and SANCTUARY. Sanctuary focuses on their nature project and centres on their nature reserve, the Rasa Ria Resort Nature Interpretation Centre. The centre has worked closely with the Sabah Wildlife Department for almost 20 years and is responsible for the first stage care of orphaned and injured orangutans, which usually lasts between 4 and 5 years, before they are transferred to Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre near Sandakan for their onward care and release. To date, 39 young orangutans have been rehabilitated and transferred to Sepilok and the centre has been responsible for the education of nearly 10,000 school children and of course countless hotel guests and other visitors. The Rasa Ria Resort also recently donated and sponsored a fully modified 4WD vehicle to the Sabah Wildlife Department. The Rapid Response Wildlife Enforcement Unit has been set up to address illegal wildlife poaching and killings in Sabah state and this 4WD donation will go some way to helping address the problem.

The resort also has their own bottling plant where they supply pure still water to all guestrooms and outlets. Since its implementation, there has been a reduction of up to 420,000 plastic bottles! Since February 2013 the resort has been composting waste in an attempt to convert it to something beneficial, as fertilizer for the gardens. Waste water from guestrooms is channelled to the resort’s own sewage treatment plant where the water is treated and used to water the golf course.

More recently the resort ran a reef clean-up activity in conjunction with Raleigh International and Borneo Divers - 15 staff and 1 guest participated in the clean-up resulting in the removal of 19kg of rubbish. Also, in conjunction with Earth Hour, resort staff produced 1,441 candles from used cooking oil and jam jars sourced from the resort and staff also planted herbs at La Salle Secondary School which they will purchase from the school when ready for harvest to be used in the kitchens.


Our local Borneo ground agents employ only local guides and drivers thereby keeping all moneys paid to staff in the local community. Where possible, food served to guests at the lodges is sourced locally thereby providing a further income to local residents.

Abai Jungle Lodge is located next to Abai village en-route from the Sulu Sea to Sukau. In conjunction with the Abai villagers, the Abai Jungle restaurant was built with food sourced from Abai village and their fishermen. A donation is made for each diner towards the Abai Homestay Development Fund to go towards the upgrading of village facilities with the provision of household goods, school uniforms, seeds etc.
Abai Jungle Lodge came later and was built behind the restaurant. The lodge uses many environmentally friendly practices including the use of biodegradable and environmentally friendly shampoo and soaps in guestrooms, rainwater collection and a reverse osmosis water treatment system which purifies the water in an energy efficient and cost effective way. The lodge also introduced their ‘tree planting and lunch with the villagers’ programme where for every person who partakes in this activity, a donation is made to the village as well as the tree itself which helps generate an extra income for the village. Over the years the lodge owners have donated useful items such as motor and fibreglass boats to the villagers.

In conjunction with Orangutan Appeal UK, for every booking to Borneo we adopt our chosen Sepilok orangutan, Gelison, in your names for a year. Orangutan Appeal UK works to support the orangutans of Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre which provides 24hr essential care for orphaned and injured orangutans with the aim to rehabilitate them into the wilds of the adjacent Kabili Sepilok Forest Reserve and beyond. Funds from the adoption costs go towards funding the Centre’s work providing food, medical care and a safe refuge for the orangutans as well as being an important educational tool for visitors.

Rasa Ria Resort's Embrace scheme focuses on community work within the region. The resort has been sponsoring two secondary schools located in close proximity to the resort, SMK Sri Nangka and SMK Tamparuli (Special Education Centre), since 2012. Apart from scholarships, various educational support and the improvement of facilities and health support, the resort also provides skills training for sustainable futures.
The “A Meal a Day” programme was launched and established by the resort to provide meals to students from underprivileged, single parent and low income family backgrounds. Twenty students of SMK Sri Nangka were selected for this programme.

As part of the Shangri-La chains commitment to corporate social responsibility, Tanjung Aru Resort has implemented a range of practices including a coral planting programme to help propagate marine life, a private water bottling plant to eliminate the wastage of 450,000 plastic bottles per year and a rain water collection scheme where the water is used in the resort gardens. A new aquaponics programme was introduced in 2014 to harvest herbs and rear fish for the restaurant. Biodegradable bathroom amenities made from plant starch are used in guestrooms and their composting scheme aims to reduce organic waste and produce fertiliser reducing their dependence on chemicals and pesticides which can affect the safety of the natural environment. The resort also does not serve any shark-fin in the resort restaurants.

Reviews of Borneo orangutan vacation

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the vacations.

I am reborn! Simply the best vacation I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 19 Apr 2016 by

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

The whole package was outstanding, with every element well thought through. If I had to identify some highlights I might pick out spotting the pygmy elephants on the Kinabatangan River, watching the flying squirrels fly at MY Nature Resort, wildlife of all sorts in Danum Valley, the canopy walk at Danum Valley and the beautiful beaches at Rasa Ria and Gaya. We saw orang-utans, macaques and hornbills at almost every location we visited, as well as mouse deer, wild boar, proboscis monkeys, monitor lizards, tarantulas and, on one occasion, a clouded leopard.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

To cram so much in be prepared for early starts, including treks before breakfast. Also the flight schedules demand some punishingly early pick ups, e.g. 3.30 am and 4.00 am. The only way round this would have been to add extra days and expense to the vacation. But this makes the vacation very tiring.
Make sure your camera is up the job, with high definition and zoom capabilities. Ours wasn't.
You will need Leech Socks in Danum, but buy them there.
There are surprisingly few vacation souvenir shops in Sabah and little time to get to shops in general. We had to leave present buying to the airport and there wasn't much there either.

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

Yes the vacation was very environmentally focused. The guides were all professional environmentalists and all resorts were very eco friendly. Our package included sponsorship of an orphaned orang-utan, tree planting along the Kinabatangan River and detailed information of the various initiatives to preserve what's left of the rainforest and its unique flora and fauna.

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

This was the best vacation I've ever had; it was our first 'wildlife' vacation and whetted our appetite for more, next time with a better camera. The locations, accommodation, guides and opportunities for fantastic nature spotting were superb. It was hard work and tiring, but the last few days in Gaya provided adequate time to relax and recuperate. I would strongly recommend this package to anyone with a love of nature, who is reasonably fit and active.

Reviewed on 17 Jun 2015 by

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

There are too many memorable and exciting parts to mention!
Watching young Orangutans playing in the trees in Danhum Valley was incredible, seeing flying squirrels and a Western Tarsier on a night walk was fantastic but then there was also the Fireflies lighting up the trees along the river.
Lankayan Island was pure paradise and the Orangutans and Sun Bears at Sepilok were heart wrenching.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Be prepared for very early starts but they are well worth it and don't forget your leach socks and a good camera.

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

We visited the very isolated village of Abai along the river, which was great to see first hand how tourism has benefited them. We planted a tree that they had grown and chose to have our lunch there which they had prepared.
Both Danhum Valley and Lakayan Island are conservation areas and obviously the work that is done at Sepilok rehabilitation centre is fantastic.

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

An incredible experience, I would recommend this to everyone.

Reviewed on 02 Sep 2015 by

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

Seeing Animals in their natural habitat, especially the orangutans.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Have good hiking boots, be prepared for the heat, be camera ready & have patience in the jungle or primary forest areas.

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

Yes, in some areas more than others but yes in general.

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

Great vacation, excellent service, good communication & transportation.

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