Borneo vacation, Land of the Orang Utan

“Combining dawn mountain treks, bat caves, waterfall swims and close encounters of the orangutan kind, this is a superb two week Sabah special.”


Kota Kinabalu | Manukan Island | Sepilok orangutan rehabilitation center | Sun Bear Sanctuary | Kinabatangan River | Poring Hot Springs | Kinabalu National Park | Pulau Tiga | Opportunities for snorkelling, sea kayaking, fishing, homestays and Mount Kinabalu climb

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Our top tip:
There are plenty of swimming opportunities so packing/hiring a snorkel will allow you to explore Borneo's diverse marine life.
Trip type:
Small group. Max 18 people, min age 11.
Activity level:
Moderate (must be able to swim)
Standard/simple hotels and lodges.
Accommodation, listed activities, transport, tour & local guides
10 breakfasts, 2 lunches and 4 dinners
About this vacation company:
The founders led overland trips across the world in the 60s and 70s before creating this company in 1981. Today, it offers tours in 120 countries, but never lost that pioneering spirit of adventure.
Vacation type
Small group vacations
Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, traveling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week vacation, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travelers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Make the most of your vacation time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travelers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your vacation.

Solo travelers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those traveling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travelers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travelers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travelers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Meet a local guide
No matter how experienced your group leader, they can never make up for the knowledge gained from a lifetime in the destination. That’s why many of our trips work with local guides around the world – who invite you into their homeland with pleasure.

Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your vacation will help support conservation and local people.

Our small family groups in Borneo employ a totally Malaysian crew, from tour leaders, local guides and drivers to all other support staff, ensuring a genuine insight into the local culture, a depth of knowledge of the flora, fauna and geology of the region and ensuring a direct financial contribution to the local economy.

By visiting the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation project, a highlight of the tour, we are helping to support the invaluable local work it does in rehabilitating and protecting this endangered species and also its wider aim of stimulating a greater international awareness of the protection laws for other species. Work carried out by the center has resulted in an increase in detection and confiscation of illegally held captive animals.

In addition to the above, we are continually looking for ways to improve and are proud to be ‘Responsible in everything we do’. Education is key and so all staff, Tour Leaders and partnering suppliers are trained in responsible and sustainable tourism. At our Head Office, we continually strive towards a sustainable and planet-friendly working environment, including having solar panels installed and a company commitment to reducing our plastic usage. As well as this, we have valuable and longstanding partnerships with UK charities Toilet Twinning and Send a Cow, plus many smaller initiatives and projects around the world. We’re members of UK travel industry bodies Tourism Concern and AITO because we believe it’s important to share our knowledge and experience, as well as learn from other operators.

As a company we support Cool Earth. Protecting rainforest is one of the most effective actions to tackle climate breakdown. CoolEarth work with indigenous communities empowering them to conserve their forest; keeping CO2 locked in.

The Impacts of this Trip

Wherever possible we stay in small locally owned guesthouses and hotels and support the National Park authorities by staying at their lodges, assisting to minimise our impact on the local environment. Our Tour Leaders are all trained by us in the importance of responsible tourism with guidance given on how they can make a difference. This then percolates down through those they deal with.


2 Reviews of Borneo vacation, Land of the Orang Utan

4.5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 19 Jul 2019 by

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

Staying on the klotak visiting the national park rafting the Amandit river and swimming with sea turtles on Maratha island.

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

Be prepared for a lot of traveling

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

Yes to some extent

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

Good. This is a new trip and I’m sure it will be modified over time

Reviewed on 07 Sep 2014 by

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

We wanted to see wildlife and appreciate the tropical environment. The most
fulfilling experience was visiting the Gomantong Caves. The spectacle of seeing
thousands of bats leaving the cave, observing Bat Hawks, eagles and Brahmny kites hunting them, and then the fortunate arrival of wild orangutans and maroon langurs in the trees surrounding the car park was an unforgettable experience.

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

Be aware that the descent from the summit of Mount Kinabalu is long and arduous.

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

Yes. Visiting Sepilok and the Sunbear sanctuaries hopefully helped support these
vital charities and prove to local people that cultivating tourism is more sustainable than palm oil plantation.

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

This was our first vacation with this operator and it definitely exceeded our expectations. In large part this was due to the excellent guide Basil Lung. His knowledge and expertise was second to none.

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