Borneo tailor made tour on a shoestring

“Proving that Borneo can be done on a budget, this is a fantastic first-time trip; you'll get a good taste of everything, so you can be sure of what you'd like to explore further.”


Kota Kinabalu | Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre | Evening river cruise on the Kinabatangan River | Pitas Lake | Abai Village | Sandakan | Sepilok Nature Resort | Sun Bear Centre |

Travel Team

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Departure information

This trip can be tailormade throughout the year and can be adapted to suit your interests, budget and requirements as necessary
Our top tip:
Take some leech socks if you're heading into the jungle - they love an exposed ankle.
Trip type:
Tailor made to your preferences and budget.
Activity level:
6 nights luxury lodge/hotel, 3 nights luxury beach resort.
Solo travelers welcome. Single rooms available.
9 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 4 dinners.
accommodation, transfers, listed tours and activities, some meals.
Vacation type
We offer a complete tailor made service allowing you to decide when you go, where to stay and what to do, to create a unique vacation for your individual requirements by our travel experts. We would be happy to telephone you to discuss your requirements and options. Our staff have intimate knowledge of this destination, so do please include your telephone number when you complete the inquiry form.

Responsible tourism

Borneo tailor made tour on a shoestring

Carbon reduction

Your vacation will help support local people and conservation. We must also reduce CO2. Learn about the CO2 emissions of this vacation and how to reduce them.


We work with the Orangutan Appeal UK, the only not-for-profit charity that works directly with the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary in Sandakan. Clients have the option to sponsor an orphaned Orangutan named Beryl, who was found alone on a plantation by one of the workers when she was only a year old. The money goes directly to the Sanctuary in Sepilok to continue their excellent work. Clients receive an ‘adoption certificate’ and regular email updates on the progress of Beryl and of course if you’re lucky you may see her when you visit the Centre.

On this tour, you will visit the famous Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah, founded in 1964, to rehabilitate orphan orangutans. The site is 43 square kilometres of protected land at the edge of Kabili Sepilok Forest Reserve. Today around 60 to 80 orangutans are living free in the reserve. The facility provides medical care for orphaned and confiscated orangutans as well as dozens of other wildlife species. Some of the other animals which end up being treated at the center include sun bears, gibbons, Sumatran rhinos and the occasional injured elephants.

During the tour you also have the opportunity to visit The Borneo Sun Bear Centre, a conservation center with the aim to raise awareness and encourage research on the world’s smallest bear. Found throughout mainland Asia, Sumatra in Indonesia and Borneo, the exact number of Sun bears in the wild is unknown, making it even more pressing to reduce pressure on a species that is classified as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List and at risk of becoming endangered unless circumstances threatening their survival improve. The BSBCC, the first and only facility of its kind in the world, is a non-governmental organisation set up in 2008 through collaboration of the Sabah Forestry Department, Sabah Wildlife Department and LEAP.

Gaya Island Resort and Spa is committed to ecologically-sustainable practices to minimise its carbon footprint within the environment. Therefore, it is a walking resort with minimal motorised vehicles used for operational purposes. Set within a marine park, Gaya Island Resort is located in an area where human activities have already been restricted, but the resort has always aspired to embrace a proactive role in embarking on conservation programmes to preserve the beauty of its natural environment, better protect the local wildlife and raise awareness for sustainable seafood choices. With the help of a passionate and dedicated team, the resort has several eco-friendly initiatives in place that range from conservation through education to rescue programmes.

Since its launch in October 2013, the marine center has rescued, treated and cared for multiple endangered green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) and one critically-endangered Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata). To date, the center has released four turtles - Bobby, Ninja, Carmen and Nick Jr. all of which have undergone rehabilitation and research. The marine center is also home to four coral reef display tanks for educational purposes as well as producing coral fragments that will be returned to the sea. Outside the turtle rescue center is a 14,000-litre recovery tank, which provides a safe and stable environment for sick or injured sea turtles to have the best chance for survival. This recovery tank also houses a coral nursery that establishes an artificial environment to aquaculture coral fragments that will be returned to the sea to help rejuvenate and enhance the natural reefs.

Committed to leading the community in marine conservation, the Gaya Island Resort Marine Centre advocates three conservation pillars – Turtle Rescue, Coral Reef Restoration and Conservation through Education.

his programme aims to lead by example; by not selling endangered species like sharks and humphead wrasse, but by choosing products that have minimal impact on the environment, and by providing engaging education opportunities for guests and staff to further their appreciation of conservation. The resort has weekly conservation talks, a Marine Biologist for a Day Programme and it encourages guests to become involved in future external outreach programmes as volunteers or sponsors. The marine center also provides outreach to the local fishing communities by training the fishermen in using less harmful fishing practices, educating on the benefits of conservation and implementing a recycling programme to reduce floating debris.

In a combined effort between Reef Check Malaysia and YTL Hotels, the resort also conducts a school outreach programme with the local primary school. Using a combination of audio-visual materials, creative activities and fresh pastries from the resort, this programme seeks to engage the children while at same time educating them on recycling and the need for conservation.


Our local ground operator owns and operates a number of eco-lodges which are included in this itinerary. Accommodation has all been locally built and is run and operated by local people. The main purpose of these trips is to interact and contribute to local communities and projects and understand the need to minimize any negative impact on the local environment. Our ground agents only employ local guides to accompany our clients. All food in the lodges is sourced locally, helping the local rural communities wherever possible.

The Abai Jungle Lodge operates a tree planting and optional lunch programme with the local Abai villagers as part of your time there. This programme has been introduced by the Lodge as a way to directly contribute money to the local village community, plus it helps guests learn a little about the way this traditional community lives. The Lodge owners pay a small fee to plant a tree in the village with the proceeds going to the villager whose land it is planted on – the choice of villager plot rotates around the village to keep it as fair as possible.

Gaya Island Resort recognises the importance of people when it comes to running a successful hospitality business. Local staff are cared for and given employment and education opportunities.

They also recognise their duty to be a good neighbour and are an active partner of local communities, working closely with schools and charitable organisations to educate, support and engage the communities in close proximity to the areas in which we have operations. They aim to support the communities through initiatives that have widespread benefit and contribute to improvements in community life and environmental sustainability.

52 Reviews of Borneo tailor made tour on a shoestring

4.5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 31 Aug 2019 by

This was a truly amazing vacation one crossed off my bucket list. From the communication from the operator planning in detail our personalised itinerary to the knowledge and organisation of the tour group. Read full review

Reviewed on 11 Jul 2019 by

We had the most incredible time. It was a life-changing experience: cruising the river and spotting fireflies, crocodiles and proboscis monkeys Read full review

Reviewed on 12 May 2019 by

The overall vacation was a great success but going into the jungle by small boat and seeing all the wildlife in their natural habitat was truly amazing. Read full review

Reviewed on 16 Apr 2019 by

We loved seeing wild orangutans after learning about the rehabilitation center, glimpsing Pygmy elephants through the bush along the river and watching the monkeys playing and going about their day-to-day lives. Read full review

Reviewed on 17 May 2019 by

We loved every part of our vacation. We loved the authenticity of the places we stayed at, the people, the food and the cultural exposure. Read full review

Reviewed on 14 Oct 2018 by

We saw 6 orangutans in the wild, and seeing a mother making a nest for the night while her youngster watched us and messed around like a little kid was enchanting. Read full review

Reviewed on 27 Sep 2018 by

The most memorable part of the vacation was...seeing a young orangutan with its 6 day old baby just 3 feet in front of us on the walkway at the sun bear conservation center in Sepilok. Read full review

Reviewed on 05 Sep 2018 by

Fantastic, once in a lifetime which I would love to do all over again. Read full review

Reviewed on 16 Aug 2018 by

Very hard to say (what was the most memorable moment) but watching the proboscis monkeys on the Kinabatangan river surrounded by the sounds of birds. Secondly at Puau Tiga a tropical island - the beautiful surroundings stunning beach and trees, an absolute get away from it all. Read full review

Reviewed on 17 Apr 2018 by

The highlight was the opportunities to see wildlife and amazing birds and butterflies at very close quarters. It was a wonderful adventure and exceeded our expectations. The organisation was faultless, accommodation clean and comfortable, food excellent... Read full review

Reviewed on 13 Sep 2018 by

The most memorable part of the trip was the wildlife at Abai Lodge and My Nature Resort as well as the beach at Bunga Raya Resort. Staff were extremely friendly. Read full review

Reviewed on 27 May 2018 by

The most memorable was danum valley -Borneo Rainforest Lodge. Seeing wild orang-utans and flying squirrels. Read full review

Reviewed on 25 Apr 2018 by

Seeing the fabulous Rafflasia flower in full bloom. A great experience, the local people and guides, staff and everyone we met were the smiley most polite and helpful we have ever met Read full review

Reviewed on 08 Oct 2018 by

Orang-utans Read full review

Reviewed on 17 Nov 2017 by

The river cruises at Abai Lodge was the most memorable. Seeing so many of what we were told was hard to see, especially the elephants, and doing the safari with a group of people with great sense of humour, including the guide. Read full review

Reviewed on 08 Nov 2017 by

Coming face to face with crocodiles, orangutans and elephants was the highlight. Read full review

Reviewed on 19 Oct 2017 by

Our stay at Abai Jungle Lodge was definitely the most memorable and exciting part of our trip. The location alongside the Kinabatangan River was incredible and it was a real privilege to be able to sleep on the outskirts of the jungle, listening to the sounds of animals all around us. Read full review

Reviewed on 04 Sep 2017 by

The adult male Orangutan we saw on our boat trip from Abai jungle lodge to Kinabatagan jungle lodge and the pygmy elephants we saw at the riverside on our first boat cruise and much more besides!! Read full review

Reviewed on 05 Aug 2017 by

So many memorable moments - Sepilok and the Kinabatangan river trips to view the wildlife were totally unforgettable. Watching from the boat as an orangutan built its nest for the night, and the family squabbles of the proboscis monkeys. Read full review

Reviewed on 26 May 2017 by

The highlight was seeing a herd of around 60 pygmy elephants crossing the river. Terrific! Read full review

Reviewed on 23 Apr 2017 by

Seeing wild elephants and snorkelling with sharks was the most memorable. Read full review

Reviewed on 11 Aug 2017 by

Seeing the Orangutans and other wildlife in Borneo and along the Kintabatangan river. Read full review

Reviewed on 14 May 2017 by

The most memorable was the river trips from Abai Jungle Lodge & time spent at the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok. There were some absolutely magical moments and a lifelong dream of seeing Orangutans, especially the wild mother and baby we saw, was fulfilled. Read full review

Reviewed on 25 Apr 2017 by

Seeing the wildlife in their natural environment was the most memorable. Read full review

Reviewed on 05 Sep 2016 by

10/10 - 100% - Fantastic - thank you Read full review

Reviewed on 31 Aug 2016 by

All of it. We loved every aspect of our vacation Read full review

Reviewed on 16 Sep 2016 by

Best bits: Seeing a herd of wild elephants from 10 ft away; Having a wild orangutan walk alongside us on the Boardwalk; Getting chased by an irate macaque (not our fault!). Read full review

Reviewed on 29 Jul 2016 by

Tabin was amazing an oasis in the rainforest. The second was Sepilok and the Orang utans, a wonderful experience to see how they work with the animals. Read full review

Reviewed on 21 Mar 2016 by

Extremely well organised, countless opportunities to see wildlife and meet local communities, absolutely excellent all round experience Read full review

Reviewed on 15 Oct 2015 by

Seeing a wild Orangutan swinging through the trees carrying a baby was magical as were the elephants on the river bank, the Proboscis Monkeys, birds and night-time fireflies. It was magical. Read full review

Reviewed on 17 Mar 2015 by

There were so many memorable bits! Each section of the vacation was so different and varied so all had different elements to make them special. 10/10! Read full review

Reviewed on 03 Aug 2015 by

Get straight over to Sandakan and Sepilok to enjoy the wildlife and rainforest! Read full review

Reviewed on 26 Jun 2015 by

Seeing the stars while on the night time river cruise... Magical! Read full review

Reviewed on 14 Apr 2015 by

Experiencing 60+ elephants swim across the river in front of us was pretty special. Seeing the orangutans wild and protected was my husband's lifetime dream. Sitting having breakfast in the rainforest with the cacophony of sound from the insects was deafening. An unique experience from start to finish. Read full review

Reviewed on 10 Nov 2014 by

9.5 out of 10 Read full review

Reviewed on 25 Aug 2014 by

Fantastic if you like non commercial back to nature vacation that is environmentally friendly Read full review

Reviewed on 23 Jul 2013 by

Excellent, well thought out itinerary. The most memorable parts were Traveling into the jungle to stay at Abai Jungle Lodge and the river cruises. We saw wild orangutans, snakes, big spiders, Proboscis monkeys and more all in our hotel. Read full review

Reviewed on 13 Jun 2013 by

If we had to name a specific high I think it'd have to be the private river cruises that we went on from the Abai Jungle Lodge. They were each so magical, romantic and different - I can't describe how wonderful they made us feel. But in truth the trip was packed with moments like this - hearing a turtle breath, seeing pygmy elephants up close and wild!! Read full review

Reviewed on 21 Apr 2013 by

I enjoyed every aspect of my vacation. However, diving among turtles, in the beautiful turquoise waters of Lankayan Island, was definitely a particularly exciting and memorable moment...All the local people were delightful and could not do enough to help. Borneo is a very beautiful place and I hope to go back very soon. I would not hesitate in recommending this vacation. Read full review

Reviewed on 03 Feb 2013 by

It was amazing.. A day didn't go by without me having a 'moment'...the highlight here was seeing the orang-utans at the rehab center, what a great sight to see them feeding...finally our most special time was spent on Lankyan Island, a paradise of turquoise sea and white sands, walking into the warm seas and seeing the most fantastic range of marine wildlife all feeding on the protected reefs circling the island just inches from your feet! Read full review

Reviewed on 09 Sep 2013 by

A great vacation, seeing animals in their natural habitat is fantasic and the local people and guides were great and very knowlegeable. Read full review

Reviewed on 10 Jul 2013 by

All of the time on the river lodges was fantastic. The guides were great & a packed programme allowed us 2 c as much wildlife as poss. The lodges were lovely & sepilok lodge was stunning. SeliganiSland was very basic though allowed the turtle viewing though we luckily also saw them on lankayan which was also beautiful Read full review

Reviewed on 19 Mar 2013 by

A memorable vacation for me and my son. The entire trip is memorable, but I suppose the 2 nights in the river lodge were especially good fun. Read full review

Reviewed on 16 Mar 2013 by

Absolutely superb. Every day was memorable. Definitely one of the best vacations of my life. Read full review

Reviewed on 09 Jan 2013 by

Brilliant! Climbing Mt Kinabalu was exhausting but unforgettable and the river wildlife spotting cruises at night were another highlight. Read full review

Reviewed on 09 Sep 2012 by

Traveling up the Kilabatan river in the boats seeing the way of life along the river bed was the most memorable part of the vacation...this vacation / experience was the most encompassing and rewarding trip I have encountered. Read full review

Reviewed on 30 Jul 2012 by

It was all amazing but Lankayan Island was a definite highlight. It looked and felt like paradise and it was great to be a part of the work they are doing to protect the turtles...The best vacation ever! Read full review

Reviewed on 02 Nov 2012 by

It was a great vacation. It's a very long way to travel and involved 8 flights, which is quite tough, but it's a unique and beautiful place with fantastic wildlife. The company we booked through were absolutely fantastic and everything was perfectly organised - HIGHLY recommend them. Read full review

Reviewed on 05 Sep 2012 by

The most memorable part of the vacation was seeing pygmy elephants. Never expected that didn't even know they lived there...A dream come true. Read full review

Reviewed on 15 Aug 2012 by

We saw Pygmy elephants, Orangutans, Proboscis monkeys, Macaques, Crocodiles, Eagles, Hornbills. The list goes on and on and on. Lankayan Island was a great way to end a busy vacation. Totally relaxing, very luxurious and mind blowingly beautiful. Read full review

Reviewed on 08 Aug 2012 by

My personal favourite was the turtle experience, both on Selingan and Lankayan. Lankayan is stunning - the most picturesque place I have ever stayed, and to see a gigantic turtle slowly heaving her way up the beach in the dark one evening right near our chalet was magical! Read full review

Reviewed on 10 Feb 2012 by

Spending time on the Kinabatangan River and seeing wild Orangutans was the most memorable part of the vacation Read full review

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