Borneo wildlife vacation with Mt. Kinabalu climb

“A tailor made tour of wildlife, hot springs and relaxing river cruises, this varied trip culminates in a challenging, but rewarding trek to the summit of Mount Kinabalu.”


Kota Kinabalu | Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre | Pitas Lake | Lunch with local Abai villagers | Sandakan | Central Market | Sepilok Nature Resort | Rainforest Discovery Centre | Sun Bear Conservation Centre | Kinabalu Park | Two-day Mount Kinabalu trek | Laban Rata | Three days leisure at a resort hotel

Travel Team

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Departure information

This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
Our top tip:
Try and get a bit of walking in before you go - you'll get more out of the climb.
Trip type:
Tailor made.
Activity level:
6 nights resort, 4 nights lodge, 1 night mountain guesthouse.
Solo travelers welcome. Single rooms available for a surcharge at lodges and resorts.
7 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 4 dinners.
Accommodation, transport, listed activities.

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.

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 Canyon who was being kept illegally as a pet and was taken in by the sanctuary when she was 2 years old. She is now 5 years old and progressing well. 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 Canyon 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 orphaned orang-utans. The site is 43 square kilometres of protected land at the edge of Kabili Sepilok Forest Reserve. Today around 60 to 80 orang-utans are living free in the reserve. The facility provides medical care for orphaned and confiscated orang-utans 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 pygmy 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.

Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts is a founding member of the Asia Pacific Hotels Environmental Initiative. In accordance with the Group's environmental policy, all Shangri-La and Traders hotels have "Green Programs" to identify ways to reduce wastage, eradicate practices that damage the environment and generally promote environmental awareness. The Resort also operates an irrigation program for its 18-hole Golf Course using 'grey' or recycled water from the Resort.

The Nature Reserve, located beside Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort, has a forest garden planted with different types of trees and plants to encourage the habitation of insects and small wildlife. The 64-acre Nature Reserve of coastal vegetation is home to 62 species of birds, various reptiles and mammals and the much-endangered Orangutans. A Rehabilitation Programme was initiated by the resort in support of the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre of the Sabah Wildlife Department. To date, a total of 32 Orangutans have successfully passed the first stage of the rehabilitation process and been returned to Sepilok for the second stage and final rehabilitation and subsequent release to the wild.

The Impacts of this Trip

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 River lodge owners employ local people as staff wherever possible. The lodge owners also operate a tree planting and lunch programme with local villagers. 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 Rasa Ria Resort established a Nature Conservation Programme in 1996 between the Resort and the Sabah Wildlife Department to establish a nature education center for the general public and local Sabah schoolchildren. The Shangri-La chain has also set up 'Embrace', a Care for People project which commits each hotel to a chosen local organisation for at least 5-10 years.


4 Reviews of Borneo wildlife vacation with Mt. Kinabalu climb

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 13 Feb 2018 by

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

Overall it was an amazing trip and we saw lots of wildlife. Tabun was especially memorable for the amount of wildlife we saw, especially on the night drives. And seeing elephants, gibbons, wild orangutans and a whale shark was particularly special.

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

Don’t be scared off by a little rain and try to come in the off seasons. Take every
opportunity to go on extra walks and tours as walking even the same tracks can reap wonderful sightings. With this in mind in areas like Tabin, make sure to get the leech socks while you are there (can buy in store there) just for piece of mind. Also binoculars are a must for sightings!

We wouldn’t bother staying in KK at all and just pass through. Unless you go it to Gaya island which is actually incredibly close to all the hotels to the center of town anyway.

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

Yes we thought so. It was especially interesting to learn about the relationship
with the palm oil plantations - not as black and white as the media make it appear back at home... as these things always are.

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

Can say hand on heart best trip I’ve ever been on. We love animals and we were certainly treated to some incredible animal encounters.

Reviewed on 16 Apr 2015 by

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

Seeing Orangs and Gibbons in the wild

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

To get out into places like the Danum Valley as it was a wonderful experience.

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

Not really sure about supporting local people although we were told that locals were used as much as possible to staff lodges etc so there must be an impact for them there. On reducing environmental impact I felt that they were doing a
small amount in that vein but as usual more needs/could be done. I think just having the conservation areas must be supporting conservation.

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

We all thoroughly enjoyed our experience in Borneo and felt that it exceeded our expectations. The one concern we did have were the river trips which although fabulous (and our guide, Bryant, was great) we felt that a lot of the other guides
were getting too close to the animals and harassing them by following them too closely and being very noisy when up close to the animals - something that needs to be self regulated by the lodges I feel.

Read the operator's response here:

Thank you for your feedback and pleased to hear that Borneo exceeded your expectations!
Your feedback regards the guides will be sent to the lodge to addressed.

We are delighted to have taken care of you on this trip and look forward to looking
after you on your next adventure!

Reviewed on 12 Jul 2013 by

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

The river cruises at Abai jungle lodge where we saw some amazing wildlife and climbing Mount Kinabalu which was very tough but the views were immensely rewarding.

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

I would suggest that 2 nights in Sepilok is too long unless you want to make multiple visits to the oran-utan sanctuary. Otherwise I would recommend our itinerary exactly.

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

I did feel that it benefited local people (especially in Abai) and supported conservation (visits to Seligan and Sepilok oran-utan sanctuary). I am not sure that overall it reduced environmental impacts (mainly due to the long flights to the destination).

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

Amazing. We were very fortunate with the wildlife we saw. The itinerary captured everything that we enjoy doing and so for us it was the perfect vacation!

Reviewed on 01 Oct 2012 by

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

There were many great highlights. Climbing the Kinabalu mountain was a great
achievement, Surviving the white water rafting was amazing but seeing an
orangutan mother make a bed for the night was the highlight

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

Take a hat an gloves for the mountain, bring a minimum of clothing , make sure
its outdoor type clothing that's easy to wash and hard wearing. Get fit before
you go with lots of hill walking and be patient with the animals; they do happen

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

Yes, the office staff, air crews, guides, drivers, hotel and restaurant staff
were all local. Reducing environmental impacts, so so; we did travel a lot.
Supported conservation, yes. Without the tourists to sustain the parks they would
be easy targets for logging etc

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

Fantastic ! Although it did take me 4 days of R&R to recover from the 1st 10
days. Everybody agreed it was unique and a wonderful experience

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