Orangutans play together at the Sepilok Nature Reserve, Sandakan (Rachel Lee Horsfield)


Northeast Sabah is a tropical rainforest paradise. Proboscis Monkeys and Orang Utans are just two of the primates found in the forests. Colourful and fascinating tropical birds call from their jungle perches, exotic orchids and other flowers can be found amongst the luxuriant growth. The jungle simply throbs with life. With its source in the hills, the Kinabatangan River snakes its way down towards the Sulu Sea, leaving oxbow lakes puncturing the land. It is in the lower reaches of the river that one finds the most amazing wildlife. With the richness of the reefs below the waves and the richness of the jungle above, it is little wonder that Sabah has been referred to as ‘the gateway to Borneo’s wildlife’. Why not sample some of what is on offer by adding a few days at a rainforest lodge and a visit to the Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary to your diving trip, or visit Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Southeast Asia?


Visiting Borneo offers a great opportunity to enjoy some really sensational wildlife encounters above the water as well as below. That increasingly rare and fascinating primate, the Orang-utan (or Man of the Forest), can be visited at the famous Orang-utan sanctuary at Sepilok. The sanctuary was established in 1964 to help once-captive or displaced Orang-utans re-adapt to life in the forest, but the Sepilok forest is an entirely natural area of rainforest and the re-introduced animals there are not captive. Visits to the centre (which is about 25 kms outside the city, usually include the morning (10 o’clock) feeding time which generally lures a number of Orang-utans out of the forest interior. The spectacular Gomantong Caves are home to 2 million bats and swiftlets (the latter’s nests are used to make ‘bird’s nest’ soup, which is much relished by the Chinese). Bukit Melapai Lodge has a series of simple, but clean and spacious air-conditioned wooden bungalows all with en-suite bathrooms. From the lodge one can walk in the nearby rainforest. Although it is possible to see wild Asian Elephants and Orang-utans in the area, these sightings are a rare and special treat. As you walk the trails the sounds of the rainforest will be ringing in your ears. Apart from smaller forest species of birds such as sunbirds, flowerpeckers, bulbuls and babblers, you can expect to see hornbills, kingfishers and birds of prey including eagles. Visits to Bukit Melapai Lodge include river cruises on the Kinabatangan and Menanggul Rivers in search of the strange, long-nosed Proboscis Monkey and other wildlife.

Itinerary: Day 1: On arrival at Sandakan you will be met and transferred to the Sepilok Orang-utan Sanctuary, where you can enjoy morning feeding time for the Orang-utans. After lunch at an hotel you will take a fascinating boat journey to Bukit Melapai Lodge, hidden in the jungle by the Kinabatangan River. After checking in to the lodge enjoy a wildlife river cruise on the Menanggol River, one of the tributaries of the Kinabatangan River. Return to the lodge for dinner and overnight. Day 2: The day starts with an early morning trip by boat to one of the Oxbow Lakes. At this time of the day the animals of the forest are at their most active. Listen and watch as the forest stirs and the sounds of life abound. Shrieks and calls are everywhere but your knowledgeable local guide will be there to help you identify the sights and sounds of the rainforest. Return to the lodge in time for breakfast and enjoy free time exploring the forest surroundings (or take a nap!) until the late afternoon, when you can take another wildlife cruise. Return to the lodge for dinner and overnight. Day3: Depart from the lodge after breakfast bound for the Gomantong Caves. After exploring the caves, set off for lunch in Sandakan. After lunch visit the Pavilion for a panoramic view of the city and the Puu Gih Jih Temple before heading for the airport. (Note: Longer stays at Bukit Melapai can be arranged if you prefer).


The mountains and higher altitude jungle areas of Borneo are very different from the hot and humid lowlands. Explore magnificent Kinabalu National Park, an area of outstanding natural beauty and diversity, and venture into the rainforest (at canopy height!) at Poring Hot Springs.

Itinerary: Day 1: After breakfast you will take a drive into the mountains. As you leave the city behind you will see traditional wooden houses on stilts and rice fields. Gradually the road will start to climb the Cocker Range and the views across the tops of the forest-covered hills and mountains, and out to the sea beyond, are magnificent. There will be opportunities for photo stops en route and also a visit to a local market can be accommodated if desired. The Kinabalu Park Headquarters are situated at 1524 metres above sea level and the park covers a vast area of 754 square kms. Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Southeast Asia at 4101 metres above sea level. In clear weather its jagged summit can be seen from as far away as Kota Kinabalu. Local Kadazan people, who lived in the area long ago, named the mountain ‘Akin Nabalu’ or ‘home of departed spirits’. On arrival at the park there is time to visit the Information Centre where you can learn about the flora and fauna of the park. There are over 1,000 species of orchids and 300 species of birds. Fascinating pitcher plants, huge ferns, verdant mosses and brilliant rhododendrons are everywhere. There is a Mountain Garden at the park headquarters that offers a wonderful example of the flora of the region. Your guided walk through the jungle will end in the Mountain Garden. Lunch will be taken in the park restaurant, after which there is some time to explore the jungle paths and trails. From the park headquarters you will be taken on a short trip round the fruit and vegetable growing area of Kundasang before returning to the Kota Kinabalu Park Headquarters Guesthouse for dinner and overnight. Day 2: After breakfast you will depart for Poring Hot Springs. To reach the spring there is an exciting walk across a short rope and hanging bridge over a river to landscaped gardens. The hot sulphur spring water has been channelled into open, tiled baths (which you are free to enjoy). Maybe take a swim in a refreshing rock pool after your bath. There are numerous paths and jungle walkways to enjoy, including the amazing and justly famous Canopy Walkway, which stands 40 metres above the jungle floor. You will be guided along a steep path for about 20 minutes to the start of the walkway. If you are not nervous of heights, this is a rare adventure! A packed lunch is provided and you are free to enjoy exploring the area until your departure later in the afternoon, when you will be driven back to your hotel in Kota Kinabalu. (Note: Longer stays at Mount Kinabalu can be arranged if you prefer, and you can even climb to the summit if energetic enough!)

STOP-OVERS: These are available in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, depending on flight routing.

COMBINATIONS: It is very easy to extend your holiday in Borneo and visit famous Layang Layang island with its superb ‘open-ocean’ diving or world-famous Sipadan, Mabul and Kapalai. Talk to us about the possibilities.

SANDAKAN & SUKAU SAFARI TRAIL: SEPILOK ORANG-UTAN SANCTUARY & BUKIT MELAPAI LODGE: Price from about £369. Includes: all land and boat transfers; visits to Sepilok Orang-utan Sanctuary and Gomantong Caves; 2 nights accommodation on a twin/share basis at Bukit Melapai Lodge; 3 river cruises while at the lodge; all meals from lunch on Day 1 to lunch on Day 3. Price based on minimum 2 people. Single Occupancy Supplement: From about £85.

KINABALU NATIONAL PARK & PORING HOT SPRINGS: Price from about £259. Includes: transfers by road as described above; entrance fees and guided walks as described; 1 night full-board accommodation (lunch, dinner and breakfast) on a twin/share basis at Mount Kinabalu Headquarters Guesthouse; packed lunch on the second day. Price based on minimum 2 people. Single Occupancy Supplement: from about £62.

Monkey business (Rachel Lee Horsfield)

A juvenile orangutan looks pensive (Hilary Lee)

The young orangutans enjoy swinging through the forest (Hilary Lee)

Afternoon on the river (Rachel Lee Horsfield)

Cruising on the river beats trekking through the jungle any day! (Hilary Lee)

White-tailed macaque (Rachel Lee Horsfield)

White-tailed macaque (Rachel Lee Horsfield)

White-tailed macaques (Rachel Lee Horsfield)

Dusk in the jungle (Rachel Lee Horsfield)

Dawn on the river (Rachel Lee Horsfield)

The entrance to the Gomantong Caves (Rachel Lee Horsfield)

Interior of the Gomantong Caves (Rachel Lee Horsfield)

Long tailed macaque (Rachel Lee Horsfield)

Long tailed macaque (Rachel Lee Horsfield)

A family of proboscis monkeys (Rachel Lee Horsfield)

Mummy and baby proboscis monkeys (Rachel Horsfield)

Daddy proboscis monkey (Rachel Horsfield)

Bourgainvillia (Rachel Horsfield)

The pool area at The Sabah Hotel (Hilary Lee)

Bukit Melapi Lodge (Hilary Lee)

Bukit Melapi Lodge (Hilary Lee)

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