Selamat datang! Welcome to Malaysia. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on Day 1. If you arrive early, you can immerse yourself in history of this intriguing city at the Sabah State Museum. You can also visit the Mari Mari Cultural Village, or perhaps explore the islands off Kota Kinabalu, excellent for swimming and snorkelling. Notes: This trip visits places that are at high altitude, and as a result some people can suffer from altitude sickness, regardless of age or physical health. Please see the ‘Health’ section of the trip notes for more important information on this.
Today you will travel by minivan to a Dusun village, nestled amid picturesque hills in the shadow of imposing Mt Kinabalu, the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea (approximately 2 hours). The Dusun people, the ethnic group of our guides on Mt Kinabalu, are wonderfully warm and friendly people, and while here you'll have the opportunity to learn about their way of life and spend a night in traditional accommodation. Depending on the weather, you will then take a trek through the surrounding fruit and rubber plantations. Then your leader can point you in the direction of a local river for a great way to cool off. To ensure we do not disrupt the homestay community we split up our groups to stay in a couple of different family homes. All the homes are in waking distance from each other and you usually have a couple of group members with you at each home. Your leader will discuss the type of homestay experience with at your group meeting on Day 1. Homestays are a great way to experience local life and we are very fortunate to be able to offer this type of accommodation. Tonight you'll also get to watch a cultural performance in the village.
This morning say goodbye to your new friends from the village and travel into the unspoilt wilderness of the World Heritage-listed Kinabalu National Park (approximately 1 hour). Take some time to enjoy the surroundings and prepare for the climb. There are nature trails through the lowland tropical forest and a Botanic Garden to explore. Otherwise, just relax in the afternoon and take in the cooler clime. Before you depart, your leader will provide a safety briefing about the climb and assist with any last minute questions. Stay overnight at the park's headquarters in dormitory accommodation with shared facilities. Nestled amongst the lowland forests, this is the perfect place to chill-out before the climb. Notes: We consider the Mt Kinabalu trek to be a huge highlight of the trip. Porters are also available (at extra cost) and are recommended, but if you decide the trek is just not for you, we can provide alternative arrangements if advised at time of booking. Please note that if you decide not to climb the only meal included is breakfast. For more information on the trekking alternative please see the 'Itinerary Disclaimer' section in the trip notes.
Rise early the next day to begin the climb up Mt Kinabalu. It's not an easy walk, uphill all the way, and you’ll need to be prepared to tackle a trail made up of steep steps that vary considerably in size. Altitude can also affect you, regardless of your fitness level, and it will certainly slow you down a fair bit (it's important that you educate yourself about the dangers of altitude sickness and its symptoms). Ensure you have warm layers, waterproof gloves, hat, head torch, waterproof jacket and good walking shoes/boots. The top of the mountain can be deceptively cold. However, there's absolutely no rush so take your time and enjoy the pristine environment - this is an area that boasts a remarkable variety of plant life, including some 1,000 species of orchid and the extraordinary carnivorous pitcher plant. You will cover 6 kilometres on the first day (approximately 4-6 hours) and stop at a resthouse near Laban Rata (3,272 metres) for the night. The resthouses have very basic, mixed gender, multishare bunk rooms, and additional blankets can be hired from the park office. Go to bed early, so you're ready for the final climb in the morning.
Rise around 2 am in order to catch the sunrise at the summit of Mt Kinabalu (4,095 metres). It's difficult walking, but you'll feel a huge sense of achievement. Also, the view from the summit is incredible - the jungles of Borneo in one direction, the South China Sea in the other, making every inch of the climb worthwhile. Be warned though, the temperature can change very quickly up on the mountain, so bring clothes for all weather conditions. The climb from Laban Rata to the summit takes 2-4 hours and, due to the altitude, can be hard going even for the fit. The first section from Laban Rata is along man made steps passing through vegetation. Once clear of the treeline you will be walking up a series of wooden steps all the way to the final check point at Sayat Sayat. The window for climbing the summit trail is quite narrow so Climbers need to reach Sayat Sayat check point by 6am to continue and must listen to the instructions of the mountain guide and leader - their decision is final when it comes to safety on the mountain. After Sayat Sayat there is a rope marking the trail all the way to the summit Peak. Waterproof gloves are recommended to protect your hands from rope burn (as well as to keep them warm). After witnessing the morning sunrise, return to Laban Rata for a well-earned breakfast, and then descend the mountain (approximately 3-6 hours) to enjoy a rewarding lunch at the bottom. Once everyone is down from the mountain you will continue on to Sabah Tea Plantation where we will stay in traditional longhouses for the night.
Today, journey by private bus into the steamy rainforest to Bilet, a small village on the banks of the Kinabatangan River (approximately 5 hours). Take a short boat tide to the comfortable jungle lodge where you’ll spend the night. The lodge is located directly on the river and is a good place to spot wildlife. In the early evening as the sun sets, head out by motorised boat in search of wildlife such as macaques, Orangutan, proboscis monkeys and, if you’re lucky, spot some pygmy elephants. In the evening take a night walk in search of the western Tarsier. Rubber boots and leech socks are available to hire. The lodge tonight is comfortable with private bathrooms.
Wake up in the lodge to lovely morning views of the Kinabatangan. Today’s adventures put you back along this winding river as you embark on a morning and an afternoon boat cruise to to spot more of the region’s chattering wildlife. There’ll be time to take a proper trek through the jungle to the shores of the nearby Oxbow Lake, a body of water that stretches on itself in a horseshoe shape.
After breakfast, say goodbye to the Jungle Lodge and hit the road in a private mini van to the coastal city of Sandakan (approximately 3 hours). Along the way there’s the option to stop at the Gomantong caves (additional entrance fee). The caves are renowned for their valuable swiftlet nests, which are edible and harvested for bird's nest soup. Birds' nest collection is an ancient tradition, but nowadays locals must have licenses to climb to the roof of the caves and collect the nests, and penalties are imposed on unlicensed collectors. The nests are particularly prized in Chinese culture due to their rarity, and supposedly high nutritional value and exquisite flavour. This stop is also a great chance to spot orangutans swinging among the trees. If you aren’t lucky enough to spot any of these playful primates while here, don’t worry! You will stop off at Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary where you can watch up close the amazing bachelor proboscis lazing and feeding - an experience that can only be found in Borneo. Tonight’s overnight stay in the lush forests of Sepilok puts you next to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre – listen for their calls as the sun dips behind the horizon.
Today’s adventures gets you up, close and personal with some of Sabah’s exciting wildlife as you visit rehabilitation centres for orangutans and the Bornean sun bear. The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre stretches over 43 square kilometres of protected jungle and serves as home to around 80 of these animals – along with the occasional rhino, elephant, gibbon and more. This sanctuary serves as an excellent place to learn more about the orangutan’s plight without interfering with the rehabilitation process, covering such topics as the damage that deforestation, the illegal pet trade and poaching has on their population. A subsequent journey to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre gets you closer to the smallest bear in the world. These fuzzy beasts, characterised by the golden ring of hair that sits under their neck, remain under threat from deforestation and poaching much in the same way that the orangutan does. Wander along a series of viewing platforms to try and spot bears as they climb up trees for food. Keep an eye out for their unusually long tongue, which they use to slurp honey out of beehives. As the evening rolls in, consider taking a guided night walk through Sepilok for more chances to spot orangutans playing in the forest. Otherwise, a journey to the Rainforest Discovery Centre grants a better insight to the environmental education practices of Sabah.
In the morning get some insight into the city's past at the emotive War Memorial, built on the site of a Japanese POW camp. This site also marks the starting point of the tragic Sandakan Death Marches, on which 2,400 POWs were forced to walk through the jungles of Borneo. By the end of the march, only 6 Australians survived, and only because they had escaped. We then transfer to Sandakan airport and fly to Kota Kinabalu (approximately 1 hour). You will stay in a centrally located hotel in Kota Kinabalu. The flight usually gets back in the afternoon, so the rest of the day is free for your own activities. Do some last minute shopping at the large shopping centres or take a wander down to the night market to pick up something more local. You’ll end this colourful Sabah Adventure with an optional final group meal.
Your Sabah adventure comes to an end today. There are no activities planned and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. If you are staying in Kota Kinabalu longer, then there are some additional activities that your leader can assist with booking. It’s best to pre book these activities with your leader on Day 1. There’s a scuba dive trip from Manukan Island to see the wonderful underwater world of Borneo, or an optional fun, interactive and educational visit to Mari Mari Cultural Village to see how indigenous ethnic groups of Borneo used to live. Please also remember Most Scuba Diving companies would recommend you don't fly for at least 24 hours after your last scuba dive.