Borneo Tour
Beyond the Tourist Trail

Malaysian Borneo –  Borneo Explorer Tour – a 15 day Small Group Tour.

As the world’s third largest island, Borneo uniquely straddles both Indonesia and Malaysia and is also home to a third country, the tiny nation of Brunei; dominated by lush rainforests it contains a breathtaking array of flora and fauna, to which newly discovered species are added each year as more remote parts are explored.

Once known as a land of headhunters, Borneo has an allure which is very different to the rest of South East Asia and on this exciting group tour we aim to delve into the culture and nature of the island.

Starting in vibrant Kuching, we head for the central region of Sarawak, exploring the areas around Sibu rich in local culture where we visit serene, idyllic villages, bustling markets and overnight in a homestay.

We plunge into the vast cave systems of Mulu, some of the largest on the planet, and wander forest trails in the Bako National Park in search of the intriguing Proboscis monkey, one of the multitude of species endemic to Borneo. The journey continues to Sabah where we tread the trails of Kinabalu National Park and finally attain the northern extent of Borneo to observe the iconic and endangered Orangutan at the sanctuary in Sepilok before navigating the waterways of the Kinabatangan River where flora and fauna again abound.

This is a compelling and extremely rewarding trip for those that wish to seek out in equal measure both the incredible biodiversity and the idiosyncratic culture of this enthralling land.

Tour ratings.

  • Fitness
  • Off the beaten track 
  • Culture
  • History
  • Wildlife

Tour Pace



Tour style


Relaxed Pace

Relaxed tours are easy paced with plenty of leisure time built in. The tour will in all probability still be off the beaten track, with the occasional early start and there may still be occasional long drives. In general on a relaxed pace tour you can enjoy easy-going activities and experiences with opportunities to absorb the sights and immerse yourself in the local surroundings.

Moderate Pace

Moderate pace tours are ideal if you want a tour experience that combines activities and experiences with some time to relax. Typically you will be active and busy for part of the day but then also have time to rest and recharge your batteries. In general on a moderate paced tour there may be some long journeys involved but the tour is not an expedition or a road trip. On a moderate paced tour it will be necessary to have some early starts.

Busy Pace

A busy paced tour means that you can expect to be doing, seeing or experiencing something new almost every day, and moving on from place to place to pack in as much as possible. There may be early starts, long journeys and tiring days along the way, but you’ll return home feeling you’ve really experienced as much as you possibly could.

Pioneer Class Tours

On our Pioneer tours, you will be amongst an elite group of intrepid travellers and some of the first to explore a country that few have been privileged enough to discover. Of course, exploring such areas of the world will come with its challenges; it may mean several nights camping, long journeys by 4WD and the need to maintain a degree of flexibility for when carefully laid plans change. These are challenging tours in countries and areas that may have poor infrastructure, high levels of poverty and illiteracy. This can translate in to low standards in hotels, bad roads and poor driving standards among other issues. We try and smooth out as much of these issues as we can but you should be prepared to experience the bad with the good.

Traveller Class Tours

Our Traveller itineraries are at the core of our programme. These journeys are designed for travellers who still want to discover a land away from the tourist crowds but expect minimum standards. Accommodation will be primarily hotel based, although you could still find yourself camping, or the guest of a local family. Depending on the destination and itinerary, you’ll likely be travelling in a private vehicle, with occasional use of public transport. This is adventure travel with some of the rough edges smoothed out.


Welcome to Sarawak, Borneo. Upon arrival, you will be met by our local team and transferred to your accommodation. The rest of the day will be at leisure, allowing you to perhaps wander down to Kuching’s vibrant waterfront strolling across the serpentine Darul Hana Bridge to gaze at the vivid colours of the extraordinary National Assembly building or the floating mosque. A tour briefing will be conducted by your guide either this evening or tomorrow morning at breakfast. Overnight Lime Tree Hotel or similar (D)

Meet your local guide and depart Kuching for the drive that follows the broad Sarawak River as far as Bako Fishing Village.  Continue by boat for a cruise along the beautiful and thickly wooded coastline to reach Bako National Park.  Here you will explore the rainforest’s entrancing heart along a variety of walking trails, all the time on the lookout for the parks’ fascinating flora and fauna. Enjoy a simple lunch at the park before returning to Bako Village by boat and onward transfer back to Kuching. Overnight Lime Tree Hotel or similar (BL)

Please Note – Depending on the tides, the boats will pull up at the jetty or onto the beach for arrival and departure

After an early breakfast, transfer to Pending Jetty for the boat along the ochre coastal waters to Sarikei (Approx. arrival at Sarikei 11:45). On arrival, you disembark and drive into the surrounding countryside, a bountiful patchwork of rice paddies, rubber trees and longhouses. You will stop at a typical Ulu Sarikei longhouse where a warm welcome is assured: these date back to the 18th century and their status derives from the number of doors they boast, sometimes upwards of 30! Enjoy a village walk where you will gain privileged insight into some of the traditional industries and then partake of a delicious BBQ lunch. Continue towards Sibu and en route you will stop by local fruit stalls and sample some of the tropical delights.  This evening you explore the mind boggling Sibu Night Market, which is open every night except when there is heavy rain. All manner of goods are on sale in the animated atmosphere. Overnight Tanahmas Hotel or similar (BL)

Please Note – You will not be accompanied on the boat from Pending to Sarikei. You will met by your local guide upon arrival.

After breakfast, visit a village house to witness noodle production using time-honoured traditional skills. Take a leisurely stroll on a beautiful esplanade alongside Malaysia’s longest river – The Mighty Rajang – observing local life on and off its bustling banks.  Of particular interest is the manner in which local entrepreneurs stock up the “Floating Grocery Stores” from which they serve riverine folks. Walk on to a beautifully crafted Chinese Temple, before climbing up the delightfully ornate Seven Storey Pagoda which presents a glorious panorama of Sibu’s waterfront scene. Then cut across the winding streets of Old Sibu Town to soak up the sights and smells of pastries baking in earthen ovens, and to explore the sinuous alleyways that wind towards the Sibu Heritage Centre, offering some unmatchable first-hand context of the local culture.

Continue to the biggest Central Market in Malaysia, home to more than 1,200 stalls serving up a bedazzling cornucopia of commodities. You cannot but feel immersed in the joyously hectic hullabaloo of the Sibu people’s daily world. Overnight Tanahmas Hotel, or similar (BL)

After breakfast, transfer to the jetty that is the heartland of the nautical masters, the Melanaus: one of the most celebrated ethnic tribes in Sarawak; they are renowned for their gentle, loving nature and shrewd seafaring skills. You then embark on a meandering boat journey, sliding past Malay villages, lively shipyards, grand Iban longhouses and Melanau villages. You stop at one such settlement and take a glimpse into its peaceful and serene village life. Returning to the boat you navigate betwixt rainforest and mangrove before making land at Dalat where you are at liberty to explore.  Later, you will be transported to Lamin Dana where you stay at an absorbing Melanau cultural village in homestay accommodation, perched on stilts above the water’s edge. Overnight Lamin Dana (BLD)

Please Note – Lamin Dana is an Authentic Melanau Style Tallhouse Replica and as such there are no private washroom or attached bathrooms.

After breakfast, take a boat cruise along the brackish waters of the Tellian and Misan River. Visit the local sago processing centre, a riveting cottage industry that produces Sago Pearl in the traditional method. Continue to Mukah market for a flavour of the local trading rituals. After lunch at Lamin Dana and the chance to converse with your hosts about the intriguing culture of the Melanau, you bid a fond farewell and return to Sibu. Overnight Tanahmas Hotel or similar (BLD)

This morning you take an early flight from Sibu to Mulu via Miri, expecting to arrive at Mulu by late morning. After checking in at the hotel, there will be some time at leisure where you can visit the lofty tree top tower for memorable views across the verdant canopy of the national park and to watch out for squirrels and possibly some of the 8 species of hornbills that are resident here, or a stroll along the boardwalk to the Pukau Waterfall. There is also time for a short nature heritage trail to be enjoyed . This afternoon, you will head into the national park for a 3.5 km easy-grade traverse of the forest, along elevated plank-walks. These turn gracefully through the luxuriant forest to Lang Cave, the longest cave passage in the world at 2,161 metres. Explore its karst interior bedecked with countless magnificent stalactites and stalagmites before proceeding to Deer Cave, home to a colony of free-tailed bats numbering in the tens of thousands. At dusk, witness one of nature’s amazing spectacles as the bats emerge from the cavernous depths in an infinity of spiralling zigzag formations to forage for insects across the rainforest. Later, take a night walk in the forest in search of luminescent fungi and blinking fireflies, the jungle bursting into life in the gloaming: this is a fabulous opportunity to view these iridescent and mesmerising creatures of the night. Overnight Mulu Park HQ, or similar (BD)

Please Note – you will not be accompanied on the flights to Mulu. You will be met by your local guide upon arrival in Mulu.

Wake to the jungle’s jubilant morning chorus before taking a short longboat ride up the Melanau River to experience two more of Mulu’s incomparable cave systems: Wind Cave and Clearwater Cave. These form part of the Sarawak Chamber, the largest inter-connected cave system in the world. If water levels are low, it is also possible to get there by way of a beautiful 4 km hike. Explore the “King’s Room”, a veritable limestone paradise, showcasing stalactites and stalagmites, as well as illuminated flows, helitites and even rock corals, before proceeding to Clearwater Cave’s equal delights. This afternoon, take to the treetops on a canopy walkway and thereafter spend some time at leisure to relax or take one of the self-guided walking trails in the National Park, perhaps to seek out some of Mulu’s 262 varieties of bird, 74 frog or 281 butterfly species. Overnight Mulu Park HQ or similar (BLD)

This morning is spent at leisure before a flight to Kota Kinabalu, capital of Sabah, which gazes out across the azure South China Sea. Check in at the hotel and then in the late afternoon, as the sun starts to burnish and turn to a fiery crimson, take a walking tour of Kota Kinabalu. The town is one of Borneo’s most welcoming places, with a centuries-old centre which is a fusion of cultures, religions and architecture. You will round of the day at the Filipino Night Market for a local dinner and a visit to the colourfully vibrant market, bursting with the wares of the ocean and locally produced goods. Overnight Grandis Hotel or similar (BD)

Please Note – You will not be accompanied on the flight from Mulu to Kota Kinabalu. You will be met by your local guide upon arrival in Kota Kinabalu.

An early start for a scenic journey into Borneo’s rugged interior, travelling winding roads, and passing by paddy fields and small villages before arriving at Poring Hot Springs where you take a short walk.

Continue to nearby Kipungit Waterfall to admire this spectacular forked cataract in this idyllic, cooling spot. En route, keep a watchful eye for the rusty plumage of the White-crowned shama whose descending bubbling call is a delightful accompaniment. Alternatively, opt for a trek to the canopy walk, a suspension bridge soaring 40 metres above the forest floor. For thrill seekers, this swaying, man-made bridge is an ideal place to enjoy bird’s eye views of the rainforest, its teeming tree canopies and soft edges of the distant rolling hills. Visit Mount Kinabalu National Park where you take a guided walk and learn from a local naturalist about the vast array of flora found in this verdant park, all the while in the shadow of Mt Kinabalu, Southeast Asia’s highest peak and held sacred by local peoples as ‘The Revered Place of the Dead’. Overnight Hotel Grandis, or similar (BL)

Today is spent at leisure in Kota Kinabalu before the final nature leg of your adventure. If you prefer to be active please contact us to arrange extra activities (not included): Kota Kinabalu’s beaches and parks are serene spots and ideal for a day of relaxation and unwinding, but the city is also the hub for an extraordinary array of side-trips and experiences. The Borneo Railway’s steam trains are a fabulous way to see the interior, whilst the chance to island hop round idyllic archipelagos or to sea kayak or surf closer to shore are for the more active. Museums, aquariums and stunning mosques offer more sedate options, and nature lovers may choose to head on tours of mangroves and wetlands. Finally, the local way of life are nowhere better showcased here than in the Monsopiad cultural village and the stilted village boat tours. Most of all, don’t miss out on the luscious seafood dishes that are on offer across the city’s restaurants and street cafés. Overnight Hotel Grandis, or similar (B)

Late morning, you will transfer to the airport for a flight to Sandakan. On arrival, transfer to Labuk Bay Sanctuary, one of the best places to encounter Borneo’s remarkable Proboscis monkey – established in 1994 by a palm oil businessman-turned environmentalist, the resident population are fed twice daily and the chance to encounter these inimitable creatures close-at-hand. Proboscis monkey males in particular possess penduline noses which enhance their vocal mating and territorial calls. Overnight Sepilok Nature Resort. (BD)

Please Note – You will not be accompanied on the flight from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan. You will be met by your local guide upon arrival in Sandakan.

This morning, visit the world’s largest orangutan rehabilitation centre at Sepilok. Stroll the jungle-flanked wooden walkways to the central platform and keep a sharp look out for these magnificent creatures.  Continue to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre to observe more of one of the planet’s most endangered species.  Thereafter, transfer to Sandakan Jetty before heading along the Kinabatangan River. This two-hour boat journey passes by exquisite villages which fringe the banks and lush rainforest which scatters the sun’s rays into cascades of gentler light. These waterways can provide excellent wildlife-spotting opportunities for those with a keen eye and birds in particular are abundant: Storm’s stork, Dwarf kingfishers, Malaysian flycatchers, Oriental darter, and the Rhinoceros hornbill have all been spotted here. You arrive at the lodge in time for lunch followed by a briefing with a local naturalist on the upcoming activities. Later in the afternoon, cruise further up the Kinabatangan River in search of more wildlife, from proboscis monkeys to the Borneo pygmy elephants which inhabit the Lower Kinabatangan Reserve itself as well as gibbons, and myriad avifauna.  Return to the lodge for dinner before later taking a stroll along the boardwalk searching for nocturnal animals such as western tarsier, various owls and even flying squirrels as well as a range of fascinating insects that usually escape attention. Overnight at Kinabatangan Wetlands Resort (BLD)

Rise early this morning when biodiversity is at its most active and cruise to Kelenanap Oxbow Lake, a crescent shaped body of water that formed when the river’s meander became so narrow at the neck that it cut itself off. The stillness of the lake and relative protection provides a haven for animals and plants making for an ecosystem that is completely distinct from that of the river. Continue to visit the nearby fishing village of Kampung Abai and interact with local Orang Sungai, ‘River People’, and observe their daily rituals in this traditional fishing community.  Return to the lodge for a late breakfast and then the rest of the day is at leisure. You will head out in the late afternoon to watch the river activities of many primate species that become most active during this time and whilst the wildlife is abundant, this is also the perfect time of day for photography in the softening light. Later, after dinner you take a night river safari in search of nocturnal species. Overnight at Kinabatangan Wetlands Resort (BLD)

For those that like to rise early there will be a final chance to explore the board walks around the lodge and listen to the morning chorus of the forest, maybe even catching a glimpse of the world’s smallest raptor, the White-fronted falconet. Check out will be at around 10am and return by boat to Sandakan where the tour will end with a flight to Kota Kinabalu. On arrival you may wish to extend your stay to finish at the beach or perhaps one of the nearby islands to relax. Please contact us for extension options. (B)

Dates & Price.

Tour Notes

This group tour operates subject to a minimum group size of 2 travellers.

Single Supplement from £525.

Return flights from London to Kota Kinabalu start from around £570 but there are many seasonal variations. Please contact us for a quotation.

Airport transfers are included and if you are booking pre and/or post tour accommodation at the hotel mentioned in our tour dossier.

Mapped itinerary.

Want to see details of your itinerary on a map?

Download PDF.

Download the full tour dossier for this trip here.

Borneo Tour Map

For expert advice get in touch now with our passionate,
well-travelled team.

+44(0) 191 296 2674 from THE UK
1-800-614-2967 from THE US & CANADA
1-300-956-415 from AUSTRALIA

Tour inclusions.

  • Arrival and departure transfers
  • All accommodation as per the itinerary
  • Transportation throughout the tour
  • Domestic flights as indicated on the itinerary – Documents will be given to you by our local team
  • Services of English-speaking guides – different local guides throughout the tour
  • Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
  • Activities and Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
  • Drinking water during the tour

Tour exclusions.

  • Travel Insurance
  • Visa (if applicable)
  • Drinks
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Tips (discretionary)
  • From 1st June 2019 a departure levy of RM20 will be imposed on any person leaving Malaysia and travelling to other Asean countries, and RM40 for those going to other countries.

Everything went really smoothly. The itinerary was really good ! Highlight of the tour was definitely the time at the wetlands in Kinabatangan. Away from people, seeing animals in the wild – and we were very lucky that there were only 3 of us in the lodge!
We were met by the guide every time we went somewhere. Enjoyed having a variety of activities, hustle and bustle of towns and isolation of the jungle wetlands. Guides were very knowledgeable and ensured we got to try local foods as well as giving us the history. Local guides were also very good and knowledgeable about their subject.


Sally Little, UK