Day 1 - Kota Kinabalu
Kick things off in KK, Kota Kinabalu. The locals finally settled on a name meaning ‘City of the Revered Place of the Dead’. Earlier choices were Deasoka (below the coconut tree), Singgah Mata (pleasing to the eye) and Api-Api (fire!). You’ve got the whole day free to explore this capital of Sabah state (depending on when you get here of course) before you join up with your crew at a 6pm Welcome Meeting tonight (make sure you’ve got all your important docs and deets on you). Take some time to explore this balmy city between the jungle and the South China Sea and perhaps visit the Sabah Museum and the State Mosque. Why not escape the hustle and bustle of Kota Kinabalu and take a walk up Signal Hill, which offers great views over the city.
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.
Day 2 - Sepilok
This morning you’ll head over to the airport for a flight to Sandakan (40 minutes). When you touch down you’ll drive to Sepilok. From there you’ll swing by the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and meet the world’s cutest red heads. These distant relatives will tug on your heartstrings and then spend half an hour picking their noses. Watch them eating bananas while hanging upside down like it ain’t no thang. Feel immensely jealous. If you thought things couldn’t get any cuter then you'd be wrong – you’ll also check out the new nursery where young orangutans learn how to climb on a specially constructed jungle gym. If you can’t get enough wildlife there’s also the chance to see more of Borneo’s creatures at the newly opened Sun Bear Conservation Center. Here they’ve rescued mistreated Sun Bears and hope to rehabilitate and reintroduce them into the wild. Things get more reflective with a stop at the Sandakan 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. You’ll spend the night in dorm rooms at a jungle lodge in Sepilok. If you want, there’s the option to take a night wildlife walk this evening.
Day 3 - Sepilok
Today, what to do is up to you! You're pretty close to the Rainforest Discovery Centre. Here you can feel like your red-headed mates from yesterday by getting high up into the trees. The RDC has a 147-metre long, 28-metre high canopy walkway with downright spectacular views of the giant rainforest trees. Look out for all the birds overhead, and maybe even a few flying squirrels. There’s also the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey (them funny fellas with the big noses) Sanctuary where you can watch up close the amazing bachelor proboscis lazing and feeding – an experience that can only be found right here in Borneo. You'll spend another night in the dorm rooms at the jungle lodge in Sepilok.
Day 4 - Kinabatangan River
Today you’ll hop on a minibus and drive through the steamy rainforest to an eco-lodge on the banks of the Kinabatangan River (approximately 3-4 hours). The lodge is right in the heart of a nature lover's peaceful wilderness paradise. In the early evening as the sun sets, climb aboard a boat to get down with the local wildlife on a dusk cruise up the river. Keep an eye out for wild orangutans, Proboscis monkeys and maybe even pygmy elephants if you’re the lucky one. There’s also the option to do another river cruise the following morning – just holla at your leader if you're all about your wildlife. Tonight you’ll snuggle down for a sleepover in an authentic community-run eco camp bush hut (pillow fights optional).
Please note the eco camp bush hut is located right in the heart of the jungle so facilities are basic. You will sleep inside A frame wooden huts, on raised platforms, with open air bathrooms on the ground floor, with Asian style bucket showers and a western style toilet. There is also communal washrooms.
Day 5 - Kinabatangan River
This morning there’s loads of stuff planned to keep you busy. Kick things off with a walk through the jungle to work on your wildlife spotting skills, then head over to a community based reforestation project. One of the very few uncool things about Borneo is that half of the world’s timber comes from here. In 1975, 73.7% of the country was covered in rainforest, now it’s only 50.5%. You’ll do your part to put the trees back where they belong by getting your hands dirty and planting some yourself. At lunchtime you’ll get to experience some Bornean hospitality with a feed at a family homestay. This afternoon you’ll have the option to visit Batu Tulug burial caves, where more than a 100 wooden coffins (estimated at 250 years old) were discovered in the limestone hill. Speculate who they belonged to and just how they got them up there while you admire their beautiful carvings. If you’re still feeling active then maybe challenge the locals to a game of volleyball or a football match. You’ll spend the night in a family homestay and enjoy a local meal cooked by your hosts.
Notes: The homestay has twin share rooms with beds, mosquito nets and towels provided. Bathroom facilities are shared with Asia squat toilets and cold water bucket showers. The homestay is located in a Muslim community, so we ask that you bring a pair of long pants or long skirt, to cover your knees and keep your shoulders covered to be respectful towards your hosts.
Day 6 - Kinabalu National Park
This morning say goodbye to your new friends from the village and travel via Kudasang by minibus into the unspoilt wilderness of the World Heritage-listed Kinabalu National Park (approximately 6 hours total). Take some time to hang out, enjoy the surroundings and do your stretches for the climb. There are some beautiful nature trails you can follow through the lowland tropical forest and a Botanic Garden to explore – this 5-acre garden is an excellent showcase of the diverse plant life on the mountain, as flora from all over the park has been replanted here. It’s home to 4500 species of plants, 289 species of birds and 290 of butterfly. Numbers can be boring, but that’s pretty cool. Otherwise, just relax in the afternoon and take in the cooler climate. Before you depart your leader will give a safety briefing about the climb and answer any questions you might just have thought of. 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 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 no other activities will be included and you will be without a leader for the time the group is on the mountain. For more information on the trekking alternative please see the 'Itinerary Disclaimer' section in the Essential Trip Information.
Day 7 - Mt Kinabalu
Rise early the next day to begin the climb up Mt Kinabalu, South East Asia’s highest point at 4,095 meters (compared to Everest’s 8,848m) and you’ll remember – sometimes for the effort, mostly for the scenery – every single metre. For reals, this is not an easy walk – it’s 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 affect anyone, regardless of 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 (for the final part of the climb), waterproof jacket, good walking shoes/boots and extra socks! The top of the mountain can be deceptively cold. Pack a light overnight bag for the climb as you’ll stay overnight on the mountain. There’s absolutely no rush so take your time and enjoy the pristine environment – this is an area which boasts a remarkable variety of plant life, including some 1,000 species of orchid and the extraordinary carnivorous pitcher plant. You’ll 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. Make sure to get some shut-eye early as you’ll be getting up at 2:00 am to hit the trails again, making for the peak.
Notes: The Mount Kinabalu climb requires a very good level of fitness, and we recommend that you build up your walking stamina before departure. We strongly recommend you increase your aerobic fitness at least 3 months prior to your trip. The final section involves climbing steep exposed rock - if the weather is wet or your tour leader feels your fitness is not sufficient you will not be allowed to summit.
Day 8 - Poring Hot Springs
Rise around 2am 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. And yes, 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. 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 section up to the summit consists of man-made wooden steps, sections where climbers need to hold onto a rope with both hands and a path through a boulder field. The new trail is about 400 metres longer than the old route. Waterproof gloves are recommended to protect your hands from rope burn (as well as to keep them warm). After witnessing the epic 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 Poring Hot Springs by bus (approximately 1 hour). Tonight you will stay at a hostel located right inside the springs complex itself, with a light and airy lounge room for you to relax in. The hostel is on a twin share basis. Some rooms have bunk beds, multiple beds and the bathroom is shared, there are no double beds.
Day 9 - Poring Hot Springs
Poring Hot Springs is an ideal place to kick back for a day to recuperate after the mountain climb. Maybe soothe your peak-weary limbs in warm sulphur water pools, believed to have healing properties for the skin. Otherwise there are graded paths leading through rich lowland forest to mountain rivers, waterfalls and bat caves, with birds and other wildlife often seen along the trail. A walkway in the tree canopy provides magnificent views or there's a tropical garden to visit. Depending on the time of year it might be possible to see the Raffelsia flower nearby. Rafflesia’s are the world’s largest flower and can grow up to 1 metre in size! Spend another night here in the hot springs complex.
Day 10 - Kota Kinabalu
Drag yourself away from the Hot Springs and drive around 2.5 hours back to Kota Kinabalu. The afternoon's free for you to check out some optional activities – if you’re feeling all cultural then maybe take an interactive and educational visit to Mari Mari Cultural Village to see how indigenous ethnic groups of Borneo used to live, or whip up a storm of local ingredients in a cooking class. If you after something evening more active, like a scuba diving trip to nearby islands or a day of mountain biking, then maybe stay on a couple of days longer in KK. This evening it'll be time to say bye to all your new mates – maybe do it over one final delicious optional dinner.
Day 11 - Kota Kinabalu
That's all folks, your Sabah adventure comes to an end today. There are no activities planned and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
Meals Included: Breakfast: 6 Lunches: 3 Dinners: 3
This is one of only two places in the world you can see wild orangutans – meet these friendly fellas swinging around, climbing up trees and just generally living their jungle life in the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre
Good mountains are hard to climb, but you’ll be a conqueror of epic Mt Kinabalu
Monkeys, primates, simians everywhere! Well, here’s hoping as you cruise past the wildlife-filled banks of the Kinabatangan River
Flights, Travel Insurance, Visa, Vaccinations or Personal Spending Money