Travel to Borneo

Orangutan in the tree

If you are in Malaysia, I highly recommend that you travel to Borneo from KL for at least a few days. It’s less than three hours to this amazing island with uniquely beautiful nature and wildlife. I flew to Sabah from KL and stayed overnight before starting a 4-day, 3-night tour with Wildlife Expeditions. The time was packed with sightseeing around caves, rivers and forests. Although I was on the go a lot, it was still relaxing being in nature. Also, there was nothing to do in the evening after dinner except to relax.

The local guides are amazing, so be sure to ask them lots of questions about the local life. They are also excellent at spotting wildlife. At times, I could not believe how they could spot a small snake in a tree, or a type of insect on the forest floor. The sanctuary visits will guarantee you can see unique wildlife such as orangutans. We saw one in the wild, and we could hear them, but they tended to stay hidden in trees.

One part of nature I was not so fond of were the leeches! They drop from the trees, stick to plants, and somehow make their way onto your clothes very easily. I was so glad to have a hat because then the guide could pick the leeches off when they fell on my head. Another warning is if your boat goes under monkeys, then beware that they find it amusing to pee and poop on people below.

Borneo is a large island and there is another part that belongs to Indonesia. Also, Brunei is a small country located at the north of the island. I hope to travel to Borneo again one day and explore more places including Mount Kinabalu!

Kinabatangan river, Sukau, Borneo
Kinabatangan river, Sukau, Borneo
Jonathan, Proboscis monkey at Labuk Bay Sanctuary
Jonathan, Proboscis monkey at Labuk Bay Sanctuary
Sunrise at Selingan island
Sunrise at Selingan island

Highlights

  • Gomantong cave- largest bird’s nest for bird’s nest soup
  • Jungle cruise on the Kinabatangan river, Sukau
  • Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Swamp Forest-Oxbow Lake
  • Sepilok Orangutan sanctuary
  • Labuk┬áBay monkey sanctuary
  • Selingan island turtle hatchery
  • Libaran island to see local life including fishing; also has a turtle hatchery

Before you go

  • Bring a hat and long sleeves for the jungle so you don’t pick up leeches
  • The weather is hot and humid so light and airy clothing is useful
  • A raincoat and rain boots can will be handy, rather than trying to use an umbrella
  • Bring a good camera and/or binoculars because sometimes the wildlife is far away
  • If you like snacks then bring your own along as there are not many shops
Pig-tailed macaque in the tree above
Pig-tailed macaque in the tree above
My very own tiger leech but luckily it didn't find any soft skin to attach to
My very own tiger leech but luckily it didn’t find any soft skin to attach to
Sukau lodge, Borneo
Sukau lodge, Borneo

Transport

  • There are plenty of flights from KL and other Asian cities to the Malaysian part of Borneo. The main international airport is Kota Kinabalu International Airport in Sabah
  • After checking with many travel companies, I booked with Wildlife Expeditions. My guide Kurt was great, and by chance I was the only person on the tour at the time. Also, they were able to take me to Selingan island to see the turtles and most other places were sold out.

Accommodation

  • The day before my tour started, I stayed at the Sabah hotel in Sandakan. It was a very nice, clean hotel with a swimming pool.
  • In the jungle, the Sukau Lodge seemed rather luxurious compared to what I had expected. It was simple but clean and comfortable. The staff were very welcoming and friendly. And the food was delicious!
Noodles at the Sukau lodge, Borneo
Noodles at the Sukau lodge, Borneo
Duck pancakes in Borneo
Duck pancakes in Borneo

Food

During my time in Borneo, I had simple and tasty foods including fried noodles and stir fry with rice. These were made by the restaurants at the hotels I stayed at. It’s not easy to walk around and most of my stay was spent in the jungle.

I loved the Jungle Bar and restaurant at the Sukao lodge. The chefs were always smiling and cooked everything fresh.

We also had many fresh fruits and vegetables.

Turtle hatchlings!
Turtle hatchlings!
Rolled up millipede
Rolled up millipede
Proboscis monkey at Labuk Bay Sanctuary
Proboscis monkey at Labuk Bay Sanctuary

FAQs

Q: Do I need a tour guide?

A: Yes it is easier to have a tour guide for the transport and learning about the culture and area. Also the guides are great at spotting wildlife that I never would have seen without them. I can’t believe how they could see a snake near the top of a tree, for example!

Q: Do people speak English?

A: Yes they are very used to tourists and most people speak English

Q: Is it a walkable city?

A: No, the sights are spread out so you need to have transport. Also, some places can only be reached by boat

Libaran Island
Libaran Island
Me and the fluffy silver langur at Labuk Bay Sanctuary
Me and the fluffy silver langur at Labuk Bay Sanctuary
Hornbills at Labuk Bay Sanctuary
Hornbills at Labuk Bay Sanctuary

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