Hidden Borneo

Borneo (Malaysia)

Culture

Uncover Borneo’s deepest secrets

17 days £3,395 pp This is the per person group tour price, based on 2 sharing. The price is subject to change with exchange rate and flight cost fluctuations.
Dates & Prices

Intro

Take the road less travelled as you journey to Borneo's secret corners. Experience the traditional way of life led by local tribal communities in the Kelabit Highlands and Batang Ai. Explore Sapulot's unspoilt landscapes and discover Borneo's rich biodiversity in the protected Danum Valley, one of the world's most complex ecosystems. Spot rare, native species in the lesser visited wildlife hotspots of Semonggah Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and Tawau Hills Park.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Sample local delicacies in Kuching
  • Navigate the rainforests of Batang Ai National Park
  • Take a boat on the Kinabatangan River
  • Meet the endangered orangutan
  • Explore Kubah & Mangang National Park
  • Travel to the capital of Kota Kinabalu
  • Explore remote Sapulot
  • Spot rare species in Danum Valley Field Centre

Places Visited

Kuching - Bario - Kelabit Highlands - Pa'Lungan - Kota Kinabalu - Sapulot - Tawau - Danum Valley

What's Included

Arrival & departure transfers
Ground transport with driver
Domestic flights (if relevant - refer to itinerary)
Accommodation
Meals (refer to itinerary for meal plan)
English-speaking guides
Entrance fees to sites & parks
Itinerary & Map
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Day 1 : Arrival into Kuching

Arrive into Kuching, where you will be met by your Travel the Unknown representative and then transferred to your hotel. You can spend the afternoon relaxing and exploring the city. In the evening, there will be an introductory dinner and briefing for the trip. Overnight stay in Kuching. 

Meal plan: Dinner

The state capital of Sarawak, Kuching, is often described as one of the most attractive cities in Southeast Asia. It is one of the most multiracial cities in Malaysia - north of the Sarawak River being predominantly Malay in character, whilst the south is largely populated by Chinese. The city has become a major food destination, and market stalls sell many varieties of Asian cuisine. Kuching's attractions include a picturesque port, the Rainforest World Music Festival, the historic Fort Marherita and the ornate Sarawak State Museum.

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Day 2 : Batang Ai National Park

After breakfast, drive to Batang Ai reservoir, stopping off at Lachau Bazaar. Here, you will have the opportunity to wander around the shops, getting lost in the small native markets. Later, continue your journey on towards Batang Ai Lake where you will board a longboat to travel upstream to Nanga Sumpa. Settle in and spend the evening relaxing, staying overnight at Nanga Sumpa.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Located in Lubok Antu in southwest Sarawak by the border to Indonesia, Batang Ai National Park is one of the largest protected conservation areas in the region. Its reservoir and tropical rainforests cover the expanse of the national park, leaving boats as one of the most common methods of transport. Batang Ai is home to the Iban tribe - who live in longhouses within the national park - along with many rare and protected animals.

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Day 3 : Batang Ai National Park

In the morning, hike the jungle trails that lie along the river. Travel upriver by longboat, stopping to visit the indigenous Jambu community, where you will have the opportunity to see their traditional longhouse. You will then continue your journey by boat, arriving at Enseluai Waterfall where you will have time to take a swim and relax. In the evening you will be able to taste local delicacies before staying overnight stay in a lodge at Nanga Sumpa. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 4 : Batang Ai - Kuching

After breakfast, you will have the rest of the morning free in Nanga Sumpa. Later, you will travel back to Kuching, where you will visit a private gallery of Borneo ethnic arts and crafts. The collection, predominantly from the 18th to 20th Century, contains some especially rare and unique pieces. In the evening you will sample some typical Sarawakian cuisine before staying overnight in Kuching. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 5 : Kubah - Kuching

In the morning you will visit the Semonggah Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre for feeding time. Following this, continue on to Kubah and Magang National Park for some light wildlife trekking, searching for native species including Hornbills and Gibbons. Later you will return to Kuching, where you will have a private viewing of an old Bornean tribal art collection before dinner. Overnight stay in Kuching. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

The Semonggoh Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre was established to care for wild animals that have either been found injured or orphaned in the forest. They currently care for over 1,000 endangered mammals, reptiles and birds, most famously the orangutan. The centre aims to rehabilitate these animals in the hope of releasing them back into the wild, whilst also educating visitors about conservation.

Kubah National Park boasts beautiful natural scenery, with the rainforest canopy punctuated by clear waterfalls and streams. The park has several interesting jungle trails where you can look out for species such as the Bearded Pig and the Black Hornbill. These paths all lead to the summit of Gunung Serapi where you can enjoy unspoilt views of Matang and the Santubong peninsula.

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Day 6 : Kelabit Highlands

In the morning, take a flight onwards to Bario - the gateway to the Kelabit Highlands. Spend the afternoon exploring the town and learning more about Kelabit culture. Overnight stay in Bario. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Bario is a remote village located in the centre of the Kelabit Highlands and is the main settlement for the Kelabit tribe. The Kelabit are renowned for their hospitality and for ceramic beads which, inherited from their ancestors, are used to make hats and necklaces worn by the tribe's women on special occasions.

The Kelabit Highlands are a remote mountain range situated in the northern most point of Sarawak bordering Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo). They are named after the native Kelabit community who have lived in the highlands for over 100 years. Today it is also home to many other ethnic groups, including the Penan and Lun Bawang. The region is renowned for its rich and diverse ecosystem that has made it a popular destination for hiking and wildlife walks and its rich culture.

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Day 7 : Kelabit Highlands

Following breakfast, you will trek through the forest to get to the village of Pa'Lungan. Following your arrival, spend some time learning about local Kelabit culture and customs. Have the opportunity to participate in a Kelabit cooking class, where you will be preparing your dinner in the evening. Overnight stay in Pa'Lungan. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

The remote village of Pa’Lungan is surrounded by rainforests and has a small population. At Pa’Lungan you can see Batu Ritung - a stone table, thought to be a symbol of remembrance - and the historic Perupun - a pile of stones assembled to bury the valuables of the dead. The village boasts beautiful views of the surrounding mountain ranges from Prayer Mountain.

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Day 8 : Kelabit Highlands

Following breakfast, make your return journey to Bario by foot. Once you have arrived, the rest of the day will be free for you to relax. Overnight stay in Bario. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 9 : Kota Kinabalu

Following breakfast, you will take a flight to Kota Kinabalu, transiting in Miri. Later in the afternoon, have a chance to explore the city's waterfront markets with your guide before dinner. Overnight stay in Kota Kinabalu. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Kota Kinabalu, formerly known as Jesselton under British colonial rule, is now the capital of the state of Sabah. It is situated on the north-western coast of Borneo, lying between the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park and Mount Kinabalu. Kota Kinabalu was only granted city status in 2000, but it is fast becoming one of the largest urban regions in Malaysia.
 


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Day 10 : Sapulot

In the morning you will travel to Sapulot, arriving in Ramol village. On arrival, continue your journey by boat to Pungiton Camp. In the afternoon, explore the nearby Tinahas Caves, discover underground streams, stalactites and stalagmites. Later, travel back for a relaxing evening before falling asleep to the sounds of the jungle at Pungiton Camp. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

The lesser explored Sapulot , offers a perfect location to uncover Borneo. Trekking through the unspoilt rainforests you will find hidden waterfalls and caves, such as the Tinahas Caves. The Murut tribe are also indigenous to the Sapulot area, where you can see their communal longhouses. Traditionally the longhouses would be extended to accommodate any new Murut arrivals who wished to join the community.

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Day 11 : Sapulot

After breakfast, travel on to the Hidden Kabulongou waterfall. Spend a relaxed morning swimming at the multi leveled waterfalls. Spend the night here at the waterfall. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 12 : Sapulot - Tawau

After breakfast, proceed overland to Tawau and transfer to your hotel. In the afternoon, explore the small town with guide before dinner. Overnight stay in Tawau.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Tawau, formerly known as Tawao, is the capital of the Tawau district in Sabah. It has seen a lot of conflict over the years, mainly from the British during World War 2. This has led to the town being less than photogenic, but still charming in its own right. The main exports of the town are palm oil and cocoa, and the locals regularly hold vibrant markets.

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Day 13 : Tawau Hills - Lahad Datu - Danum Valley

After breakfast, depart from your hotel to Tawau Hills Park. The park is home to numerous plant and animal species. Spend the afternoon exploring the many nature trails with your guide. In the evening take a guided night hike, where you will have the opportunity to see a different, nocturnal, side to the jungle. Overnight in Danum Valley.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Tawau Hills National Park was established in 1979. The park is home to various flora and fauna including the Elephant Ear orchid and boasts 2 hectares of lowland gardens. Hot springs and waterfalls pepper the volcanic landscape, which the locals believe hold medicinal properties. 

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Day 14 : Danum Valley

Rise early to take a wildlife walk before breakfast. Spend the day exploring your surroundings and trekking through the jungle. Later, enjoy a night safari and search for native animals as they hunt in the cover of darkness. Overnight in Danum Valley.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Danum Valley is made up of 538 square kilometers of Class 1 Virgin Primary Rainforest, which boasts unbeatable conditions for viewing native wildlife due to the lack of human habitation, hunting and logging. The valley is renowned for its rich biodiversity and houses extremely rare species, including the Sumatran Rhino and the Pygmy Elephant but also wild orangutan, gibbon, mousedeer and clouded leopards as well as over 270 bird species. The Danum Valley Field Centre is a world-recognised tropical rainforest research station, located at the heart of this conservation area.

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Day 15 : Danum Valley

Start the day early, travelling to the GAW tower to see the morning sunrise over Danum Valley - thought to be one of the greatest sunrises in Southeast Asia. Spend the rest of the morning relaxing before an afternoon of more exploring, searching for more unique wildlife. Overnight in Danum Valley.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 16 : Danum Valley

In the morning you will take a wildlife walk in the forest, spending the rest of the morning at your leisure before later flying back to Kota Kinabalu. 
Here, you will enjoy a final dinner with your guide and stay overnight.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Kota Kinabalu, formerly known as Jesselton under British colonial rule, is now the capital of the state of Sabah. It is situated on the north-western coast of Borneo, lying between the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park and Mount Kinabalu. Kota Kinabalu was only granted city status in 2000, but it is fast becoming one of the largest urban regions in Malaysia.
 


Read more
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Day 17 : Departure from Kota Kinabalu

After breakfast, drive to the airport for your departure flight out of Sabah. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Accommodation

Accommodation Title

All accommodation subject to availability. Final accommodation choices will be confirmed after booking.

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Ranee Hotel

The boutique Ranee Hotel is centrally-located in Kuching Old Town and offers beautiful views of the river, the Astana and the State Assembly building. Renovated from traditional 19th-century shop houses, each room has its own unique character that combines the old and the new. There is an all-day dining and bar service.

Visit hotel's site
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Nanga Sumpa Lodge

The Nanga Sumpa Lodge is situated on the banks of the Delok River and offers a rare insight into the lifestyle of some of the remote tribes of Borneo. The more basic facilities on offer reflect the remote location of the lodge. The beautiful surrounding rainforest, streams and waterfalls make this lodge the perfect setting for outdoor activities - including jungle trekking and spotting Orang Utan in their natural habitat. 

Visit hotel's site
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Jungle Blues Dream Guesthouse

Jungle Blues Dream Guesthouse is a combined art gallery and home-stay, which is located centrally in Bario. Situated on top of a hill, the traditional Malaysian longhouse offers unspoilt views of the surrounding paddy fields and mountains. The gallery exhibits artwork by Stephen Baya's (the owner of Jungle Blues), some of his paintings also feature in the bedrooms. 

Visit hotel's site
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Kelabit Homestay

A local homestay in Pa'Lungan provides visitors with an authentic Bornean experience in a traditional Kelabit village. Guests will stay in private rooms and have access to a shared bathroom. 

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Jesselton Hotel

The Jesselton Hotel is situated in the heart of the city, making it a good base for exploring the local sights. The spacious rooms have a classic feel, offering a mix of colonial history with modern amenities, including an en-suite and internet access. The restaurant at Jesselton Hotel serves a mixture of western and local dishes. 

Visit hotel's site
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Pungiton Jungle Camp

Experience the hospitality of the northern Bornean Murut tribe at Pungiton Jungle Camp. The facilities and bedrooms are basic but sufficient, suiting the remote location. This camp serves as a community eco-tourism project, which aims to sustainably assist economic development whilst also preserving the tribes traditional culture and sacred land. The camp is perfectly located for many outdoor activities, such as rock climbing or exploring hidden waterfalls. 

Visit hotel's site
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Ramol Longhouse

A stay at Ramol Longhouse provides an opportunity for guests to experience the authentic culture and lifestyle of the indigenous Iban community. This wooden structure stands on stilts within Romol eco-village, boasting beautiful views across its natural surroundings. The longhouse is traditionally elongated as and when another Iban native or family joins the community, hence the name - 'longhouse'. 

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Danum Valley Field Centre

The Danum Valley Field Centre is located in the Danum Valley conservation area - one of the largest and best-protected forests remaining in South East Asia. It is a leading rainforest research centre and a member of The South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP). The site offers several types of accommodation, including chalets, a hostel and a campsite, which all provide an ideal base for exploring the surrounding wildlife. All meals served for guests at Danum Valley are prepared in traditional Malaysian style using fresh local ingredients. 

Visit hotel's site
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