Expect the unexpected in Borneo

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Borneo

Did I expect to be able to climb Mt Kinabalu to watch the sun rise? Never. Was I planning on joining orangutans for breakfast? Probably not. But then these experiences and more were typical of my unexpected highlights in Borneo.

I chose Borneo for my next Intrepid trip because I loved the thought of seeing amazing wildlife, staying in traditional villages and I was prepared to give the mountain climb a go, but what I didn’t anticipate was just how much of a buzz I would get from exploring this fascinating land.

Getting to know the local people was a real privilege. We stayed in a Dusun village near the base of Mt Kinabalu and were warmly welcomed into the community. It was such fun to learn how to cook regional specialities in their family kitchen and thanks to a colourful cultural show we got to understand more about the proud Dusun heritage.

On Turtle Island we could kick back after our Kinabalu challenge with plenty of swimming and sunning time, but the real thrills came after dark. Each night green turtles come ashore and we got to watch quietly as mums dug their sandy nests for their precious eggs. The Turtle Island Marine Park researchers also released a group of hatchlings and like little wind up toys with their flippers flapping they made their frantic scramble to the water’s edge.

Continuing with the incredible wildlife theme, spending time at the Sepilok Orangutan Reserve was just fabulous. I challenge anyone to come away not wanting to do everything possible to help save these amazing creatures. The rehabilitation centre has been set up to care for orangutans that have been domesticated or orphaned. The ultimate aim is to return these great apes to the wild, but in the interim it’s wonderful to watch them gaining strength and showing off while they swing from vine to vine.

Everything about my Sabah Adventure seems like I was just so lucky to be there. So fortunate to see and experience the best of Borneo. What is it they say? The cost of your trip, a few weeks wages, the value of the journey, priceless!

Spend some time on our website to find out more about how to plan your own trip to Borneo and I look forward to hearing all about your own highlights!

* Photo in Borneo by Dale Neill, for the Intrepid Photography Competition.

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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We’d like to visit Borneo next January (2017) for about 2 weeks. Is there a part of the island that’s best in the winter months?

Our fist love is animals and birds, and second is bicycling. My husband doesn’t enjoy scuba diving but does snorkel. We love the outdoors but generally prefer jungle to beach. Could you offer any thoughts or recommendations as to accommodations or nature tours?

Hi Dawn,
Thanks for the comment! We have a range of great tours in Borneo, like our Hike, Bike and Kayak 9-day tour, our 12-day Sabah Adventure and 10-day Classic Borneo trip. Check out the full range here.
The weather in January can be quite wet, but it’s generally a pretty quiet time to travel. If you’re after more info, our Sales Team will be happy to help you out – you can contact them here!


I’d like to ask for a suggestion: I have 5 days to visit Borneo.. What I cant miss are a hike in the deep jungle, Orangutan rehabilitation centre, sleep with a local family in a tipical house and of course the beach. So, Sawarak? Sabah? both?

James Shackell / Reply

Hi Elham, thanks for getting in touch!

The Sabah region is definitely your best bet. Can you stretch out the trip for a few more days? It’s hard to fit everything you want into a 5-day itinerary. The best trip I can recommend is our Borneo – Hike, Bike & Kayak. It’s a 9-day trip where you can climb the via ferrata on Mt Kinabalu, sleep in homestays (two of them) and get a lot of beach time in places like Tanjung Aru. If you’d like to find out more, just get in touch with our customer service team (the number’s up the top on that page). They’ll be able to answer all your Sabah questions.


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