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.
Embarking on a big Borneo adventure, you are likely to have the icons front of mind: orang-utans, turtles, tropical jungle and the magnificent Mt Kinabalu perhaps. But once there and immersed…learning about the spiritual, economic and cultural ties from your local hosts, is when your experience is truly enriched.
Chris Hardy, Intrepid’s Operation Manager in Malaysia, tells us about our special Sabah homestay:
From sloths hanging out, to whales breathtakingly breeching and lions stalking their prey – when we asked you about your best experiences with animals when travelling, we were inundated with more than 2700 special moments.
Selecting just a small handful to share for you was one tough task, but here are 15 of the most fabulous animal encounters from travellers…
What goes swing, swing, shimmy, scramble, thump? That’d be one of our closest genetic relatives leaving one piece of remnant rainforest in search of another. The Bornean orang-utans have lost much of their natural habitat and need our support, and The Intrepid Foundation is delighted to come on board to help.
We have partnered with HUTAN – Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Program to support their work to develop and implement innovative solutions to conserve the orang-utan in Sabah. Intrepid travellers on tours to Borneo, currently have a great opportunity to see wild orang-utans in the Kinabatangan River region. But the ease with which they may see orang-utans is sadly not all good.
Mt Kinabalu, as the ubiquitous t-shirts point out, is the highest peak in South East Asia. And although it was working for Intrepid and road-testing a trip that initiated her climb, it was Angela Zuniga’s own will that helped her take each slow step to the top…
“My local guide made sure I had enough water, that I got my permit and that I was relayed onto an experienced mountain guide. Then with my daypack weighed down with warm clothing and slightly unaware of what I was getting myself into, I took my first steps. As had been the advice, I was intent on establishing a slow and steady pace. I told myself my priority was to tackle the climb at a pace that would allow me to appreciate the beautiful Borneo vistas.
At any given opportunity our Intrepid team are off exploring all corners of the world, but you’ll also find we each have our favourites that we love returning to time and time again. So we asked Intrepid’s Jo Edgely to tell us about her special place…
“My favourite place in the world is undoubtedly Malaysian Borneo… I first went there as an Intrepid group leader back in 1999, and leading there for over three years, there was a point when I never thought I would leave. Now based in Melbourne, I make the journey every year to visit, because travelling in Borneo leaves you with a feeling that there is more to life, and that’s something I always want to remember.
With its collection of exotic animals, ancient traditions, hot springs, tribal villages, loveable orangutans and incredible views, Borneo has something for everyone. There are also many hidden gems and on Intrepid’s Sabah Adventure we include a special Malay village visit that is a win-win experience for our groups as well as the locals…
Mescot is a locally run organization that works with the local communities in the Kinabatangan River area on a number of sustainable tourism projects. Their main aim is to educate the local community about the value of their environment and culture and help them to realize that the jungle is truly a valuable resource worth protecting. They do this by involving the local community in tourism-based activities and projects as a means to earn a regular income and instill a sense of pride in their surroundings.
Fun, adventure and incredible real life experiences, all essential ingredients for an Intrepid top trip. Add amazing wildlife encounters and meeting remarkable local characters and you can understand why Intrepid traveller Sharon Slater loved her Sabah Discovery
“I considered myself very lucky as I won the trip in an Intrepid competition. When I got to Borneo I realised the full extent of my fortune – Sabah is fantastic. The sights and activities were amazing (which was somewhat predictable from the itinerary). Still, I had never pictured myself climbing a mountain, but there I was, 46 years of age at 4,092 metres on a genuine mountain (Kinabalu) as the sun came up over Sabah! And although I knew I would see orangutans at the Sepilok Sanctuary, I didn’t know that I would have a face to face encounter with one – a truly unforgettable experience.
Sabah’s ultimate taste-bud sensation is the famous hinava tongii. A combination of Spanish mackerel, chilli, ginger and shallots in lime juice, with grated bambangan seed. This indigenous variety of mango is the secret ingredient, and Intrepid Express reader Gay Everitt lifts the lid on more local delights in Borneo…
“The bustling markets of the capital of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, are crammed into acres of waterfront warehouses bursting with exotic foods and artefacts, all competing for space in the dimly-lit, but thankfully cool, interior. Street hawkers from nearby villages pursue you on the fringes and families watch with amusement from the decks of their fishing barges tied to the wharf.
In response to a recent blog question about climbing Mt Kinabalu in Borneo, we asked Intrepid’s Karen Porter for advice. Not just because she’s got the right name, but she’s been there, done that and loved every challenging step!
“Further to your comparison regarding Nepal’s Annapurna trek and Mt Kinabalu, it would be my personal opinion that if you can trek the Himalayas, you should have no problems with Mt Kinabalu. I have trekked the Annapurna Circuit, Mt Kinabalu and Mt Kilimanjaro and while all 3 treks require a certain level of fitness, with some physical preparation there’s every chance your mountain dreams will be realised.