Travel into the wild heart of Malaysian Borneo

Wild, tropical and remote, think of Borneo as South-East Asia's answer to the Amazon. See orangutans swinging through the rainforest treetops in Semenggoh, weave through the vast Mulu cave systems and spend a night in a traditional Iban longhouse. Follow the Headhunters' Trail in Sarawak, wander along Kuching's riverside promenade and relax on golden-sand beaches in Kota Kinabalu.

Start
Kuching, Malaysia
Finish
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Countries
Malaysia
Themes
Explorer, Wildlife
Code
TMSW
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
392kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • One of the last remaining truly wild places on earth, Borneo offers rare treats for the nature lover – see Orangutans at the Semenggoh Sanctuary and the quirky proboscis monkeys in Bako National Park
  • Discover the colourful history of the Iban people and spend the night in a traditional longhouse with a local family
  • Explore one of the world’s largest cave networks and witness a sunset hunting exodus of millions of bats, twisting through the sky like a plume of black smoke in Gunung Mulu National Park
  • Follow in the infamous footsteps of tribal warriors on a trek through wild, dense jungle on the Headhunters’ Trail

Itinerary

Selamat datang! Welcome to Malaysia. Kuching, meaning 'cat' in Malay, is arguably the most pleasant city in Malaysian Borneo. It was home to the infamous White Raja of Sarawak, whose mysterious rule in this remote corner of the world sparked the imagination of many people who dreamt of becoming royalty. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm, which you can find details about at the hotel’s reception. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. In any free time, check out this cosmopolitan city rich in architecture, where the waterfront houses a wealth of curio shops and local vegetable, spice and fish markets. This city of skyscrapers sitting near lush green jungle is easily walked around, so maybe relish the mellow vibe and head out with your new travel companions to try some local dishes like Sarawak Laksa and Kolok mee.
Hop in a private van to the fishing village of Kampung Bako (approximately 1 hour), then a local boat up the coast to Bako National Park (approximately 20 minutes). Bako is the oldest national park in Sarawak and features rainforest, abundant wildlife, jungle streams, waterfalls, interesting plant life, secluded beaches and trekking trails. Millions of years of erosion formed a coastline of steep cliffs, rocky headlands and stretches of white, sandy bays. Waves have carved the cliffs into fantastically shaped sea arches and sea-stacks, with coloured patterns formed by iron deposits. The many jungle trails in Bako offer an insight into the island's botanical diversity. Weather permitting, you’ll take a leader-led walk to the beautiful beach at Telok Pandan Kecil (5 kilometres, approximately 3 hours return). The trail climbs through the forest before emerging onto an open plateau covered in scrub, from where curious pitcher plants can sometimes be seen. It can be a hot, but always rewarding hike. For those looking for a longer (or shorter) hike, you are free to explore as many of the 18 different trails as you like. Whatever your plan, check with the ranger for the best time to spy the quirky proboscis monkeys up in the trees. In the evening, you’ll take a night walk, a rare chance to experience the jungle in a different light.

Notes: You’ll stay in basic National Park lodgings – fan cooled, multi shared rooms. Most visitors will only come to Bako on a day trip, so after 4pm you’ll have the beach to yourselves at a prime time for wildlife spotting and spectacular sunsets. This is the best time to be at Bako National Park, and why we prefer to stay overnight. Even if the accommodation is basic, it's worth it for this experience!
After an optional, invigorating morning hike, farewell the jungle and return to Bako Village by boat (it may be necessary to depart the park earlier or later subject to weather conditions). Then travel by private minivan back to Kuching (approximately 1 hour). Later you will transfer to the Semenggoh Orangutan Sanctuary – a government-funded rehabilitation centre set in lush surrounds – on the way. The centre was set up to help re-introduce these wonderful creatures back into the wild after a life of domestication or having been orphaned. Head into the jungle via a walkway, where from a viewing platform you can watch and photograph the orangutans as they swing into view and eat the supplementary diet of bananas and milk that is laid out for them twice a day. Take some time to savour the special moments in these animals’ company. Human contact must be kept to a minimum and it's essential that you follow your leader's instructions. Afterwards, return to Kuching and the hotel, where you can freshen up from the heat. This evening perhaps mosey down to the riverbank and watch tambang ferries glide by, visit Sarawak Museum (one of the most popular attractions here), or head out to one of the many Chinese-influenced hawker markets for dinner and experience the range of local seafood.
Take a 1-hour flight to Miri, sending your large bag on to Limbang and packing a daybag with the essentials for the next 4 nights. You will need to carry your own backpack out to the longhouse and along the headhunters trail in Mulu. If this will be too difficult for you, your leader can arrange a porter for your small bag for an extra charge. On arrival, drive for 1-2 hours to Niah National park, a place where the oldest human remains in South East Asia have been unearthed, dating back 40,000 years. There is a small museum that you can visit before starting the 3.5 kilometre walk through the rainforest to Niah Caves. Pack a torch and wander through the limestone tunnels to caverns alive not only with bats, but also swiftlets and the history of the local people – ancient cave paintings and signs of early human settlement can be found here. Afterwards we will trek a further 2KM to an Iban longhouse where we will spend the night. On arrival, your leader will introduce you to our hosts and you will be split into different family homes. This is a very traditional and authentic experience, so please be aware that the sleeping and bathing arrangements are very basic. In the afternoon feel free to wonder around the village or help your host family with dinner preparations. In the evening we will have a cultural show
Farewell your hosts this morning and make the short walk back through the atmospheric rainforest to the Niah National Park headquarters (3.5 kilometres). Return a couple of hours back to Miri airport, then make the short 30 minute flight to Mulu. When you arrive in Mulu, head into the heart of one of the most spectacular national parks in Asia – Gunung Mulu National Park. Transfer the short distance to Mulu HQ (2 kilometres) where you’ll stay for the next 2 nights. Your leader will go through some of the options for your free time here. You can take to the some of the self-guided trails around the park, or to the treetops on the world’s longest tree based canopy walkway. Or maybe simply kick back with a book and enjoy the sounds of the nearby jungle. Later there is the chance of an optional night walk to search for some weird and wonderful insects and reptiles. Tonight you’ll stay in the park headquarters, which has its own restaurant and Information Centre. Accommodation is multishare rooms with private bathroom.

Notes: The maximum luggage allowance for today’s flight is 15kg. Excess weight will incur an extra cost to the traveller, not Intrepid.
Today you have a free morning to explore or have a sleep in. Spend the afternoon strolling the walkways of this 180-million-year-old rainforest, and then catch the sunset flight of the bats at Deer Cave. The World Heritage-listed park has absolutely spectacular limestone geology, with enormous caves, vast cave networks, rock pinnacles, cliffs and gorges. In fact, its system of caves is the largest known in the world, formed when surface water worked its way through the rock, carving gigantic passages through the bedrock. Deer Cave has one of the single largest cave passages in the world, 2.2 kilometres long and 220 metres tall at its highest point. Before it was part of the park the cave was a well-known hunting ground for deer, who were attracted to the pools of salty water running off the heaps of guano. The guano comes from the millions of bats who call the cave home, and at dusk there’s a mass exodus as they emerge for their nightly feeding, like a seemingly endless black plume of smoke twisting across the sky. In nearby Lang cave you can appreciate the work that the water does on the limestone, sculpting waves on the ceiling, drawing stalagmites, columns and stalactites.
Leave Park HQ behind and head into the jungle. Take boats for around 30 minutes downriver to the amazing Clearwater and Wind caves, which contain Asia’s longest underwater river. The Clearwater cave system runs for 107 kilometres, 75 of which have been explored. The system gets its name from the bright jungle pool at the base of the steps that lead up to the cave mouth. Wind Cave draws a cooling breeze through its lengths and features some of Gunung Mulu’s best cave formations, while Clearwater is covered in a species of bright green plant that is unique to the park and offers a real opportunity to see the water at work on the rock. Afterwards, take a longboat downriver before disembarking to hike through undisturbed jungle to Camp 5, nestled at the end of Melinau Gorge (approximately 8.5 kilometres). During dry season, the boats may need to be pushed over certain sections of the river, so it is advisable to wear strap on sandals or shoes that can get wet. At Camp 5 you will sleep in these wonderful surrounds, on mats on raised open-air platforms in a mixed gender dormitory, with shared bathroom facilities and cold water showers. Bedding is not provided so bring your own sleeping sheet and a warm layer for cool nights. Mosquito nets are available to rent for a small charge. Please be aware that at certain times of the year there can be many bees around Camp 5.
Today you’ll tackle the infamous Headhunters' trail. Located in an isolated area of the Borneo jungles, this 11.3 kilometre (approximately 5 hour) trail takes its name from its historical role as the route taken by warring parties between the Tutoh and Limbang rivers. The trek is through dense jungle along a well-defined, mainly flat track, although the way can be muddy during the rainy season. You'll also have to cross some streams by rope bridges, wooden walkways, logs or by getting your feet wet as you wade through. You’ll be surrounded by stunningly diverse flora, massive bird-filled trees, and the magical sounds of the forest – a hornbill flapping its wings, the cries of monkeys, and the pulse of cicadas and crickets. Then you’ll take a boat from Kuala Trekian to Kuala Medamit, a journey of around 3-4 hours. Depending on how much rainfall there’s been, you may be required to help push the boat over shallow parts of the river. There will be a stop at a ranger station for lunch along the way. Today is a long, challenging but rewarding day. You’ll then transfer by minivan to the town of Limbang (approximately 1 hour), where you’ll be reunited with your large bags.
Leave Limbang and travel by ferry to Labuan (approximately 2 hours) where there’s time for a quick lunch and to perhaps pick up some duty free goods, before taking another ferry to Kota Kinabalu (approximately 3 hours). Your accommodation tonight is located right in the heart of the city. Sabah's historic capital, the intriguing city of Kota Kinabalu was born between the Borneo jungle and the South China Sea. Modern-day 'KK' is a vibrant modern metropolis, having recovered from World War II bombings. Kota Kinabalu has interesting museums to explore (the Sabah State Museum is a great place to immerse yourself in its backstory), markets to browse, and the surrounding beaches and islands are perfect for swimming or snorkelling. Tonight, perhaps head out for a final meal with your group to celebrate your Borneo adventure – the night market is filled with fresh grilled seafood.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
8 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 2 dinners
Transport
4x4, Ferry, Longtail boat, Plane, Taxi, Van
Accommodation
Cabin (multishare) (2 nights), Dormitory (2 nights), Homestay (1 night), Hotel (4 nights)
Included activities
  • Bako National Park
  • Bako NP - Night Walk
  • Semengohh Orangutan Sanctuary
  • Niah National Park
  • Cultural Show
  • Mulu NP - Guided walk through Deer and Lang Caves
  • Mulu NP - Guided walk through Wind and Clearwater Caves
  • Mulu NP - Guided trek along Headhunters' Trails
  • Mulu NP - Longboat ride along the Melinau & Terikan Rivers

Dates

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Important notes

1. Please provide passport details at time of booking, as these are essential for booking services on this trip.
2. Strict luggage limits apply. See under the Important notes section of Trip Notes for more information.
3. A Single Supplement is available on this trip, please see trip notes for further information.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View trip notes

Reviews

Our Wild Sarawak trips score an average of 4.77 out of 5 based on 70 reviews in the last year.

Wild Sarawak , March 2016

Wild Sarawak , March 2016

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