Map of Essential Borneo including Malaysia

Orangutans, jungle adventures and an epic mountain climb in Borneo.

Travel across Borneo’s biodiverse Sabah region, immersing yourself in nature and learning about the island’s Indigenous cultures. From orangutan encounters and traditional village homestays to soaking in natural hot springs after summiting the mighty Mount Kinabalu in time for sunrise, this 11-day adventure through Borneo is anything but boring. Where else can you spot pygmy elephants on a riverbank one day and see proboscis monkeys the next (not to mention slow lorises, flying foxes and rescued sun bears)? Wildlife lovers, you are in for a treat on this unforgettable trip.

This trip is for 18 to 29-year-olds

Some of our under-30 travellers prefer to get around with people their own age. If that’s you, you’re in the right place!

Over 29? We’ve got over 900 other great adventures to choose from for solo travellers, friends, families, food lovers, hiking enthusiasts, and more.


Start
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Finish
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Destination
Malaysia
Style
Basix
Theme
18 to 29s
Code
TMYS
Physical rating
Ages
Min 18, Max 29
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Travel solo, together

You're never alone when travelling solo with Intrepid

Why you'll love this trip

  • This is one of very few places in the world where you can see orangutans in the wild – observe these gentle giants living their best jungle life in the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre.

  • Keep your eyes on the shoreline and the forest canopy to spot troops of monkeys, abundant birdlife and – if you’re lucky – pygmy elephants as you cruise along the Kinabatangan River.

  • Tackle a challenging but scenic trail to reach the summit of the mighty Mt Kinabalu in time to catch a spectacular sunrise.

  • Spend a night at a family homestay in a village along the Kinabatangan River to experience what local life is really like.

  • Take in the sights, sounds and smells of the Bornean rainforest and spot tropical birds from your treehouse-style hut at a small community-run eco camp.

Is this trip right for you?

  • Check out our guide to trekking Mt Kinabalu: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/guide-to-climbing-mt-kinabalu-...

  • You’ll get the chance to stay in a variety of accommodation on this trip, from guesthouses and homestays, to hostels, a hotel and an eco-camp. It can be basic, but it’s always comfortable.

  • A single supplement is only available on the hotel nights in Kota Kinabalu on this trip. All other nights will be based on twin or dormitory accommodation.

  • The Mt Kinabalu trek is definitely challenging, including an altitude of more than 2800 metres and an early morning summit in the dark. We recommend a good level of fitness to be able to enjoy this unforgettable climb.

Itinerary

Kick things off in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah’s state capital. Your adventure begins this evening with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you arrive with time to spare, spend the day exploring this busy city’s bustling markets, learning about the region’s Indigenous cultures at Sabah Museum. Kota Kinabalu has a great food scene, so once you’ve met your leader and travel companions you can opt to eat dinner together at a local restaurant to get better acquainted with the group.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Kota Kinabalu - Sabah Museum entrance fee - MYR15
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.
This morning you’ll head over to the airport for a short flight to Sandakan. When you touch down, you’ll hop on a private minibus and travel to Sandakan War Memorial, built on the site of a former Japanese prisoner of war (POW) camp. This spot also marks the starting point of the tragic Sandakan Death Marches, during which 2400 POWs were forced to walk through the jungles of Borneo. Continue on through the rainforest to reach your homestay for the night.

This afternoon you’ll have the option to visit Batu Tulug burial caves, where more than 100 ancient wooden coffins were discovered in 1984. Speculate about who they belonged to and just how they got them up there while you admire their beautiful carvings. You’ll spend the night in a family homestay and enjoy a local meal cooked by your hosts, followed by an evening cultural performance. If you’re feeling up to it, why not challenge the locals to a game of footie to break the ice?
Accommodation
  • Homestay (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kinabatangan - Cultural Show
  • Sandakan - War Memorial
Optional Activities
  • Kinabatangan - Batu Tulug Caves - MYR15
Meals Included
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Today's travel time is approximately 4 hours.

The homestay has twin share rooms with beds, mosquito nets and towels provided. Bathroom facilities are shared with squat toilets and cold water bucket showers. The homestay is located in a Muslim community and we ask that you wear clothing that covers your knees and shoulders during your stay.
After breakfast, say goodbye to your hosts and make the short journey by minivan and boat to an eco-lodge on the banks of the Kinabatangan River. Once you’ve settled in, hit the water for the first of today’s two included river cruises. Keep an eye out for wild orangutans, proboscis monkeys and maybe – if you’re lucky – even pygmy elephants. Afterwards, you’ll have the chance to visit a local reforestation project and the option to give back to the forest by planting trees. At lunchtime, get to know the local cuisine with an included cooking lesson. In the late afternoon, you’ll embark on another cruise up the river. The animal action in this wildlife lover’s paradise can change a lot during the course of a day – so fingers crossed for a few more sightings. Tonight you’ll fall asleep to the sounds of the jungle in a rustic stilted bush hut.
Accommodation
  • Jungle eco camp (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kinabatangan River - Afternoon Wildlife Cruise
  • Kinabatangan River - Morning River Cruise
  • Kinabatangan River - Cooking lesson
Optional Activities
  • Kinabatangan River - Tree Planting - MYR50
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Today's travel time is approximately 30 minutes.

Tonight's accommodation is located right in the heart of the jungle so facilities are basic. You will sleep inside A-frame wooden huts, on raised platforms. Bathrooms are shared with cold water bucket showers and western style toilets.
If you can’t get enough of wildlife spotting along the river, wake up early for an optional extra cruise – just tell your leader you’d like to attend the night before. Keep your eyes peeled and you might be lucky enough to spot short and long tail macaques, a variety of birds including hornbills and kingfishers, crocodiles, or reptiles like snakes. Whether you choose to cruise or not, we’ll all leave our jungle eco-lodge mid morning and drive in a private minivan to Sepilok – home to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. You’ll have the afternoon at your leisure to settle into your dorm-style rooms at tonight’s jungle lodge and have some lunch. Later, you don’t want to miss the Rainforest Discovery Centre. The RDC has a 620-metre long, 28-metre high canopy walkway with downright spectacular views of the giant rainforest trees. At dusk, opt to take a guided walk around the grounds; the place comes alive after dark and you’ll spot plenty of birds overhead, and maybe even a few nocturnal slow lorises, tarsiers and flying squirrels.
Accommodation
  • Jungle Lodge (dormitory room) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Kinabatangan River - Boat Cruise - MYR50
  • Sepilok - Night Walk at Rainforest Discovery Centre - MYR50
  • Sepilok - Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary - MYR120
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Today's travel time is approximately 3 hours.
Today is the day you'll visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and meet the world’s cutest red heads. These beautiful, quirky creatures will tug on your heartstrings; watch them going about their daily business – eating bananas while hanging upside down, for example – and swing by the nursery where young orangutans learn how to climb on a specially constructed jungle gym. Later on, you can head out to meet some of the other local animals. Perhaps, spend some time at the Sun Bear Conservation Center, where staff rescue and take care of once mistreated Sun Bears with the hopes of rehabilitating and reintroducing them into the wild. You can also hang out with gentle giants of the jungle with another opportunity to join the orangutan afternoon feeding session at the rehabilitation centre.
Accommodation
  • Jungle Lodge (dormitory room) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Sepilok - Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
Optional Activities
  • Sepilok - Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre - MYR50
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This morning travel via Kundasang by minibus into the unspoilt wilderness of the World Heritage-listed Kinabalu National Park. Take some time to hang out, enjoy the surroundings and do some stretches ahead of tomorrow’s climb. There are some beautiful nature trails you can follow through the lowland tropical forest and a Botanic Garden to explore – this 5-acre garden is an excellent showcase of the diverse plant life on the mountain, as flora from all over the park has been replanted here. It’s home to 4500 species of plants, plus hundreds of types of birds and butterflies. Otherwise, just relax in the afternoon and enjoy the cooler climate. This evening your leader will give a safety briefing about the climb and answer any last-minute questions. Stay overnight at the park's headquarters in a dorm with shared facilities. Nestled amongst the lowland forests, this is the perfect place to chill out before the ascent begins.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (dormitory) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Kundasang - War Memorial - MYR15
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Special Information
Today's travel time is approximately 5 hours.

We consider the Mt Kinabalu trek to be a huge highlight of the trip but if you decide the trek is just not for you, we can provide alternative arrangements if advised at time of booking. Your leader will join the rest of the group as they climb Mt Kinabalu, so you will be unaccompanied for this part of the trip. For more information on alternative arrangements, please see the 'Itinerary Disclaimer' section of the Essential Trip Information.
Rise early to begin the climb up Mt Kinabalu, South East Asia’s highest point (4095m/13,435ft). This is a challenging walk – uphill all the way with steep, uneven steps. Altitude can affect anyone, regardless of fitness level, and will slow you down (it's important to understand the dangers and symptoms of altitude sickness). There’s no rush, so take your time and enjoy the pristine environment. The upper mountain can be deceptively cold. Ensure you have warm layers, waterproof gloves, a hat, head torch, waterproof jacket, good walking boots and extra socks. You’ll cover 6 kilometres today and stop at a resthouse near Laban Rata (3,272m/10734ft) for the night. The mixed gender bunk rooms are very basic – extra blankets can be hired from the park office. Get to bed early as you’ll be up again at 2 am to hit the trails, making for the peak.
Accommodation
  • Mountain Rest House (dormitory) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Mt Kinabalu - 2 Day Climb
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Today's hike typically takes 4 to 6 hours.

The Mount Kinabalu climb requires a very good level of fitness, and we recommend that you build up your walking stamina before departure. We strongly recommend you increase your aerobic fitness at least 3 months prior to your trip. The final section involves climbing steep exposed rock - if the weather is wet or your tour leader feels your fitness is not sufficient you will not be allowed to summit.

Read our guide to trekking Mt Kinabalu here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/guide-to-climbing-mt-kinabalu-borneo/
Rise around 2 am in order to catch the sunrise at the summit of Mt Kinabalu. The climb from Laban Rata to the summit takes 2-4 hours and, due to the altitude, can be hard going even for the fit. The final section includes wooden steps, sections where climbers need to hold onto a rope with both hands and a path through a boulder field. Wear waterproof gloves to protect your hands from rope burn (and keep them warm). It's tough, but worth it. The view from the summit is incredible – jungle on one side, South China Sea on the other. After witnessing the epic sunrise, return to Laban Rata for a well-earned breakfast, then descend the mountain to enjoy a rewarding lunch at the bottom. You will travel to Poring Hot Springs by bus. Tonight you’ll stay at a hostel within the springs complex itself, ready for an optional day of pampering tomorrow.
Accommodation
  • Hostel (dormitory) (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Special Information
Today's hike takes 8 to 10 hours (round trip) and will be followed by a 2-hour drive.
Poring Hot Springs is an ideal place to kick back for a day and recuperate after the tiring mountain climb. Maybe soothe your peak-weary limbs in the area’s warm sulphur water pools, believed to have healing properties for the skin. Otherwise there are graded paths leading through rich lowland forest to mountain rivers, waterfalls and bat caves, with birds and other wildlife often seen along the trail. A walkway in the tree canopy provides magnificent views – or there's a tropical garden to visit. Depending on the time of year it might be possible to see the Raffelsia flower nearby. Rafflesias are the world’s largest flower and can grow up to 1 metre in size! Spend another night here in the hot springs complex.
Accommodation
  • Hostel (dormitory) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Poring Hot Springs - Canopy Walk - MYR10
  • Poring Hot Springs - Orchid Conservation Centre - Free
  • Poring Hot Springs - Butterfly Farm - Free
  • Poring Hot Springs - Hot Springs (Open Bath Tub) - (3 hours) - MYR10
  • Poring Hot Springs - Rafflesia Blooming Observation - MYR30
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Drag yourself away from the springs and make the drive back to Kota Kinabalu. The afternoon's free for you to check out some optional activities – perhaps take an interactive and educational visit to Mari Mari Cultural Village to see how Indigenous ethnic groups of Borneo used to live. If you are after something even more active, like a scuba diving or snorkeling trip to nearby islands, then you could stay on a couple of days longer in KK. This evening is an opportunity to go out with your new mates and mark the end of your adventure – maybe start with a delicious optional dinner. Your group leader will have some great recommendations for where to go on the waterfront, so you could spend your last night as a group bar-hopping and soaking up the city’s nightlife.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Kota Kinabalu - Tunku Abdul Marine Park Scuba diving 3 dives - MYR400
  • Kota Kinabalu - Tunku Abdul National Marine Park - Snorkeling Trip - MYR260
  • Kota Kinabalu - Mari Mari Cultural Village (Entrance) - MYR100
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Today's travel time is approximately 3.5 hours.
Time to swap numbers and connect on socials before saying goodbye to your new-found friends. With no activities planned, your Sabah adventure comes to an end today and you can depart at any time. If you would like to spend more time in Borneo, let us know in advance – we’d be happy to book additional accommodation (subject to availability).
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

6 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 4 dinners

Transport

Boat, Private vehicle, Plane

Accommodation

Jungle Lodge (3 nights), Homestay (1 night), Hostel (3 nights), Hotel (2 night), Eco Camp (1 night)

Included activities

  • Kinabatangan - Cultural Show
  • Sandakan - War Memorial
  • Kinabatangan River - Afternoon Wildlife Cruise
  • Kinabatangan River - Morning River Cruise
  • Kinabatangan River - Cooking lesson
  • Sepilok - Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
  • Mt Kinabalu - 2 Day Climb

Dates & availability

Trip departures are unavailable.

There are currently no scheduled departures on our Essential Borneo trip. If you are interested in other trips in the region visit one of the links below.

Prices may go up, so secure your trip today!
Jump to a departure month

Important notes

1. A single supplement is available if you’d prefer not to share a room on this trip. The single supplement excludes Day 2,3,4,5,6,7,8 & 9 where you will be in shared accommodation and is subject to availability. Please speak to your booking agent for further information.
2. The maximum luggage allowance on the internal flight flight is 15kg. Any additional baggage will be at your own expense, payable to the airline directly.
3. Please provide passport details at time of booking at at least 35 days prior to your trip in order for us to book your internal flight and Mt Kinabalu climbing permits.
4. Parts of your trip go above 2800 metres / 9200 feet where it is common for travellers to experience some adverse health effects due to the altitude - regardless of your age, gender and fitness.
5.Please note that a rapid antigen test is required for climbing Mt Kinabalu. This can easily be organized locally at a cost about 2 USD per test, or you may bring one from home.

GOVERNMENT TRAVEL WARNINGS FOR EASTERN SABAH
Please note for various nationalities in particular Australian, UK, Irish, New Zealand and United States, different increased Government travel warnings are currently in place for Eastern Sabah. We ask all of our travellers to familiarise themselves with their own Government Travel Advisories and to check that these Government warnings do not affect the level of coverage that is offered to them by their Travel Insurance provider. Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our tours and your insurance must cover you for all activities and areas visited as part of this tour. Please contact your Travel Insurance provider to ensure you have adequate cover for travel to Eastern Sabah.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides 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 Essential Trip Information

Reviews