Trek pristine, prehistoric wilderness in ‘Sabah’s Lost World’

Deep in the heart of Borneo’s Sabah lies a land so wild, rugged and isolated that its beauty has been seen by few people. Welcome to the glorious Maliau Basin, a circle of lush forest and waterways rimmed on all sides by steep cliffs and embankments. Our new 8-day Expedition takes you into this protected, restricted-access area to discover wild orchids and cascading waterfalls set in forest so green it seems to glow. With a homestay in a historic village and a well-earned night in a hotel bookending a three-and-a-half-day trek, this trip is for people seeking active adventure, natural splendour and a personal challenge.


Start
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Finish
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Destination
Malaysia
Style
Original
Theme
Expedition, Walking & Trekking
Code
TMSX
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why you'll love this trip

  • Spend three-and-a-half days trekking in one of the most pristine self-contained environments on earth, parts of which are still yet to be explored.

  • Begin your adventure with a homestay with a Dusun family in Tambunan, including a local cycling tour to a house filled with skulls culled by headhunters of yore.

  • The myriad waterways that flow into the basin’s Maliau River have created dozens of known waterfalls. Take in their hidden beauty during your trek, including the seven gorgeous tiers of Maliau Waterfall.

  • Wonder at the bizarre flora that has adapted to this environment, like ‘ant plants’ that survive and grow by feeding on the waste of ants that live in their compartments.

  • Tourism to the basin is restricted, which means after this trip you’ll be part of a very exclusive group of people exposed to the majesty of this wilderness.

Is this trip right for you?

  • Just as a heads up before you book: this trip is new to our range this year. And while we have thoroughly researched every detail of the logistics, new destinations can sometimes throw us some unexpected surprises. More often than not, it’ll be a great surprise. But every now and again there might be a hiccup. We like to think that’s what puts the ‘adventure’ in ‘adventure travel’.

  • The three-and-a-half-day trek in the Maliau Basin will be very challenging, even for experienced trekkers. Sections involve scaling vertical ladders and scrambling for hours at a time. You will need a high level of fitness and mental fortitude in order to participate in this adventure. The reward for those who are up to the task? Exploring where few people (and even fewer foreigners) have ever set foot.

  • All travellers who enter the Maliau Basin Conservation Area with the intention of hiking must have travel insurance that includes emergency helicopter evacuation.

  • Porters are available at extra cost during the trek, but this trip does not include porters in the price.

  • During the trekking portion of this trip you will sleep in basic camping huts on stretchers or bunk beds. Toilets will be squat style during this time.

  • You will need to bring quality shoes made for hiking. Our local experts recommend a local shoe known as the ‘kampung adidas’. These are rubber shoes with spikes that can be purchased locally (and are not, in fact, made by Adidas). You must also bring a hat, a reusable water bottle, water purification tablets, leech socks and sunscreen.

  • Did you catch that comment above about leech socks? Yep, leeches thrive in damp environments, so the many waterways of the basin are a haven for the critters. You’ll need to dress to minimise skin exposure, keep strong insect repellent handy and have a tolerant attitude to creepy crawlies. Doubling up long football socks is a great way to protect yourself from leeches.

Itinerary

Selamat datang! Welcome to Borneo, Malaysia. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on day 1 at the hotel. If you arrive early, you can immerse yourself in history of this intriguing city between the Borneo jungle and the South China Sea at the Sabah State Museum.
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.
Bid farewell to the modernity of Kota Kinabalu and make the approximately 2-hour private transfer to tonight’s homestay, located in the district of Tambunan. Arrive in Sunsuron Village and meet your Dusun hosts. While the government counts the Dusun people as part of the larger Kadazandusun indigenous group, they have a culture distinct from the Kadazan people. In the afternoon, explore the village on a cycling tour. Visit a traditional bamboo house, a memorial stone and a house that contains skulls that remain from the Sabah headhunters of old. After your cycle, cool off with a dip in a local river. This evening, feast on delicious Malaysian food.
Accommodation
  • Homestay (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Tambunan - cycling village tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
The group will be split among multiple local homes, all within walking distance of each other. All rooms are twin share and each home has one to three bedrooms. As we are staying with locals, the style and facilities vary from home to home. Some rooms have en suite toilets while others are in the main house. Toilets may be either squat or western style.
Rise early for a sunrise hike at 5.45 am. Take a gentle incline to the 700-metre-tall summit of a small mountain that overlooks the village. Pass by tropical vegetation, plantations and fruit trees on this pleasant 1-hour hike. Return to the village for breakfast, then collect your things and depart for the Maliau Basin Conservation Area by private vehicle. The journey will take around 6 hours, so it’s a good idea to have a book, podcast or some questions ready for your leader about the history of the area to pass the time. Arrive in the basin by 4 pm and settle in at the Study Centre, a research base where you will spend tonight in dormitory-style accommodation. Later head to the Maliau Observation Tower. From here you’ll enjoy panoramic views over the area you’ll spend the next several days exploring.
Accommodation
  • Hostel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Tambunan - Sunrise walk
  • Maliau Basin - Maliau Rim Observation Tower
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Special Information
The next three days will be spent trekking through wilderness. Please note that the hiking will be strenuous, and you will need a high level of fitness in order to participate in this adventure.

During the trekking portion of this trip you will sleep in basic camping huts on stretchers or bunk beds. Toilets will be squat style. Food on the trek will be simple and filling. Think rice, eggs, canned food and simple curries.

Porters are available at extra cost during the trek, but this trip does not include porters in the price. You will be able to stow your main luggage at the study centre before you depart on your trek. Please bring a day pack suitable for hiking and carrying essentials. Please see the Packing List for more info on what to bring with you.

All travellers who enter the Maliau Basin Conservation Area with the intention of hiking must have travel insurance that includes emergency helicopter evacuation.
After breakfast, make the 45-minute drive to the starting point for your trek. Your trekking adventure begins with the most difficult portion, a seven-and-a-half-kilometre hike, uphill to the rim of basin (elevation 1300 metres). Depending on conditions, the time spent hiking today will be around 6 hours. Hike over dense detritus while surrounded by towering trees, looking out for incredible insects, flowers and mammal species that live among them. Today you will encounter your first set of metal ladders, there will be quite a few of these over the next couple of days. These are not for the novice trekker, you will need to have an adventurous spirit. These ladders are fixed to the ground, rock or tree trunks which help you to climb the steep terrain. Some of these ladders along the trail can be almost at a 90 degree angle. There are also fallen tree trunks used to cross the rivers. While the going will be tough, you’ll be rewarded by the immense beauty of the environment. If time permits, it may be possible to stop at terraced Giluk Falls or cascading Takob Akob Falls. Arrive at Nepenthes Camp in the late afternoon or early evening.
Accommodation
  • Camping (under basic shelter) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Maliau Basin - Giluk or Takob Akob Falls - Free
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Trek distance: 7.5 kilometres
Trek duration: Approximately 6 hours
Elevation: 1400 metres
Today brings a (slightly) easier portion of your trek. While the trail covers a similar distance (seven kilometres), the terrain is mostly flat. This portion of the trek is expected to take 5 hours at most. As today will be less challenging, take the time to really absorb the beauty of your surroundings. Walk through thick dipterocarpaceae forest and look out for bulbous fungi, the orange bark of the tristaniopsis trees and wild orchids. Take a break at Ginseng Falls, a mixture of layered and cascading streams hidden in a forest clearing, before arriving at Ginseng Camp.
Accommodation
  • Camping (under basic shelter) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Maliau Basin - Ginseng Waterfall
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Trek distance: 7 kilometres
Trek duration: Approximately 3—5 hours
Elevation: 1000 metres
Today’s trek is a 4—5-hour round trip to Maliau Waterfall, returning to Ginseng Camp in the evening. This 10-kilometre hike follows a relatively gentle trail to the seven-tiered falls. Listen out for the calls of Borneo gibbons, which are plentiful in the area (though hard to spot). Depending on recent rainfall, you may hear the thunder of the falls before you see them. The highest tier is 28-meters-tall, with each section set a fair distance forward from the last, making this a captivating sight.
Accommodation
  • Camping (under basic shelter) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Maliau Basin - Maliau Falls
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Trek distance: 10 kilometres
Trek duration: Approximately 4—5 hours
Set off in the morning and begin the final leg of the six-kilometre trek to Agathis Camp (approximately 5—6 hours). Arrive at the camp hut at around 1 pm. Make the return drive by private vehicle to Kota Kinabalu and arrive at the hotel by 7 pm. Treat yourself to a shower, then choose whether to join your group for an optional dinner.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Special Information
You will be reunited with your large bags today, as our driver will bring them to the transport pick up point. We recommend leaving a change of clothes in your main bag in case you want to change out of any wet clothes. The first opportunity for a shower will be back at your hotel in Kota kInabalu.

Your adventure comes to an end after breakfast.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

7 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 5 dinners

Transport

Private mini van, Bicycle

Accommodation

Hotel (2 nights) Homestay (1 night) Dormitory (1 night) Camping under basic shelters (3 nights)

Included activities

  • Tambunan - cycling village tour
  • Tambunan - Sunrise walk
  • Maliau Basin - Maliau Rim Observation Tower
  • Maliau Basin - Ginseng Waterfall
  • Maliau Basin - Maliau Falls

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Important notes

1. The three-and-a-half-day trek in the Maliau Basin will be very challenging, even for experienced trekkers. Sections involve scaling vertical ladders and scrambling for hours at a time. You will need a high level of fitness and mental fortitude in order to participate in this adventure
2. All travellers who enter the Maliau Basin Conservation Area with the intention of hiking must have travel insurance that includes emergency helicopter evacuation. Please take proof of this with you on the trip, as you will need to show it to the leader.
3. A minimum of 4 travellers is required for departures of this trip to run.

Essential trip information

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