National Geographic Adventures

Borneo Wildlife Adventure

  • 11-day tropical wildlife adventure in Malaysian Borneo
  • Activity Rating: Easy to Moderate

Trip Details


The third largest island in the world, Borneo is stunning for its verdant jungles, dramatic coastlines, and incredible biodiversity. Land and sea teem with exotic endemic species; many of which are endangered. Spend 11 exhilarating days exploring Malaysian Borneo, on the island’s northeastern edge. Set out on day and night hikes, river safaris, and snorkeling excursions, looking for iconic orangutans, Sumatran rhinos, leopard cats, birds-of-paradise, and much more. Stay in jungle lodges nestled within wildlife reserves close to the action, and three nights on a small tropical isle among lush reef systems and unique cultures.

Trip Highlights

    • Observe orangutans and Malayan sun bears up close at conservation centers in Sepilok.
    • Set out on safari in Tabin Wildlife Reserve, looking for the three largest Bornean animals: pygmy elephants, Sumatran rhinos, and bantengs.
    • Spend two days hiking and observing dazzling birdlife in the primary rain forests of Danum Valley Conservation Area.
    • Visit a community of Bajau sea nomads and learn how they live on the water, rarely coming ashore.

Itinerary - 11 Days

Day 1 — Sandakan, Malaysia

Arrive in the bustling city of Sandakan on Malaysian Borneo’s eastern coast. Check into our hotel, perched on the edge of the Sulu Sea, then gather for an orientation and welcome dinner.
Sheraton Four Points Sandakan (D)

Day 2 — Sepilok/Kinabatangan River

Head to the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve and visit the orangutan rehabilitation center, where we join scientists to observe the morning feeding. Then take a behind-the-scenes tour of the nearby Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre to learn about Malayan sun bears. Continue to the Kinabatangan River, home to one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in Borneo. Settle into our lodge and take a cruise at dusk to look for orangutans, pygmy elephants, silvered langurs, hornbills, and proboscis monkeys. On a night walk, see nocturnal fauna such as the slow loris, western tarsiers, civets, and more. (1–2 miles hiking, 1–2 hours)
Sukau Rainforest Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 3 — Kinabatangan River

Watch the sun rise during an early morning river safari cruise. Then join researchers at Red Ape Encounters, an organization that works to preserve orangutans in their natural habitat, and track these great apes in the wild. Back at the lodge, head out on dusk and nocturnal river safaris.
Sukau Rainforest Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 4 — Tabin Wildlife Reserve

Head into the heart of the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, home to nine primate species, three cat species, some 220 species of birds and the three largest mammals of Sabah—the pygmy elephant, Sumatran rhinoceros, and banteng. After lunch, set off in 4x4s to search for elephants, leopard cats, marbled cats, flying squirrels, and binturongs (bearcats).
Tabin Wildlife Resort (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Tabin Wildlife Reserve

Take an early morning 4x4 safari, then after breakfast, hike to the mud volcano, where salt-enriched mud bubbles up and attracts many different animals. Climb the observation tower for great views of the surrounding forest. In the evening, go on safari in search of nocturnal fauna. (1–2 miles hiking, 2 hours)
Tabin Wildlife Resort (B,L,D)

Days 6 & 7 — Danum Valley Conservation Area

Travel to the valley of the Danum River, known for its 169 square miles of virtually undisturbed primary rain forest. Explore the many nature trails on your own or with a guide. Keep an eye out for rare species, including the Sumatran rhino, pygmy elephant, clouded leopard, Bornean gibbon, and maroon langur. Bird life is equally diverse, with some 275 recorded species. Take a guided night hike when the forest is vibrant with wildlife. Rise early the next morning to explore the canopy walks around the lodge. After breakfast, join your guide for a spectacular hike to a nearby waterfall, where you can take a refreshing dip in the rock pools. This evening, set out on a final night safari. (Day 6: 1–2 miles hiking, 2 hours; Day 7: 1–2 miles hiking, 2 hours)
Borneo Rainforest Lodge (B,L,D daily)

Day 8 — Mataking Island

Leave the jungle and head for the reef-covered volcanic islands off the eastern coast of Borneo in the heart of the Indo-Pacific basin, one of the richest marine habitats in the world. More than 3,000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species populate these waters. Settle into chalets on private Mataking Island. Take the afternoon to unwind on the beach or explore the island.
Mataking Resort (B,L,D)

Day 9 — Mataking Island/Bajau Community/Mabul

Head out this morning to snorkel and visit the Bajau nomadic communities. Bajau traditionally spend their entire lives on boats, only coming ashore rarely to buy rice and other staples, bury the dead, or build new boats. Learn of their spirit mediums, whom they consult for séances, trance dancing, and exorcisms. Then stop to snorkel en route to Bukit Tengkorak, or “Skull Mountain.” Hike to the top for a breathtaking view of the surrounding islands and reefs. Spend a leisurely afternoon back at the resort relaxing on the beach and watching the sunset.
Mataking Resort (B,L,D)

Days 10 & 11 — Kota Kinabalu

Transfer to Tawau Airport and fly to Sabah’s capital city, Kota Kinabalu, on the South China Sea. Tonight, we toast our tropical adventure at a farewell dinner. The next day, transfer to the airport for your flight home.
Hyatt Hotel, Kota Kinabalu (B,D; B)

About Adventures

National Geographic Adventures are unique, active itineraries for intrepid travelers that combine spectacular places, cultural interaction, and physical challenge. You'll explore fascinating, off-the-beaten-path places with top guides, and wherever possible, meet National Geographic experts in the field.


  • Mar 13 - 23, 2015
  • Apr 15 - 25, 2015
  • Sep 21 - Oct 01, 2015
  • Oct 04 - 14, 2015

Trip Cost



Price is per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $1,300. International airfare to Sandakan and return from Kota Kinabalu is not included in the adventure cost.


See special terms and conditions for this adventure.

Activity Level

Easy to Moderate

We will hike 1 to 2 hours per day (1 to 2 miles) on uneven trails over moderate grades at low elevations. Participants always have the option to rest a day. Some long transfers of up to 3.5 hours will be required. We will stay in ideally located lodges and resorts that combine comfort, ideal locations, and local charm.

Click here for a description of all activity levels.

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