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Misty mountains and jungle-shrouded rivers, spectacular cave systems and rain forests teeming with rare species: few places on Earth offer such a bounty of natural wonders as Borneo. Uncover the rich biodiversity of Malaysian Borneo on a journey to the wild interiors of Sarawak and Sabah. Explore the world’s largest underground cave chamber in Gunung Mulu National Park, and meet members of the hunter-gatherer Penan people. Stay in jungle lodges nestled within wildlife reserves, surrounded by canopy walkways suspended through the treetops. Set out on day and night hikes and river safaris to search for orangutans, proboscis monkeys, leopard cats, and much more.
Get up close to orangutans and Malayan sun bears at conservation centers in Sepilok.
Marvel at otherworldly limestone formations and unusual flora while exploring the vast cave network of Gunung Mulu National Park.
Search for pygmy elephants, gibbons, langurs, and rare birds in the primary rain forests of Danum Valley Conservation Area.
Itinerary - 10 Days
Day 1 — Arrive Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Arrive in Sabah's capital city, Kota Kinabalu—known locally as KK—on the northwestern coast of Malaysian Borneo. Check into your hotel in the heart of the city and enjoy an evening at leisure. Hyatt Regency Kota Kinabalu
Day 2 — Kota Kinabalu/Gunung Mulu National Park
Catch a morning flight to Gunung Mulu National Park, home to an astonishing network of underground caves set amid jungle-clad mountains, deep canyons, and rivers. Named a UNESCO World Heritage site for its biodiversity and karst features, the park is dominated by the peaks of Gunung Mulu and Gunung Api. Enter one of the largest-known cave passages in the world to explore the enormous Deer Cave, and venture into nearby caves adorned with unusual subterranean flora and limestone formations. Twelve species of bats have been recorded at Deer Cave; we’ll return at dusk to witness the spectacle of over a million bats exiting the cave in swirling black clouds. Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa (B, L, D)
Day 3 — Gunung Mulu National Park
Return to the park this morning to explore the Clearwater Cave and the Cave of the Winds. Later, visit a village of the forest-dwelling Penan people—one of the last surviving hunter-gatherer tribes in Malaysia. Learn about the Penan’s ancient way of life, which is under threat from commercial logging and deforestation. This evening, set out on a nighttime walk to observe the forest’s nocturnal inhabitants. Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa (B, L, D)
Days 4 & 5 — Sandakan/Sepilok/Kinabatangan River
Fly to the city of Sandakan on Borneo’s eastern coast, and check into your hotel upon arrival. The next morning, head to the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve and visit the orangutan rehabilitation center, where orangutans rescued from captivity are reintroduced to the wild. Watch the morning feeding and take a behind-the-scenes tour of the nearby Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center. Later, board a local boat for a two-hour ride along the Kinabatangan River. Your destination is Sukau Rainforest Lodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge built by native Borneans to celebrate—and help protect—the riverine rain forest and the communities that depend upon it. Settle into your garden-view room, then depart at dusk in an electric-motored boat to look for orangutans, pygmy elephants, and proboscis monkeys. Sheraton Four Points Sandakan, Sukau Rainforest Lodge (B, D; B, L, D)
Day 6 — Kinabatangan River
Awaken to the calls of gibbons and hornbills, and watch the sun rise during a guided wildlife cruise. Return to the lodge for breakfast, followed by a short drive to Gomantong Caves, home to thousands of bats and swiftlets. Accompanied by a guide, venture into limestone passageways to discover the cave’s unique ecosystem, and explore the surrounding rain forest in search of a variety of wildlife. Have lunch back at the lodge and take advantage of a free afternoon to wander the lodge’s elevated boardwalk, tour its eco-friendly facilities, or unwind by the pool. As a National Geographic guest, you’ll also have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with the lodge’s in-house orangutan expert. At dusk, embark on another river safari to search for monkeys, owls, and crocodiles. Sukau Rainforest Lodge (B, L, D)
Days 7 & 8 — Danum Valley Conservation Area
Travel overland to the valley of the Danum River, known for its 169 square miles of virtually undisturbed primary rain forest—which offers exceptional wildlife viewing. Spend two days exploring the many nature trails on your own or with a guide. Keep an eye out for rare species, including the leopard cat, Bornean gibbon, clouded leopard, and maroon langur. Bird life is equally diverse, with some 275 recorded species. Rise early to explore the canopy bridges and boardwalks around the lodge; hike to a nearby waterfall to swim in rock-sculpted pools; and take guided night hikes when the forest comes alive with nocturnal species. Borneo Rainforest Lodge (B, L, D Daily)
Day 9 — Danum Valley Conservation Area/Kota Kinabalu
Venture into the jungle on an early morning nature walk. For the remainder of the morning, explore the rain forest on your own or take advantage of the lodge’s amenities before departing on an afternoon flight to Kota Kinabalu. Check into your hotel upon arrival, and enjoy a final evening to celebrate your Borneo adventures. Hyatt Regency Kota Kinabalu (B, L, D)
Day 10 — Kota Kinabalu/Depart
Transfer to the airport after breakfast and catch your international flight home. (B)
About Private Expeditions
National Geographic Private Expeditions are specially crafted itineraries designed for independent travelers that combine guided excursions, fascinating insights into culture and wildlife, and top accommodations. Simply select a trip and decide whom you'd like to travel with and when you want to travel. We'll take care of the rest.
Prices are per person, double occupancy and are subject to availability. Single traveler prices are available upon request.
The internal flights within Borneo are an additional $360 per person (subject to change). International airfare to from Kota Kinabalu is not included in the expedition cost.
A holiday surcharge may apply to certain travel dates based upon international or local holidays, as well as local events and festivals.
Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives, or easy hikes, with options for more physical activities such as hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and biking.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.