Plush white beaches, vibrant coral reefs, heavily-forested jungles, staggering peaks and lush rainforests await you when you leave the beaten path and travel to Malaysia, and the island of Borneo. Borneo has a unique indigenous culture, as do the remote parts of Sarawak and Sabah, which have yet to become tourist Meccas. Dive into foreign cultures and revel in authentic traditions with this luxury 12-day Borneo itinerary.
|Dive the world’s top diving spot – the picturesque turquoise waters and bustling marine life surrounding Mabul Island Hike the 20th highest peak in the world, Mount Kinabalu on Borneo Island Observe exotic wildlife species in tropical rainforests Cruise along the lengthy river Kinabatangan, spotting rare species of wildlife in uncharted Sandakan||
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Begin your adventure in Kota Kinabulu, formerly Jesselton, on the picturesque island of Borneo. After arriving in Borneo, relax and watch baby orangutans being fed at the area’s only rehabilitation center on hotel grounds at your luxury beach-side hotel Shangri-La Rasa Ria. Rest up before your hike early the next morning!
The day starts bright and early at 6:30 am, when you’re transferred to the base of Mount Kinabalu, the 20th-highest peak in the world. The trek passes through thick forests, where you’ll view over 1,200 species of plants and flowers. The trek is not intense and allows plenty of time to enjoy the breathtaking natural scenery. Spend the night at the Pendant Hut’s private room.
Wake up before the sun rises to reach the summit for an incredible view you’ll never forget! Reach the summit by 6:00 am and watch the first rays of light creep over the horizon. Descend the mountain by the Via Ferreta, or iron road. After monkeying around on a monkey bridge, you’ll leave Kinabalu National Park and return to the Shangri-La Rasa Ria.
Fly from Kota Kinabalu to the historical city of Sandakan. Here, you will cruise along the Kinabatangan River to reach your lodging - a deluxe chalet at the Bilit Lodge. The abode is tucked in among calm lakes, limestone caves and mangrove swamps. Enjoy traditional cuisine at a local restaurant and keep your eyes peeled for eccentric-nosed proboscis monkeys!
Wake at dawn for a postcard-perfect cruise down Oxbow Lake. Marvel at the local bird species unique to the area. Later today, take a river safari on the longest river in Sabah - the Kinabatangan. You may even have the opportunity to feed a wild orangutan! This evening, enjoy a night game cruise and search for nocturnal species.
Leave the Kinabatangan River region and travel to the vibrantly-green Danum Valley Conservation Area in Lahad Datu. The 169-mile jungle offers a rare opportunity to observe hundreds of exotic species in their natural environment. Check into your rustic-yet-pristine bungalow, the Borneo Rainforest Lodge and enjoy the hum of the jungle as you sleep in comfort.
A park Ranger will guide you through your second day in Lahad Datu. Hike to the Kadazandusun burial site, or Coffin Cliff. The site was previously used by the Tidong tribe. Catch an unchallenged view from the top of the reserve. After your active morning, make the climb down to the Jacuzzi Pool – a natural lake with a waterfall. After your return to the Borneo Rainforest Lodge, explore the elevated canopy and wonder the forest has to offer. You also have the option of water tubing on the Danum River. That night, take a tour in an open-air Jeep to spot those special animals that only prowl at night.
Enjoy the picture-perfect scenery as you travel through Lahad Datu and Semporna to Mabul Island in Sipadan. Here, you can indulge in a luxurious spa treatment at the Ka’ Andaman Spa at your floating dive resort, the Mabul Water Bungalows. The bungalows rest entirely on stilts over the turquoise water. Not only does this provide an incredible view overlooking Sipadan Island, but this is also a prime spot for diving.
Explore the aquatic world as you spend the day diving around Sipadan Island. Boasting the most legendary diving in all of Asia and possibly the world, you won’t be disappointed. Be awed by the impressive coral reefs and overwhelming variety of marine life. You may even spot a Hawksbill turtle swimming alongside you.
Enjoy the marine life further and the freedom to choose where you dive today as Mabul island offers endless options to spot incredible underwater life. Spend the afternoon diving around the nearby island Kapalai. Try muck diving, and you may find some unusual specimens living in this murky habitat.
Get in a few final hours of snorkeling and reveling in the amazing marine life before beginning the journey back to Kota Kinabalu. Once at your centrally-located exclusive accommodation - the Shangri-La Aru Resort, with ocean and Mount Kinabalu views, it’s dining paradise time. Choose from any style of high quality cuisine your heart or stomach desires – from beach barbecue, Italian or gourmet traditional Malay food.
During the final hours of your vacation, go on a private one-hour helicopter ride to revel in a bird’s eye view of Mt. Kinabalu. Make sure to photograph those incredible views of the sprawling Crocker Range, where one of the oldest rainforest exists. Post-helicopter ride, you have the option to explore the waterfront boardwalk, observatory platform, the city mosque, the Marlin Statue and the Atkinson Clock tower before heading to the local markets for an authentic Malay lunch. Absorb the city’s culture by visiting one of the three main artisanal markets and stocking up on local goods and souvenirs before your evening departure.
Your overnight accommodation on Mount Kinabalu, Laban Rata Rest House, is a simply furnished mountain lodge situated at 10,791 feet above sea level. The Pendant Hut includes a dormitory-style bunk bed room as well as a private room, which accommodates up to four and which can be reserved for you. The lodge is not heated, however Pendant Hut does provide state-of-the-art sleeping bags to go on top of your basic beds. There is a communal lounge area, library, toilets and shared bathroom facilities in the rest house, and the Laban Rata canteen, where dinner is served, is a short walk away.
Surrounded by 400 acres of lush tropical vegetation, some of which is in a nature reserve, the Shangri-La Rasa Ria is set on a beach looking out onto Dalit Bay. The resort’s 490 rooms, all featuring traditional Malaysian decor, complimentary broadband Internet access and cable television, are divided between the freshly renovated Garden Wing and the new Ocean Wing. Visitors should note that the Rasa Ria resort also operates an adjoining nature reserve and orangutan rehabilitation center. Some of the wildlife inhabiting the reserve include the icon of Sabah, the orangutan, as well as various hornbill bird species, peacocks, bear cats, wild rabbits, iguanas and more. A highlight of the resort’s recreational offerings is the tandem 18-hole Dalit Bay Golf Club & Spa. Dining options include Tepi Laut Makan Street, conjuring the delectable world of Malaysian street food stalls; Kozan for Japanese teppan-yaki (hot-plate grilled dishes); Naan, which serves northern Indian cuisine; and several terrace bar/lounge options. The Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort is a 40-minute drive from Kota Kinabalu International Airport and about 30 minutes north of Kota Kinabalu town.
Situated in ultimate seclusion, 60 miles from the nearest town, the beautifully-designed Borneo Rainforest Lodge denotes understated elegance. The hotel’s 31 eco-friendly chalets feature high ceilings, dark wood panels and incandescent draping lights, all made from locally-sourced, recyclable material. The chalets use ceiling fans rather than air conditioners and have outdoor tubs, decks and patios boasting panoramic views of the million-year-old rainforest: drenched in the vivacity of the surrounding tropics, there is perhaps no better place to experience undisturbed nature. Guests will be living amongst nature’s finest trees and flora which douse the rainforest in exotic, vibrant color: the Danum Valley provides a home to many rare and endangered animals including the Clouded Leopard, Orangutan, the Proboscis Monkey and around 300 species of bird. Further, the lodge provides an outstanding spa with luxurious treatments which guests may enjoy after an exhilarating jungle trek.
Facilities include a large and airy restaurant, a souvenir shop, a business center with internet services, a dive center and a spa. This basic property also features diving excursions to nearby Sipadan Island.
Located just 10 minutes from the center of Kota Kinabalu, the Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort’s 492 rooms are divided between two wings – the Kinabalu Wing, with views of the ocean and Mt. Kinabalu, and the Tanjung Wing, with views of the South China Sea. All rooms come with complimentary broadband Internet access and satellite television. Dining options include Café Tatu for breakfast and dinner, where a variety of open cooking stations offer Mongolian, Tandoori, Asian noodles, dim sum, pasta, and more; Coco Joe’s Bar & Grill, a beach barbecue restaurant; Peppino for Italian and Mediterranean in a chic setting; and Shang Palace for gourmet, traditional Chinese. There are also three bar/lounge options. The property’s CHI Spa comprises five individual Island Villas, three Couples’ Villas and an open Yoga Pavilion, all located on Pulau Bayu, the resort’s private island, and there is also a state-of-the-art health club with juice bar and sauna. The Shangri-la Tanjung Aru Resort is a 10-minute drive from Kota Kinabalu Airport.