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Malaysian Borneo

Posted by iciclesecret on 2/9/2011 at 23:11


I'm travelling back to Asia and this time very tempted to spend some time in Borneo. We land into KL on the 26th December and could connect onto the evening flight to KK.

It seems to me that the must sees are: Kinabatangan River, Kota Kinabulu, Sepilok Sanctuary (please tell me if I'm wrong, my knowledge of Borneo is so limited!). There seems to be lots of different options for the best islands in the area. I saw a fabulous trip with Sta travel, covering all of the above, but they are charging over £800 for it, which to me seemed like a rip off? What do you think?

How would you suggest creating a trip that encompasses all of the above on a budget? I was thinking about flying into KK and out of Sandakan with Air Asia and travelling in between to the two to cover the sights, but I'm not entire clear whether it's do-able or if I should just go for a tour, and if I was to go for a tour, book it upon arrival?

Thank you in advance to anyone with any advice [img]smileys/smile.gif[/img]xx

#1 iciclesecret has been a member since 17/7/2008. Posts: 16

Posted by travellingsarah on 3/9/2011 at 10:22 TF writer

The three things you mention are certainly some of the main highlights of Sabah and they are exactly the places we visited on our trip in 2009. When we visited we also intended to go to Turtle Island and Sipadan, maybe even Danum Valley, but we found everything so expensive (we were on a long trip on a budget) that we cut it right down. The main problem we found was that trips to Turtle Island, Mt Kinabalu and Danum Valley had to to organised as a tour - and the tours were very expensive.

I think flying into KK and out of Sandakan is a good idea. We flew in and out of KK but that of course meant a lot of backtracking. It was fine but easily avoided.

Regarding pre-booking a complete tour - it really depends what kind of person you are and what's most important to you. I would never book onto a tour like this but I can completely understand how it makes life easier and can have a lot of appeal. I don't know whether £800 is expensive or not without knowing how long the tour is, what it includes, style of accommodation etc. but it sounds a lot to me!

This is what we did, in summary:

A couple of nights in KK
Overnight on one of the islands (Sapi I think) - just go to the pier on the day for the boat, we stayed in a tent on the island but some of the other islands had hotels on. Or just go for the day.
Another night in KK
Afternoon bus to a hotel near Mt Kinabalu - minibuses go from near town or go out to the bus station but make sure you check times first (usually no buses in the afternoon - we were stuck there for 3 hours)
2 day trek up Mt Kinabalu
Bus to Sepilok - just picked it up along the main road and got off near junction to the sanctuary and picked up a taxi to our accommodation
Morning and afternoon visits to Orang-utan sanctuary
Bus to Sandakan and onwards to Kinabatangan River - got bus from sanctuary and then hunted around in Sandakan for bus out. Realised we could have just picked up the bus straight there from the main road.
We didn't do an organised tour as such, but stayed in a guesthouse and organised river trips through them
Bus back to KK and fly out - got dropped off at main road by guesthouse and picked up a bus from there.

The only bit we organised as a tour was the walk up Mount Kinabula, because there is no other option. We booked it when we got there at the company office in KK. It was around £100 each. Ouch. Anyway, we'd heard that it often got fully booked so we were lucky to get a space. So might be worth looking into booking it in advance if you really want to do it. I don't think it costs anymore. I can't remember the name of the company but will post it if I find it later.

If you need any more detailed information, let me know.

#2 travellingsarah has been a member since 23/3/2010. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 684

Posted by savorygal on 6/9/2011 at 14:14

I just came from Malaysian Borneo & it is certainly easy to do one your own without a tour. The only exception to hiking Mt Kinabalu. You would need to book a tour for that, but you can do that once in country.
In KK there is big building Wisma Sabah (ask anyone where it is) and there are a ton of tour operators based there that could help you.
Visiting the islands from KK is very easy, just head to the ferry terminal & get on a boat. they leave hourly.
I visited Sepilok, The bus from KK takes about 5 hours, & stayed at Paganakan Dii which has budget rooms & more upmarket chalets. They provide free transport to the orangutan & proboscis monkey sanctuaries. They will also help you arrange onward travel.
If you want to spend some time on the Kinabatagan river you will likely need to stay at one of the lodges, I stayed at Kinabatagan nature lodge and again you have your choice of budget dorm rooms or a chalet. They will pick you up in Sepilok & also provide assistance with onward travel. Most have a 2 night 3 day package.
I would also suggest you visit Sarawak. Kuching is a one hour flight from KK & I booked through air asia, they have a couple of flights a day. Kuching is a lovely town and you can use it as a base for day trips to bako national park & you can also visit the longhouses from here. There is a wonderful & very helpful tourist information center that provides free info on all there is to do in Sarawak & will assist you in making bookings. In addition, most guest houses will help you with tours if needed.
If you are a diver, Mabul, off the east coast of Sabah, near semporna is not to be missed. If you want to dive sipadan, you will need a permit & should apply in advance for your best chances. Any dive shop should be able to help you . I stayed with scuba junkies & they were very professional and would highly recommend them.
hope that helps

#3 savorygal has been a member since 16/7/2010. Posts: 176

Posted by zaccolbert on 14/9/2011 at 18:08

What i found in Borneo is that there's not much to do if you don't do the tours. So book yourself in for as much as you can, including the Mount Kinabalu trail which is not easy and definitely can not go on your own. You should also go island hopping, Sapi is really nice. I would highly recommend diving off the east coast of Borneo and there's some nice river tours you can do to see monkeys, lizards and fireflies, which look really magical in the night time. Have fun!

#4 zaccolbert has been a member since 14/9/2011. Posts: 4

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