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Malaysia forum

Traveling borneo

Posted by SamG on 2/11/2011 at 02:43

Hi all, me and my girlfriend will be traveling for borneo for roughly two weeks in feb 2011, it will be the end of our se asia trip in which we go through the Philippines, Cambodia, Thailand, laos, borneo, and hong kong.
We will be traveling with a relatively low budget/backpacking, and have the rest of our trip planned out but are having some troubles with borneo as it seems that everything here is controlled by tourist companies.
In general, we are trying to experience unadulterated nature aswell as un-americanized culture. We are not fans of the "party scene" that dominates a large portion of SE asia backpacking, but are tolerant if it means a cheap nights stay.

Insofar, we are flying into Kota Kinabulu and staying the night, after which we will head to mount kinabulu and do the climb to the top, staying the night on the lodge near the summit.
After this we plan to return to KK, (we thought about the poring hot springs but reviews are not good, any comments?). From KK we are thinking of traveling to Kudat, mainly to see the tip of borneo, and do a homestay(any recommendations?)
Does anyone know of any good, cheap(usd 25 and under/night) places to stay in kudat?
While here we want to get 1-3 days or R&R after the Mt. K climb. Bak Bak beach, aswell as Kelambu beaches are very appealing as they seem to have a low tourist pop. aswell as a strong local culture(bak bak especially).
Does anyone know if it is possible to stay on either Bak Bak or Kelambu overnight? Online i have seen references to a "ask the locals to stay the night" kind of situation. Is this true?

After our time here we will return to KK and take a flight to Sandakan, where we will almost immediately partake in the Uncle tan wildlife adventure (looks awesome), where we will also visit the sepilok orang utang sanctuary.
Any recommendations of places to stay within Sandakan, and other things to do around the area?. I have looked into Turtle island, and have mixed feelings. Any comments about that experience?

Any comments are welcome and helpful. Thanks, Sam

#1 SamG has been a member since 2/11/2011. Posts: 4

Posted by tyler on 2/11/2011 at 08:19

Check out www.sabahtourism.com - I did many home stays for 5 weeks a couple of years ago and loved it. Authentic. Real. You can see all of the places you want to and stay with local people. I stayed in Tambunan Village, Kudat, Kundasang, Miso Walei (Kinibatangan River - you won't need Uncle Tan's) and Tawau.
The lady who runs this community based service is Joanna Kitingan and she can help you arrange everything related to this. When you arrive with you're family expect to be treated as exactly that - family.
- BorneoBackpackers is a good place to stay in KK
- Your home stay family can arrange to get you to Bak Bak or Kelambu if it is possible, if it isn't they'll tell you
- you will drink a lot of tea
- you will most likely be fishing for your own dinner on the Kinibatangan
- Sepilok might seem underwhelming after you see wild orangutans (almost guaranteed at the Miso Walei home stay and Uncle Tan's)
Have fun!

#2 tyler has been a member since 7/12/2010. Location: Canada. Posts: 257

Posted by SamG on 3/11/2011 at 13:46

Thank you for the info! very useful.
As we will likely be able to do only one home stay, which one would you recommend, which was the most authentic, etc

#3 SamG has been a member since 2/11/2011. Posts: 4

Posted by tyler on 3/11/2011 at 22:06

It depends on what you want to do and see so I can tell you a bit about the 3 which I enjoyed the most and you and your gf can decide from there.
Tambunan Village - I stayed with the Thomas family. He employs local youth to help with his small rubber tapping business. I spent a very sweaty day doing this as well as another harvesting rice (wear long pants and gloves!). Also saw a raffelesia (sorry for the spelling) and the batu stones.
Miso Walei - Located on the Kinibatangan river. A local fellow named Rosli has built an eco camp up river. Spent a couple days in the village and a couple at the camp. Not much to do in the village in the way of activity but I just hung out with the large family I stayed with. Shower with a bucket of river water and food cooked over fire in the "kitchen" - you might provide that after a morning on the river! Night/day jungle treks at the camp as well as river cruises. Saw 4 wild orangutan in 1 afternoon.
Kundasang - You'll have the best view of Mt.Kinabalu on Koh Adie's balcony during breakfast every morning. His very extended family is well known for home made bamboo instruments and their amazing music. Was able to attend 2 muslim weddings - you WILL karaoke and dance here!
It was tough to leave each place and each family will help your travel to your next destination. The home stays all provide a decent level of comfort, food, mossy nets and as much companionship as you can handle. I felt it was a great way to experience the different cultures and languages of Sabah. The profits made at each place you stay is divided equally in the community so no matter which family you stay with - they all benefit. Going to the market and spending a few bucks on some fish and veggies can make for a great evening - although that is not expected. And I know from experience that your family will want to see pictures of your home country and family.
If you plan to do anything else in Sabah Joanna is very, very well connected and can help you with anything else you might want to do in Sabah.

#4 tyler has been a member since 7/12/2010. Location: Canada. Posts: 257

Posted by tedbehr on 19/11/2011 at 16:07

You mention that you're traveling to Borneo. Two weeks really only allows time for Sabah in Malaysian Borneo so I've only provided some tips for this part of the island.

There's no escaping package tours in Sabah. Places like Danum Valley, Tabin Wildlife Reserve and the Maliau Basin are largely impossible to do independently and within a backpacker budget. However, package tours to the Kinabatangan and Mabul Island remain good value and employ plenty of locals. It has also been great to speak with increasingly more Malaysians traveling to Sabah for the first time to partake in the package tours.

The Sabah homestay program offers an alternative. I stayed with Bilit Village Homestay in the Kinabatangan, and have fond memories of a great family and the best food in Sabah. The villages outside Kudat near the Tip of Borneo are great places to visit during the harvest festival times to see traditional customs and partying.

After 10 years of traveling to Sabah, here are some of my favorite places and experiences:
- In KK, the Sunday market on Gaya Street, sunset and dinner at the waterfront open air market, a day trip to Sapi island
- The Kinabatangan River
- The beaches around Kudat and the Tip of Borneo
- Mabul and Sipadan islands
- Whitewater rafting the Padas River
- ANZAC Day at the Sandakan War Memorial.

Try to stay 2-3 nights on Mabul island. This is the best place to snorkel or dive in Sabah. It's about 3 hours by bus and 45 minutes by speed boat from the Kinabatangan (via Lahad Datu and Semporna). Nearby Sipadan island is worth the extra cost to dive but book now to ensure you get a permit.

Places I'd recommend staying on Mabul include: Arung Hayat guesthouse; flashpackers will enjoy Scuba Junkie or SDC; backpackers on a limited budget should try Billabong or sipadan.com; and those looking for a party will love Uncle Chang's.

Once last point to note. Expect to pay around RM300 per person per day for transport, food, accommodation and basic activities. Add an extra RM300-600 for scuba diving and mountain climbing.

Enjoy your trip.

#5 tedbehr has been a member since 18/11/2011. Posts: 3

Posted by daytripper on 6/5/2013 at 06:56

How did the trip turn out ? My boyfriend and i want to do borneo, we'll only have 2 weeks which is a shame, but we want to do it as independantly as we can. We're worried about the permits etc that will hold us up. Any advice?

#6 daytripper has been a member since 6/5/2013. Posts: 2

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