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Malaysia forum

borneo- sabah, 1 week

Posted by rachrua on 23/11/2009 at 05:29

hi again, i think i've decided to go to sabah rather than sarawak for the week i'll spend in borneo in february, cant really do both can i? not enough time. Can anyone suggest a rough itinerary for me please? i've no idea how to go about this but if someone has done this before and could offer some advice i'd be very grateful. I'm very into nature and wildlife and i love the idea of staying in the jungle overnight, and the hot springs sound great too. Sabah seems to be the place to offer all of this. is that right? Thanks again for any suggestions. Rachel xxx

#1 rachrua has been a member since 10/11/2009. Location: Ireland. Posts: 8

Posted by rachrua on 24/11/2009 at 08:17

100 views, no replies :( if anyone has any suggestions it'd be great xx

#2 rachrua has been a member since 10/11/2009. Location: Ireland. Posts: 8

Posted by chopin on 24/11/2009 at 11:01

Hi, both Sabah and Sarawak are very worthy, but if you just have one week, it's wise to just pick one.

Sabah is great for it's Mount Kinabalu and the National Park it's in, it's the summit of SEAsia, and you can practically walk your way up there, but you'll need two full days to do so, and you'll need to apply for permit and book for accom. in the Park and i heard the queue is more than 1/2 a year now. Then the hot spring is great, and the best would be the Orang Utan, and of course camping and bird watching in the forest, plus meeting the natives there - they're some of the friendliest. Forget the islands there, as your time is short and if you will do Southern Thailand later, but otherwise they're good too. It will fill up your week.

Sarawak is bigger and very exciting too: the world's biggest cave, the Rejang River, the long houses (with the former head-hunting tribes), the Mt. Mulu Pinnacle, and more native forests and nature.

I think you will come back next time and spend more time here to fully appreciate these 2 states. :-)

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Posted by idreamofdurian on 24/11/2009 at 14:41 TF writer

Hey rachurua,

Both Sabah and Sarawak are great, but 1 week certainly isn't enough time to experience both (unless you plan on flying a lot!). Both states have their own charms -- Sarawak is a little more relaxed, but Sabah definitely has the bigger attractions.

I assume you're arriving in Kota Kinabalu?

Kota Kinabalu -- clean, efficient, medium-sized city. A little bland, but good place to book onward tours and travel. Not much to see in the city itself, but you can easily do a day trip to Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine park for some nice beaches and snorkeling! (avoid weekends when all of KK goes there!)

If you want to climb the mountain, head to Ranau and Kota Kinabalu National Park. If you're not interested in climbing the mountain or just hiking around the area, I'd say skip it -- there's better parks and nature onwards!

If you want to a multi-day jungle tour (and it sounds like you do!!), your top priority should be to GET TO SANDAKAN. Sepilok Orang Utan sanctuary is near hear, but what I think you're looking for is the Sungai Kinabangtan jungle tours. There's a handful of camps along the river with simple guesthouses, boats, and tour guides. The most popular with backpackers is Uncle Tan's and it's a good idea to make a reservation online if you want to go with that one, but there's many others and you can easily book something once you're in Sandakan and it'll probably cost less (unless you're going there over Xmas/NY, then book in advance to be careful -- lots of Aussies are going to Sabah these days).

The Sungai Kinabangtan jungle tour is one of the greatest travel experiences I've had. I saw 7 species of primates, hornbills, pythons, crocodiles, and PYGMY ELEPHANTS. They do 2 day/1 night tours, but stay for longer -- your odds of seeing wildlife go way up. You wake up early, get in a boat and go out looking for animals. In the mid-morning you do a hike, sunset boat ride again, and then night time walk. The accommodations are basic, food is bland, bring a good book, but if you're into wildlife and the jungle you'll love it.

I went with this company and it was good:

Uncle Tan:

If you're into SCUBA, another must on Borneo is Semporna. It's pricey, but world-class diving.

AirAsia also flies to/from Sandakan back to Kota Kinabalu, so you can save some time there and it's really cheap (Random date search gets as low as $20 US each way!). Bus travel on Borneo is SLOW. It's the only place I've ever resorted to hitch-hiking! (not alone, of course)

So, let's say:

Day 1: Arrive KK - explore city
Day 2: Tunku Abdul Marine park for snorkeling, fly to Sandakan
(if you're not interested in KK mountain, definitely fly -- almost save price as the 8-10 hour bus ride!).

Day 3: River safari
Day 4: River safari
Day 5: return to Sandakan from river safari, head to Tawau
Day 6: Diving in Semporna
Day 7: Fly Tawau back to Kota Kinabalu

If you have more questions you can email me: t procyshyn at g mail dawt com

#4 idreamofdurian has been a member since 5/9/2008. Location: Singapore. Posts: 576
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Posted by jaimcl on 15/2/2010 at 04:43

Uncle Tan's Jungle Camp in Sandakan!! Sandakan itself is pretty bland but the camp and Orangetang Rehabilitation Centre is amazing.
I would argue against flying from KK to Sandakan - it took us 6 hours on the bus, we simply arrived at the bus station in the morning (in Sandakan) and were put on the next bus - amazing scenery and was far cheaper than flying. The bus was air-con and we were there in no time.

#5 jaimcl has been a member since 15/2/2010. Posts: 3

Posted by nasmej11 on 28/9/2012 at 02:33

hey there!

im off to sabah march 2013...for just 6 days...ill climb mt kinabalu and visit the 5 islands of the TAR marine park...

#6 nasmej11 has been a member since 16/12/2009. Posts: 35
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Posted by Siah on 26/12/2012 at 09:33


Island hopping near the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park in Kota Kinabalu is a must!

Alternatively, if you love nature, you may head to Sandakan right away.
Sandakan is a place that has all you need - beautiful islands, nature, monkeys, mangrove swamps and bat caves. I brought ten of my university mates back to Sandakan, my hometown and I have had experience organizing such a tour.

Day 1 > Landing @ KK, visit town area, taste some local food
Day 2 > Fly to Sandakan, check into hotel (ranging from backpacker's to 4 stars), visit Orang Utan Rehabilitation Sanctuary.
Day 3 > Go to Sukau (for bird-watching, river-cruise and night safari)
Day 4 > Back to Sandakan (town sightseeing)
Day 5 > To Lankayan Island (from Yatch Club jetty) - snorkelling, coral reefs!
Day 6 > Come out from Lankayan, fly back to KK
Day 7 > Enjoy KK and be ready to get back home!

There're so much that I can't finish telling everything here. BUT bear in mind the food in Sandakan and KK is sumptuous!!

For more information, contact me at

#7 Siah has been a member since 26/12/2012. Location: Malaysia. Posts: 6
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Posted by daytripper on 6/5/2013 at 07:27

Could you do both states in two weeks ? Or would it be better to stick to one ? We want to do it as independantly as we can. We're worried about the permits etc that will hold us up. Any advice? How hard is it to organise, do you have have it done before you go?

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