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Community-Based Tourism in Sabah

Get off-grid in Borneo and dive into Sabah’s community based tourism initiatives…

One hour by boat upstream from the remote community of Batu Pateh and you’re in the heart of Sabah’s pristine limestone karst rainforest. Orangutans nest alongside gibbons and macaques, five species of hornbill swoop over the dense forest, and butterflies skim over the turbulent river.

A visit here is more than an extraordinary experience for yourself - responsibility-conscious tourism helps to protect the region’s unique habitat, and supports the indigenous Orang Sungai communities of the Lower Kinabatangan, who have been living off the rainforest for food, medicine, household goods and trade for millennia.

People browsing at a market in Kota Kinabalu Borneo
Seedlings being transported by boat
Two hornbills in a tree
Monkeys sitting in a tree
Chalet in the rainforest

What to see in Sabah’s remote rainforest

Whether from observation platforms, cruises down the Kinabatangan, caving adventures or hikes with guides, you will be able to feel, see and hear the life that abounds in the forest. The region’s secrets will gradually reveal themselves as you take in the volume and diversity of mammal, bird, amphibian, and reptile species in the surrounding floodplain.

As well as five species of hornbill, civets, kingfishers and a host of other rainforest birds, there are the languid, long-nosed proboscis monkeys, leaf monkeys, macaques and even the occasional orangutan to keep a lookout for. Needless to say, you may also experience leeches, mosquitoes, and heavy tropical downpours, as well as saltwater crocodiles lurking just beneath the river’s surface - this is the jungle, after all!

Taking part in KOPEL’s Community-Based Ecologically Sustainable Tourism (CBEST)

Since the 1960s, innovative community-based tourism initiatives - from which KOPEL developed - have provided sustainable experiences in remote and inspiring rainforest locations.

By taking part you can:

How KOPEL uses eco-tourism to conserve the rainforest and spread best practice

The eco camp that fringes the Tungog Lake - and the local homestays nearby - are your springboard to an amazing variety of experiences. Maximise your immersion in the rainforest, whilst simultaneously minimising negative impact and generating local employment and income for forest restoration work.

For many years, KOPEL has focused on tree planting initiatives to restore forest corridors. This core restoration work is now accompanied by programmes that address the devastating impacts of invasive water weed. Its success has led to other communities implementing Community Based Ecologically Sustainable Tourism (CBEST) across Borneo and beyond.

Tree planting to conserve the Bornean rainforest

Trees provide the necessary habitat, leaf litter and microclimate for a huge diversity of other plants and organisms. They are the powerhouse of the forest. Working with local communities and volunteers, KOPEL has been planting trees since 1999 to ensure that food webs and habitats can be recreated for a wide diversity of pollinators, seed-bearing birds and wildlife.

You can be a part of KOPEL’s tree nursery and planting efforts by working in the nursery to plant seeds, remove vines that can suffocate trees, or participate in planting projects.

Immerse yourself in Orang Sungai culture

Encompassing numerous dialects and beliefs, the local Orang Sungai have a unique and diverse story to tell of their past and changing future along the Kinabatangan River. Homestay activities, such as learning to cook, and outdoor farm work are all part of the experience. As the evening draws in, listen and dance along to exuberant traditional music, featuring loud and resonant brass gongs, that equals the enchanting sounds of the forest beyond.

We think you may like this journey…

proboscis monkey

Rainforest & Beach

Explore an untamed habitat concealing endangered animals, rare birds and plants with mysterious medicinal properties; all before steeling away for a remote island retreat.

Price from: £2,890 US$3,590
Ideal length 10 Days
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Borneo Journey Wildlife Beach

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