The word ‘rainforest’ immediately evokes an iconic picture in the mind’s eye… Remote, untamed habitats; dense vegetation concealing endangered animals and rare birds; plants with mysterious medicinal properties. The spaces between are filled with deep rivers, cool lakes and rushing waterfalls, all sheltered beneath a canopy of towering ancient trees. This might seem otherworldly and out of reach, but it doesn’t have to be.
Just over 2 hours’ drive from Lahad Datu Airport brings you to the Danum Valley Conservation Area in Sabah, which protects 170 square miles of Borneo’s primary rainforest. This extraordinary ecosystem - thought to have been 130 million years in the making - is home to a staggering 8.8 million plant species, and rare creatures such as the orangutan, Bornean pygmy elephant, Spectacled Flowerpecker and sun bear. Those who are fortunate enough to step into this ancient landscape can explore nature trails, linger high in the treetops on a canopy walkway, get a closer look at the birds and wildlife, trek through the dense jungle, and enjoy a dip or two in the natural pools.
A visit to the Danum Valley is both a phenomenal experience and a humbling privilege, and we would encourage you to visit if you can. Choosing accommodation is very simple as there’s really only one option: the supremely isolated, but surprisingly luxurious, Borneo Rainforest Lodge. With the rainforest and its wildlife right on your doorstep, it’s the perfect place to rest your head between safaris. The lodge works tirelessly alongside partner organisations to preserve and protect the rainforest, and is committed to educating visitors and involving the wider community. Talk to our destination specialists about creating your tailor-made itinerary around the Danum Valley, and in the meantime peruse a few ideas to get you thinking about the rest of your trip…
Just a short flight from Kota Kinabalu, in one of Borneo’s most protected areas of rainforest and mangrove, you’ll find the world-renowned Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary. Famous for their exceptional conservation work with orphaned and injured orangutans, whom they care for with the aim of re-releasing into the wild, this is one place where you’re almost guaranteed to glimpse the ‘old man of the forest’.
The youngest orangutans can be seen in the sanctuary’s outdoor nursery, and twice a day the rangers spread food on special platforms to provide reliable sustenance for the older resident orangutans living wild in the reserve. You’ll find yourself eagerly scanning the forest for approaching flashes of orange fur! Feeding times at Sepilok generally attract a larger number of visitors, which can sometimes make things feel a little crowded. However, we always keep in mind that every visitor to Sepilok is helping to support the sanctuary’s work, as eco-tourism plays an essential role in keeping the orangutans’ habitat protected. This is a great jumping off point for exploring the many facets of Borneo’s amazingly diverse scenery and wildlife.
Ask anyone at Selective Asia what goes well with ‘rainforest’, and we guarantee you’ll get the answer ‘tropical beaches’. Borneo’s diverse coastlines provide the perfect balance to its dense, lush jungle. Contrast time spent high in the forest canopy with a few days contemplating another of nature’s great ecosystems, as you explore beneath the waves, spotting sea turtles, giant groupers and trigger fish along the way.
Choose a mainland beach for long, sweeping stretches of sand, or opt for the small but perfectly formed beaches of Gaya Island, just fifteen minutes by boat from Kota Kinabalu and within easy reach of the extraordinary coral reefs of Tunku Abdul Rahman National Marine Park. Follow one of our favourite Selective secrets by starting your trip on one kind of beach, either island or mainland, and ending it on another: the best of both. They’re all very accessible, meaning that (if the timings are right) you can go from a busy airport to a beautiful beach in just over an hour.
You can’t help but notice that Borneo is blessed with many other islands that we haven’t mentioned. Following security incidents in 2013-15, the UK’s FCDO has advised against all but essential travel to the islands off the coast of eastern Sabah from Kudat to Tawau, including Lankayan, Selingan, Mabul, Pom Pom, Kapalai, Litigan, Sipadan and Mataking. They also advise travellers visiting Sandakan to ‘take care’. This doesn’t mean that we can’t arrange for you to visit these islands, and many people still choose to go, but it’s imperative to seek advice from your travel insurers and to take this into consideration when booking.
A popular combination with many of our Borneo Specialists compliments your 2 night stay at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge perfectly by starting with 3 nights at the Rasa Ria, set on a fabulous bay just a short distance from Kota Kinabalu. Then 1 night at the Sepilok Nature Resort as a base for visiting the nearby orangutan sanctuary and other nearby wildlife focused interests before travelling to the Borneo Rainforest Lodge. Finish your trip with 3 nights back on the sands, this time on Gaya Island. This trip would cost £2,590US$2,890 per person (not including international flights).
How yours looks is up to you, our tailor-made specialists work with you to create your perfect journey.
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