Borneo: Wildlife Lover’s Paradise


Be with Nature in Borneo, A Wildlife Lover’s Paradise in Malaysia

By Hannah Monahan

Orangutan in Borneo. photos: Aqua-Firma.
Orangutan in Borneo. photos: Aqua-Firm

Meet our closest relatives, the Bornean Orangutan. The impressive apes are what makes the world’s third-largest island of Borneo famous, and seeing them in their natural habitat is an experience like none other.

But that’s not all that can be seen on the island. Boasting inhabitants of 222 different species of mammals, and 620 species of birds, as well as one of the world’s most diverse coral reefs, Borneo is a wildlife enthusiast’s dream.

Aqua-Firma is a tour company that creates personalized itineraries for trips to Borneo, whether you’re an avid birdwatcher, love exotic marine life, or want to see the large game animals of the island.

The company has extensive experience working in Borneo and work with country experts, guidebook writers, and marine scientists to bring guest the best wildlife viewing experience on the island.

You can pick the tours you want to go on and the type of animals you would like to see. Aqua-Firma managers will create an amazing trip based on you and your families needs. Their personalized itineraries are packed with the best wildlife experiences Borneo has to offer.

Wildlife, Rivers, and Islands

Day 1
Today you arrive in Kota Kinabalu, a city on the northwest coast of Borneo. It is one of the fastest-growing cities in Malaysia and is a very popular tourist destination. You’ll be staying at the Jesselton Hotel. In the middle of the cities busiest street, Jesselton Hotel is elegant and serene. It’s perfect for a night’s rest from a long day of travel.

Day 2
Explore Kota Kinabalu today. Step out the doors of the Jesselton Hotel and you’re right on the busiest street of the city, Gaya Street. If you happen to be here on a Sunday check out the Gaya Street Sunday Markets. Old businesses passed from generation to generation line the street.

You will find fruits, flowers, arts and crafts, footwear, herbs, and even pets at the market. It’s a great stop for people looking for authentic Bornean souvenirs.

Amazing bluebird in Borneo.
Borneo is a birdwatcher’s paradise!

If you’re looking to see more of the natural beauty of Malaysia, you can sign up for guided tours of the Gaya and Manukan Islands in the Tunku Abdul Marine Park.

The park consists of five islands off the coast of Kota Kinabalu. The islands were formed in the ice age when rock and sediment were scraped away leaving the small islands.

Ferries from the city take passengers to the islands daily where you can go to the beach and swim in the clearest of water. This guided trip costs £59 extra. Snorkel and see the hammerhead sharks that congregate around the island.

“Barracuda Point at Sipadan felt like being part of the ‘Blue Planet’ series,” say travelers Holly and Adam Broughton from the UK. “You’ré so close to wildlife and marine life on this Borneo Trip is almost seems unreal.”

If you want adventure today, you could go white water rafting on the Padas River. The river is the longest rafting route in Borneo and has been rated as having some of the best and safest rapids in South East Asia. Suitable for ages twelve and up, you can bring your whole family. But don’t let the cutesy rapid names like Scooby-Doo fool you, these rapids are adrenaline pumping for sure. This excursion costs and extra £69, but is well worth the fun.

Day 3
Today you will say goodbye to Kota Kinabalu and take a flight to Sandakan early in the morning. Sandakan is on the northwest coast of Borneo and is steeped in history. Here is the Sandakan airport, the infamous site of the World War II Japanese airfield. It is now known as the gateway to ecotourism.

Turtle Island, Borneo.
Turtle Island, Borneo.

Upon arrival, you will go to the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve where you will be staying in a rainforest lodge.

Check-in and that afternoon you will visit the Sabah Forestry Department’s Rainforest Discovery Center. You will learn here conservation practices and different sustainable uses of the natural resources of the rainforest.

At night take a guided night walk and see the nocturnal wildlife of the reservation land.

Day 4

Today you will take a speedboat to Selingan Island and the Turtle Islands National Park. The island is one of three islands that make up Turtle Island aptly named for the many green turtles that choose these beaches to lay their eggs. During the day you will swim snorkel and relax on the beautiful beaches, and then return to your chalet on the island.

Later that evening you will be called by a guide to the beach to observe one turtle laying their eggs. Little known is that turtles lay their eggs at night to avoid being seen by prey. Quietly, so not to disturb very skittish turtles, you will see the turtle lay her eggs and then walk back into the ocean. The eggs are then collected and brought to an incubation site in the reservation to hatch.

Day 5

Returning to the mainland you will visit the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre at Sepilok. The center is where orangutans that have been orphaned or injured learn to live once more in their natural environment. These primates are extremely endangered so the Sepilok center is working to maintain what little population there is in Borneo.

You will observe the morning feeding of the apes and then continue to your next destination by boat. On the journey, you will explore the Kinabatangan River. Mangroves, wetlands, and rainforests are the habitats you will see. You will arrive at an award-winning rainforest lodge that night.

Mud Volcano at Tabin Reserve, Borneo.
Mud Volcano at Tabin Reserve, Borneo

Day 6
Safari through the Kinabatangan Delta today and view the diverse wildlife such as primates, salt-water crocodiles, hornbills and pygmy elephants. A new program Aqua-Firma is offering is a choice of going on an Orangutan safari.

A newly discovered orangutan population that is largely unstudied lives in the area west of the Kinabatangan River. You will do an extensive safari and study the animals during the day. And as evening turns the night you can view the thousands of bats that leave the Gomantong Caves every dusk.

Day 7-8
Travel to the Gomantong Caves again today for a daylight viewing of the limestone outcrop. And later you will continue to the Tabin Wildlife Reserve. Hundreds of species of birds inhabit the Tabin Wildlife Reserve and you will be well informed by your expert guides.

There is an array of birds that inhabit Borneo, from the gaudy and lavishly colored bird such as the Wrinkled hornbills to the species primarily found in Borneo like the Whitehead Spider Hunter.

One relaxing feature of the Tabin Wildlife Reserves are the mineral mud volcanoes and salts springs where you can pamper your skin. Immerse yourself in the mud, sit back, and enjoy your time before a possible summit climb in the coming days.

Day 9

Today you will fly back to Kota Kinabalu after your trek through the rainforest on your last tour of the Tabin Reserve. A guide will meet you at the airport and bring you back to the Jesselton hotel for some rest and relaxation.

cave entrance
Entrance to Gomantong Caves. photo by Wong Chun Xing

“It was a truly magnificent environment and we felt very lucky indeed to be there. To be in such a beautiful hotel after the jungle was a bit of a shock to the system and the luxury was very welcome indeed!” said Allison Thomas who enjoyed her treks through the jungle as much as her stay in luxurious Jesselton.

Days 10-11

The UNESCO World Heritage Site at Kinabalu National Park holds and an array of flora and fauna. You will marvel at the extensive canopy walkway system at the park.

You will stay here in an overnight lodge and explore the grounds at your liking. And on the eleventh day head back to Jesselton.

Want More?

If you wish to extend your travel, on the eleventh day you will ascend to the summit of Mount Kinabalu. It is the 20th highest peak in the world and the largest in Borneo. Along the Mesilau Trail you will see many different types of wildlife and vegetation.

You will overnight at the mountain rest house and the next day return to Kota Kinabalu to recover overnight at the Jesselton Hotel before your departure tomorrow.

Hannah Monahan is a writer in Boston, MA. 

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