Travellers will be arriving at different times during the day so feel free to arrive at the joining point at any time as there are no planned activities. The group meeting is normally set for 6pm on the day of arrival. Please check reception for a note from your leader.
Leaving Sarawak's Capital we transfer to Bako Pier and take a 30 minute boat trip up the coast to Bako National Park. Renowned for it's wildlife and secluded beauty, Bako is Sarawak's oldest National Park and is one of the best places to see the rare Proboscis Monkey. Situated on a promontory between the Bako and Sarawak Rivers, the park has a number of well marked trails ranging from short walks to strenuous day hikes, magical waterfalls and untouched beaches. Tonight we head out on a revealing guided night walk and drift off to sleep surrounded by nature in our National Park lodge.
We bid farewell to the cheeky Macaque Monkeys of Bako and return to Kuching where we transfer to the airport and our late morning flight to Mulu National Park. Sarawak's largest National Park, World Heritage Listed Gunung Mulu National Park is a wonderland of natural and geological marvels. Spanning 529 square kilometers and with peaks rising to 2376 meters, Mulu encompasses a huge variety of tropical ecosystems and is also home to an amazing network of limestone caves. Here we explore some of the world's largest caves and witness the incredible nightly phenomena, where literally millions of bats leave the entrance to Deer Cave (a 10km round-trip walk to/from HQ). Instead of carrying all of your luggage on the Headhunters Trail it is possible to send any excess luggage onwards to Limbang. If you wish to do this your leader can help you arrange this and the additional cargo service charge for this is approximately $4 per kilo (2.2lbs).
This morning we head off on our trek initially by longboat and then a 3 hour (9km) walk through the jungle until we reach Camp 5, our destination for the day, perched beside the picturesque Melinau river. On the way we get to explore Wind Cave and swim in the entrance to Clearwater Cave, among the longest cave systems in the world. The flora and fauna is spectacular in this area, with many species only found in certain local cave and jungle habitats. Camp 5 is a basic hut with only sleeping mats, dining area and bathroom facilities. After the days exertions the best place to cool off is amongst the rock pools in the river overlooking the impressive rock faces of the Gunung Benerat. Of an evening listen to the tranquil jungle choruses with the occasional bat swooping through the candle light, you will feel like you are a world away!
Today we pass through thick rainforest and trek 12km (about 3-4 hours) along the 'Headhunters Trail', famous for when Kayan war parties used to raid the peoples of the Limbang region. Boarding our local longboat we continue downriver to our overnight in a simple Iban long-house where we are treated as guests by our Iban hosts. The nature of the accommodation is very basic but the experience offers a unique insight into the Iban culture and way of life. Sleeping arrangements are communal, with a mattress and sheet on the floor. The Iban are considered quite shy and reserved people, but it's amazing how much is shared by quiet observation and mutual interest.
Heading off in narrow longboats today we continue to Medamit, then by mini-bus to Limbang where we check into our hotel for some well deserved relaxation. Limbang in northern Sarawak, is located between the two parts of Brunei. It's a small prosperous town which sits on the eastern bank of the Limbang River. A short walk along the river you'll find one of Charles Brook's forts, which is now a small museum exhibiting some interesting historical artifacts and some of the regional crafts and cultures. You might like to visit the Buak Buak Mud Baths or perhaps try some famous Limbang 'Ikan Tahai', a local smoked fish speciality.
This morning we depart Sarawak on the Royal Limbang # 1 Ferry to the Duty Free Island of Palau Labuan (90 mins). The afternoon is free to wander the town or head out to one of the neighboring uninhabited islands of the Labuan Marine Park; Palau Kuraman, Palau Rusukan Kecil or Palau Rusukan Besar, for some snorkeling or just relaxing on a pristine beach. Labuan also has some of the best Wreck Diving in Asia including ships from the Second World War, testament to the heavy fighting this area experienced.
Our Ferry to Sabah takes roughly 2 hours and upon arrival we are met by our private vehicle which will transfer us to Kota Kinabalu. The capital of Sabah is an intriguing city that was born between the wild jungles and the South China Sea. Having survived World War II bombings, KK now has a charm that can only be found in a frontier town. In your free time you can immerse yourself in history at the Sabah State Museum, visit the Monsopiad Cultural Village, home to a notorious head hunter, or explore the islands off-shore, excellent for swimming or snorkeling. Allow approximately USD15 for an island visit, although costs can vary depending on your negotiating skills, the time you wish to spend on the island and the number of people with whom you share a boat.
In the early morning we travel to the base of Mt Kinabalu by bus, approximately two and a half hours. Mt Kinabalu is the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea. Hopefully you'll catch a glimpse of the summit, which in the afternoon is often shrouded in cloud. The huge rock monolith looms over us as a daunting reminder of the climb we are about to embark on but don't be discouraged, it's a rewarding experience! We stay at the foot of the mountain, so there's the opportunity to stretch your legs by exploring the trails around the park, check out the Visitor Center or if you wish, do an optional trip to Ranau and Poring Hot Spings. There are some beautiful nature walks around the headquarters and at Poring Hot Springs, through lowland tropical forest on well marked trails. Alternatively you can relax for the afternoon and mentally prepare yourself whilst listening to the sounds of the jungle. In the evening we have a short briefing about tomorrows climb. If however, you do not wish to climb, you can arrange to stay at the base of the mountain.
We set off early to begin the ascent up Mt Kinabalu. It is not an easy walk, but it is incredibly rewarding, willpower being the main requirement as it's uphill all the way! The well-marked trail is predominantly made up of steep steps that vary considerably in size. Altitude can affect anyone, no matter how fit you are, and it can certainly slow you down a fair bit. There's no rush,the key to success with altitude is to drink plenty of water, take your time and enjoy the pristine environment. We leave our main packs in storage. Carrying just an overnight pack, you pass an extraordinary variety of plant life including fungi, mosses, lichen, varieties of orchids and several types of carnivorous pitcher plant. If you a very lucky you may even see Rafflesia, the worlds largest flower. The climb is 8km and usually takes between 5 and 7 hours. There are shelters along the way to stop for brief rests. We spend night 3 at Laban Rata in basic mountain huts. Laban Rata is at an altitude of 3,272m. Food and refreshments are available and you can normally rent towels and a sleeping bag for a nominal fee. It's an early night in order to prepare for the final climb very early tomorrow morning! Getting to the summit (4095.2m) from Laban Rata takes 2-3 hours. If for any reason, you are separated from your group higher on the mountain, there is a thick white rope all the way to the summit. If visibility is very low it may be necessary to hold onto the rope and follow it. The rope leads all the way from the vegetation belt above Panar Laban to the summit. The weather on the summit can deteriorate very quickly, with thick mist reducing visibility to 3m, rain storms and strong winds can also occur at times. When climbing on the summit and the higher part of the mountain, it's important to have sufficient warm clothes, a head torch, spare batteries, waterproof rain coat, food and water. During the descent we stop at our mountain hut before continuing to the park head quarters and returning to our accommodation for the night. The descent is tough on the knees and takes approximately 5-7 hours. A certificate is available to prove that you completed the climb - this can be arranged for RM10. You can for an additional charge hire a porter to carry your bag. The porters charge per weight.
We journey overland next by bus for around 6 hours to an area known as Sukau where we visit the Kinabatangang River. This is Sabah's longest river and home to an incredible variety of wildlife. We stay in the jungle and get to observe an vast array of insects, birds and animals in there native environments. Walking along jungle trails and travelling by boat along the river you regularly see kingfishers, hornbills, macaque, and proboscis monkeys. Very occasionally you may get lucky and see elephants, wild boar, otters, orang-utans and other reclusive species. Our accommodation tonight is in the midst of the jungle is simple but a wonderful experience, offering twin-sharing rooms with with fan and mosquito netting and attached bathroom. * Please note that the overnight stays of days 14 and 17 may swap on occasions, dependent on the availability of Selingan (Turtle) Island accommodation.
A 100km journey overland takes us to Sepilok where we visit Sepilok Orangutan Centre (approximately 5 hours). We pass through primary rainforest & Sabah's arable farming areas, which are predominately palm oil & rubber plantations. Sepilok is one of the highlights of the trip where you'll get to meet the adorable 'wild men of Borneo'. Orangutans and their human like features are a truly unforgettable experience. The Center is an excellent example of active conservation, re-introducing domesticated, injured and orphaned orangutans back into the wild. You'll visit one of the feeding platforms & there's a Visitor's Center where you can learn more about these amazing animals. There are walking trails where you can see not only orangutans, but several species of macaque & a host of other birds & wildlife roaming freely. (Please note there is an additional camera fee at the Center) It must be remembered the reserve is primarily set up to help re-introduce orangutans back into the wild after a life of domestication or having been orphaned. As we walk into the reserve to see the semi-wild orangutans it is essential that we follow the parks instructions. We are not permitted to interfere or touch the orangutans as human contact must be kept to a minimum.
Today we transfer to the jetty for a boat ride to Selingan (Turtle) Island Park. The journey to the island will take approximately 45 minutes to one hour. Upon arrival, register at Park Head Quarters before checking into your chalet. After lunch at the cafeteria, you are at your leisure; snorkel, swim, explore the island or simply relax on the beach. Enjoy a sumptuous dinner as the sun sets, then visit the Island Discovery Center to learn more about the life-cycles of these wondrous creatures as well as their history and threats to their existence. After this, wait for the rangers call to observe the Mother Turtle laying her eggs by the shore. Follow the rangers as they transfer the eggs to the hatchery, before heading back to the shore to witness the release of baby turtles to the open sea.
In the morning, we return to Sandakan, and visit the small but informative Memorial Museum on the site of a former Japanese POW camp which highlights Borneo's involvement during World War II, infamously remembered for the 'death marches'. We may have time to take in some of the sights of the city, go shopping & experience the hustle & bustle of the waterfront markets before transferring back to Kota Kinabalu by air (45min flight) where we have more time to explore the capital. On a clear day (depending on flight paths) you sometimes get to see Mt Kinabalu from the air!
You are free to depart at any time today.