Families 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, apart from our group meeting and dinner afterwards. Your leader will contact you about a meeting time on Day 1 (around 6pm) 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 of Kota Kinabalu, excellent for swimming or snorkeling. Allow approximately USD10 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 with.
Leaving Kota Kinabalu, we head south to our longhouse accommodation for the night. The Iban tribespeople, who have lived in this area for centuries, maintain many of their indigenous traditions here. Among these traditions is the feared practise of headhunting, although this practice appears to have disappeared. We spend the night with the Iban in the traditional longhouse. 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.
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.
It's a 2 hour drive today to get to Sandakan. Once we arrrive, we have time to explore the city at leisure. The second largest city on Sabah. Wander around the market or explore the Sam Sing Kung Temple, the oldest building in Sandakan.
Travel through primary rain forest & Sabah's arable farming areas, which is predominately palm oil & rubber plantations to Sepilok. One of the highlights of the trip, this is where you'll get to meet the adorable 'wild men of Borneo'. Orang-utans and their human like features are a truely unforgetable experience. The centre is an excellent example of active conservation, re-introducing domesticated, injured and orphaned orang-utans back into the wild. You'll visit one of the feeding platforms & there's a visitor centre 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. 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 orang-utans as human contact must be kept to a minimum.
On day 8 we get a flight back to Kota Kinabalu and on by road and boat out to the small island of Pulau Gaya. Formed after a volcanic eruption just over one hundred years ago, the island, which has magnificent coral reefs and a wide variety of terrestrial flora and fauna, is now part of a state marine park. There is plenty on offer for the more active family The snorkelling and diving opportunities are excellent and other activities such as sea-kayaking and fishing are also on offer. A network of marked trails provide the chance to discover the island’s wildlife from macaques and monitor lizards to rare birds such as the curious megapodes, hornbills and sea eagles. The morning is free to further explore the island, snorkel or simply relax on the beach. We will return to Kota Kinabalu in the afternoon and the rest of the day is yours to wander around town & check out the shopping possibilities.
We return to Kota Kinabalu this morning, where we say goodbye to our new found friends and head for home.