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Borneo - Secrets of Sabah

Borneo Cruise

Summary : Explore seldom visited and very remote islands to take advantage of the marine diversity that exists in the heart of the coral triangle. In addition, visit the key destinations of Sandakan and the Kinabatangan River. Described as Malaysia’s Gift to the Earth, the Kinabatangan is a wildlife mecca and you immerse deep within its beauty with an inclusive overnight stay in the rainforest lodges of Sukau. You will have the chance to view wild orangutans, proboscis monkeys, macaques, Bornean pygmy elephants and countless bird species as you journey along the river. Explore the tragic history of the WWII Sandakan Death Marches, where only 6 survived from the initial 6,000 participants. Your visit to Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary gives an insight into the plight, and struggle to save, one of your closest relatives.

Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Snorkeling


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Day 1
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia / Embark

Kota Kinabalu is the gateway to Borneo with regular flights to and from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Here is where you will embark your vessel.

Day 2
Pulau Labuan, Territory of Labuan

Pulau Labuan is a tiny island town off Sabah’s coast that was formerly known as Victoria Town. Today, it is a hub for duty-free goods and boasts some nice cultural touches and landmarks. Because of its proximity to Brunei, Labuan attracts many visitors as well as avid scuba divers for its rich marine life.

Activities for the visit will focus on the island's history during WWII. The included tour will visit the Commonwealth War Cemetery housing the graves of many Australian, Indian and other Commonwealth forces killed during the retaking of Labuan and other parts of the Borneo campaign. Also, visit the memorial peace park and "surrender point," the location where Japanese forces surrendered to the Commonwealth forces at the end of the war. Visit the Labuan Chimney, situated on a rise at Tanjung Kubong this famous ‘Chimney,’ is a high red brick stack believed to be possibly linked to the coal mining days of Labuan. The Chimney was made from more than 23,000 pieces of red bricks imported from England. The bricks layering and works are typical of British style. The ‘Chimney’ is still very much a mystery until today.

Day 3
Klias Wetlands, Sabah

Located about 75 miles from Kota Kinabalu on the Klias Peninsula are the Klias Wetlands, a Mangrove Forest Reserve rich with river wildlife and birds. Among the wildlife that can be spotted on a mangrove cruise on the Klias River are proboscis monkeys, long tail macaques, with some luck silver langurs and of course an amazing variety of birds. There will be no landings today, but still an amazing opportunity to explore the wetlands and spot wildlife exists from the fleet of Zodiacs. A variety of primates should present themselves today and the birdlife is significant as well, including herons and hornbills.

Day 4
Pulau Mantanani, Sabah

The Mantanani Islands are a group of three isolated islands northwest of Kota Belud. It was so isolated in fact that until recently, only a few locals knew the existence of the islands. If lucky, you may catch sight of the dugongs (sea cows) that frequent the waters around the island. The sheltered bays around the Mantanani Islands seem to provide the ideal habitats for dugongs. Sea grass beds are found on shallow sandy areas within the encircling fringing reef of the islands. The island boasts miles and miles of incredibly white sand beaches and crystal clear blue water. A small human population has caused minimal pollution and there is very little boat traffic.

The shallow coastline and fringing reef provides ideal snorkeling conditions. Enjoy the picturesque islands for the day with ample opportunity for swimming and snorkeling. A beach BBQ will take place to round the day on the beach. If all goes as planned, you may also receive a cultural performance from the local fishing village during the day.

Day 5
Kudat, Sabah

Kudat sits on the northern tip of Borneo having been founded in 1881 by the British North Borneo Company, and today has a population of just under 70,000 people. Many of these people belong to the Rungus people. As with most indigenous ethnic groups in Borneo, their culture revolves around rice; however, coconut and banana groves provide cash income. Women weave cloth on backstrap looms, and make containers from vine or beadwork. Many Rungus now work in town, and have abandoned the communal life of the longhouse for modern Malaysian society. Traditionally animist, with female shamans, most Rungus are now Christian.

Today, visit a Rungus Longhouse inland from Kudat. Considered one of the most traditional ethnic groups in Sabah, many Rungus still live in longhouses, with each family having its own separate quarters off a common hall. At the edge of the communal hall, a well-ventilated platform of split bamboo with outward sloping walls provides a place for socializing and communal work. The Rungus longhouse is quite different from others in the region, which are often perched on high stilts.

Day 6
Pulau Lankayan, Sabah

Lankayan and nearby Billian Island are small tropical coral islands in the Sulu Sea, northwest of the mainland of Borneo. These jewels in the ocean will provide great opportunities to explore the underwater world. The fauna that inhabit the waters of the island include scads, yellow tail barracudas, and jacks. Other fauna include blacktip sharks, giant clams, claw anemone fishes, decorator and spider crabs, coral shrimps, nudibranchs, prawn gobies, seahorses, ghost pipefish, flying gurnards, parrotfishes, rays and guitarfish. The indigenous plants include casuarina trees and pandan screwpine. Green and hawksbill sea turtles make this island a key nesting spot in the Salu Sea. The expedition team will run guided snorkel expeditions throughout the day.

Day 7

Sandakan is the second-largest city in Sabah, on the north-eastern coast of Borneo and was the former capital of British North Borneo. Sandakan provides you with the opportunity to visit Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary. Established in 1964 for rescue and rehabilitation of orphaned baby orangutans from logging sites, plantations, and illegal hunting it is located within the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve. The orphaned Orangutans are trained in the essential skills required for them to survive in the wild. The area is also infamous as the site of a World War II Japanese airfield, built by the forced labour of 6,000 Javanese civilians and Allied prisoners of war. In 1945, the surviving prisoners were sent on what became known as the Sandakan Death Marches; of which only 6 of them survived, all of whom escaped.

Day 8 – 9
Kinabatangan River

Beginning in the Crocker Range of Southwest Sabah, the Kinabatangan River meanders to the Sulu Sea in the east and sustains one of the world's richest ecosystems. It is Sabah’s longest river and has been described as Malaysia’s gift to the planet. It is one of the most exciting and easily accessible places to explore the condensed biodiversity of Sabah. From Kampung Abai near the river mouth to the major village of Sukau, the lower Kinabatangan offers an opportunity to see a large range of wildlife. Sightings of proboscis monkeys are common among the mangroves in the late afternoon, long-tailed and pig-tailed macaques are everywhere, and wild orangutans are also often seen, particularly nesting in the trees downstream. There’s a chance of seeing other mammals including deer, giant squirrels and the rare Bornean pygmy elephants. In fact the Kinabatangan River’s surrounding forest is one of only two known places in the world where 10 species of primates are found. All eight species of hornbill found in Borneo also make the area their home.

To fully appreciate the biodiversity of the region, spend two days exploring the river. You will overnight in the village of Sukau in the rainforest lodges. Activities will include morning, afternoon and night-time expeditions through the tributaries and oxbow lakes along the river, as well as an opportunity to visit the nearby Gomontang Caves.

Day 10
Pulau Mataking Kecil, Sabah

Mataking is in fact two islands connected by a sandbar. Mataking Besar (Big Mataking) has a small resort and a police station, Mataking Kecil (Small Mataking) also known as "offspring island" on the other end of the sand bar is a much smaller than its larger counterpart and has no buildings on it. Here on Mataking, you will be in the heart of the coral triangle with some amazing diversity in coral species. Powdery sand, crystal clear turquoise water, enchanting reefs and magical undersea paradise all combine for the makings of a great day.

Spend the day relaxing, swimming, and snorkeling in the waters off Mataking. Take a stroll down the sand bar to visit the larger island and its resort. The marine life is abundant and the snorkeling is some of the best anywhere in the world. Snorkel expeditions further off shore will be conducted by the expedition team today for the more advanced and adventurous snorkelers.

Day 11
Tawau, Malaysia / Disembark

Tawau is the third largest town in the state of Sabah. It is a relatively new town in Malaysia, boomed in early 1980s for its lumber and cocoa farming industry. Today Tawau is a bustling town where it is a transit point to the rest of the world and your farewell from this expedition.


Optional Excursions:
Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details on optional excursions including, but not limited to: Lankayan Scuba Dive, Sandakan City Tour, Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary, Malay Cooking Class, and Mataking Scuba Dive.

Accommodations onboard the ship; cruise transportation; all meals onboard; 24-hour room service; a range of shore excursions led by expedition team; entertainment and educational programs; use of ship's sporting equipment and facilities; port & handling charges; Zodiac excursions and tender transfers; access to the ship's library; govt. fees & taxes; services of crew.

Not Included:
Airfare; items of a personal nature, including but not limited to: travel and medical insurance; laundry charges; shopping onboard; bar expenses; hair dressing and massage treatments; optional shore experiences; medical treatment; telephone and Internet charges; gratuities for individual staff members (optional).

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