The next you could be standing, at sunset, in front of the mouth of a cave big enough to swallow St Paul’s Cathedral, watching in wonder as a vast river of two million bats streams past you into the darkening night sky. There is magic at every turn on your Ultimate Borneo vacation. From the Chinese temples of Kuching, to the expressive faces of the rescued orang-utans in the Semenggok Nature Reserve of Sarawak. From the caves of Mulu and the wildlife of Kinabatangan River and Danum Valley to the snow white beaches of Gaya Island.
London – Kuala Lumpur – Kuching
A morning or, alternatively, an overnight flight from London Heathrow takes you to Kuala Lumpur, where you’ll board your connecting flight to Kuching. This is a great start to your Ultimate Borneo holiday; you’ll be staying at the Hilton, in the perfect place to absorb the atmosphere of this remarkable riverside city, established by the White Rajahs of Sarawak.
Timeless Chinese temples, a colourful bazaar selling Bornean tribal wood carvings and authentic artefacts plus myriad local markets and stalls are all at your disposal. Likewise the museums – especially Sarawak Museum – and the sampan river taxis that will take you across the river to visit small Malay villages.
Stay: Two nights in a standard river view room at the Hilton Hotel.
Batang Ai Lake
Another ultimate experience follows quickly. Today you drive into the Semenggok Nature Reserve of Sarawak and meet the old man of the forest. This 740 acre reserve is famous for its orang-utans, supremely intelligent characters all of whom have been orphaned or rescued from captivity and now roam freely in a protected habitat.
After the orangs come tours of the charming market town of Serian, a pepper farm and the Chinese village of Lachau, before you arrive on the shores of Batang Ai Lake. You’ll take a traditional longboat across the lake to visit an authentic Iban longhouse, where you’ll be welcomed by families sounding gongs and performing age-old dances.
Stay: Two nights in a standard room at Aiman Batang Ai Resort.
Now a river and road journey takes you back to Kuching to prepare for the next stage of your trip.
Stay: One night in a standard river view room at Hilton Kuching.
Mulu Caves National Park
Prepare to be stunned. A flight from Kuching lands you in Mulu, close to the UNESCO-listed national park. Here you’ll ‘walk the plank’ – a wooden causeway that stretches through riverine and lowland limestone forests to Lang’s Cave, famous for its stalagmites and stalactites.
Next comes Deer Cave, featuring an arched gateway large enough to span St Paul’s Cathedral. The cave itself is vast with a moonscape interior that’s home to an estimated two million bats – all of whom come pouring out of the cave at sunset, on their way to their hunting grounds.
The next day your longboat lands you at Wind Cave with its King’s Chamber full of curious lace-like stalagmites. Nearby is Clearwater Cave featuring specially-adapted flora like orchids, carnivorous pitcher plants and photo-sensitive needle-pointed algae. You can also swim here in the shade of towering rainforest trees.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe room at Mulu Marriott Resort.
Time for a break. A short flight will take you to Kota Kinabula and on to Sandakan. Your luxury hotel overlooks the picturesque harbour and puts you in the heart of town, close to the waterfront and promenade.
Stay: One night in a deluxe sea view room at the Sheraton Sandakan.
Now you have another chance to say hello to one of the relatives at the Sepilok Orang-utan Rehabilitation Sanctuary. You can also stroll through the Tropical Lowland Dipterocarp Forest of Borneo and visit the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, before taking a wildlife-spotting voyage along Kinabatangan River to Sukau Rainforest Lodge.
Here you’ll be surrounded by natural rainforest; the unspoiled habitat of orang-utans, proboscis monkeys, Borneo pygmy elephants and huge numbers of exotic birds. Safaris to the oxbow lake will reveal even more wildlife, whilst a night safari will show you nocturnal animals, including river crocodiles.
Stay: Two nights in a superior room at Sukau Rainforest Lodge.
Your morning is spent on a fascinating overland trip to the Gomantong Caves – where the edible nests for Chinese bird’s nest soup are gathered – and on to Lahad Datu. Now you enter the Danum Valley and its huge area of virgin rainforest. For the next few days you’ll experience the thrills of tracking Borneo’s unique wildlife.
You’ll cross the forest canopy on a soaring suspension bridge and embark on night safaris to spot some of the country’s interesting nocturnal creatures. Knowledgeable guides will take you along secret jungle paths and show you the flora and fauna of the deep rainforest; you can go on night walk adventures, visit an ancient cliff face burial site and bathe in a crystal clear rock pool surrounded by jungle.
Stay: Three nights in a deluxe river view room at Borneo Rain Forest Lodge.
After roaming through the rainforest in search of Borneo’s mammals, it’s time to discover the country’s marine creatures off the coast of Kota Kinabalu. A short boat ride from the Jesselton Marina Jetty will sail you over to Gaya Island Resort – a glamorous speck of complete perfection surrounded by the Tunky Abdul Rahman Marine Park.
As well as excellent diving, snorkelling, bathing and lazing on an immaculate beach, your resort will also offer you the opportunity for land adventures; it stands close to an ancient rainforest with Mount Kinabalu on the horizon.
Stay: Three nights in a Kinabula sea view villa at Gaya Island Resort.
Kota Kimbalu – Kuala Lumpur – London
After a leisurely morning – time for a final swim and a stroll along the perfect beach – you’ll sail over to Kota Kinabalu to catch a plane to Kuala Lumpur and your connecting flight back to the UK, arriving at Heathrow early the next morning.