Borneo In-Depth (3 weeks)

This itinerary includes both Sabah and Sarawak and allows you to travel at a relaxed pace, gaining an in-depth experience of the island with time on the beach. As with our two-week suggested itinerary, you explore with a driver guide and an itinerary similar to this one can be adapted for children of all ages.


  Spot proboscis monkeys in Bako
  Caves and canopy walk at Mulu
  Visit two orangutan sanctuaries
  Learn about head-hunter culture
  Spot turtles on Selingan Island

21 days from £4,500 pp

Plus international flights from £1,000

A three-week holiday in Borneo for a family of four usually costs £18,000 plus flights depending on the type of accommodation used.

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Borneo In-Depth (3 weeks) day-to-day itinerary

Day 1 Kuching – Damai
Upon arrival at the airport you will be met by a Stubborn Mule Travel representative and taken to your hotel on the beach. The rest of the day is free for you to relax.

Day 2 Damai
This morning you will take a small boat into the Damai River estuary to look for the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin. Although sightings are not guaranteed, the beautiful mangrove forests, shallow coastal waters and river estuaries are one of the best places in Sarawak for sightings.

This afternoon you can either relax on the beach or we can arrange a visit to the Sarawak Cultural Village.

Day 3 Damai – Semenggoh – Batang Ai Longhouse
After breakfast, visit the Semenggoh Orangutan Sanctuary, the biggest rehabilitation centre in Sarawak. It is home to many injured or orphaned orangutans as well as those that have been confiscated from owners keeping them as pets.

The orangutans are fed between 9am and 10am so you will arrive in time to witness this from the viewing platform. Please note that the animals roam wild within the reserve, which is quite extensive,. As a result, although you are extremely likely to see orangutans at feeding time, this cannot be guaranteed. Many of the more confident animals are able to forage for themselves in the forest and do not relying on the feeding.

From here continue by vehicle and boat to Batang Ai, where you will spend two nights in a resort. (If you prefer to stay in an Iban longhouse, this can also be arranged but the accommodation is very simple).

Day 4 Batang Ai
You will spend today learning about Sarawak head-hunter culture, with a visit to a traditional Iban Longhouse. The children will particularly enjoy learning how to use the blowpipe, the traditional head-hunter weapon. There will also be a performance by the local villagers of their traditional war dance. Although this is performed for tourists we find that children are fascinated by this experience.

Day 5 Batang Ai – Kuching
After a leisurely breakfast you will be transferred back to Kuching. The afternoon is free to relax or perhaps take a stroll along the waterfront. If you are interested we can arrange a sunset cruise along the Sarawak River for a great panoramic view of the city.

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Day 6 Kuching
Spend the day visiting Bako National Park, the smallest but oldest of Sarawak’s national parks. It is located on the coast in a particularly picturesque area of lush mangroves, thick jungle, secluded beaches and sharp rocky outcrops. The park is home to a wide variety of wildlife including monitor lizards, wild boar and the rare proboscis monkey. You may also see the insectivorous pitcher plant.

During the day you will explore the park by boat and on foot.

Day 7 Kuching – Mulu National Park
After breakfast take a short flight to Mulu National Park. This vast national park is a World Heritage Area and undoubtedly one of the highlights of Borneo. It is home to ancient tropical rainforest, huge limestone cave systems, strange rocky pinnacles, cascading crystal-clear rivers and deep gorges. The views throughout are absolutely spectacular.

In the afternoon head to the Deer Cave, the longest cave passage in the world, and follow a trail through the cave. Overhead you will catch a glimpse of more than 3 million wrinkle lipped bats that make the cave their home. As the dusk settles, the bats all fly out of the cave in search of water and food, an impressive spectacle to watch.

You will also see Lang’s Cave, a smaller but beautiful cave where the bats are closer and you will be able to see them clearly. 

Day 8 Mulu
In the morning take a longtail boat to the source of the Clearwater River and visit the Cave of Winds with its slender stalagmites and stalactites. You will have a picnic lunch and there is also the chance to swim in the river as it exits the cave.

This evening, take a nocturnal guided walk to immerse yourself in the night sounds of the rainforest. As you quietly move through the forest, you will hope to see animals that emerge in the darkness when they are safe from predators. You will also see flickering fireflies and luminescent fungi. Be amazed by the thousands of insects of amazing shapes and colours that are attracted to the lights.

Day 9 Mulu – Kinabalu Homestay
This morning follow the 480m long ‘Canopy Skywalk’, the world’s longest tree based canopy walk. This takes you high into the jungle canopy where you can see a wealth of butterflies, huge insects and lush ferns.

Later board a flight to Kota Kinabalu. From here head into the foothills of Mount Kinabalu to a small village homestay. Accessed via a bumpy track, the village is not visited by many tourists and will give the children a unique insight into the way of life in rural Borneo.

The accommodation is simple (although very clean) but the village is in the most stunning location with incredible views towards the mountains. There is a river running through the valley just below the village. Here you can swim, have a picnic and clamber over the boulders. There are also the most wonderful walks in the valley of varying durations, including a two hour walk (each way) to a waterfall where you can take an ‘open air shower’ in the pool at the base of the falls

You can join your host family to help with the cooking, perhaps making spring rolls with the children, and can also learn how to make animal traps or head into the fields to see how to tap rubber or plant rice depending on the season.

NOTE: If you are interested, we can arrange for you to climb Mt Kinabalu instead of staying in the village homestay. See our blog on climbing Mt Kinabalu with kids for more details.

Day 10 Kinabalu Homestay
A full day at the homestay to explore, go hiking, have a picnic at the river, swim and generally enjoy life in the village.

You spend a second night at the homestay.

Day 11 Kinabalu National Park – Kinabatangan River
Drive to Kinabalu National Park where you will follow the botanical trail through the lowland rainforest of the park. There is an abundance of wildlife around so keep your eyes peeled for deer, snakes and birds as well as the insectivorous pitcher plants. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and there are stunning views towards Mount Kinabalu.

From here you drive through rural Borneo to Bilit on the east coast of Sabah. The drive takes around 4-5 hours but you can stop along the way to stretch your legs.

Spend two nights in a wonderful rainforest lodge on the edge of the Kinabatangan River, in the heart of one of the richest eco-systems on the planet. In the afternoon you will start to explore the jungle on foot and by boat.

Day 12 Kinabatangan River
Rise early for a dawn boat ride to the ox-bow lake (a crescent shaped lake that lies alongside the river). It is wonderfully atmospheric to see the sun rise over the river as the morning mists gently clear. Keep your eyes peeled for the animals that come to the banks to drink. Both wild orangutans and pygmy elephants are frequently seen in this area.

If you are interested, you can take an afternoon walk through the jungle with a guide. Later take a second river cruise. With luck you will be able to see proboscis monkeys playing in the trees on each side of the river as well as kingfishers, hornbills and a wide variety of other birds.

Day 13 Sepilok
After breakfast drive to Sepilok where you visit the Sepilok orangutan sanctuary. This is a world-renowned centre for rehabilitating orangutans that have been rescued from captivity or displaced by logging activities. The animals are kept here for up to seven years until they are fit for release back into their natural habitat. The children will be entranced watching the baby orangutans as they swing on the climbing frame and munch their way through a bunch of bananas.

The afternoon is free to relax.

Day 14 Sepilok
A free morning at your hotel. If you are interested you could return to the orangutan sanctuary for a second visit.

In the afternoon visit the Rainforest Discovery Centre. Here you follow nature trails through the reserve and can walk along a 147m walkway through the forest canopy. This offers stunning views of the huge trees that make up much of the rainforest. There are also a wide variety of bird species so keep your eyes peeled. You will also visit a sun bear sanctuary.

Day 15 Sandakan
A free morning to relax or visit the orangutan sanctuary again. At lunchtime drive to Sandakan and have a walk through Sim Sim village where all the houses are built on stilts over the water.

In the afternoon take a firefly tour off the coast of Sandakan. This starts with a boat journey to a nearby island, which you can explore. After stopping for tea with the village headman you continue by boat through the mangroves where there are good chances to see proboscis monkeys. After it gets dark, lots of fireflies come out and ‘dance’ over the river. You then return to the mainland and can get dropped at a local (but fabulous) seafood restaurant. 

Day 16 Sandakan – Selingan
After breakfast take the boat to Selingan Island. The afternoon is free to enjoy the beach or perhaps go snorkelling.

Later you have ‘turtle time’ during which you watch a mother turtle laying eggs and then see some of the newly hatched baby turtles being released into the sea. The exact programme depends on what the turtles are doing and when they come ashore – this could at any time of night.

The British FCO are currently advising against travel to some of the islands off the east coast of Borneo. Please discuss this with us at the time of booking.

Day 17 Selingan – Beach
Today you will return to the mainland take a short flight to Kota Kinabalu.

There are many beach resorts you could choose from for your four nights on the beach. Perhaps stay in a simple lodge on Pulao Tiga or alternatively treat yourselves to a few nights at somewhere more upscale like the Bunga Raya or the Rasa Ria. We will be able to advise what will suit your family.

Days 18-20 Beach
Three full days to relax and enjoy the beach. Find a quiet spot and laze in a hammock, sip a cocktail, have a swim and drink in the views.

Day 21 Kota Kinabalu
Transfer back to Kota Kinabalu for your flight home.

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01728 752751

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