Whoops, looks like something went wrong. Please try again

Staff Stories: The rainforests and orangutans of Borneo

Uncover the lush forests and rare primates of the beautiful island of Borneo.


Borneo is an island home to the kind of natural beauty that many of us have never seen before — including 130-million-year-old rainforests and unique long-nosed monkeys. Our product executive Laura Baker recently had the chance to explore the stunning Southeast Asian island on our Borneo's Orangutans and Rainforest Adventure escorted holiday.

For our newest Staff Stories installation, she shares her day-to-day experience with us:

Day 1: from England to Asia

Our overnight flight from the UK to Kuala Lumpur was a long one – but we were delighted to finally land in Southeast Asia!

Day 2: settling into our new surrounds

Yesterday afternoon, after a long flight overnight via Kuala Lumpur, we arrived on the nature-filled island of Borneo. After Greenland and New Guinea, Borneo is the world’s third-largest island, known for orangutans, rainforests, and the looming Mount Kinabalu.

After landing, we were transferred to the Sabah Hotel and had the rest of the afternoon to rest and relax before a welcome dinner at the hotel. It was a great opportunity to interact with the rest of the group and get to know everyone.

Day 3: the pot-bellied monkeys of Borneo

Our first stop of the day today was to the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary where we arrived just in time for feeding. This privately-owned reserve gave us the opportunity to observe the unique Proboscis monkeys which are known for their dangling noses and pot bellies. Proboscis monkeys are a unique species endemic to Borneo. Meaning they’re only native to this area. Spotting these monkeys is one of the best experiences to try in Borneo.

After an included lunch at a local restaurant, we continued on to the nearby Rainforest Discovery Centre. Here you can climb right up into the tree canopies to view the huge variety of plants and wildlife on offer — it was stunning and a great way to get a sense of the biodiversity for which the island is famous.

We will be taken back to the Rainforest Discovery Centre again tonight for the optional night walk in search of some of the more nocturnal wildlife.

Day 4: it’s orangutan hour

Today was definitely a highlight of the tour. We checked out of the Sabah hotel this morning and made our way to the Sepilok. Sepilok is a tiny town in Sabah, that is around 16 miles from Sandakan, the second-largest town in Sabah.

At Sepilok orangutan rehabilitation centre, orphaned orangutans are rehabilitated to become wild in their natural habitat. We arrived for feeding time and it really was amazing to see the orangutans gathering to feast.

At Sepilok, we also visited the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre to see the smallest bears in the world. They were so cute.

After lunch, we made the two-hour drive to the Natural Bilit Resort on the Kinabatangan river. You truly are at one with nature here, as it is right on the banks of the river and is surrounded by greenery. We enjoyed an afternoon boat cruise along the river where we were able to spot monkeys swinging from the trees and countless birdlife. 

Day 5: planting the seed

It was an early start this morning for our second included cruise along the river to spot more wildlife and again we were not left disappointed. Plenty more monkeys and birds to see and this time we were lucky enough to spot a baby crocodile. It can be challenging to spot these creatures around this time of the year due to the high water levels on the river.

We enjoyed a walk through the rainforest this afternoon where we all had the chance to plant our own trees.

A third and final river cruise was included this evening where we spotted an orangutan up in the trees. This was genuinely so special to see in the wild.

Day 6: time for tea

Today we journey five hours up into the tea plantations to the Sabah Tea Resort — Borneo’s only organic tea farm which features a tea garden and recreational activities including obstacle courses, hiking, and night walks. We arrived this afternoon and had the afternoon free to explore the plantations and admire the incredible views.

Day 7: setting off for new heights

This morning started with a guided tour of the tea plantation where we learnt how raw tea leaves are processed and packed here at Sabah Tea. We then continued to Hot Springs at Poring. Here we started off with a climb up to the jungle canopy walkway. Think I’m a celebrity swinging rope bridges. This was 40 metres above the ground, so not for the faint-hearted! All in all, it was incredibly fun.

After an included lunch of local delicacies, we have a couple of hours to explore Poring — a small tourist resort near Kinabalu National Park — on our own. Some of our customers enjoyed the hot springs… We opted for a walk around the butterfly farm then took the walk up to the waterfall for a swim. The perfect way to cool down after another fantastic day. It was then back to Sabah Tea Resort for our second night.

Day 8: to the sea

We departed Sabah Tea Resort and headed up into the mountains and to Kinabalu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to over 5000 species of plants. We joined our guide for a nature trail where we learnt more about the different vegetation and plants. We also enjoyed a walk around the Botanical Garden where we could take a closer look at the various flowers and plants.

After lunch at Kinabalu, which overlooked the jungle, we continued for two hours to the coast and the Shangri La Rasa Ria Resort at Kota Kinabalu. The last four nights are spent here…. The perfect way to relax and rejuvenate after a busy week exploring the rivers and rainforests. It’s a beautiful hotel overlooking the sea and set within the rainforest. 

Although some may choose to simply relax and enjoy the beach and the hotel facilities there are still plenty of activities on offer here. Jungle walks, wildlife tours and trips to local markets are just a few — all bookable directly through the hotel.

Newmarket Holidays offers an optional Mari Mari Cultural Village excursion on Day 9. The Mari Mari Village is set amongst a tropical fruit orchard with a bubbling river flowing through the middle of it. Here you are taken back in time to the days of the head hunters. The guide takes you around the various houses and shows you demonstrations using bamboo to make blowpipes as well as giving you the opportunity to partake in traditional tribal games. We had the chance to try some of the local delicacies cooked in bamboo as well as herbal drinks and rice wine. The visit ended with traditional dancing which everyone really enjoyed.

If you are excited by the idea of meeting orangutans and venturing into the jungle, check out our upcoming Borneo tours and prepare for the adventure of a lifetime.