Beautiful Borneo

Borneo, location: North of Java Island, Indonesia/Malaysia (depending on the region visited).
Famous for: Being home to one of the oldest rainforests in the World and of course to the critically endangered Orangutan as well as many other rare and endangered animal and reptile species and of course Turtles who nest there throughout the year.

When to go: It is best to travel between March and October, as it is drier, but this is a rainforest area and you should expect rain at any time, although it is generally heavy and brief. Conditions are generally hot and humid all year round. There is a huge area to explore and depending on where you go, you might want to research if there is a particular month that you are more likely too see what you want to see.
Cost: Always tricky as it really depends on what it is you want to see, where you want to go and how long for, but you can do a fairly comprehensive trip, including a few days at the beach for between £2,200 and £3,000 per person (based on 2 weeks, 2 people sharing). You can save a little money by spending less time in the five star beach resorts and enjoying more time in the jungle areas.
Flight time from the UK: There are a number of flight options, but you should allow a full days travel based on a pause in KL airport (where you can leave and explore if the stop is long enough) as well as flight times of 12+ hours. But trust me the trip is well worth it and the flights are well serviced and very comfortable.
Time difference: 7 hours ahead of the UK.

What you will see: This does depend very much on where you go, but if you head into the jungle in Sabah and Sarawak you are pretty much going to see: Proboscis Monkeys, Pygmy tree squirrels, Macaque monkeys, if you are lucky – Orangutan, Wrinkle lipped bats, fruit bats, Marroon Langur Monkeys, Hopefully Civets, and Bearded pigs. Possibly a Clouded Leopard, and even Sun bears. If you head into Danum Valley there is an altogether different and equally diverse wildlife, including: Mouse Deer, Slow Loris, Leaf Monkey, Flying squirrels and Pgymy Elephant. There are simply too many things to list and these are just on land!!

Detail: Well Borneo is a wannabe explorers dream, generally you get a dedicated guide who will travel with you as you move around the island, this was great as we didn’t need to travel with a group and we were able to tailor our days depending on what we wanted to see rather than what the group was being taken to see. I would definitely recommend having a dedicated guide and if your trip doesn’t provide one, ask.They are also a great way to learn about the various tribes and cultures on the island, their history and of course the slow eradication of the rainforest and what they are doing to protect it. The guides are passionate and knowledgeable and are keen to educate their guests as much as possible.

We started our trip in the mountains at Mt Kinabalu in Sabah, and then traveled through Sabah to Sarrawak. Our jungle time was 8 days in all and we both fell in love with it. The best location for wildlife, we found, was the Kinabatangan River. Here we stayed right on the rivers edge and were able to explore the jungle both on foot and by boat. We saw hornbills, and kingfishers, giant monitor Lizards and so many Monkeys, it was almost too much to take in. We also saw Orangutan nests, but were not fortunate enough to see them in the wild this time.

We spent 2 days by the river and I felt we could have spent more time here, so if you can, then do. You will not regret it. We then moved to the coast where we left the jungle behind for a while and spent an afternoon on an uninhabited island, courtesy of out fabulous guide Harry, who arranged this for us. It was our first truly relaxing day and so we thoroughly enjoyed it. We then went on to Liberan Island which is The Place to go to see Turtles, laying their eggs, learn about the conservation projects and then to see the release of turtle hatchlings. We were disappointed at the lack of respect shown by many tourists at this amazing Island but despite the tourism, they do great work and the tourism pays for much of it, so it is well worth going. You will need patience as the Turtles that lay here are wild and they do not conform to our timetable. They come ashore when they come ashore. The rangers watch them until they go into a self induced laying trance and then you are called to watch the process, which is truly breath taking. But beware, this could be a 2am call.

The turtle is left alone to finish her laying, while the rangers carefully remove the eggs to an incubation area, where the eggs are protected from predators such as monitor lizards and birds and when hatched are released immediately. There is no captive breeding here, just a helping hand to nature.

All in all there was only 1 place I did not enjoy on this trip and that was the ‘Poring Hot Springs’. It was very, very busy, with locals and tourists and far from the tranquility we had experienced elsewhere and there was litter all around, but if you can’t get an itinerary without it, you can walk away into the jungle behind the springs, where a well trodden path will lead you to a gorgeous waterfall. The walk is lovely and it’s a good excuse to get away from the crowds.

A beautiful preying mantis that joined us for dinner one night.
What to take:

• A lightweight waterproof coat
• A torch (electricity can be unpredicatble)
• Good lightweight walking shoes
• Leech socks if you have them although the guides will buy some for you if you don’t.
• Mosquito repellent at least 50% deet and even 100% deet to put onto clothes.
• A hat that can double as rainhat and sunhat.
• A waterproof rucksack or similar.
• Binoculars
• Water bottle (portable and preferably insulated)
• Lightweight clothing that dries easily
• Long sleeved tops and long trousers for jungle walks.
• Hand sanitising spray or wipes.
• Snorkelling gear if you head anywhere near the coast.
• A camera and plenty of memory cards

What to expect:

Don’t expect luxury, you are living out of a suitcase most of the time with one or two places at each lodge, the accommodation is basic but clean and what you are paying for is to be there in the thick of it and experience life in the jungle – the five star resorts are mainly beach side. Its really humid, so you will feel clammy most of the time in the jungle, hence the need for wipes or spray. It can be muddy, but well worth the grime. There are plenty of bugs, so insect repellent is a must.

Expect amazing and breathtaking experiences that you will carry with you for the rest of your life. The food is generally a fusion of oriental and Indonesian traditional meals, very tasty and not too spicy. There is always plain food, for those who have a delicate palette, but it is well worth trying it out as it is of a good standard throughout. Packed lunches are generally provided when you are out and about.

If you love wildlife, then you will love this trip, I guarantee it will bring out the adventurer in you.