Borneo – World’s Third Largest Island

Since I watched BBC’s famous documentary ‘’Attenborough: 60 Years in the Wild’’ it was my dream to visit Borneo Island. I am quite inspired by Sir David Attenborough & moved by his wildlife documentaries over the years. My favorite of all his wildlife documentaries is ”Attenborough: 60 Years in the Wild’’ that showcases Attenborough’s journey, his passion for wildlife conservation and his highlights of natural history film making for past 60 years. The documentary is divided in three parts and the first part starts with Attenborough taking a boat ride on River Kinabatangan capturing the pictures of Proboscis monkeys playing on the trees. That scene set my mind to visit Borneo Island once in my lifetime.

It was June 2017 when I finally had the opportunity to visit both the states of Malaysian Borneo (or East Malaysia) that is Sarawak & Sabah.

Now let me take you to a virtual journey through Malaysian Borneo. Here is my day to day itinerary and experience that I am so happy to share with you.

Kuching – Batang Ai – Kuching – Bako – Kuching – Kota Kinabalu – Sandakan – Sukau – Sandakan

Day 01: I arrived at Kuching Airport in the morning and got transferred to my Hotel. I stayed in Riverside Majestic Hotel which was a wonderful 4* Hotel with walking distance to Sarawak riverfront.

After some rest it was time for Kuching sightseeing to see its famous attractions. For me the highlight of the city tour turned out to be Fort Margherita. Fort Margherita was built in 1879 to guard Kuching’s river approaches from pirates. Named after Charles Brooke’s wife, Ranee Margaret, it is an extremely interesting building. I definitely suggest everyone to visit it while staying in Kuching.

A picture of Fort Margherita (in Kuching) from its boundary wall

I learnt that Kuching is city of Cats so its nicknamed ‘’Cat City’’. I could see statues, paintings and pictures of Cats everywhere in Kuching city and people of Kuching loves Cat.

In the evening I went for a quiet stroll along the Sarawak riverside and had dinner at one of the riverside restaurant with perfect outdoor sitting with views of River. I remember chatting about Bollywood and India with the restaurant owner.

A refreshing evening stroll along the Sarakwak riverfront

Day 02: Next morning I visited Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Center that is located about 22 km from Kuching. This tour provides an opportunity of a lifetime to observe how Orangutans are being rehabilitated and trained to fend for themselves before being released into the wild.

A visit to Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
Spotted a playful Orangutan hopping on to branches

Thereafter it was time for an overnight trip to Batang Ai National Park. It was 04 hours drive through dense jungles to Bantang Ai jetty and then took one hour boat to Aiman Batang Ai Resort pier. The weather was really cool here and some drizzle on my way. It was an ideal weather for boat ride and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

A cool weather on arrival Batang Ai pier

On arrival at Aiman Batang Ai Resort I was really overwhelmed by the construction style and outlook of Resort. The Resort was lavish and wide spread with fully built in wooden structure and rooming was inspired by Longhouse style of housing used by Iban people of Sarawak.

The gorgeous view of Aiman Batang Ai Resort pier
An aerial view of Aiman Batang Ai Resort with Lake in the background
Rooms were inspired by Longhouse style of housing used by Iban people of Sarawak
The entrance view of Aiman Batang Ai Resort

The Resort has an amazing Pool and I could not stop myself to dive into it. After enjoying in Pool for more than one hour it was time to go back to Room and rest.

That great feeling when whole Pool belongs to you

Day 03: This morning it was time to take a traditional longboat to the Iban longhouse. A longhouse is a wooden structure built on stilts, with one side sectioned off into a row of separate family rooms and the other used an open social area and meeting space. If another Iban native or family arrives to join the community then the house is simply elongated to accommodate them, hence its name. On arrival I was welcomed by the natives, It was a unique feeling to see how a community lives together in one big longhouse. I took the tour of the longhouse by myself and watched the natives at work such as making mats, baskets, handicrafts and mending fish nets. Today I experienced an Indigenous Iban Life and culture of Sarawak people. I also enjoyed a cultural performance done by locals to entertain us. Certainly it was a true & authentic local experience. I would admit that this was once in a lifetime special moments of cultural immersion for me and definitely recommend everyone to do it.

Time to say goodbye to the local staff of Resort who help guests in transportation
A magnificent view of Lake as seen from Longhouse. I wish I can jump into it
A view of Longhouse where all families spent time together
So happy to distribute gifts and snacks to children living in Longhouse
A cultural performance done by Iban people to entertain us

This overnight trip to Batang Ai gave me a raw and honest insight into the tribal traditions that still exist on the island.

A deep thanks to our guide Hamzah for giving an insight into Iban tribe

Later it was time to return to Kuching on our 04 hours drive.

Day 04: Today it was time for a day trip to Bako National Park. It was a 45-minute drive to Bako Fishing Village.  On arrival I took a boat ride for 30-minute cruise along the coast to reach Bako National Park.  I visit the Park’s information Centre, followed the trails in search of Proboscis monkeys and other wildlife. Overall it was a wonderful experience where I also visited many fishing villages located within Kuching Wetlands National Park. Took cruise along the mangrove river towards the South China Sea in search of the elusive Irrawaddy dolphins (unfortunately could not see them). The mangrove forests will certainly mesmerize you during this cruise.

Here we arrive at Bako fishing village and so excited for our ferry ride
Standing next to huge trunk of tree in Bako National Park

Later I returned to Kuching and stayed in Damai Beach Resort. The amazing Resort is located on beach with sprawling coconut plantations all over the Resort area. Do not miss to get a coconut drink here.

In the evening again I made sure to enjoy pool time in the huge beach swimming pool with mountain views in the background.

Its time to jump and relax into the Pool

Day 05: Today I took flight from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu to enter into Sabah state of Malaysia. On arrival I checked in to 5* luxury Hilton Hotel in Kota Kinabalu.

In the late afternoon I visited Mari Mari cultural village located deep in the countryside away from the modern and developing Kota Kinabalu city. The village operates as a museum that preserves Borneo ethnic culture. It aims to share the knowledge, history, culture, and tradition of Borneo with you so that it is not forgotten. Here I had great insight into how indigenous people of Sabah lived in olden days.

A traditional hut used by Sabah tribes in olden days for accommodation

Later it was time to return to Hotel.

Day 06: This morning it was time for Kota Kinabalu city tour. I thoroughly enjoyed the different sites like Sabah foundation building, Sabah state museum and passed by Sabah Floating Mosque – this resplendent structure is a spectacular sight that is surrounded by a man made lake. I also observed a bird’s eye view of Kota Kinabalu from Signal Hill.

In the late afternoon it was time for evening sunset cruise to Manukan Island Resort. The cruise was certainly one of the highlight of this trip. I had few glasses of red wine with snacks during cruise. The weather was pleasant with cool breeze throughout the ride and enjoyed the sunset views. On arrival at the Island I realized how spectacular the surrounding was with its pristine flora, crystal clear & white sandy beaches and coconut plantations all over the place. The dinner was really special with loud music and good quality Indian food. It was a private Island Resort with its own private beach. The Resort was wide spread and quite spacious to spend some quality and peaceful time.

Enjoying the cool breeze with gorgeous views of the Ocean from the deck of Luxury Yacht
Eye catching sandy beaches on Manukan Island

After dinner it was time to say good bye to this spectacular island and return to Kota Kinabalu city.

Day 07: This morning I took flight to Sandakan. On arrival at Sandakan Airport I straightaway made a visit to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation centre. The centre was founded in 1964 to rehabilitate orphaned orangutans. Today around 60 to 80 orangutans are living free in the reserve. The facility provides medical care for orphaned and confiscated orangutans as well as dozens of other wildlife species. Some of the other animals which have been treated at the centre include sun bears, gibbons, and elephants.

A group photo on our arrival at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation centre

In the same premises I also visited Bornean Sun Beach Conservation centre where I learnt about conservation of the world’s smallest bear.

After lunch, I took to ferry from Sandakan jetty to Sukau. It was an amazing and refreshing 2½ hours boat journey on Sabah’s longest river called Kinabatangan River. On the way I had opportunity to view birds and wildlife.

Taking a speed boat ride from Sandakan to Sukau on Kinabatangan River

On arrival in Sukau I checked into Borneo Nature Lodge that was located on the banks of Kinabatangan River. It was an eco friendly Resort with comfortable accommodation. Later I went to the Rivberbank to cherish some amazing views of the might Kinabatangan River. The River looked quite dangerous as it pretty muddy with rich sediments and fresh rainwater.

I was lucky to get this picture on riverside with the help of Resort staff

In the evening I had early dinner and was time to take rest.

Day 08: This morning I took a motor boat ride on the Kinabatangan River to Kelenanap oxbow lake to view birds and wildlife. I was lucky to witness troop of Proboscis monkeys at different spots, Hornbill, Pygmy Elephants and different species of birds. The morning cruise was certainly an exhilarating experience where I had a unique wildlife experience and cherished some true Bornean insights. Taking a River cruise on Kinabatangan River was certainly a dream come true for me.

A picture of an Alpha male Proboscis monkey hiding behind the leaves
A herd of Pygmy Elephants walking on the riverside as seen from our boat

Later I was taken to visit world famous Sukau Rainforest Lodge which is listed under “National Geographic – Unique Lodges of the World’’. This is certainly the best Lodge in Sukau and I recommend everyone to stay in this Lodge while in Sukau. During this visit I was very sure that Sir David Attenborough must have stayed in this Lodge when he made 60 Years in the Wild wildlife series and soon after I could see a Room  umber 17 and it was his name below on the door ‘’Sir David Attenborough’’. This moment brought wide smile and contentment on my face reminding me the reason I came to Borneo. It was the last day in Borneo and I was truly filled with joy and happiness.

A view of Sukau Rainforest Lodge as seen from our boat
Sukau Rainforest Lodge is listed under “National Geographic – Unique Lodges of the World’’

The Lodge’s guide also took me on an educational tour along the lodge’s Hornbill Boardwalk.

Later I took ferry back to Sandakan jetty followed by land transfer to Sandakan Airport. It was time to say good bye to Borneo Island and lifetime memories.

If you are planning a trip to Borneo (or Malaysia) then please do not hesitate to contact us at +91 9871340295 or email us at [email protected]

Leave a Comment