Inala Borneo Tour - Natural history and culture of Sarawak and Sabah 29 Aug - 12 Sept 2020
Pre-tour extension to traditional Iban Longhouse - 27-29 August 2020
Prepared by Dr Tonia Cochran, Inala Nature Tours 8 December 2019.
Borneo is the third largest island in the world and the largest in Asia and is politically divided amongst three countries; Malaysia and Brunei in the north and Indonesia in the south. We will be visiting the East Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah on this tour, which make up about 26% of the landmass of the island.
Our interest in Borneo is that it contains some of the world's most wildlife-rich and oldest equatorial rainforests, incredible landscapes and rich indigenous culture. The Borneo rainforest is estimated to be around 140 million years old and is the centre of evolution and distribution of many endemic species of plants and animals; the rainforest is also one of the few remaining natural habitats for the endangered Bornean Orangutan. It is also an important refuge for around 15,000 species of flowering plants, 3,000 species of trees (267 species of which belong to the family Dipterocarpaceae which have their greatest diversity here), 221 species of terrestrial mammals, 420 species of resident birds (around 650 species in total) and 440 species of freshwater fish (about the same number as Java and Sumatra combined).
In 2007, the ‘Heart of Borneo’ conservation agreement, initiated by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) was signed by the governments of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia, with the aim of protecting 220,000km2 of ‘Asia’s last great rainforest’. By 2010 (3 years afterwards), a total of 123 new species were recorded in the region.
Tonia visited Sarawak in 2019 and returned full of enthusiasm for visiting this wonderful part of the world with Inala guests. This itinerary has been tailored to maximise our chances of seeing a range of mammals, birds and plants, but it also allows us chances to see some other amazing creatures and a unique opportunity to experience authentic traditional culture, including an opportunity to stay with Iban community members in their longhouse. We will ensure visit here also contributes to the local economy and to the wildlife with key species including Bornean Orangutan, Proboscis Monkey and Bornean Sunbear.
- 650 bird species including Hornbills, Trogons, and Broadbills
- Viewing and contributing to the conservation of Orangutan, Proboscis Monkey and Bornean Sunbear
- Huge variety of plants including several unique groups: carnivorous pitcher plants (Nepenthes), the parasitic Rafflesia (which has no stem, leaves or roots!) and Voodoo lilies (Amorphophallus species) which are relatives of the Titan Arum (the largest flower in the world)
- Experiencing the traditional culture first-hand
- Amazing scenery and UNESCO listed World Heritage Areas such as Gunung Mulu NP and Kinabalu Park
Dr Tonia Cochran, Inala Nature Tours with local guide
Itinerary OUTLINE FOR PRE-TOUR EXTENSION:
Day 1. Thu 27 Aug 2020. Arrive Kuching and tour of city. Accom: Kuching
Day 2. Fri 28 Aug 2020. Kuching to rural Sarawak Longhouse. Accom: Iban Longhouse.
Day 3. Sat 29 Aug 2020. Nature walk and cultural activities and return to Kuching. Accom: none (incl on main tour).
B- breakfast; L- lunch; D-dinner
Day 1. Thursday 27 August 2020. Arrive Kuching. Arrive Kuching in Sarawak. Depending on arrival times a brief walking tour of the city will be included. Meet for a group welcome dinner this evening where we will have an introduction to the tour. Accommodation: Kuching (ensuite room). Meals included: D
Day 2. Friday 28 August 2020. Kuching to rural Iban Longhouse. This morning we will leave Kuching and travel to an authentic Iban longhouse in a rural part of Sarawak. The journey will take about 4 hours over land and an additional 30-50 minutes over water in a longboat. On the way, we will visit a vibrant and colourful market in the township of Serian to purchase fruits, vegetables and other supplies for our stay at the longhouse. We will enjoy an authentic experience staying overnight at one of the traditional longhouses occupied by the Ibans of Sarawak. A welcoming dance is performed at night for guests and the actual longhouse will depending on the availability of the host family to receive guests at the time. Please note: Accommodation is in the main community hall of the actual longhouse occupied by the residents and the conditions are very basic. Sleeping mattresses with mosquito netting will be made up for the guests and bathrooms are located outside and are shared. There is no electricity or mobile phone reception in these rural areas.
Day 3. Saturday 29 August 2020. Nature walk and cultural activities and return to Kuching. After breakfast, we will take a short nature walk and attend a demonstration of rubber tapping and blowpipe usage by the locals. We will return to Kuching this afternoon (a 4-hour journey over land). Lunch will either be served at the longhouse or as a picnic lunch by the river en route back to Kuching depending on the longhouse and weather. Accommodation: none (included on main tour). Meals included: B, L.
Tour Price: AU$990 per person twin share.
Single supplement: AU$100.
Min group size: 4 people + tour leader Tonia Cochran + local guide.
Price includes: 2 nights’ accommodation as outlined above, specialist guide and transport on water and land, return transfers from/to Kuching, all meals, entrance fees and activities as mentioned in the itinerary.
Price does not include: International and domestic airfares, alcoholic beverages, snacks, internet, gratuities, laundry or other items of a personal nature or activities not mentioned in the itinerary.
Itinerary OUTLINE FOR MAIN TOUR:
Day 1 (= day 3 of pre-tour extension). Sat 29 Aug 2020. Arrive Kuching and tour of city. Accom: Kuching
Day 2. Sun 30 Aug 2020. Kuching to Bako NP. Accom: Kuching.
Day 3. Mon 31 Aug 2020. Orangutans, Semenggoh Wildlife Centre and Cultural Village. Accom: Kuching.
Day 4. Tue 1 Sept 2020. Flight Kuching to Gunung Mulu. Mulu NP: Caves and bats. Accom: Mulu NP.
Day 5. Wed 2 Sept 2020. Gunung Mulu NP: Canopy skywalk, boat cruise and night walk. Accom: Mulu NP.
Day 6. Thu 3 Sept 2020. Gunung Mulu NP including river birdwatching. Accom: Mulu NP.
Day 7. Fri 4 Sept 2020. Flight Mulu to Kota Kinabalu. Accom: Kota Kinabalu.
Day 8. Sat 5 Sept 2020. Kinabalu Park. Accom: Kota Kinabalu.
Day 9. Sun 6 Sept 2020. Poring Rainforest and Orchid Conservation Centre. Accom: Kota Kinabalu.
Day 10. Mon 7 Sept 2020. Kinabalu to Sandakan. Accom: Sepilok Nature Resort.
Day 11. Tue 8 Sept 2020. Sepilok-Bornean Sunbear-Kinabatangan. Evening cruise. Accom: Kinabatangan.
Day 12. Wed 9 Sept 2020. Kinabatangan to Danum Valley. Accom: Borneo Rainforest Lodge
Day 13. Thu 10 Sept 2020. Danum Valley. Accom: Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
Day 14. Fri 11 Sept 2020. Danum Valley to Lahad Datu and fly to Kota Kinabalu. Accom: Kota Kinabalu.
Day 15. Sat 12 Sept 2020. Depart Borneo. Accom: none.
B- breakfast; L- lunch; D-dinner
Day 1 (= day 3 of pre-tour extension). Saturday 29 August 2020. Arrive Kuching. Arrive Kuching in Sarawak. Depending on arrival times a brief walking tour of the city will be included. Those participants joining the pre-tour extension will return late this afternoon. Meet for a group welcome dinner this evening where we will have an introduction to the tour. Accommodation: Kuching (ensuite room). Meals included: D
Day 2. Sunday 30 August 2020. Kuching to Bako National Park. This morning we will travel to Bako National Park which is situated 37 kilometres from Kuching and can be reached by a 45-minute drive to Kampung Bako, followed by a 20-minute boat ride. The Park covers an area of 16 square kilometres of primary forest. The coastline of the Park is indented with beautiful rock formations, steep cliffs and sandy bays. Here we will find a wide range of flora such as pitcher plants (Nepenthes) and wild orchids. Monitor lizards, bearded pigs, deer, birds, a variety of monkeys including Proboscis Monkey, crocodiles and snakes can be found here in their natural habitat. Birds we may see here include Red-crowned Barbet, Rufous-tailed Tailorbird and a variety of waterbirds and waders. We will return to Kuching in the late afternoon. Accommodation: Kuching (ensuite room). Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 3. Monday 31 August 2020. Orangutans, Semenggoh Wildlife Centre and Cultural Village.
This morning we will visit Semenggoh Wildlife Centre in Semenggoh Nature reserve, a natural habitat which is home to Bornean Orangutans Pongo pygmaeus, which shares up to 96.4% its genetic makeup with humans and is gentle, shy and curious by nature. Just 25 kilometres from Kuching, this is by far the biggest Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sarawak. It was established in 1975 as a sanctuary for Orangutans who are injured, orphaned or being kept captive as illegal pets and a place for visitors to learn about this endangered species. Here, rescued or rehabilitated Orangutans are nurtured to readapt themselves to jungle life and now contains a thriving population of healthy adolescent and young adult semi-wild Orangutans. They spend most of their time roaming the forest but are supplementary fed daily and may be seen during that time. This reserve is also habitat for rare flora and fauna including the giant squirrel, pigmy squirrel, gibbons and a good variety of birds, including Long-tailed Parakeet, Dollarbird, both Fiery and Scarlet Minivet and Orange-bellied Flowerpecker. The howling of gibbons, the chirping of birds and the chattering of Orangutans make the nature reserve an ideal place for nature lovers. We will then visit the Sarawak Cultural Village which is situated 35 kilometres from Kuching. The quaintly landscaped village showcases authentic replicas of houses belonging to the major ethnic groups in Sarawak. Here we will have a chance to become acquainted with the culture and peoples of Sarawak during a tour of the village and a cultural performance. Birding is also great here and species we may see include Stork-billed and Ruddy Kingfisher, Black Bittern, White-breasted Waterhen, Little Green and Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Banded Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Asian Glossy Starling. We will return to Kuching late afternoon. Accommodation: Kuching (ensuite room). Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 4. Tuesday 1 September 2020. Flight Kuching to Mulu. Gunung Mulu NP: Caves and bats. We will transfer to Kuching airport for our flight to Mulu this morning (Malaysian Airlines/MASwings flight 10:05-11:40 according to current flight schedule; flight cost not included but can be arranged-see costs below*). On our arrival at Mulu Airport, we will be transferred to Gunung Mulu National Park. This ancient and spectacular UNESCO-listed World Heritage Area is one of the most important natural sites in South East Asia and is notable for its high biodiversity and karst (cave) systems and exceptional natural beauty. The Park is over 52,000ha in size and contains 17 vegetation zones and around 3,500 plant species. During the late afternoon we will take a 3 km boardwalk to reach Deer Cave & Lang Cave. The caves are home to over 3 million bats comprising about 30 different species and Mossy-nest Swiftlets who also echolocate in the darkness of the caves. After exploring the caves, we will sit at the bat observatory to observe clouds of bats emerging from the cave entrance as dusk approaches (numbers exiting the caves are highly dependent on weather) with possible raptors like Bat Hawk attempting to catch them. We will then return along the same boardwalk, exploring en route for nocturnal creatures such as giant red millipedes, scorpions and land snails. Accommodation: Gunung Mulu NP (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 5. Wednesday 2 September 2020. Gunung Mulu NP: Canopy skywalk, boat cruise and night walk. Early this morning there is an option to talk a pre-breakfast walk on a 480-metre long canopy skywalk which is suspended about 20 meters above the forest floor. This provides a wonderful chance to view the spectacular tropical jungle at close range. We will then return to headquarters for breakfast, before transferring to a longboat which will take us to the Penan settlement of Batu Bungan. Here we will have the opportunity to visit the community and handcrafts may be purchased as souvenirs to support to local community. We will then return to the park for lunch and an afternoon of birdwatching. Species we will look for include Red-naped and Scarlet-rumped Trogon, Rhinoceros and Asian Black Hornbill, Black-and-red, Black-and-yellow, and Green Broadbill, Greater Racquet-tailed Drongo, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Crested Serpent Eagle, Black-thighed Falconet, Asian Emerald Dove, Jambu Fruit Dove, Green Imperial Pigeon, Banded Bay and Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoo, Greater Coucal, Red-billed Malkoha, Red-throated and Blue-eared Barbet, Maroon and Crimson-winged Woodpecker, Fluffy-backed Tit-babbler, Eastern Crimson Sunbird, White-rumped Shama, the endemic Bornean Black Magpie and Bornean Blue Flycatcher and a variety of Spiderhunters, Bulbuls and Babblers. If we are lucky, we may see the elusive Garnet Pitta. We will then return for an early dinner and short rest before heading out again for a night walk. Accommodation: Gunung Mulu NP (en suite rooms) as for last night. Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 6. Thursday 3 September 2020. Gunung Mulu NP: including river birdwatching. We will start early again today to birdwatch from a boat along the beautiful Melinau River for about 2 hours. Species we will search for today include Common Sandpiper, Blue-eared Kingfisher, Asian Black Hornbill, Dark-throated Oriole. We will then return to the park for breakfast and more birding and nature viewing on foot inside the park. A packed lunch will be provided today. During the afternoon there is also an option to bird outside the park in the afternoon for some different species, including Violet Cuckoo, Raffles’s and Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, Red-bearded Bee-eater and Scaly-breasted Munia. We will return to the park for dinner. Gunung Mulu NP (en suite rooms) as for last night. Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 7. Friday 4 September 2020. Flight Mulu to Kota Kinabalu. This morning we will transfer to Mulu airport for our flight to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah (Malaysian Airlines/MASwings flight 12:10-12:55 according to current flight schedule; flight cost not included but can be arranged-see costs below*). On our arrival we will have lunch at a local restaurant, before we travel to our accommodation which is a two-hour drive traversing Sabah's Crocker Range. Local birdwatching or free time around the resort before dinner. Accommodation: Resort at Kota Kinabalu (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 8. Saturday 5 September 2020. Kinabalu Park. Transfer to Kinabalu Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which has been designated a Centre of Plant Diversity for Southeast Asia and which is exceptionally rich in species, with examples of flora form the Himalayas, China, Australia, Malaysia and pan-tropical flora. Here, Mt. Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Malaysia, towers majestically at 4,095 metres (13,431 feet). The Park has a very wide range of habitats, from rich lowland and hill rainforest, to tropical mountain forest, sub-alpine forest and scrub on the higher elevations. Enjoy the cool air as we trek around the foothills, birding and exploring the area for different and unique plants of Borneo such as the carnivorous Nepenthes, rhododendrons & orchids in the montane oak-chestnut forest. Birds we will be searching for include Mountain Scops Owl, Sunda Cuckoo, Whitehead’s Trogon and Wreathed Hornbill. We return to our Kinabalu accommodation late afternoon. Accommodation: Resort at Kota Kinabalu (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 9. Sunday 6 September 2020. Poring Rainforest. This morning we will travel to the lowland dipterocarp forest at Poring on the eastern boundary of the national park. We will include a visit to the Poring Orchid Conservation Centre which houses a collection of some 1,200 species of orchids for around Sabah. We will also walk through the rainforest, which includes a 30 metre (100 foot) high Canopy Walkway through the treetops. If we are lucky, we may have the chance to see the parasitic Rafflesia, but this is not guaranteed as it does not have a predictable blooming season and with no stem, leaves or roots leaves little trace when it isn’t flowering! We will again return to our Kinabalu accommodation late afternoon. Accommodation: Resort at Kota Kinabalu (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 10. Monday 7 September 2020. Kinabalu to Sandakan. We will leave Kinabalu this morning after breakfast and travel to Sandakan, arriving at Sepilok in time for lunch. This afternoon we will visit the Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) where we will discover the uniqueness and importance of Borneo’s rainforests. Situated not too far from the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre, RDC runs a Nature Experience programme which includes a guided walk to the Plant Discovery Garden and Rainforest Walk. There is also another opportunity to enjoy a spectacular view of the beautiful rainforest from the observation towers 25 metres above ground on a 347-metre long steel Canopy Walkway. Blue-eared Barbet, Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker, Blue-crowned Hanging-parrot, Diard’s Trogon, Black-backed and Rufous-backed Dwarf-kingfisher and Blue-throated Bee-eater are some of the bird species we will be looking for today. We return to Sepilok Nature Resort for dinner. Accommodation: Sepilok (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D
Day 11. Tuesday 8 September 2020. Sepilok-Malayan Sunbear- Kinabatangan. After breakfast at the resort, we will take a short walk to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre for another chance of seeing this endangered species and learn about the conservation work undertaken here. We will then take a short walk through the lowland diptercarp forest to the Observation platform to watch the orangutans emerge from the forest to be fed by the rangers. We will then visit a Conservation Centre which was established to rescue and rehabilitate Malayan Sunbear (Helarctos malayanus), the smallest bears in the world which are found only in South-east Asia. These bears continue to the threatened by forest degradation, illegal hunting and poaching to obtain young cubs for the pet trade. The facility includes large forest enclosures to provide a natural environment suited to the needs and welfare of sun bears and facilitate their rehabilitation back into the wild and was opened to the public in 2014 to increase education and provide further funds for their care. We then continue by land to Kinabatangan, a base for easy exploration of an incredible diversity of plants, mammal and birds where we will join an evening cruise along the tributaries of the Kinabatangan River in search of Proboscis Monkey & other nocturnal wildlife. Accommodation: Rainforest Lodge at Kinabatangan (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 12. Wednesday 9 September 2020. Kinabatangan to Danum Valley. This morning we take an early morning boat cruise birdwatching and wildlife viewing along the Kinabatangan River. We return to the lodge for breakfast and then travel Gomantong Cave in the heartland of the Gomantong Forest Reserve which is home to a colony of an estimated 276,000 Wrinkle-lipped Free-tailed Bat, Chaerephon plicatus and Edible Swiftlets whose nests are the main ingredient of bird nest soup and whose collection is now highly regulated (only traditional rattan ladders, ropes and bamboo poles are used and only empty nests are allowed to be harvested). The cave and surrounding area are a protected wildlife area, especially for Orangutans and the limestone hill is also the only known site for the endangered land snail Opisthostoma (Plectostoma) mirabile. We will then travel by land to Lahad Datu in time for lunch at a local restaurant before continuing onto the Borneo Rainforest Lodge located beside the Danum River in the Danum Valley Conservation Area – Sabah’s largest protected area of lowland dipterocarp forest preserved for conservation, research, education and training. This Borneo Eden has over 200 species of trees per hectare, some of which are the oldest and tallest (and most diverse) in the world. A myriad of animal life, including 124 species of mammals such as the Orangutan, Silver & Red Leaf Monkey, Asian Elephant, Tarsier and Slow Loris, 72 species of reptiles, 56 species of amphibian and over 325 bird species are found in this pristine jungle. Tonight, we will enjoy a night drive in an open-air jeep in search of nocturnal animals. Accommodation: Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Danum Valley (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 13. Thursday 10 September 2020. Danum Valley. This morning we will trek past picturesque rainforest and waterfalls to ‘Coffin Cliff’, an ancient burial site where wooden coffins, some hundreds of years old, have been found wedged along the cliff side, before returning to our lodge for lunch via the ‘View Point’ for a bird’s eye view of the Danum Valley and a natural ‘Jacuzzi pool’ where we can dip our feet in the cool waters. After lunch there is an optional nature walk along the nearby trails and 26-metre high Canopy walkway or take some leisure time to relax at the lodge. One option is a guided birding walk along the 2.7km long Segama Trail which runs parallel to the Danum River. Birds we will look for here include Rhinoceros Hornbill, Hose’s Broadbill, Mountain and Pied Imperial Pigeon and other fruit-eating birds such as Barbets, Leaf-Birds and Sunbirds in the fig trees during fruiting season. Mammals such as Long Tail Macaque, Orangutan, Bearded Pig and Mouse Deer can sometime be seen searching for food here. Pygmy Elephant and Sambar deer may also be seen. We will take a night walk after dinner tonight (weather permitting) to see some of the valley’s nocturnal creatures. Accommodation: none. Meals included: B.
Day 14. Friday 11 September 2020. Danum Valley to Lahad Datu airport and fly to Kota Kinabalu. We will transfer to Lahad Datu Airport (around 3 hours travel time) after breakfast this morning for our flight back to Kota Kinabalu (Malaysian Airlines/MASwings flight time TBA 12:15-13:10 according to current flight schedule; flight cost not included but can be arranged- see costs below*). Accommodation: Kota Kinabalu. Meals included: B,L,D.
Day 15. Saturday 12 September 2020. Depart Borneo. Own arrangements for departure from Borneo and our onward flights home (own arrangements: there are several flight options to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore available. Malaysian Airlines offers a direct flight from Kota Kinabalu to Perth every Saturday so that may be an option for Aussie participants. Accommodation: none. Meals included: none.
Tour Price: AU$11,570 per person twin share. Single supplement: AU$1,295
Sarawak section only (days 1-6): AU$5,200 per person twin share and AU$735 single supplement plus flights.
*Price for internal flights: (Kuching-Mulu (day 4), Mulu-Kota Kinabalu (day 7) and Lahad Datu-Kota Kinabalu (day 14) would be an additional AU$500 based on flight prices December 2019. We reserve the right to revise prices and adjust if markedly different value at the time of quoting.
Minimum group size: 6 people + tour leader Tonia Cochran + local guide.
Price includes: 14 nights’ accommodation as above, specialist guide and transport on water and land, transfers at Kuching, Kota Kinabalu and Lahad Datu, meals, entrance fees and activities as mentioned in the itinerary.
Price does not include: International airfares or internal Malaysian flights at beginning and end of tour, alcoholic beverages, snacks, internet, gratuities, laundry or other items of a personal nature or activities not mentioned in the itinerary.
FOR BOTH SECTIONS please note:
Meals and drinks: Breakfast generally consists of a Malaysian style breakfast, usually with a selection of noodles, eggs etc. Lunch will generally consist of a packed lunch style meal eaten in the field, but we may sometimes eat at a local cafe. Dinner usually consists of several options for main with the choice of either an appetiser or dessert and dishes may be shared between participants. Drinks (soft and alcoholic) are generally not included but at lunches and breakfasts juice may be made available.
The itinerary: Whilst we aim to follow the itinerary as planned, please note that the itinerary provided should only be used as a guideline. Depending on individual trip circumstances, weather, and local information, the exact itinerary may not be strictly adhered to. The guides reserve the right to make changes to the itinerary as they see fit.