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Borneo: into the jungle

Search for endangered orangutans, hike through the world’s biggest caves & sleep in a traditional tribal longhouse

Borneo: into the jungle

13 Days | From £3560

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  • Overview
  • Itinerary
  • Accommodation
  • Important Notes

Borneo: into the jungle

Search for endangered orangutans, hike through the world’s biggest caves & sleep in a traditional tribal longhouse

Borneo: into the jungle

About your trip

Steamy rainforests teeming with exotic wildlife, rich indigenous culture and coral-filled tropical waters…this 13-day expedition through nature’s hothouse strikes the perfect balance between ecotourism and wild adventure. 

Starting in Kuching, you’ll journey by boat into the jungled interior to stay with a once-feared Iban tribe (known as the ‘head-hunters’). You’ll explore the vast cave system in Sarawak’s Mulu National Park – so big it could fit 40 Boeing 747s inside – and you’ll hang out with orphaned orangutans at a rehabilitation centre in Sabah. 

There’ll be exhilarating quad biking through the Kiulu Valley and nocturnal nature safaris on the Kinabatangan River (hello snakes, crocs and fireflies). You’ll forage for wild ferns and ginger shoots for a tasty jungle feast, and you’ll have the chance to give back with a tree-planting project at a local village initiative.

And how to end? With a relaxing taste of Bornean beach life on a tropical island, lapped by the South China Sea.

What's Included

  • Accommodation in twin rooms
  • Max 14 travellers per group
  • Exclusively for people in their 30s & 40s
  • All activities mentioned in the itinerary
  • 12 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 7 dinners
  • 4 domestic flights
  • Local transport including minibus & boats
  • Arrival airport transfer
  • ATOL protected
  • Hand-picked 3-4 star hotels & a tribal longhouse
  • Experienced Pack Leader with you throughout the trip

Flashpackers must provide evidence that they have purchased travel insurance for the duration of their adventure. Remember, international flights aren't included and prices are based on sharing a twin room. If you'd like to upgrade to a single room, you can add this during the booking process or by contacting our Customer Experience team. Please note that single supplements are not available for the longhouse stay where shared rooms are all part of the experience..

Itinerary

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Your Itinerary

  • Day 01 Touch down in Kuching

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    Welcome to Kuching, capital of Malaysia’s Sarawak state, sandwiched between the jungle and the winding Sarawak River. Touching down at the airport, a private Flash Pack transfer will be waiting to take you to your central hotel, where you can get your first taste of city life and adjust to the humid tropical heat. After meeting your Pack Leader and group, you’ll set out to explore this beautiful laidback city: a melting pot of history, culture and cuisine, with Indian, Chinese, Malay and colonial influences evident at every turn. Tonight, you’ll get to know each other over a delicious feast of ethnic food from the Orang Ulu and Dayak tribes, raising a glass of tuak (local rice wine) to 12 days of adventure to come.

  • Day 02 Stay in a tribal longhouse

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    Now to go off-grid as you drive four hours east to Lemanak Jetty, stopping to explore local bazaars and have lunch at one of the market towns scattered along the route. You’ll jump aboard a motorised longboat and travel upriver against the rapids, paddling and poling in the shade of thick jungle foliage to reach the remote Ngemah Ulu Longhouse. These traditional tribal homes – a long wooden veranda on stilts, with doors leading off to family rooms – house the whole village under one roof. You’ll spend the afternoon immersed in local life, making baskets, mending fishing nets and swimming in the river, before joining your hosts for an entertaining evening of dancing and drumming.

  • Day 03 Jungle foraging & blowpipes

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    Wake up to the sound of the jungle’s morning chorus and village life unfolding around you. Start your day with a blowpipe demonstration with a chance to try and master this traditional hunting skill yourself. You’ll visit an indigenous burial ground filled with antic jars, which were given for the dead. Then, you’ll take a walk into the jungle to forage for your lunch. From wild ferns to ginger shoots, you’ll gather up a crop of fresh jungle delicacies to prepare a native-style picnic on the riverbank – perfect for a dip if you’re feeling the jungle heat. Returning to the longboat jetty, you’ll journey back to Kuching. After two days spent deep in the rainforest, the evening is yours to enjoy city life.

  • Day 04 The world’s biggest cave

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    After breakfast, you’ll catch a short flight to Gunung Mulu National Park. Flanked by razor sharp mountains, this Unesco-listed park is known for its extensive cave systems. You’ll hike for three kilometres to Lang Cave, home to impressive stalactites and stalagmites. Next, you’ll explore nearby Deer Cave, the world’s biggest cave passage, with a spectacular main chamber reaching 122 metres high and leading onto Borneo’s Garden of Eden: a pocket of lush green plants bathed in sunlight from an opening in the roof. As dusk falls, watch over a million bats flying in a mass exodus for their nightly feeding forays. Hiking back through the jungle after dark, keep your eyes peeled for stick insects, fireflies and luminescent fungi.

  • Day 05 Colossal caves & treetop walks

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    Start your day with a longboat ride up the Melinau River to explore more impressive limestone caves. At Wind Cave, you’ll pass through the King’s Chamber, then feel the burn as you climb 250 steps to the entrance of Mulu’s Clearwater Cave, which, at 107 kilometres, is the longest in Asia. When water levels are low you can take a beautiful four-kilometre hike right through the heart of the cave, marvelling at its colossal scale. Having stopped by an idyllic pool shaded by rainforest for a refreshing dip and picnic, you’ll return to the park HQ to explore at your own pace. Enjoy a gentle hike along self-guided trails and don’t miss the canopy walkway that brings you eye to eye with hornbills and monkeys. 

  • Day 06 Sabah street food tour

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    Say farewell to Mulu and hop on a plane north to Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah. This ‘nature resort city’ has an idyllic setting on the South China Sea with a backdrop of Asia’s highest peak: mighty Mount Kinabalu. You’ll delve into the city’s eclectic culinary scene on a local-led street food tour. Stop by traditional ‘kopi’ shops to sample chicken satay, delicious pineapple buns and refreshing pandan coconut drink, and visit the colourful Filipino market in search of exotic fruits, like durian. Still hungry? Stroll along the picturesque waterfront to one of the local restaurants for an age-old local favourite of butter prawns.

  • Day 07 Quad bike the Kiulu Valley

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    Get ready for an exhilarating ATV excursion through the beautiful Kiulu Valley. Riding on single or double quad bikes, you’ll leave the city behind as you scramble through tropical scenes of rice fields, rubber, cocoa, pepper and oil plantations intermingled with luxuriant rainforest, rivers and mountains. You’re headed for a small bamboo lodge complete with a waterfall garden where you’ll be welcomed by a local family, who will prepare a delicious lunch. Cool off from the tropical heat in the Kiulu River before climbing back on your quad bikes and riding back to the city. There’s a free evening in store but we recommend starting with tropical sundowners at one of the buzzing waterfront bars.  

  • Day 08 Close encounters of the furred kind

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    Onwards to Kota Kinabalu airport and your 45-minute flight to Sandakan. Upon landing, you’ll transfer to the Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary, one of the best places to encounter these endearing primates, only found in Borneo. The males sport big dangling noses, reddish flat-top hairstyles, white tails and pot bellies, while the females are smaller with up-turned noses. With their habitat under threat from palm oil plantations, the sanctuary offers a safe haven and the chance for a free meal. As they descend from the mangrove forest to munch on beans, cucumbers and pancakes, you’ll get a fascinating up-close view. Squirrels, silver leaf monkeys and oriental pied hornbills might get in on the action too.  

  • Day 09 Orphaned orangutans & a river safari

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    A short stroll from your lodge is the world-famous Sepilok Orangutan Reserve, a rehabilitation centre for orphaned and injured orangutans. Watch the youngsters play, practise their swinging and munch on fruit as they learn the skills they need to return to forest life. You’ll also visit the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, home to 44 rescued Malayan sun bears – the world’s smallest bear. Then, hop on a boat and travel up the Kinabatangan River to a secluded riverside retreat, your home for the next two nights. You’ll head out on your first river safari in search of proboscis monkeys and sun bears, pygmy elephants, crocodiles, gibbons and more.

  • Day 10 Rainforest conservation

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    Wake early to experience the beauty of Pitas Oxbow Lake. The stillness of the lake provides an ecosystem completely distinct from the river, with 200 bird species in this region alone, from hawk, heron and hornbill to colourful kingfisher. Next, you’ll visit the Kulamba Field Centre where a viewing tower offers panoramic views over the whole Kinabatangan area, before making your way to a native Orang Sunai village to take part in a tree-planting project – an important way to help preserve the natural environment and support the local community. Try your hand at crab fishing with the local fishermen before exploring the nearby mangroves. There’s more wildlife spotting in store tonight with a nocturnal river safari.

  • Day 11 Tropical island life

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    Savour a slow morning cruising back along the Kinabatangan River for your return flight to Kota Kinabalu. Today, you’re headed for some R&R in Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. Named after the former prime minister, this was Sabah’s first national park, created in 1923. From the bustling marina, it’s just a 15-minute boat ride across the cerulean water to these five small jungled islands, fringed with white sand and colourful coral reefs – the perfect tropical escape. Settle in to your serene beachfront retreat before wandering out to catch the last of the sun’s rays. Sunset cocktail, anyone?

  • Day 12 A free day in paradise

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    This is your penultimate day in Borneo and time to slow the pace. Pull up a sunbed, submerge yourself in the hotel’s infinity pool or book yourself into the spa. If you have itchy feet, the island offers an array of watersports, including snorkelling and scuba diving excursions to the offshore reefs, kayaking, parasailing and more. Come evening, gather with your group on the beach for an exclusive Flash Pack seafood barbecue. Toes in the sand, you’ll reflect on your epic adventure that’s seen you fully immersed in the wildlife, culture and natural wonders of this incredibly diverse island – not to mention the new friends you’ve made. 

  • Day 13 Until next time, Borneo

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    All too soon, it’s time to say goodbye and make your way to Kota Kinabalu airport for your onward flight. If you’re not ready to head home, why not combine this trip with one of our other Southeast Asian adventures? You could find yourself drifting down the Mekong in Thailand, island-hopping in the Philippines or marvelling at the temples of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat…which one will you choose? 

Our Favourite Hotels

Here's a taste of the hotels we sometimes use on this adventure. The hotels you'll stay in for your departure will be shared with you one month before you go.

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Mulu Marriott Resort

Wake up to the sounds of the jungle in the heart of Gunung Mulu National Park. You’ll be staying in simple but spacious garden bungalows, complete with private bathrooms (hot showers and flush toilets), electricity and air con. The open-air restaurant serves tasty meals and the sun terrace is perfect for relaxing after a day of exploring. 

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Kinabatangan Wetlands Resort

This secluded nature retreat, only accessible by boat, is set in a pristine area of nipa palms, freshwater swamps and lush mangroves abundant with wildlife. Expect bright wooden chalets, linked by boardwalks, with polished hardwood floors, bamboo furniture and colourful local fabrics.

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Gaya Island Resort

Just 15 minutes by boat from Kota Kinabalu, this 4-star hideaway is a world away from the bustle of city life. Think chalets nestled in lush greenery, just steps from a white-sand beach. Spend your days snorkelling in the gin-clear water of the coral-rich national park and dine at night with your toes in the sand sipping signature cocktails.

Important Notes

Which airport do I need to fly into and out of (include airport code)?

Fly into Kuching International Airport (KCH) and fly out of Kota Kinabalu International Airport (BKI).

What time do I need to arrive (in time for the welcome meeting)?

Please try to arrive by 12pm on Day 1 as the welcome meeting starts at 3pm in the lobby of your hotel, although we will arrange an airport transfer for you regardless of when you arrive.

What time should my flight depart on the final day?

There are no planned activities on the final day, so depart at your own leisure. However, bear in mind that you will be travelling back from Gaya Island on this day, so allow extra time. 

The boat ride from Gaya Island to the jetty in Kota Kinabalu takes around 15 minutes. From the jetty to Kota Kinabalu airport takes around 30 minutes by taxi. You’ll need to be at the airport two hours before your international flight departure, so it’s best to book an afternoon flight that leaves after 2-3pm.

Are airport transfers included?

If you arrive on Day 1 of your adventure, or you book pre-tour accommodation with us, your airport arrival transfer will be included. If you book alternative pre-tour accommodation or are arriving by another mode of transport you must arrange your own arrival transfer.

Arrival transfers are private to Flash Pack and will be in groups depending on flight times. Sometimes this means waiting in the airport for a short while until other flights have arrived.

On Day 13, you’ll take a boat from Gaya Island back to the mainland (included in the cost of your adventure, even if you book an extra night). From the pier, you’ll need to take a local taxi to Kota Kinabalu Airport (not included). Your Pack Leader will be on hand to help you arrange this.

What level of fitness will I need?

Overall, this trip is fairly relaxed but the heat and humidity can be tiring. A moderate level of fitness is needed for the Gunung Mulu cave hikes.

We recommend having a read-through of the itinerary above, and getting in touch if you have specific questions on fitness.

What will the longhouse be like?

Due to the remote jungle location, the longhouse accommodation is fairly basic. On the other hand, it offers a rare chance to experience a traditional way of life and get up close to the lush rainforest landscape. You’ll sleep in a communal open-air room with your group (no private rooms are available for this part of the trip), on a mattress with a mosquito net. Electricity is provided by generator and there is running water (not for drinking) for showers and flush toilets.  Prepare for heat, humidity and a fair amount of mozzies (come armed with plenty of repellent).

To balance the books, we finish in comfort at the resort on Gaya Island.

Will I have a private room when staying at the longhouse in the jungle?

Unfortunately, this is the only accommodation that cannot accommodate private rooms. As part of the experience you will be sharing rooms with other people from the group.

Will this itinerary change?

Please be aware that the itinerary, activities and hotels are subject to change. These changes can happen with little notice due to availability, poor weather, seasonal changes, or other circumstances beyond our control – but we’ll always do our best to ensure it has little impact on your experience. From time to time, we may also make changes to your itinerary to try out new ideas and keep things fresh and exciting.

Will we have a Pack Leader for the duration of the trip?

Throughout this trip you will have two dedicated Pack Leaders who will be there to lead the activities and answer any questions you might have. There will be a Pack Leader for the first six days whilst in Sarawak, and a Pack Leader for the remaining seven days in Sabah.

OUR PROMISE

Joining the Flash Pack comes with a few special guarantees

THE PEOPLE

Our mission is to create 1 million friendships, so we obsess over the group dynamic. Everyone is aged 30-49, 98% travel solo & 80% stay friends.
Want to know more about your group?
Get in touch.

THE SECURITY

We operate using a 3rd party trust bank account, meaning we guarantee refunds in 14 days if your trip has to be cancelled.
Book with confidence.

THE TRIPS

Our trips are made up of ‘can’t-do-by-yourself’ experiences – think staying on your own private island in the Arctic and glamping in Land Rovers on the Serengeti.
See trips.

THE GUIDES

We only work with trusted local guides who know their destinations better than anyone.
Meet your Pack Leaders.

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