I am aware this is late, but I feel that the content in here is well worth the delay in uploading and posting this. I feel that Borneo is totally underrated, and up until last year, I had no idea of all that it had to offer. While I had an amazing amount of experiences crammed into just one short week, here are my two largest outdoorsy ones.
Before I get started, I’m going to be completely honest with you. I included both in this post, but I definitely favor one over the other. I figured it would be great to show and recall what happened at each as they are in two totally places in Borneo (literally across the entire island from each other) and seem to have a different focus. The first one was an afternoon/evening trip, while the other was overnight and even provided options to stay there for multiple nights to get the full experience.
I’ll start with my favorite one first, the Klias Wildlife and Proboscis Monkey River Cruise. This is located in Kota Kinabalu. It was incredibly easy to arrange, as I did so from my hostel, Faloe Hostel. The van picked us up right outside. It’s a bit of a ride, so thank goodness we didn’t have to worry about getting our own transportation. The van (like the entirety of the trip) was comfortable.
You arrive there in the afternoon and get into the boat. As a super light sensitive person, the fact that this boat had a covering absolutely made the trip. There’s few things I hate more than having to squint with my already giant sunglasses on (not a fashion statement, just sheer practicality when you have super light eyes). It was great shade for being in a hot region (didn’t have to worry about getting a sunburn AT ALL), and it helped me with being able to see the proboscis monkeys up the tall trees in the hot Malaysian sun. More on that in a bit.
You get in the boat, and you are taken to a restaurant. They take you to the same place twice to eat, once for a “snack” and once for dinner. Both times, there are buffet setups. Overall, I found the food to be quite healthy and vegetarian friendly. Someone may debate me on the health part (it was super fresh though!), but it was a 10 compared to the clinically depressed peanut butter and jellys mushed in saran wrap that we could have gotten. So, yeah, the food was just awesome!
After your afternoon snack, the guides bring you in the boats to an area where you can see the proboscis monkeys. They give you a monocular to help you because they are so high up in the trees. Even better, the guides are super hands on and dedicated to giving you the best experience possible. They will come up to you to help you have it focused properly and move it for you so you can get the best monkey sightings possible. Bonus points: they even help you get pretty good shots and videos with your monocular and camera. Obviously, mine aren’t the greatest quality because I didn’t have the best of phones to work with, but they definitely made it a lot better.
They make sure to give you a lot of time as well to view the monkeys, so you don’t feel as if you are rushed. Afterwards, you are taken to the same restaurant that the first course was at for a dinner buffet, and believe me, the views are just amazing! On the way, you get to see an amazing sunset, and they stop the boat for a little to make sure you can also get good shots of that as well. Words and photos really cannot do this tour any justice.
So, here’s the best part: the fireflies! Was it just going to be a couple and we had to really keep an eye out for them? I wasn’t sure what to expect actually. But, no way! The bushes were just covered with them! A bit of a downside is that it was near impossible to get good photos of this on my phone, but if you look below at the gif, you can see them twinkling about. You get to see them for about a good 30 minutes and then they take you back to the dock to drive you home. Seeing the fireflies is super cute and romantic.
Seriously, this trip was probably the best part of visiting Borneo, and to be honest, it was hard to just pick one best experience to rule them all. While I enjoy nature, I don’t particularly do well in “too much nature”. I’ve always been more of a “let’s get a cute cabin in nature with running water” as opposed to a “let’s rough it on a hike and not shower for three days” kinda gal. So, for me, this trip just had it all. I had good food, good photos, great views, saw incredible wildlife, and it was all from a comfortable boat with a roof. I give this excursion a 10/10.
The second trip I will tell you guys about is the Borneo Natural Sukau Bilit Resort. I flew to the Sandakan airport from Kota Kinabalu for about $70 for a round trip, as I flew out of Malaysia from Kota Kinabalu. There’s so much to do in Borneo as a whole, so I unfortunately didn’t have a chance to visit the Orangutan Sanctuary like I really wanted to. Still, I feel incredibly blessed that I even got to visit Borneo at all!
This trip was overnight, and I chose to stay for just one night. For me, I felt it was enough. Just like the previous trip, there were meals included in the price. I received a snack, dinner, and breakfast. These were also buffet style, and I felt there was an abundance of good food to eat.
By the time I arrived, it was in the afternoon, and we dropped our things in our cabins and went right on the boats for an afternoon tour. I really did not care for the boats at all. They were smaller, and they didn’t have a roof. I was melting and squinting the entire time. They stopped multiple times to allow us to get good views, which was cool, though. Also, unlike the previous tour, you weren’t automatically provided with a monocular or pair of binoculars. I felt that there were a lot of hidden fees. Of course you had to pay for them, though. I mean, you’re on a trip to see wildlife…it wouldn’t be worth it if you couldn’t see them. I actually almost didn’t have enough money for all their additional items you needed, which would have really put a damper on things.
I should give a disclaimer that it’s not guaranteed you will see the animals advertised. It’s no one’s fault, either. Your boat trips are entirely 1) weather dependent and 2) animal dependent. I guess I hoped that I would have seen something really cool, but I enjoyed what I did see. If you are into bird watching, this will be your paradise. I was able to spot a variety of birds and monkeys overall. I also enjoyed the boat without the roof as the sun wasn’t so strong. It provided a nice breeze, and it was great to see the sun start to set. One thing that’s great is that you get a couple of different cruises so that you have the opportunities to see a variety of wildlife. For me, I liked the morning trip the best, as it was slightly cooler and I got to see this guy:
What I absolutely loved about this trip was the 1) accommodations and 2) the night walk. I loved the showers and room. For it being in the middle of the rainforest, it was super comfortable, clean, and even air conditioned! I shared a room with a few other travelers, and it was quite nice. Besides, you have to wake up by 5am the next day anyway for the morning cruise, so you are mostly just there for sleeping.
The night walk was just super awesome. Foolishly, I didn’t bring much clothes for it, and I figured gym shorts and a tee shirt would have been good enough for the trip. I had to rent the boots and socks, but wearing those were protective enough for me. You have your flashlight from your phone and you are literally trekking through mud in the pitch black of night. It’s a smaller group that goes as well, and my group was comprised of just 4 people. This was great because the guide spent a lot of time showing us things and explaining to us in great detail. (Excuse my less than spectacular photo quality. I really tried my best!)
Overall, if you go to Borneo, keep in mind that it’s a large island with plenty to do. Kota Kinabalu is where the larger airport is (as it is where KK city is), while Sandakan is more nature. You’ll find plenty to do at either part of the island, and it’s worth flying across to Sandakan airport to see the other side, as coming to a place like Borneo is a once in a lifetime opportunity for some. I hope you get to enjoy these as much as I did. 🙂
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