Borneo: Rare Animals, Ancient Forests 2024

StartsApr 17th 2024
EndsApr 28th 2024
LeaderSteve Gettle & Nicole Sudduth
Participants8 (FULL - Email us to be added to our Early Announcement List of 2026!)

We are excited to offer an adventure to this secret hidden gem! Borneo is known as the land of Orangutans, “the man of the forest,” and it holds some of the world’s most ancient and tallest tropical jungle forests that are home to not only the endangered Orangutans but also gibbons, Probiscis monkeys, Red-leaf monkeys, Leopard cats, Pygmy elephants, cool chameleons and an array of dazzling, colorful birds and plants.

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We honed this photo tour to maximize our time and photographic opportunities in the best and most wildlife rich destinations in Borneo.

We will be staying at top rated lodges that offer not only exceptional comfort and good food but also extraordinary photographic opportunities as we are staying right in the heart of the habitat and wildlife sanctuaries.

You’ll experience one of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World as well as getting to staying in a UNESCO World Heritage location.

Don’t be surprised to see Orangutans or Long-tailed Macaques or Gibbons outside your room or Giant Flying Squirrels as we head to dinner. The lodging is comfortable, the food is delicious and the rooms are air conditioned but the environment is wild as it should be!

Because we are staying in rich habitats, each day we will take walks and/or boat rides in search of great wildlife encounters. We have experienced guides with us throughout the trip. Our guides are trained specifically in each location and know the trails, the habitats and the wildlife and their behaviors.

You will fly in to Sandakan airport, arriving on April 17. For those coming from the United States, this means departing on April 15 and crossing the international date line.

There is one internal flight Lahad Datu to Kota Kinabalu that you will be responsible for booking. We will provide you with the specific details so that we are all on the same flight. The cost for this hop flight is approximately $250.

You will need to book your return flight to depart on April 28 from Kota Kinabalu to your home destination.


Day 1

Wednesday, April 17

Arrive in Sandakan.
You will be picked up at the airport and transferred to our hotel.
Enjoy photography around the hotel or rest from the travel. We will meet before dinner to look for the Giant flying Squirrels!

Note: If you are coming from the United States, you will need to depart on Monday, April 15 and cross the international date line in flight in order to arrive on April 17. Enjoy the time travel!)

Day 2

Thursday, April 18 – Sepilok and Surrounding areas

Today, we will jump in with both feet! We will be visiting a number of great locations near our lodge that provide us with an introduction to some of the wildlife that we hope to encounter on the rest of the trip as well as fantastic photographic opportunities with these very special animals. We will start with the Rainforest Discovery Center, searching for birds and other wildlife in the canopy. Then we will visit the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary where Orangutans released into the wild often return for a morning snack. We will proceed to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC). This centre rescues formerly captive sun bears and is involved in sun bear conservation, welfare rehabilitation and education. Then, we will round out this very full day with a visit to the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary which offers a unique chance to see proboscis monkeys.

Days 3 thru 5

Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 19, 20 and 21 – Sakau and the Kinabatangan River

In Sakau, we will be staying at one of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World”. The lodge itself is situated in the forest reserve and Orangutans, macaques and langurs are known to frequent the forest here. Each day, we will be taking boat rides to explore the river and its channels. The Kinabatangan River is the longest river in Sabah and is known as having one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in Borneo and the highest population of primates. Cluster fig trees are plentiful through the riparian forest here and they offer a preferred food source for a wide array of wildlife. Pygmy elephants roam this forest and if we are lucky we may just see them here!

Day 6 and 7

Monday and Tuesday, April 22 and 23- Tabin Wildlife Reserve

We will enjoy both day and night excursions at Tabin. This is a great place for not only larger wildlife but also macro. Mammals of Tabin include otters, gibbons, grey leaf langurs, pig tailed macaques, leopard cat, civets, mousedeer, orangutan and more. Birds include buffy fish owl, rhinoceros hornbill, Blythe’s hawk eagle, red-bearded bee eater, blue-headed pitta, Bornean brown wood owl, Blythe’s frogmouth. At least 7 species of frogs are found at the frog pond located near our rooms.

Day 8, 9 and 10

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, April 24, 25 and 26 – Danum Valley

We saved one of the best for last – Danum Valley. We will be staying at the famed Borneo Rainforest Lodge which has a wonderful network of trails, a canopy walk and terrific accommodations. We will be in one of the world’s most pristine, virgin rainforests millions of years old. Photographic opportunities can be found all around our lodge and the lodge trails. Keep an eye out for rare mammal species which include the orangutans, jungle cats, civets, colugos (flying lemurs), mousedeer, gibbon, and red leaf langur monkey. While birds can be secretive, 275 species have been recorded here.

Days 11

Saturday, April 27 – Kota Kinabalu

This morning, we will have a leisurely breakfast followed by morning free for final photography around the lodge and then depart for Lahad Datu for our short hopper flight to Kota Kinabalu.

Day 12

Sunday, April 28 – Flights home

We will have a transfer to airport for flights from Kota Kinabalu to home


Payment schedule

Deposit of $1,000 due with registration
Payment #2 of $4280 due December 15, 2023
Final Payment of $4,000 due February 1, 2024

* Pricing based on double occupancy
*** Single Supplement (if available) add $1500

– All lodging
– All meals
– Local English-speaking guides
– Field trip fees
– Land/water-based transportation within the country
– Comprehensive Pre-trip Booklet that includes all the photo gear and other packing information for the trip as well as all other pertinent details to help you make the most of this adventure

Not included

– Air travel to and from Borneo
– Internal domestic flight from Lahad Datu to Kota Kinabalu
– Gratuities
– Travel insurance
– Any alcoholic beverages

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Borneo is the third largest island on the planet, being about twice the size of Germany. It is owned by three different countries (Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia). We will be going to Malaysian Borneo.

The rainforest here is estimated to be 130 million years old and is one of the most ancient on the planet. The biodiversity here is rich – over 100 species of orchids have been documented on a single mountain, fern tree forests fill the terrain, and incredible numbers of endemic wildlife live throughout the forest.

Here are some highlights for the places we will be visiting:

Sepilok Forest Reserve: Talk about jumping in with both feet! This will be our introduction to Borneo! We will be staying our first two nights at a lodge located adjacent to the reserve and jump into opportunities that immediately get our cameras rolling. Giant Red Flying Squirrels live on the grounds of our lodge and we will look for them each evening. The bird life here is rich and we will take canopy walks to find and photograph as many as we can: hornbills, bee eaters, sunbirds, blue-headed pittas, colorful kingfishers, broadbills and more! We will visit the Rainforest Discovery Center and the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, which releases rehabbed orangutans into the forest that return each day for a meal. We will also visit the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center where endangered Sun Bears reside before being released back into the wild, and the famed Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary. Wild proboscis monkeys, another endangered species, live here but are habituated to human presence and are more readily photographed than in natural environments.

Kinabatangan River/Sukau: This river is famous for the incredible concentration of wildlife along its banks and is known for having the highest concentration of primates in Borneo. Ten species call these river banks home. We will take small motorized boats to explore the river and its channels as we search for wildlife. We will be looking for orangutans, silver leaf langurs, red leaf langurs, proboscis monkeys, pygmy elephants, jungle cats, and an array of exotic Bornean birds. All eight species of Bornean hornbill can be found here.

Tabin Wildlife Reserve – Tabin is lush with forest and wildlife. It also has a very unique feature: a football field-sized mud volcano, just a 20 minutes’ trek through the jungle. This mud volcano serves as a mineral salt lick that attracts a range of wildlife to this area. An observation tower is available for spotting wildlife near the mud volcano. What might we see here? The three largest mammals, namely Borneo Pygmy Elephant, Sumatran Rhinoceros and Tembadau are all found within the reserve; nine species of primate are present, as well as three species of jungle cats all of which are on the protected wildlife list. Of bird species, 4 families representing more than 300 species have been recorded. Tabin Wildlife Reserve was listed as an Important Bird Area and is rich with flora and fauna for us to photograph.

Danum Valley – One of the oldest and tallest tropical rainforests left in the world, this is the crescendo of the trip! This valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to 120 species of mammals that include the Bornean pygmy elephant, Sun bear, clouded leopard, mousedeer, over 270 species of birds and 10 species of primates. We’ll explore along the network of well-maintained trails and tree-top high canopy structures.