Borneo Expedition

Orangutans, the Danum Valley Rainforest, and Snorkeling the Celebes Sea

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $7795  
Length: 13 days
Arrive: Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, Malaysia
Depart: Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, Malaysia
Lodging: 8 nights in rainforest and wetlands lodges, 2 nights in beachfront chalets, 2 nights in a comfortable city hotel
Meals: All meals included
Activity: Cultural Adventures
Trip Level: Easy nature walks and light hikes, river excursions by speedboat and longboat, optional snorkeling


  • Experience Borneo's wildlife extravaganza—sun bears, pygmy elephants and the endangered Bornean orangutan!
  • Explore the Danum Valley's primary rainforest and Asia's most unspoiled tropical ecosystems in depth
  • Meet Borneo's indigenous groups, including Penan hunter-gatherers and Bajau Laut sea gypsies
  • Visit Mulu National Park, a World Heritage Site of caves and karst formations, the renowned Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, and tiny Mataking Island
  • Cruise the Kinabatangan River by longboat at dawn and dusk, on the lookout for wild proboscis monkeys!

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.


We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Far-flung Borneo holds some of the planet's oldest and most intact tropical ecosystems, from lush primary rainforest and misty mountains to pristine coral reefs and mangrove forests at the edge of the sea. The island boasts unparalleled biodiversity with its clouded leopards, pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys, orangutans, and more than 400 resident birds, including endemic yellow-rumped flowerpeckers and blue-banded pittas, and more species discovered anew each year. In the company of WT's longtime jungle explorer Karin Betts and our local naturalists, you'll walk Borneo's forest floors and treetop canopies, explore amazing cave passages, see riverside wildlife by boat, visit with conservation experts to learn firsthand about their work, and meet Borneo's fascinating indigenous people—the Penan hunter gatherers and seafaring Bajau Laut. Traditional stilt lodges nestled deep in forest reserves grant us incredible access to Borneo's bounty of wildlife, and at journey's end we'll enjoy world-class snorkeling right from our beachfront chalets. Join us for an exhilarating island adventure!

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Days 1-3
Kota Kinabalu / Mulu National Park

From Kota Kinabalu, we fly to Mulu, a world of dense tropical rainforest and endless karst caves. Our explorations take us deep into in the world's largest cave passage, and at dusk you'll watch a colony of three million wrinkle-lipped bats swirl into the sky. As the sun rises, we'll be high in the trees on a canopy boardwalk—the longest in Borneo—to experience the forest wildlife as it emerges from sleep. Traditional longboats carry us downriver for a visit with the Penan, Southeast Asia's sole surviving hunter-gatherers, who (though now settled) still gather food and medicinal plants from the nearby forest.

Days 4-6
Sandakan / Sepilok Forest Reserve / Kinabatagan River & Floodplains

We walk right from our jungle lodge to Sepilok Forest Reserve, habitat of the endangered orangutan, for a visit with the experts who are reintroducing injured and orphaned orangutans back into the wild. We journey upriver on the Kinabatangan to our waterside lodge, the ideal base for exciting river expeditions to look for pygmy elephants, silver leaf langurs, and other rainforest animals that come close to the river at dawn and dusk.

Days 7-9
Danum Valley Conservation Area

In Borneo's lush interior, the Danum Valley holds some of the world's oldest primary virgin rainforest. We have three days here for forest canopy walks, exceptional wildlife viewing, and guided night hikes amid bioluminescent fungi. Resident species of the Danum include the Sumatran rhino, the endemic spectacled flowerpecker, and Borneo's beloved mousedeer.

Days 10-13
Mataking Island / Semporna Islands / Depart

On tiny Mataking Island, the snorkeling is out of this world, and we'll explore the teeming reefs, pristine islands, and sea gypsy villages of the nearby Tu Sakaran Marine Park. At a private turtle hatchery, we have the chance to see hatchlings make their journey to the sea. Back in Kota Kinabalu, we visit the vibrant night market before departing on Day 13.

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

What the Trip is Like

The trip is Level 2, easy to moderate, according to our trip grading system. For your own enjoyment, we recommend you make a special effort to be in good physical condition. We've crafted an active expedition, with nature walks and light hikes of one to three hours on several days, in hot and humid climate, and over a variety of terrain including both forest trails, cave passages, and wooden canopy walks and boardwalks. The terrain is generally flat but the forest floor can be slippery and uneven (especially with tree roots!), and the trails in the Danum Valley include hills. We also explore Borneo's jungles and river wetlands by speedboats and longboats. Our explorations are timed with wildlife activity, so dawn, dusk and nighttime nature excurisons are a highlight of the trip. On Mataking Island, novice and experienced snorkelers can enjoy the optional snorkeling. Our accommodations include jungle lodges, a beach resort, and a comfortable city hotel, each selected for its comfort and location. Please note that the itinerary and the activities described may be altered due to local weather conditions and internal flight schedules.

Explanation of Trip Levels


Departures & Leaders

Sep 28-Oct 10, 2015
Apr 18-30, 2016  Karin Betts

Trip Cost

Prices valid through April 30, 2016
$7795 (13-15 members)
$8095 (10-12 members)
$8395 (7-9 members)
Single supplement: $1050
Forced single supplement: $850
Internal airfare: $320 (subject to change)
more on pricing

Trip Cost Includes:

  • Expert leadership of a Wilderness Travel Trip Leader and local guides
  • Accommodations as noted in the Full Trip Brochure
  • All meals included
  • Land transportation, airport transfers as noted in the Full Trip Brochure

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

International airfare, any meals not specified after each itinerary day in the Full Trip Brochure, international airport departure taxes, optional tipping or gratuities to leaders or staff, hotels en route to/from Malaysia and any additional hotel nights that may be necessary due to airline schedule changes or other factors, pre-trip expenses of medical immunizations (if any), travel insurance, or passports and visas, optional SCUBA diving and boat-based snorkeling, any services not mentioned in the Full Trip Brochure, and other expenses of a personal nature (alcoholic beverages, laundry, etc.).

Trip Payment Schedule

At time of reservation: $500
120 days prior to departure: 20% of trip cost
60 days prior to departure: Balance

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule

More than 90 days prior to departure: No charge!
46-90 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
45 days or less: 100% of trip cost

Karin Betts

Karin Betts is one of our most versatile Trip Leaders and has been traveling the world since before she could walk. Her parents moved to Southeast Asia when she was just six weeks old, and with her first decade of life in Indonesia, Karin's earliest memories are of house geckoes, papaya and a pet slow loris. After earning a degree in International Studies from Vassar and living abroad in Israel and India as a Watson Fellow (including a stint on an Israeli ostrich farm!), she started leading trips in 1995 and has been part of the WT team since 1998. Though Southeast Asia is her specialty, Karin has also guided trips to the rainforests of Sri Lanka and the hill tribes of Yunnan, through the lemur reserves of Madagascar and the wilds of southern Africa, and over the divide in the Canadian Rockies. Ever-enthusiastic, Karin notes, "it's a gift to be part of making people's vacations the most fascinating, magical, and rewarding experiences they can be. And to do this in some of the world's most extraordinary areas is worth each and every second." More recently Karin has been on adventure in the forests of Borneo. Her favorite highlight there? "Night walks in the Danum Valley on the lookout for the lesser mouse-deer, the smallest known hoofed mammal and, more importantly, a beloved character in Indonesian and Malay folktales." When not on the road, Karin lives in the San Francisco Bay area and enjoys, among other passions, "yoga, cooking and eating! And when I travel on my own, I like to visit art biennials around the world." She speaks Indonesian and Malay.

Upcoming Trips:

The Arc of the Sacred Symposium: Sacred Sites of Java and Bali , January 25-February 8, 2015
Borneo Expedition, April 18-30, 2016

Client Testimonials:

Karin was fabulous. She chose wonderful hikes and adventures. Shari C., Menlo Park, CA
Adventure in the Canadian Rockies
Karin was an excellent leader. I had a wonderful trip! Sue T., Malden Bridge, NY
Adventure in the Canadian Rockies
Karin was an excellent guide with a great sense of humour. Miko and Nobuko K., Pittsfield, MA
Adventure in the Canadian Rockies
Karin's vibrant spirit combined with her love of Madagascar, its people, and nature was contagious. Isaac A., Martinez, CA
Madagascar: Off the Beaten Path