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Trip Report Borneo trip report

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Hello all,

I have aksed a million questions before going to Borneo and your responses have been invaluable. I hope that my info can help someone now that I'm back.

My husband and I spent 3 weeks in Borneo and Singapore as our honeymoon. Here is the itinerary:
Rasa Ria resort near Kota Kinabalu 2 nights
Kinabalu Rose Cabin near Kinabalu Park 1 night
Laban Rata 1 night
Sepilok Rainforest Edge Resort (aka Labuk B&B) 3 nights
Danum Valley Field Centre 5 nights
Tanjung Aru Resort near KK 4 nights
Albert Court hotel in Singapore 3 nights.

We started off our honeymoon sleeping at the Singapore airport as we had an early connection to KK the next day. It wasn't too bad, as far as sleeping in the airport goes :)
the next day we arrived at Rasa Ria, which was amazing! It's a bit far from KK, but the resort has a shuttle (20 MYR pp) and it takes about 30-45 min. The room was nice, the beach was great, food was pretty good, free internet, just overall nice and relaxing.

On the second day we left for Kinabalu Rose Cabin (took a taxi from KK for 15 MYR pp). For 80 MYR it was acceptable. It's really a hostel where you can get a private room. The view of the mountain was pretty amazing though and made up for the incredibly loud night of barely any sleep. In any case, we were really excited about the next day's climb and couldn't sleep much anyway. It's a 30 min walk to the Park Headquarters, but we took a taxi (10 MYR for a 3 min ride).

The logistics of booking a climb on Mt. Kinabalu are ridiculous, and even efter yo've paid what you feel is an exorbant sum for a night's stay at Laban Rata and some food along the way, you keep paying more and more (for guides, permits, shuttles, insurance). I have to say, although the guide is mandatory, she was pretty useless. We lost her half way up to Laban Rata, she arrived 4 hours after us, and she never went to the summit with us as her "stomach wasn't feeling well". Anyway, the feeling of making it to the summit makes up for all the crap you have to put up with along the way. A word of caution, I am reasonably fit and I found it really challenging to make it to the summit. I naively believed that no training is required and that I can just show up and do it (and you can, but you pay the price for the next few days). I wish I would have prepared a bit more. It took us about 5.5hrs on the first day to get to Laban Rata and another 3 hrs to get to the summit from there on teh next day. It took about 6hrs to come down, mostly because it was pouring for the last 4 hrs of the descent and we were wading through a stream that was flowing down the trail. Overall, an amazing experience and definitely a feat I am proud of.

The same evening we took a bus to Sepilok. another word of caution - there are a lot of buses going to Sandakan, but not all will stop for you. We waited 4 hrs before one finally stopped. It took about 4 hrs to get to Sepilok Main Junction, where we were picked up by a taxi to go to Sepilok Rainforest Edge Resort. We got a private standard cottage there (180 MYR) (they also have dorms and delux cottages). The cottage was perfectly acceptable, the food was average, but you can't beat the proximity to Sepilok Orangutan Centre (for the price, that is). Sepilok was nice, if a little circusy. It rained in the morning so we only saw one orangutan and the trails were closed because they were too muddy. This was just fine with us, as we could barely walk at this point :) the ticket to Sepilok lets you come back in the afternoon for teh second feeding and at that time we saw 3 orangs and lots of long tailed and pig tailed macaques. We also went on a night hike (20 MYR pp) and saw lots of snakes, moths, caterpillars, spiders. We were hoping to see slow lorises, but no luck.

The next day we went to Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary. Although it is not monkeys in their most natural environment, it was a lot of fun. We saw tons of proboscis monkeys, silver leaf monkeys, butterflies, even a monitor lizard and a mudskipper! We went with the Sanctuary's tour package because it was cheaper; however, then you are stuck there for a whole day. Our hotel also offered shorter tours but these were more expensive and as we weren't in a rush to get back, we spent a nice and relaxing day at the sanctuary. Our hotel also runs Kinabatangan River tours, which we didn't do because we didn't have time, although I think it would have been a great experience. Something to do if we ever go back :)

The next day we took a bus to Lahad Datu. Again, we waited an hour and a half in scorching sun for a bus to finally stop for us. We got to Lahad Datu with just enough time to go into the city and get some money and snacks and then make it to the Danum Valley Field Centre (DVFC) office for our transport at 3:30. So, we were really glad to be able to stay at the DVFC, as the Borneo Rainforest Lodge was prohibitively expensive for us. Booking a rook at DVFC was an adventure in itself and I just felt happy that we got any room, even if it wasn't the one I booked (I requested a VIP cottage, but ended up getting a resthouse room). To be fair, we are not scientists and they do say that scientists get the preference, so we got bumped to a resthouse room. There is also "camping" there, which I assume is much cheaper, but I don't think I would have liked to do it. Anyway, DVFC was really amazing! The room was average, ceiling fan, no hot water, but it had a balcony and was perfectly adequate. The electricity is turned off from 12am to 7am, so no fan or light at that time, which made it a bit hot for sleeping, but after the first night we got used to it. We took full board at the centre and the food was just delicious! It's prepared by the locals and it's served buffet-style. They cater to vegeterians, so I'm not sure what the meat dishes were like, but they did smell good! There are also "jungle burgers" BBQed nearby for those craving extra meat. Enough about the food! The atmosphere was really nice, kind of felt like I was back in a university dorm - lots of visiting students, lots of resident scientists, and, of course, birders. We learned a lot about ants, plants and moths just talking to people around there. We saw orangutans every day, feeding on a tree nearby, also lots of gibbons, red leaf monkeys, samba deer, bearded pigs and, of course, leeches. We bought leech socks in Sepilok (30 MYR), but they sell them at the DVFC as well. They are absolutely necessary. I could go on forever about this place. If anyone wants any more info, please let me know and I can give you details on how we booked it. As I said, it was challenging, it took many phone calls, emails and months of no responses, so start planning early if you want to go.

After Danum Valley, we flew from Lahad Datu to KK for our 3 days of luxury, at Tanjung Aru Resort near KK. This place was amazing! And quite pricy, but two nights of our 4 night stay were a wedding present, so that made it more affordable. The rooms there are amazing! There are 2 wings, Tanjung Aru, which is older but has better views, and Kinabalu, which is newer, but has some chaper rooms that look out towards the city. We stayed in the Kinabalu wing for 2 nights and in Tanjung Aru for 2 nights and I have to say that the view is not worth the extra price in Tanjung Aru wing (700 MYR in Kinabalu vs 900 in TA wings). The best deal, if sitting around the resort is something you might enjoy, would be to go for a Kinabalu wing club room, as you get all you can drink alcohol in the afternoons for 810 MYR. The food at the resort's Tatu restaurant was amazing and the buffet spread teh best I've ever seen! Alcohol is a bit pricy, but we stocked up in KK. The first night we went to the night market in KK (taxi costs 15 MYR) and had the most amazing seafood at the Filipino bbq there. We also bought some fresh fruit at the market and had it as dessert. I definitely recommend the BBQ - it doesn't look super-apetising and you may wonder about the hygene there, but we were perfectly fine after eating there - and the food tastes so good, you won't even care that you are eating with your hands.
One day we took a boat out to Mamutik Island to go snorkeling (45+1- MYR pp), and that was a huge disappointment. As soon as we arrived, we realised that there was garbage everywhere (it's supposed to be a national park), it was crowded and the swiming area so small and packed that it just didn't seem worth it. And as I was getting into teh water I got bitten by something on the leg (it was probably a fish, but I'm a wimp I guess), so that was the end of my snorkeling. I couldn't wait to go back to the nice pool at the resort. My husband, who also got bitten, but kept going also wasn't terribly impressed. Overall, as far as the resorts go, we liked Rasa Ria better. Although it is a bit farther, it has a nicer beach, small nature reserve on-site, free internet, and transfer to KK is 20 vs 15 MYR from Tanjung Aru (barely a difference, really). Also, food and drinks were much cheaper there and the rooms were comparable.
In general, we had a wonderful honeymoon, saw lots of animals, had lots of good food and would love to go back - there is still so much left to do there!

Ok, I think this is long enough :) I will write about Singapore later.
I hope this info helps!

M

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