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Trip Report Kathie's Borneo trip report

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I'm going to post this in segments over a couple of days. I decided to include lots of detail, as this board doesn't have a lot of info on Sabah and Sarawak, in contrast to, say, Bangkok. So bear with me through it all.

Background: Each year, we go to someplace new during our annual trip to Asia. As we explored possibilities for this year (we already had tickets in and out of Bangkok) we became increasingly interested in the option of going to Borneo. We were interested in seeing wildlife and were interested in the indigenous cultures there. The Malaysian side of Borneo is more accessible than the Indonesian side, and we started narrowing our focus to Malaysian Borneo, Sabah and Sarawak.

We really wanted to see the orangutans. As you probably know, there are a number of orangutan rehabilitation centers in Borneo. These places take in orphaned or injured orangs, with the goal of re-introducing them to the wild. The problem has been that the orangs become reliant on being fed and accustomed to people, and the centers, while successful in rescuing these orangs, really have not been able to make them wild again. I was well aware that the best chance to see the Orangs was at the rehab centers, and probably the only way to get good photos was at the rehab centers. Nonetheless, I had my heart set on seeing them in the wild. There is an excellent thread over on the Thorntree on the SE Asia Islands and Peninsula branch on where to see orangs in the wild. This information was invaluable to me as I planned my trip. The author's assertion was that the best place to see the orangs in the wild is the Danum Valley area. This is an area of primary (never logged) rainforest. There is a research center near the edge of the conservation area that now allows only bona fide scientists to stay there and there is the Borneo Rainforest Lodge. There are no other places to stay in the conservation area. We decided to book a three-day, two-night package at the BRL to experience the rainforest and in the hope of seeing an orangutan in the wild. I also had a 'plan B' which was that if we didn't see any orangs there, we could still visit one of the rehab centers in either Sabah or Sarawak.

Background reading: We both read Eric Hansen's Stranger in the Forest and Redmond O'Hanlon's Into the Heart of Borneo. Both books give riveting accounts of crossing Borneo on foot. If you are interested in orchids, I'd also recommend Eric Hansen's book, Orchid Fever.

Putting together the logistics proved a bit complicated, as you can't fly directly to either Kota Kinabalu or Kuching from Bangkok. Also, the trip to the Borneo Rainforest Lodge takes another flight to Lahad Datu. You can only fly to Kota Kinabalu from Lahad Datu, which further complicated our planning. Eventually, we used Eddie at SeaTours (the Am Ex agency in Bangkok) to book our plane tickets. Eddie was very helpful. He booked all of our tickets for us, charged them to my credit card for no extra charge, and our tickets were waiting for us at the Royal Orchid in Bangkok when we checked in. His email address is

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