Borneo itinerary-your comments welcome!

Old Jan 28th, 2012, 08:41 PM
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Borneo itinerary-your comments welcome!

As usual, we are planning not a year in advance like so many Fodorites but just 7 weeks ahead. Inspired by Kathie’s 2005 report and others, we (me, wife, and 15 year old son) are attempting to go to Borneo for spring break. Here’s what I’ve been able to come up with given our school schedule constraints.

Day 1, 2, 3 - LA to Singapore, overnight Singapore
Day 4 - Fly to Kuching arriving early afternoon
Day 5, 6 – Kuching
Day 7 - Fly to Kota Kinabalu early pm arriving mid-afternoon, Overnight KK
Day 8 – Fly (very) early morning to Lahad Datu, Transport to Borneo Rainforest Lodge
Day 9, 10, 11 – Borneo Rainforest Lodge
Day 12 – Transport back to Lahad Datu, Further transport to Sandakan, Overnight Sandakan
Day 13 – Transport in am to Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge (or some other lodge TBD)
Day 14 – Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge
Day 15 – Transport back to Sandakan, Fly to Kuala Lumpur early pm arriving mid-afternoon
Day 16 – Fly mid-afternoon back home

Yes, this gives us just an evening in Kota Kinabalu but seems to be the price to pay in order to have some time in Kuching. An alternative would be to eliminate Kuching entirely and find something else to do in Sabah. Or eliminate time in Kinabatangan as perhaps not necessary after Borneo Rainforest Lodge?
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Old Jan 29th, 2012, 09:21 AM
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The thing that seemed interesting to me about the Kinabatangan was being able to do the river trip. Ultimately, we decided we didn't have the time for it, but it seems it would be a worthwhile addition.

It's a jam-packed itinerary, which will work fine as long as everything runs on time.
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Old Jan 29th, 2012, 08:17 PM
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I would not eliminate the Kinabatangan. The river is really beautiful and completely different than the Borneo Rainforest Lodge. I did not go to Kuching so I think it would depend what you are most interested in. If it is the wildlife that I would focus on the river and the rainforest.
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Old Jan 29th, 2012, 08:36 PM
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I did a package staying at the Kinabatangan lodge for 2 nights, Turtle Island for one night. From the pier in Sandakan it is a long way on a boat to get to the lodge and tiring, so I'd rethink if I want to do it for one night. Turtle Island was well worth it and a shorter trip from Sandakan, I'd look into that as well. I did the river trips from the Kinabatangan lodge and one was well worth it - I spotted a wild Orangutan in the trees building his nest! We also found wild elephants. Just a warning - compared to the BRL, rooms at the KRL are quite basic...
Your itinerary has a lot of time in the rainforest - some people could spend 15 days on safari, personally I get bored after 3-4. Just a thought. Spending some more time in Singapore might be worth it. Also, it is very easy to get to KK on Air Asia to Hong Kong, and HKG is a shorter and often cheaper flight from LAX.
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Old Feb 5th, 2012, 11:12 PM
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I think we've concluded that we'll stick with this itinerary despite its somewhat breakneck pace. We do want some non-rainforest time and a couple of days in Kuching will fulfill that. One twist is whether we should cut back the Borneo Rainforest Lodge from 4 days to 3 in order to squeeze in a visit to the turtle island. An overnight turtle island trip seems to be a pretty standard part of the Kinabatangan river packages, which still would allow for 2 nights/3 days of exploring the river. Can anyone comment on the relative merits of one night of turtles versus one more day at BRL?
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Old Feb 6th, 2012, 03:21 AM
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I am glad you are keeping Kuching. We were there for a week and enjoyed it quite a bit. We stayed at BRL for 3 nights and would have enjoyed a 4th, but 3 still gave us a good time. I thought those who came for 2 nights were a bit rushed. We debated Turtle Island but ultimately decided it was not going to work for us. We enjoyed our 2 nights on the Kinabatangan, seeing a herd of 15 Pygmy elephants on the boat ride in. However, we saw many more proboscis monkeys close up at Bako National Park near Kuching. Whatever you decide, I am sure you will enjoy it.
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Old Feb 6th, 2012, 04:39 AM
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Your itinerary looks great to me. Tabin is the only reasonable destination that could be added with a couple extra days. Otherwise, looks good. Definitely DO NOT eliminate the Kinabatangan - it will show you more wildlife than even the Danum. Have fun!

Check our our website's Borneo blog with the below link:

http://cokesmithphototravel.com/Asia.html\

Cheers, Coke
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Old Feb 6th, 2012, 11:31 AM
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Coke: Fantastic photos! My son is a budding photographer with a new DSLR. What's the minimum length lens you'd recommend for him to be able to get some good shots in the rainforest and along the river? 200mm? 300mm?
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Old Feb 6th, 2012, 02:21 PM
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I would say 300 to 400 or so. Depending on the speed of the lens that is. THere should be sunny moments when a slower lens will be OK, but the forest shots will have spotty light...As a budding photographer, he will have a blast!!!
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Old Feb 10th, 2012, 10:03 AM
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Ok, into the final strokes now. After booking some of the internal flights, I suddenly realized that I had accidentally included an extra day for the Borneo Rainforest Lodge on my itinerary spreadsheet--4 nights instead of 3. And, it turns out that going directly from BRL to Kinabatangan makes a lot more sense than going all the way to Sandakan and doubling back up the river, which makes going to the turtle island less convenient. So, the options for the extra day seem to be:

1. Stay another night/day at BRL.
2. Stay an extra night/day on the river.
3. Add an extra day in Kuala Lumpur (we've got just 24 hours minus airport travel time there now)
4. Try to re-book my internal flights and increase the time in Kuching from 3 nights to 4

#1 is the most expensive option and maybe 4 nights at BRL is enough. I worry that 3 nights on the river is more than enough. Comments here lead me to believe that 24 hours may be enough for KL. And I don't even know if re-booking flights is possible for #4.

Anyone have any thoughts on this (admittedly not so horrible) dilemma?
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Old Feb 10th, 2012, 10:39 AM
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If it were me, and it isn't, I'd opt for increasing the time in Kuching.

I'm sure you wouldn't regret more time at the BRL, but I do think 4 nights is enough. And I think you have enough time on the river.

KL is not my favorite city, but you could find enough to fill your time.

What airline are you flying? If you are flying Malaysian, I expect rebooking the internal flights would be easy - at least that was my experience.

Good luck!
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Old Feb 10th, 2012, 05:32 PM
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Tough one. We spent about 9 nights on the Kinabatangan but felt that we need at least 5 more to do it right. (But we are wildlife photographers and we generally stay as long as possible in order to capture the various species in, not only good light, but in all sorts of behavior modes...) We spent about 7 nights in the Danum too - loved every second of it. If I had to spend time in any of those cities or towns, especially KL, instead of spending time in the Bornean bush, that would be a pity for sure. Can't speak for Kuching as I've never been there. I'd pick the river!
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