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Borneo/Peninsular Malaysia in January???

Borneo/Peninsular Malaysia in January???

Old Jan 1st, 2011, 06:55 AM
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Borneo/Peninsular Malaysia in January???

Does anyone have suggestions/information about Borneo/Malaysia in rainy season? We will be there this January (2011) and have 10 days maximum on Borneo, interrupted by climbing Mt. Kinabalu in the middle, leaving somewhere between 5-7 days free afterwards. We are hoping to see wildlife and snorkel. Is it too wet in the rainforest? Is the water too turbulent for snorkelling at that time of year?Should we spend time on Peninsular Malaysia's west coast instead?
We have seen some prices being quoted for lodges which seem incredibly high. We love the idea of experiencing something exotic, but....
Can someone let me know what is reasonable to expect?

Another question: we'll be starting/ending from Singapore.
Does anyone know about the Thaipusam festival? Is it something we should try to see or try to avoid? We'll be in Singapore first and the festival is on Jan. 19, so we could stay for it or leave for Borneo that day instead.
Finally, Is it okay to travel alone as a woman on Borneo or elsewhere in Malaysia?
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Old Jan 1st, 2011, 09:28 AM
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No issues traveling alone in Borneo.

January is the end of the rainy season in Sabah. We were there at the beginning of the rainy season and found it was drier in the rainforest than we had anticipated. The prices for the jungle lodges are high. The prices include all your meals and a naturalist guide. We stayed at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge in the Danum Valley, the most protected wildlife area in Malaysia. Yes, the price seemed high, but it was worth every penny.

I'm a bit confused by your itinerary... you have a maximum of 10 days on Borneo, but you'll be climbing Kinabalu and have 5 - 7 days after that. I'd recommend you go to Kinabalu before you go to the Rainforest. I found Kinabalu quite disappointing after visiting the rainforest. In fact, I'd recommend you stay in SIngapore for a couple of days for Thaipusam, the fly to KK and visit Kinabalu and then have your time in the rainforest.

Sorry, I can't help you much with the snorkeling question. There are prime places to snorkel out of Sabah, but I don't know about the water clarity issues.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2011, 05:48 AM
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Thanks, Kathie. It's so helpful to hear from someone who has been there! The few tour companies and lodges I've managed to be in touch with all tell me conflicting things....
We could leave Singapore for Borneo on either Jan 19th and miss Thaipusam, or on the 20th and have a day to explore KK and/or snorkel in TARP. From what I gather you were suggesting staying for Thaipusam.
Our Kinabalu climb is Jan. 21-22. After that, we thought of perhaps spending a day or more in TARP snorkelling and/or getting into the rainforest.
Are the flights out of Borneo to Singapore reliable? At least one of us leaves Singapore for home on Jan. 30 early a.m., so wants to be back in Sing. by the 29th for sure, and was therefore thinking it necessary to plan to leave Borneo on the 27th or 28th in case storms caused plane cancellations. Does that make sense to you?
Obviously we don't want to cut our Borneo time short unnecessarily, but don't want to risk missing a long-haul flight...
Did you travel on the Kinebatangan River in addition to the Danum Valley? There seem to be boat rides to view the animals there. Do you have any sense about how that would compare to BRL for viewing?
Did you go to the Poring Hot Springs after Kinabalu?
Thanks again, and Happy New Year!
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Old Jan 2nd, 2011, 07:34 AM
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The flights in and out of Borneo/Singapore are reliable. That said, I'd plan to be in Singapore a day in advance of the long-haul flight out. IMO, no need to be there two days ahead.

We didn't climb Kinabalu, but visited the park, including Poring hot springs. We disappointed in Kinabalu, as we'd already been to the Danum Valley, which is pristine rainforest, and Kinabalu park is like Dinseyland in contrast.

We did not go to Kinbatangan River, so I can't tell you about that. We wanted to go where we had the greatest likelihood of seeing orangutans in the wild, which meant going to the Danum Valley.

Have you read my trip report? It's a few years old, but may have some useful information

Another Fodorite, rivet, was recently in Borneo

ANd I found this thread over on Thorntree to be very useful in deciding where to go:
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Old Jan 2nd, 2011, 09:08 AM
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We climbed Kinabalu about 10 years ago and whilst I agree with Kathie re the park itself being a tad disapointing (other places like Mulu or the Kelabit highlands are far more impressive), the climb itself is a one of those "once in a lifetime experiences. fewsights can compare with watching the dawn rise above the clouds from the summit.
Whilst there is no technical climbing involved it is very strenuous so any preparation (stairmaster etc.) you can get in beforehand will be well rewarded! Personally, I would not bother with Poring - get back to the hotel for a leg massage - you will probably need it..
We stayed at the Shangri La at KK and did some good snorkelling/diving trips from there arraged by the hotel. It hink diving is pretty much year round there.
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Old Jan 8th, 2011, 08:42 AM
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Some thoughts/comments on your questions:

1. I used to live in Singapore, and Thaipusam was one of my favourite holidays. This festival is really something to see, and is only celebrated in Singapore and in the Batu Caves near Penang in Malaysia. Devotees piece their bodies with skewers which hold up huge headdresses and walk barefoot about 2 miles between two temples. There is firewalking and other similar physical feats going on at the temples. Opportunities for photos are really terrific. The walk ends at the temple on Tank Road, so you want to go there and also walk along the route back to Little India area to observe events (and eat!).

2. The rainy season will kind of be a crap shoot in terms of how much it will affect the trip. You may be there for a stretch of dry weather, or really wet. It just depends on luck. Rain forests are, by their nature, wet places, so a bit of heavy rain or cloud cover should not hugely affect that portion of the trip. If you are prepared for it and don’t have expectations of endless sunny days, that would help. Bring clothes that can take rain, sturdy shoes, plenty of socks for changing when wet. The monsoon may make dawn views from Kinabalu quite obscured by clouds, again it will be a matter of luck. The climb, however is fun (sort of, agree on practicing on a Stairmaster or hiking on hills; a head lamp for the night walk, and a sturdy hiking pole to help on the return trip downstairs would be good things to have, IMO). The monsoon does mean more wind and waves, but for snorkeling that is not a huge deal as you aren’t at depths where water clarity is more affected; however if you get cloud cover the coral and fish colours are pretty much washed out. So again, it is a matter of luck. I don’t think I would make strenuous efforts to get someplace just to snorkel in the rainy season, as you may end up not having good conditions. (I would not make the trek to a place like Sipidan in the monsoon season.) If you can get to a beach relatively easily from your other actives, then do that.

3. The west coast of peninsular Malaysia just has OK snorkeling, IMO and is not worth the time on an otherwise short trip that does not include the west coast for other reasons. Come back in the summer when the marvelous east coast is dry and snorkel then. (Better yet, learn to dive in the interim.)

4. You are just going to miss the Lunar New Year, which is Feb 3-5 in Singapore. If there is any way to move the trip slightly to be there for that holiday, that might be interesting as well. Food, decorations, lion dances and generally fireworks on Feb 4. Just a thought.
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