Go where the wild things are in Malaysia's Sabah

by , SmarterTravel Staff
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Go where the wild things are in Malaysia's Sabah

Outfitter: Intrepid Travel
Price: from $790 per person

While there are no longer headhunters in Sabah, a Malaysian state on the northwest corner of Borneo, this island destination is still one of the wildest places can you can visit. "Sabah has the best of everything," says Intrepid Travel Communications Director Jen Bird, who also worked as a Sabah trip guide. "There's a wide variety of cultures with fascinating histories, extraordinary environmental beauty, and exotic wildlife including orangutans, giant sea turtles, Asian elephants, and proboscis monkeys." On Intrepid's 13-day "Land Beneath the Wind" trip, you'll sample some of Sabah's best adventures, and see ecotourism at work in indigenous communities and wildlife reserves.


After arriving in the capital of Kota Kinabalu, the trip gets underway with a trek to the summit of Mt. Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Southeast Asia. You'll spend the night before the two-day journey in the village of the Dusan people, who will also be your guides up the mountain. On the second day of the trek, you'll rise at 3 a.m. so you can summit at sunrise and (hopefully), get a good view of the whole region. From a height of 13,432 feet, you'll venture down into the jungle for another homestay, this time in a Malay village, where you may get the chance to see wild elephants and primates.

Towards the end of the trip, two days are dedicated to amazing animal encounters. From Sabah's east coast you'll travel by boat to Turtle Islands Park, where you can witness green sea turtles lay eggs and hatchlings race to the sea by moonlight. Later, you'll get to see "the wild men of Borneo"—orangutans—up close at the Sepilok Orangutan Reserve, the largest sanctuary of its kind in the world.

The details

Intrepid offers this trip year-round. Rates include accommodations in guesthouses, tribal villages, park lodges, and camping; some meals; all activities listed on itinerary; and ground transportation. There is an additional local payment of $200. This trip requires that you be able to trek for up to six hours per day over difficult terrain. Bird says that travelers should come to Sabah knowing that they are going to encounter a place that's very different physically and culturally from the West: "We get off the beaten track to more remote areas where the comforts of home are not always readily available. [You] need to bring along your spirit of adventure and sense of humor."

Airfare is extra. Round-trip fares this May from Los Angeles to Kota Kinabalu start at $1,604 including taxes on Malaysia Airlines. Booking internal Sabah flights is also necessary; contact Intrepid for details.

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