Route Maleisisch Borneo: de reisroute voor 2 weken reizen door Sabah!

In this blog you will find the best travel routes through Malaysian Borneo. With this 2 week Sabah itinerary we take you through the highlights of Borneo. Do you have more time for Borneo? Then go for the 3-week backpacking itinerary through Malaysian Borneo. This 3-week Borneo route takes you through the two states of Sarawak and Sabah.

Gaya Island Sabah Malaysia

Malaysian Borneo

The island of Borneo is the third largest island in the world. It consists of Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. The two routes we describe run straight through the Malaysian part of Borneo . This beautiful island is a true paradise for nature lovers , adventurers and diverse . Borneo is known for its pristine rainforests, colorful coral reefs, white beaches, palm plantations and has a population with ancient traditions. Above all, Malaysian Borneo is the place to go to see wild  orangutans or climb Southeast Asia’s second highest mountain,Mount Kinabalu .

Routes & regions in Malaysian Borneo

Scroll down to find the two itineraries for Borneo. The 2 week route is fully focused on Sabah . Sabah is the northernmost region of Malaysian Borneo.

During the other backpack route, of 3 weeks, you combine Sabah and Sarawak. Sarawak is the southern region of Malaysian Borneo.

The last region in Malaysian Borneo is Labuan . This area, which consists of seven small islands, is not included in the routes below. It is primarily a tax haven (where you can buy alcohol cheaply) and thus more of a business district than a highlight to visit when backpacking.

Below the two possible itineraries, the destinations and highlights of Borneo are described. Including tips!

Wondering if Malaysia is an expensive country to travel around? Then read our blog about prices and budget in Malaysia !

Route Borneo in 2 weeks

This route focuses on Sabah, the northern region of Borneo. In two weeks you will see all the highlights of Sabah and enjoy everything that Borneo has to offer.

Your journey through Borneo starts in Kota Kinabalu , the capital of the state of Sabah. Kota Kinabalu is a big city and a great base from which to explore Sabah further. Take a trip to the islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Park . Your next stop is the Tip of Borneo where you have pristine beaches. A nice place to relax, snorkel or surf. Then you will travel to Sandakan where you will visit the Sepilok orangutan rehabilitation center . In this center, orangutans are taken care of that have lost their habitat. The next day you will sail on the mighty Kinabatangan River where you can look for exotic birds, pygmy elephants and Borneo’s other famous resident, the proboscis monkey.

The next destination on your route through Sabah is Danum Valley . Here it feels like stepping into Disney’s Jungle Book. This place has perhaps the best preserved tropical rainforests in the world and you can see that immediately. This is one of the few places in the world where you can see the orangutan in the wild. From this paradise above water you go to another unique paradise under water: Semporna . One of the best dive sites in the world. This is where you spend the last days of your tour in Borneo.

This 2 week route through Sabah looks like this:

 Kota Kinabalu – Tip of Borneo – (Sandakan) Sepilok – Kinabatangan River – (Lahad Datu) Danum Valley – Semporna – Kota Kinabalu 

Itinerary Malaysian Borneo 2 weeks highlights of Sabah

Day schedule tour Borneo 2 weeks

Day 1: Kota Kinabalu (arrival)
Day 2: Kota Kinabalu & Tunku Abdul Rahman Park
Day 3: Kota Kinabalu – Tip of Borneo
Day 4:  Tip of Borneo
Day 5: Tip of Borneo – Sepilok
Day 6:  Sepilok – Kinabatangan river

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Day 7: Kinabatangan River
Day 8: 
Kinabatangan River – Lahad Datu – Danum Valley
Day 9: Danum Valley
Day 10: Danum Valley – Semporna
Day 11: Semporna
Day 12: Semporna
Day 13: Semporna – Kota Kinabalu
Day 14: Kota Kinabalu (departure )

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Route Borneo in 3 weeks

Are you going  backpacking through Borneo for 3 weeks ? Then consider this itinerary that covers both states of Sarawak and Sabah. The route starts in Kuching,  the capital of Sarawak. Kuching is a nice city to discover. From here you can visit traditional long houses in Annah Rais and the S Menggoh Nature Reserve . The latter is an orangutan rehabilitation center. Then you fly on to Gunung Mulu National Park where you get to know one of the largest cave systems in the world. Your route continues as described above. From Gunung Mulu National Park you travel to Kota Kinabalu.Then you have the choice between  Tip or Borneo  or climbing Mount Kinabalu .

This tour then takes you via Sandakan to the Kinabatangan River . A safari by boat is the best way to spot proboscis monkeys here. At your next destination you try to photograph bears, (small) leopards and the orangutans in the famous Danum Valley during the many hikes . Finally, you go snorkeling or diving with large turtles, sharks and enjoy the beautiful underwater world around Semporna .

This 3 week itinerary through Malaysian Borneo looks like this:

Kuching – Gunung Mulu National Park – Kota Kinabalu – Tip of Borneo / Mount Kinabalu – (Sandakan) Sepilok – Kinabatangan River – (Lahad Datu) Danum Valley – Kota Kinabalu

Malaysian Borneo 3 week itinerary ultimate trip full of highlights of Borneo

Daily planning tour Borneo 3 weeks

Day 1:  Kuching (arrival)
Day 2: Kuching & S Mixgoh Nature Reserve
Day 3: Kuching – Gunung Mulu National Park
Day 4: Gunung Mulu National Park
Day 5: Gunung Mulu National Park – Kota Kinabalu
Day 6: Kota Kinabalu & Tunku Abdul Rahman Park
Day 7: Kota Kinabalu – Tip of Borneo
Day 8: Tip of Borneo
Day 9: Tip of Borneo
Day 10: Tip of Borneo – Sepilok

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Day 11: Sepilok 
Day 12: 
Sepilok – Kinabatangan River
Day 13: Kinabatangan River
Day 14: Kinabatangan River – Lahad Datu
Day 15: Lahad Datu – Danum Valley
Day 16: Danum Valley
Day 17: Danum Valley –  Semporna
Day 18:  Semporna
Day 19 : Semporna
Day 20:  Semporna – Kota Kinabalu
Day 21: Kota Kinabalu (departure)

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Click here for the ultimate travel route through Malaysia in 3 weeks.

Destinations & highlights of Malaysian Borneo

Below you will find a list of all destinations and highlights of Malaysian Borneo. Also handy, they are in the order of the above route, including travel time between the destinations.

Kuching (Sarawak)

Kuching is a nice town to discover. It is the capital of the state of Sarawak . In this city, which translates as ‘cat’, there are statues of cats in all kinds of places. There is also a special café dedicated to cats and a cat museum.

Half an hour’s drive from Kuching, you can easily visit S Menggoh Nature Reserve where orangutans are rescued who have lost their natural habitat due to deforestation. These orangutans are fed at fixed times. During feeding time, the chances of spotting these beautiful animals are high.

Another highlight near Kuching is the traditional longhouses . Entire families have lived under one roof in these large bamboo houses for generations. Annah Rais is a Bidayuh (indigenous tribe) settlement that likes to welcome tourists. The Bidayuh take you into their age-old traditions; think of hunting with blowpipe, their collection of human skulls, traditional dance and tasting rice wine. Annah Rais is about 1.5 hours’ drive from Kuching.

Hotel tip : The Ranee Boutique Suites

Wild Orangutan Danum Valley Sabah Borneo Malaysia

Gunung Mulu National Park (Sarawak)

Gunung Mulu National Park is an immense cave system in the Malaysian part of Borneo. This park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and famous for its  pinnacles (series of sharp rocky points). The landscape of Gunung Mulu National Park was created by extreme erosion. Adventurers dive into the rainforest for several days and walk the famous Headhunters Trail , visit the many caves or climb the top of the Gunung Mulu .

Hotel Tip : AA Homestay

Travel time Kuching to Gunung Mulu: 1 hour by plane.

Razor-sharp limestone in Gunung Mulu NP Borneo

Kota Kinabalu (Sabah)

Kota Kinabalu is the capital of Sabah, in the west of Malaysian Borneo. Kota Kinabalu (also called KK) is often used as a base to see more of Malaysian Borneo. From here you can    climb Mount Kinabalu (4095m high) and island hopping through  Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park . Two nights and two days is enough for KK.

Read more about Kota Kinabalu in our travel guide.

Hotel tip : Bed & Breakfast @ 21

Travel time Mulu National Park to Kota Kinabalu: 50 min by plane.

Sapi Island Sabah Malaysia

City Mosque Kota Kinabalu Borneo

Tip of Borneo (Sabah)

Long stretched beaches, towering palm trees and green dense jungle. The northernmost part of Malaysian Borneo, called Tip of Borneo, is an unexplored area where you feel like a real explorer. Away from busy cities, this is Borneo as you imagine it: an oasis of peace and nature. Here you will find the best beaches in all of Borneo. A nice place to relax. You can also snorkel and surf here. Read all about Tip of Borneo in this blog .

Climbing Mount Kinabalu is not included in the suggested routes through Malaysian Borneo . If you want to climb this sacred mountain, consider skipping Tip of Borneo or another destination.

Hotel tip : Hibiscus Villa Borneo

Note: Tip of Borneo is not that easy to reach. We recommend that you rent a car and drive there yourself via the well-maintained roads of Sabah.

Mt Kinabalu Sabah Borneo Malaysia

Super handy: the best hostels, hotels and lodges per destination at a glance. Read our guide to the best hotels in Malaysia !

Sepilok & Kinabatangan River  (Sabah)

Sepilok has an orangutan rehabilitation center . A place where you have a very good chance of seeing the orange monkeys. The orangutans living here have been rescued from the wild; their habitat is disappearing due to deforestation. Especially during feeding time, the chances are very high that you will see them. Sepilok orangutan rehabilitation center is a half hour drive from Sandakan . A few hours are enough for this activity. Then you can continue your journey towards the Kinabatangan River .

The Kinabatangan River is about 2 hours from Sepilok. The Kinabatangan River is the second longest river in Malaysia and is surrounded by many palm oil plantations. The river is known for its immense biodiversity. This means that you can spot a lot of wildlife here. Here you will find the famous proboscis monkeys, crocodiles, gibbons, the Borneo dwarf elephant and many bird species. You see a lot on foot, but the best way to see and photograph all the animals is by boat trip. There are several villages along the river; Bilit and Sukau,  these are the villages with sufficient accommodation options.

Hotel tip Sepilok : Paganakan Dii Tropical Retreat Hotel
tip Kinabatangan river : Borneo Natural Sukau Bilit Eco-Resort

Transport Tip:  You reach Sepilok by the trips to Sandakan. This is easily accessible by bus (7 hours) or plane (45 min) from Kota Kinabalu. Kinabatangan River is more difficult to reach. Your hotel often offers a pick-up service.

Malaysian Borneo Kinabatangan river Malaysia drone shot

Danum Valley (Sabah)

Danum Valley is one of the oldest rainforests in the world and is full of wildlife. One of the only places where you can still see the orangutans in the wild! A trip to Danum Valley is a great adventure where you go back to basics. It is a beautiful area for hikes and to spot birds, animals, reptiles and all kinds of insects. Before you go to Danum you often stay overnight in Lahad Datu . This is also the place where you travel by bus or plane and then continue on to Danum Valley. We recommend a minimum of 3 days for this dense paradise on earth. If you want to know more about orangutans in Danum Valley on Borneo, read our blog!

Hotel tip : Bike & Tours B&B

Travel time Kota Kinabalu to Danum Valley: 7 hours by bus or 55 min flight to Lahad Datu . From Lahad Datu it is a 2 hour drive to the Danum Valley.

Tough life for red leaf monkey Danum Valley Sabah Borneo MalaysiaGibbon Danum Valley Sabah Borneo MalaysiaHornbill Danum Valley Sabah Borneo Malaysia

Semporna  (Sabah)

The Semporna archipelago is a great dive spot. This reef still has a great biodiversity. Here you will find colorful coral, turtles and sharks. In short, an ideal place for scuba diving or snorkeling. The famous island of Sipadan is also close to Semporna . This island is a perfect base for all your diving trips. We recommend that you spend at least 3 days here. After all, you have to wait 24 hours after your dive before you can fly again.

Hotel tip : ND Divers

Transportation Tip: Semporna is accessible by bus (10 hours) or plane (1 hour) from Kota Kinabalu. From Sandakan there are also good bus connections to Semporna. You end your Borneo route in Kota Kinabalu.

Snorkeling gear Tip of Borneo Sabah Malaysia

Transport in Malaysian Borneo

The roads and bus connections on Malaysian Borneo are often very good. However, if you have little time, you will have to fly. The destinations on Borneo are far apart and some places are difficult to reach by public transport .

If you have the time, travel by bus! With good roads and low prices, buses are a pleasant and budget-friendly means of transport. Also nice, renting a car yourself! It is not difficult at all to drive a car in Borneo and the gasoline prices are low.

Borneo tip: It is not necessary to book your car, bus ticket or plane ticket far in advance, except in December or January. Then the population in Malaysia is also free and prices shoot up.Orangutan Sabah Borneo Malaysia

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