borneo wildlife adventure

Borneo Travel Blog

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singapore -- cab--> johor bahru --flight--> kota kinabalu --bus--> sandakan --flight--> kinabalu --flight--> johor bahru --cab--> singapore

From Kinabalu airport to sandakan town:  Arrive in kota kinabalu airport at about 930am. took a cab, rm30 to northern bus terminal. the aircon express bus depart to sandakan at 10am and 2am. took the 10am one, cost rm33 per person. the journey took 6 hours, via most mountain roads. along the way, saw the foot ok Mt kinabalu part, 5 cows lying by the road, a chicken farm and nice mountain sceneries. for the rest of the time, i was sleeping.

sandakan town: went to the hundred steps, agnes keith house and rotary club viewpoint as suggested by lonely planet. the steps of the hundred steps stairways are not maintained well and there is nothing to see over there. agnes keith house opens from 9am to 530pm and was closed when i reached. but i managed to peep in, it looked like nothing but a house. rotary club viewpoint is a waste of time as all views are covered by the trees so u can only see the top of the trees. sandakan town is very small. by 8pm, most shops are closed except for foodstores and the place look like a ghost town. some cafes and pubs along the sea but not much customers while i was there during the evening. a pharmacy located there. tried nutri malt beer and it was too sweet for my liking. good old heineken cost rm8-12. stay in MAYFAIR HOTEL double room for rm50 (clean, 1 toilet with hot shower, complimentary towel and piece of soap, 2 single beds, 1 big LCD screen panasonic TV!). very friendly owner. they have like 500 to 1000 vcds which u can borrow (up to 5 for one night). nothing much in sandakan town but it is a good starting point to visit the abandunt wildlife in sandakan. i was there on a sunday morning and there seemed to be a big sunday morning market on the street. nothing much to buy but good for trying out some cheap local snacks and to soak in the marketing atmosphere.

sandakan town to seligan turtles island: lonely planet claimed that u can only go to turtle island via travel agencies but the staffs there claimed otherwise. i think travel quest is the one is charge of the only accomodation (chalets) in turtle island. 3 islands are responsible for the preservation for seaturtles and only seligan is open to public. only up to 60 people are allowed in one night due to limited accomodation. i found a travel agency which offers rm575 per pax but they claimed to be fully booked for 18 may and in the end, we paid US$530 for 2 pax. . best to buy the packages well in advance so u have time to compare prices and go on the dates u choose. different tour operators offers different prices.

Seligan turtles island: my room comes with a toilet, 2 single beds, 2 pieces of complimentary soap, 2 bottles of water, 2 towels, in good condition. reached there at about 11am. lunch at 1pm. video show at 6pm, dinner at 7pm. during the day, there is nothing much to do. u can either rest in your room or hang out at the beach. snokel equipment for rent at about rm10. drinks, food, beer and ice cream sold at the cafeteria throughout the day. the area where u can swim or snokel is not very big, the people claimed currents are strong elsewhere. i did not rent any mask, but use a swim goggles instead. it was low tide and water is very shallow. not very amazing corals but i saw some beautiful fishes and enjoyed my day at the beach. beach was not crowded as they only allow max of 60 people in the island. i walked one round the whole island in like 10 minutes. After dinner, we were not allowed to use flash for our cameras and usage of each camera is chargable for camera fee of rm10/camera. no video taking allowed. going back to the chalet or beach were not allowed too. main reason is that turtles waddle to shore, dig a hole in the sand and lay eggs. they are very sensitive to light and with disturbance, they go away. so we were to wait in or around the cafeteria for a rangers to inform us when the turtles were laying eggs and watched him collect the eggs. then we saw the ranger released baby turtles into the sea. i was lucky that day. i was sitting outside the cafetaria and i saw a turtle coming up from the sea and dig a hole to lay her eggs. and the next morning, a big turtle was walking right outside my chalet! during the boat ride back to sandakan town, we saw 2 big sea turtles having sex in the middle of the surface of the sea! in my opinion, seligan turtle island is an experience not to be missed! it is amazing to see so many lives being created right in front of u. something so primitive. and the knowledge that less than 1% of the baby turtles survived after being released into the sea.

Sipilok Orang Utan Reserve: This is managed by a UK organisation to preserve orang utans in borneo. feeding time at 10am and 3pm daily. rm10 for camera fees. 25pounds per year to adopt an orang utan. entry fee rm30 for adults. if u missed the feeding time, u may risk not seeing any orang utan at all as the place is just like a natural forest and the orang utans may be deep in the forest. the reserves take care of the young ones, teach them survival skills and release them in the reserve. some of them go back to feeding platform occasionally, some all the time, some never go back as they are able to find all the food they need in the wild. for those adult orang utans who can survive in the wild, they are transported by helicoptor into another forest which is twice the size of singapore. i was lucky while i was there. i saw at least 8 orang utans.

Lok Kawi Wildlife Park: As of May 2008, there is no public transport going there. it is located at the south of kinabalu town, about 30mins from the airport by cab. i had 6 hours before catching a flight so i went there. rm40 by cab from kota kinabalu airport to lok kawi wildlife reserve. u have arrange for a cab to pick u up from the park as there are little or no cab going in there. The park is like a regular zoo, easily covered in 2 hours. rm20 per entry for adults, free for people above 65 years old. animals are in enclosed area except for the birds which are in a super big cage which is made to resemble a forest and u are allowed in the big cage. great place for kids as paths are like normal roads and great place to visit if u have a flight to catch soon. there were orang utans, tigers, elephants, otters, snakes, crocodiles, monkeys, cows, deers, birds, zebra, horses, ponies, rhinos and others! again, i was lucky as one park ranger broke the rule and allowed me to cuddle and carry a cute young and shy orang utan! i'm so sorry that i had to go and left it behind...

Kinabalu Town: Went to waterfront. a row of restaurants and pubs by the sea. a sea smelled a little unpleasant due to pollution but i did not mind. had dinner over there in an intalian restaurant. wonderful pasta. i sat by the sea (had an outdoor table) from about 545pm to 715pm. saw the most beautiful sunset ever! in the horizon, there were mountains and a nice 2 storey building which looked like a clubhouse. the sunset was postcard perfect! near to there waterfront, there were some shopping malls. saw some familia shops like quiksilver, esprit, charles and keiths, factory outlet store, padini etc.

from kinabalu town to kinabalu international airport: expect cab fare to be at least rm20 but we bargained it to rm15. i felt that i had left paradise :(




  • For girls, it is alright to be in bikinis on the beach on turtles islands. but do not be surprise if the men there stare at u. for the rest of borneo, many travellers walk around in shorts and tank tops. however, if u intend to visit mosques or churches, it is advisable to be dressed modestly.
  • use caps, hats, sunblocks etc. the sun can burn u within 15 minutes.
  • a piece of litter on the ground may claim the life of a wild animal
  • if u plan to visit the rafflesia reserve in kinabalu, call in advance to check if the flowers are blooming. they take 9 months to bloom and lasted for only 7 days. there are days when no flowers are blooming at all.
  • if u plan to go up sumit of Mt kinabalu, best to book at least 3 months in advance as accomodation is limited on the mountain.





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photo by: chriswebb1988