West Malaysia and Borneo Tour
Combine the rich culture, heritage and cuisine of the Malay Peninsula with the tropical flora, fauna and landscapes of Borneo's Sabah State
A comprehensive 16-day West Malaysia and Borneo tour
A 2-week+ comprehensive Malaysia and Borneo tour combining the wonderful and varied heritage sites of Peninsula (or West) Malaysia’s historic towns with the exotic flora, fauna and awe-inspiring landscapes of the jungles of Borneo.
From the contemporary capital of Kuala Lumpur, with its spectacular mix of old and new and the vibrant street-life of Chinatown and Little India, we’ll travel to the twin, UNESCO-listed, Straights settlements of Melaka (former Malacca) and George Town (capital of Penang Island).
In Malacca, we’ll visit the remains of the 16th-century Portuguese fort A Famosa as well as Dutch-period buildings and the well-preserved shophouses of Jonker Walk, while George Town is famous for its British colonial architecture along with what is certainly the most extensive and best-restored Chinatown in Southeast Asia. We’ll also take a hike through the lush rainforest of Penang Hill and check out the wonderful cuisine that the island is justifiably renowned for, with both a street food tour and Malay cookery class.
From here we take a domestic flight to Kota Kinabalu – the capital of Malaysia’s Sabah State on Borneo Island – where we’ll embark on the jungle and wildlife part of our tour. Sites include a marine protection scheme on picturesque Dinawan island, overnight in plantation cottages at Sabah Tea, a hike in World Heritage Kinabalu National Park, a visit to the famous orangutan rehabilitation centre at Sepilok and a stay in a nature lodge on the forest-lined Kinabatangan River.
In addition to heritage walks and street-food tours, activities on our Malaysia and Borneo tour include an exploration of historic Malacca by rickshaw, a ride on Penang Hill’s old funicular railway, guided snorkelling tour of Dinawan’s reefs, birdwatching on the Rainforest Discovery Centre’s canopy walkway and dawn and dusk wildlife spotting boat trips up the Kinabatangan.
Here's an idea of what you can expect to do and see day-to-day.
Day 1 - Kuala Lumpur - arrival and orientation tour
Our tour starts with a lunchtime check in to our small, boutique-style hotel situated in the heart of the Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown. Time to relax after your flight before stretching your legs with a brief orientation tour followed by a local-style welcome dinner.
Airport transfers are included with the flights package
Overnight: Kuala Lumpur Transport: Walk, Meals: D,
Day 2 - Kuala Lumpur - walking tour and the Batu Caves
Morning walking tour of some of the city’s famous sites including bustling Little India and the splendid colonial-period architecture of Merdeka Square. In the afternoon we’ll take the local train to the spectacular Batu Caves – a huge and highly prestigious limestone cave temple complex – with an evening food tour of the Kampung Baru district.
Overnight: Kuala Lumpur Transport: Train, Walk, Meals: B, D,
Day 3 - Malacca - the UNESCO World Heritage Town
Early departure for the coast and the historical port, now UNESCO World Heritage site, of Malacca. Introductory walking tour with some time at leisure for you to explore at your own pace followed by a later afternoon rickshaw ride and a boat trip up the Malacca River to visit the scenic old Malay area of Moreton Village.
Overnight: Melaka (Malacca) Transport: Minibus, Boat, Meals: B, D,
Day 4 - North by train to Penang
A return drive to Kuala Lumpur to catch the Butterworth express train to northern Malaysia. Late afternoon arrival and transfer to our heritage-style hotel in UNESCO-listed George Town’s jetty quarter. The evening is free for you to explore the area or perhaps check out one of the town’s famous street food, hawker markets.
Overnight: George Town Transport: Train, Meals: B,
Day 5 - Penang - George Town Heritage Walking Tour
Morning heritage tour of some of George Town’s varied sites including the vast labyrinth-style Chinatown with its traditional shop-houses and family mansions as well as the Victorian architecture of the Fort Cornwallis district. Afternoon free to explore at your leisure, perhaps visit the splendid National Museum or just sample one of the myriad Chinatown cafes?
Overnight: George Town Transport: Walk, Meals: B, L,
Day 6 - Penang Hill - ride the funicular up and hike down
Our day trip to Penang Hill involves an ascent by way of the old funicular railway with a return on foot through the lush rainforest of the Moon Gate trail, to the island’s Botanic Gardens. Spectacular views guaranteed while fauna includes dusky langurs and over 100 bird species. After freshening up back in George Town we’ll have an evening guided street food tour.
Overnight: George Town Transport: Train, Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 7 - Penang - spice garden tour and cookery class
A morning at Penang’s Tropical Spice Garden includes an explanation of the myriad cultivated herbs and spices followed by a hands-on cookery class. For your free afternoon options are a hike in nearby Penang National Park, a trip to Ferringhi Beach or a return to George Town.
Overnight: George Town Transport: Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 8 - Flight from Penang to Borneo
Transfer to Penang Airport for a flight to Kota Kinabalu, capital of Malaysia’s Sabah State on the island of Borneo. Check in to our centrally located hotel, meet your Borneo tour-leader and a late afternoon stroll down to the waterfront for perhaps a sundowner before a local-style, welcome dinner.
Overnight: Kota Kinabalu Transport: Taxi, Plane, Meals: B, D,
Day 9 - Pulau Dinawan - an eco-project on a tropical island
A short boat trip takes us to the tropical island Pulau Dinawan where we’ll visit a conservation project involved in protecting the unspoilt island as well as its surrounding coral reefs. A guided snorkelling tour, nature hike around the island and barbecue lunch are on the menu with a late afternoon return to KK.
Overnight: Kota KInabalu Transport: Minibus, Boat, Meals: B, L,
Day 10 - Kinabalu - the National Park and Tea Plantation
Time to head into the interior where our first stop will be World Heritage Kinabalu National Park for a hike through the forest at the foot of the 4,000m mountain. Continuing east we’ll stop at the moving Kundasang Memorial in remembrance of Allied POWs who died during WW2’s infamous Sandakan Death March and, blooming permitting, the island’s celebrated Rafflesia flowers. Overnight in cottages at the Sabah Tea Plantation.
Overnight: Sabah Tea Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L,
Day 11 - East to Sepilok and a scenic lakeside lodge
A chance to admire the stupendous views over Mount Kinabalu from the perfectly placed restaurant before a brief tour of the organic tea plantation itself. From here we continue to Sepilok for a stay at a scenic lodge. Afternoon arrival and free time to explore the resort’s very own botanical gardens or perhaps relax on their well-situated terrace?
Overnight: Sepilok Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 12 - Sepilok - the famous Orangutan Sanctuary and Rainforest Discovery Centre
Morning visit to the famous Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary Rehabilitation Centre and the adjacent Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Project. After some time to relax and escape the midday heat, we’ll visit the nearby Rainforest Discovery Centre to explore the forest trails and extensive canopy walkways.
Overnight: Sepilok Transport: Walk, Meals: B,
Day 13 - Gomantong Caves and the Kinabatangan River
Departure for the nearby Gomantong Caves where we’ll discover the unique eco-system of the limestone caves including the edible swiftlet nests and, with luck, spot some of the wild orangutans that inhabit the area. On to the Kinabatangan Wildlife Corridor for a stay at a beautifully located, riverside eco-lodge. A sunset boat trip on the jungle-lined river. and a night trek to spot some of the nocturnal wildlife complete our day’s activities.
Overnight: Kinabatangan Transport: Minibus, Boat, Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 14 - Kinabatangan - river trip and nature hike
Today’s itinerary features a sunrise river cruise and morning jungle hike with some time at leisure to explore the area or sit back and admire the views from your balcony. Proboscis monkeys, langurs, crocodiles, Borneo pygmy elephants and of course orangutans, are just a few of the potential wildlife sightings, whilst rare bird species include Storm’s stork, pitas, broadbills, the lesser adjutant and several species of hornbill.
Overnight: KInabatangan Transport: Boat, Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 15 - Morning in Kinabatangan and return flight from Sandakan
Some time at leisure at Kinabatangan before a transfer to Sandakan Airport (depending upon airline schedules) for a short return flight across the island to Kota Kinabalu. Evening farewell dinner. (Note, anyone wishing to take up our Danum Valley extension would depart by road in the morning.)
Overnight: Kota Kinabalu Transport: Minibus, Plane, Meals: B, D,
Day 16 - Kota Kinabalu - departure or island extension
Morning is at leisure to explore Kota Kinabalu and perhaps visit one of its museums or markets before either a transfer to KK Airport (depending upon your departure time) or, for those with a few days to spare, a transfer to the ferry for a few days on Manukan Island.
Overnight: Departure Transport: Taxi, Meals: B,
The nitty-gritty, the things you need to know, the answers to your burning questions.
Just a few of the many highlights
Combine the rich and varied cultural, historical heritage and vibrant street life and celebrated cuisine of West Malaysia with Borneo's natural heritage, spectacular landscapes and unique wildlife
- Explore fascinating KL and the World Heritage Straights settllements of Malacca and Penang's George Town
- Varied destinations include Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Dinawan Island, an organic tea plantation and Penang's Chinatown
- Sample some of the best and most varied cuisine Asia has to offer with guided food tours, street markets and a Malay cookery class
- Discover Borneo's unique flora and fauna in UNESCO-listed Kinabalu National Park, Sepilok and the Kinabatangan River
- Travel by local train, funicular railway, by boat on the Malacca River and dawn and on dusk wildlife boat trips on the KInabatangan
- Optional extensions includea rainforest lodge in the Danum Valley, an ascent of Mt Kinabalu or a few days R and R on a tropical island
Air Departures (UK) *From
- 18 November 21 2,800 GBP
- 22 December 21 3,300 GBP
- 15 January 22 2,800 GBP
- 12 February 22 2,800 GBP
- 5 March 22 2,750 GBP
- 19 November 21 2,250 GBP
- 23 December 21 2,300 GBP
- 16 January 22 2,250 GBP
- 13 February 22 2,250 GBP
- 6 March 22 2,200 GBP
Guaranteed Places Left Special Price Solo Traveller Closed
*Air departures are from the UK. Land departures start from Kuala Lumpur
*Land departure dates correspond to the FIRST day of the itinerary.
We choose our hotels based on a combination of location, comfort and convenience. Here is a *selection of the types of hotel/rooms you can expect to stay at on this tour...
The Blanc Boutique Hotel, Malacca view
- Located in the heart of UNESCO-listed Malacca's Chinatown
- A small, cosy and low-key boutique-style hotel
- A refurbished heritage building on Jonker Street
Royale Chulan, Penang view
- Great location in the heart of World Heritage George Town
- Well-appointed with in-house bar, restaurant, spa and pool
- Comfy 4* rooms with modern amenties and heritage-style decor
Malaysia Sabah Tea view
- Overnight stay in an organic tea plantation
- Magificent views over the Crocker Ranges and Mt Kinabalu
- Accommodation in cozy plantation cottages
Sepilok Jungle Resort Sabah view
- Set in its own botanical gardens!
- Swimming pool and restaurant with lakeside terrace
- Well-appointed rooms with air-con, WiFi and cable TV
Myne Resort Kinabatangan view
- Comfy wooden chalets in a tropical garden setting
- All rooms come with private balconies overlooking the river
- In-house bar and restaurant with riverside terrace
*This list should be considered a guide only, hotels/rooms may change (without notice) depending on availability.
Visa Info & Notes
Visas: No visa in advance is required. A free 60-day visa is issued on arrival at any international airport. As usual, a minimum of 6 months validity from the date of arrival and at least 1 blank page in your passport is required.
Meals: Breakfasts are generally hotel buffets with lunch and dinners based on local food. Your tour leader will usually order a selection of dishes, local-style, while a number of meals are not included, which allows you to ‘do your own thing’ or take a break if you’re feeling ‘riced out’.
With its kaleidoscopic population, Malaysian cuisine is one of the most varied and richest anywhere on the planet and includes all the various, regional Indian and Chinese dishes, the unique Chinese/Malay Nonya cuisine as well as traditional Malay food alongside Thai and Indonesian influences. Dishes are generally mild with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options on offer.
Accommodation: all choices fall into the comfortable 3* range and are en-suite and air-conditioned. We have posted a selection of sample accommodation on the lefthand hotel tab but please note that as we try and avoid the larger hotels, availability, in high season particularly, means we use several options in each destination.
Activities: note that no activities are compulsory and that any, including trekking, can be tailored for any fitness level or alternatives suggested.
Further info: detailed descriptions and photos can be found on the corresponding page of our travel blog.
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