Borneo at a Glance

Take a journey to Asia's final frontiers, where orangutans swing through thick jungle and white-sand islands are mostly untouched by tourism. Even in capital city Kuala Lumpur there's a sense of exploring a destination that's completely different from the rest. Intimate and authentic, Borneo is home to some of our planet's most unique travel experiences, from evenings with turtles to river cruises beneath the rainforest canopy. The Peninsula has its own pleasures and on a Malaysia luxury tour there's a magical sphere of experiences to discover.

Borneo map Kuala Lumpur Langkayan Island Kota Kinabalu Selingan Island Sepilok Kinabatangan River and Rainforest Langkawi Sarawak

Kuala Lumpur

Beach Resort in Borneo

Known simply as KL, Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia's slightly more brash version of Singapore, a bustling boom-town with a heady urban blend of impossibly tall towers and ornate temples, mega-malls and chic eateries, big business and diversity of cultures. Often overlooked as visitors crowd the well known alternatives – Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong – Kuala Lumpur is both an excellent stopover and the perfect gateway on any Malaysia luxury tour.

Tremendous changes have been seen here since the turn of the millennium. The airport is world-class, the exchange rate is very favorable, the city is surprisingly walkable, and the shopping is certainly equal to that of its neighbors. Finally, the food, a delicious confluence of Chinese, Indian and local Malay traditions, may be worth the trip alone.

Langkayan Island

Resort in Borneo

A tropical island retreat amidst the colors of the Sulu Sea, Langkayan is in the heart of a huge marine protected area. With its soft white sand and thick jungle interior, the small island easily rivals any in Southeast Asia for its beauty. While we recommend it for beach bums and casual snorkelers, it's the scuba diving that makes Langkayan so memorable. There are dive sites for beginners and advanced-certified divers, along with a whole host of tropical reefs within snorkeling distance of the beach. Remote and resplendent, the island only has one resort, making it perfect for a relaxing getaway that also incorporates Borneo's famed marine world.

Kota Kinabalu

A Kota Kinabalu sunset will linger long in the memory, the fiery colors visible from almost anywhere in this small coastal city. This is the capital and gateway to Borneo's state of Sabah, a place that is sometimes unavoidable given the logistics of travel, yet one that quickly grows on every visitor. Old-world charm and 21st-century development merges in what is a conveniently compact city, but the real highlight is the waterfront, with little fishing boats slowly turning to silhouettes as you enjoy the legendary sunsets.

Selingan Island

Known as Turtle Island, Selingan is an hour by speedboat from the town of Sandakan. Mesmeric ocean views greet you at every turn, exceptional snorkeling is found in the Sulu Sea, and the evenings bring encounters with turtles. Selingan is one of five islands within the protected Turtle Park and is the only one that is habitable. The park protect the many hawksbill and green turtles that choose the archipelago to lay their eggs. Snorkeling almost always delivers images of the large females, while during the evenings, experienced rangers help you see baby turtles along the beach.

Sepilok

An orangutan returns your gaze, curiosity etched into his playful eyes. Walk further along the walkway and you see four more, facial expressions betraying their thoughts. Human-like fingers curl around branches, frowns and smiles reveal so much, and the sense of intimacy is exquisite. You can immediately sense that the orangutans are genetically familiar to you, as told through all the gestures and behaviors. After a full day in the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary and Reserve you'll come to learn all about these primates' life and legacy.

Remote Sandakan is a sliver of a port town and the arrival point for visiting the famous orangutans. Its airport helps makes Sepilok accessible and the endangered primates are easily visited on any private Borneo tour. The reserve covers more than 40 square kilometers of lush, protected rainforest, and exists for the rehabilitation of orphaned and injured orangutans. They come from the wild and touching is not aloud. However, these orangutans have grown accustomed to human presence.

At feeding times you are almost guaranteed a sighting of a small troop of orangutans but you'll also get chance to see them on the boardwalk trail. There is also an excellent visitor center and video presentation to be enjoyed. We can also arrange a nighttime canopy walk for even more immersive encounters.

Kinabatangan River and Rainforest

The landscapes around Kinabatangan River respond to preconceptions of the Borneo rainforest. Sabah's longest river is flanked by exotic bird and wildlife, which thrives in virgin mangroves, wetlands and thick, tangled rainforest. Head out on river cruises in search of wild orangutans, proboscis monkeys, and the other five of Borneo's primates. Eight species of hornbill chirp from the trees, just some of the hundreds of exotic birds that flutter around. Pygmy elephants create trails in the forest and you sometimes hear their trumpeted shouts during a candlelit dinner. While almost all of Borneo is rainforest, this area is one of our favorites, the award-winning Sukau Rainforest Lodge making the rainforest luxurious as well as adventurous.

Langkawi

An hour north of Kuala Lumpur by air, Langkawi is an archipelago of roughly 100 islands scattered throughout the Andaman Sea. Located just south of the Thai border, the landscape is comparable to that of Phuket: blinding white beaches, dramatic rain forests and azure waters. The important distinction is that the islands of Langkawi see just a small fraction of Phuket's visitor numbers. They've retained their pristine feel, the beaches mostly empty of people and the beach towns offering a laid-back alternative to those in Thailand.

Another important distinction is how the mountainous spine of Peninsular Malaysia shields the islands from the brunt of the winter monsoon season. The islands of Langkawi were recently granted Geopark status by UNESCO, a nod to the environmentally sensitive pace of development here. Malaysia's best-kept secret is a secret no more, with a spate of boutique hotel projects; however, these remain on a small scale and ensure plenty of luxury with hardly any other people around.

Sarawak

While Sabah receives the majority of visitors to Borneo, the western state of Sarawak is equally spectacular. Pristine rainforest stretches untouched into the interior, with wild orangutans and monkeys easily spotted. Rare tribes can be visited and the state lays claim to being Malaysia's most culturally diverse; you'll get a warm welcome everywhere you go, whoever you encounter. For those seeking adventure, Sarawak can take you even further into the wild than neighboring Sabah, like a riverboat trip up the Batang Rejang river, a hike across the Kelabit Highlands, and an expedition to the extraordinary scenery of Gunung Mulu National Park.

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Peninsula Malaysia and Borneo may be part of the same country but they offer completely different experiences. In essence, you'll find four different ways to turn and most of our private Malaysia tours include a little of each.

The Kuala Lumpur Introduction

On most our Malaysia and Borneo luxury tours, a couple of days in the capital is both an illuminating introduction to the vacation and an easy gateway. Cuisine is just one element of how Kuala Lumpur has redefined nations of multiculturalism and the breadth of experience is exquisite. From here you can fly to the oldest rain forests in the world, several popular orangutan preserves in the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, along with dozens of pristine islands scattered throughout the Andaman and South China seas.

The Alternative Experience on Peninsula Malaysia

Less touristy than Thailand but just as enchanting, Peninsula Malaysia presents a host of destinations mostly ignored by visitors. The beaches are quiet, the mountain towns full of atmosphere, and the interior dominated by nature. Most people travel straight from Kuala Lumpur to Borneo but stick around and we can guide you to the highlights of Malaysia luxury travel.

Into the Rainforest on a Borneo Luxury Tour

Home to 6% of the world's biodiversity, the epic and untouched rainforest on Borneo creates a surreal experience with nature. Orangutans are an obvious highlight but they're just one of seven primates who call this jungle home. Pygmy elephants create trails through the trees and birdlife is prolific, like eight species of hornbill and the more than 400 wild birds on the island. But most of all, a visit to the Borneo is about the immersion in an untouched land. You'll feel the wilderness with all your senses and come to understand the raw beauty of nature.

Escaping to Remote Archipelagos

Malaysia has islands just as exotic and dreamy as Thailand. But other than the Perhentian Islands, the archipelagos have missed out on the rest of Asia's tourist overdevelopment. They have remained in their pristine original state, the white sand framed by jungle backdrops and marked by only a small handful of boutique resorts. The underwater life is magical, with turtles and reef sharks amongst the life seen when snorkeling, while the life on land is as relaxing end to any luxury Malaysia holiday.

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INDOCHINA Travel Company

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Phone: (415) 680-3788