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BORNEO PHOTOGRAPHIC JOURNEY

Sepilok - Kinabatangan River - Tabin Wildlife Reserve - Danum Valley

The Borneo Photographic Journey explores Sabah’s East coast along the RAMSAR sites of Kinabatangan Floodplains, largest wildlife reserve of Tabin and the ancient rainforest of Danum Valley Conservation Area, home to the tallest trees in the tropics. You are accompanied by an experienced photographer on an all-inclusive and private program to ensure you will capture the best of Borneo from every angle. The itinerary provides plenty of opportunities to photograph Borneo’s iconic wildlife, nature and landscapes, coupled with insider access to get you behind the scenes. Depart Borneo with a deeper appreciation for it’s natural beauty.

Accommodation

Accommodation options for this itinerary can be tailored to suit your budget and travel style with the exception of Tabin Wildlife Reserve as there is only one accommodation facility available at the on-site resort.

Food

Accommodation properties will provide buffet style meals cooked to local cuisine. Dietary and allergy requirements can be catered for, please let us know these in advance.

Facilities & Services

*information available upon request

Guides

Specialised photography guide

Key Destinations

  • Sepilok – Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre, Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Rainforest Discovery Centre.
  • Kinabatangan River
  • Tabin Wildlife Reserve
  • Danum Valley Conservation Area

13D12N Borneo Photographic Journey

Day 1 – Sandakan to Sepilok

Welcome to Borneo! Be met by your guide at Sandakan airport and transfer to your accommodation (20 minutes overland). Check in to your room and have some downtime. Depending on time, head to Rainforest Discovery Centre and spend the afternoon on the canopy walk, searching for hornbills, raptors, Bornean bristlehead, etc. Have an introduction with your photography guide over dinner. After dinner, head out for an optional night walk to search for nocturnal species.

   Dinner

Day 2 – Sepilok

Spend all day at the Sepilok Forest Reserve. Visit the orangutan sanctuary, the sun bear centre, and spend time on the canopy walk at the Rainforest Discovery Centre searching for species in the canopy. In the evening, head out for a night walk to search for nocturnal species.

2 – 3 miles hiking, 2 – 3 hours (flexible)

This area focuses on great up close photography of orangutans in the sanctuary. The light is good because there is a large opening in the canopy around the orangutan feeding platform. The Rainforest Discovery Centre offers good opportunities for orangutans, pig-tailed macaques, birds, and nice forest shots from the canopy walk. Night walks can be productive for slow loris, civets, tarsiers, amphibians, etc.

  Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Day 3 – Sepilok – Kinabatangan River

After breakfast, we will depart for the Kinabatangan River (2 hours overland). En route, we will stop in the morning at Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary, and then continue on to the river. Have lunch, and in the afternoon head out for your river cruise. After dinner, embark on a night walk within the area for chances of spotting nocturnal wildlife such as tarsier, slow loris and sleeping birds.

The Kinabatangan River is the longest river in Sabah known for the highest concentration of primates in North Borneo. The forest is a secondary forest, with a large amount of ficus racemosa, a preferred food source for a variety of species. The focus of this area is river cruises and photography from the boat. Photography is great here because of the open area around the river. Light is good and the wildlife is generally cooperative for photography. There are also beautiful riverscape photography opportunities as well. Common species – orangutan, proboscis monkeys, silvered langurs, pygmy elephants, hornbills, macaques, etc.

Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Day 4 – Kinabatangan River

Early morning wake at 6am for river cruise on the Kinabatangan River. One of the focuses will be going for the Bornean ground cuckoo – a bird that requires patience! After breakfast, head out again to search for more wildlife. Return for lunch, spend time relaxing or birding. In the afternoon, head to Gomantong Caves, a 1 hour drive. Spend the afternoon at the caves, birding and watching the bat exodus as a million bats exit from the cave. Return to Borneo Nature Lodge for the evening. Optional night walk after dinner.

This is an amazing experience, with great wildlife around Gomantong Caves (orangutan, hornbills, red leaf langurs, birds, etc). If it is a clear day, shooting the million bats emerging from the cave is a spectacle worth seeing. Long ropes of tens of thousands of bats come out at a time, with raptors waiting to hunt the bats mid air. Can hike up to the top of the cave for eye level of the exit, but this is a hard hike up and would need to be pre-arranged.

Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Day 5 – Kinabatangan River

Early morning wake at 6am for river cruise on the Kinabatangan River. After breakfast, head out again to search for more wildlife. Return for lunch, spend time relaxing or birding. In the afternoon, head for another river cruise to search for more species. Optional night walk or river cruise.

Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Day 6 – Kinabatangan River to Tabin Wildlife Reserve

Early wake up for a full breakfast, before departing for our next destination: Tabin Wildlife Reserve. A boat will send us upriver for 2 hours, before we meet with the vehicle to send us to Lahad Datu. We will stop in Lahad Datu for lunch, before taking a 1.5 hour drive to Tabin Wildlife Resort. On the way into the conservation area, we will pass through the center of a very large palm oil plantation. Check into the resort, and head out for a wildlife drive at dusk. After dinner, have the evening to rest.

Tabin Wildlife Reserve is Sabah’s largest wildlife sanctuary, and home to a plethora of wildlife. One of the main methods of searching for wildlife is by open air 4x4s. Night photography on night drives is great, and an external flash (flash extender or off camera flash a good option) is recommended. The notable species for here are north borneo gibbons, leopard cats, hornbills. Photography conditions are also quite good here on the game drives because light is quite good with the opening above the road.

Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Day 7 – Tabin Wildlife Reserve

Early morning optional walk before breakfast (6:15 AM – 7:30 AM). Breakfast, and head out for a 1-2 hour jungle trek in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve. Spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing, trekking, or heading out on a scenic drive. After dinner, there will be another night drive to search for leopard cats, civets, owls, etc.

1 – 3 miles hiking, 3 – 4 hours (depending on choice of short or long trek)

Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Day 8 – Tabin Wildlife Reserve to Danum Valley

Wake up early for breakfast, and head out by 8:00 AM back to Lahad Datu (1 hour). From Lahad Datu, the drive to the Danum Valley Field Centre takes 2 hours (30 minutes sealed road, 1.5 hours dirt track). After checking into your accommodation, have lunch before trekking in the afternoon. Birding at the field centre will be mostly by foot. There are over 300 species of birds in Danum Valley, and a high diversity of all other fauna.

In Danum Valley, the photograph will all be by foot. Walking on well maintained trails to focus on photographing orangutans. This is one of the best places in Borneo to photograph orangutans in the wild. There are over 30 resident orangutans around the lodge. Because there is no hunting, they are very comfortable around people. Other notable species are red leaf langurs which hang around close to the lodge, hornbills, gibbons, deer, owls, and more. Snakes, lizards, insects, and frogs are also fantastic around the lodge. The frog pond just outside of the property has a good number of species and is great for photography. Photography can be challenging in Danum Valley. Even though you get up close subjects during the day, the canopy is very tall (100-140 feet) and it can be quite dark on the forest floor. A tripod and a lens with a wide aperture is recommended. Cameras that handle well with high ISO are also recommended for this. Macro workshops are great in Danum as well for evening time.

Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Day 9 – Danum Valley

Full day in the forest with your guide. In the evening, head out for an optional 4×4 night safari to search for civet cats and other nocturnal mammals

Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Day 10-11 – Danum Valley

Full day in the forest with your guide. In the evening, take an optional night drive or night walk.

Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Day 12 – Danum Valley to Kota Kinabalu

Enjoy your last morning of birding with your guide. Check out at 1:00 PM for your 5:30 PM flight back to Kota Kinabalu (1 hour flight). Upon arrival, get picked up and transfer to your hotel in Kota Kinabalu. Rest for the evening.

Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Day 13 – Departure Day

After breakfast, be transferred to the airport for your flight home.

Breakfast 

Included

  • All accommodation and meals as stated in program
  • Entrance, camera fees, in DVFC, Sepilok, Gomantong
  • All activities stated in the program unless mentioned in exclusions
  • Domestic airfare, Lahad Datu – Kota Kinabalu
  • All connecting land transfers in a/c vehicles 
  • Private photography guide
  • Private boat activities in Kinabatangan
  • Private vehicles activities in Tabin
  • 4 drives in Danum Valley Field Centre

Excluded

  • International flights
  • Juices, carbonated & alcoholic drinks, and meals not specified in the program
  • Travel insurance 
  • Personal expenses (souvenirs, laundry etc.)
  • Add-on optional night cruise on the river
  • Tips or gratuities for guides
  • Porter for camera gear

What to Bring?

All of your essential camera equipment including camera body/s, lenses, field cleaning equipment (blower, microfibre cloth, etc.) tripod and flash. Other items such as headlamp, insect repellent, sunscreen, hat, raincoat or poncho, binoculars, dry-bag, swimwear, good walking or trekking shoes, sandals, personal toiletries including a towel, sunglasses, water bottle.

Departure

Daily based on minimum 2pax. Single supplement applies for solo travelers.

Recommended for

Families, couples, nature enthusiasts, birders, and adventurous travelers wanting to get away from the masses. This program can be suitable for children 8 years and above if comfortable camping in nature, as the trails surrounding the area are not too challenging.

Responsible Traveler

Be aware that you will be in conservation areas and sensitive environments we ask that you please consider your actions:

  • Cut out plastic – remove and recycle plastic packaging before coming into a conservation area, please consider taking out what you bring in with you.
  • Bring rechargeable batteries as disposable batteries leach toxic chemicals as they degrade in landfill, and recycling facilities are scarce in areas like Malaysian Borneo.
  • Bring your own metal water bottle – you can fill up at the eating area instead of purchasing bottled water most places in Malaysian Borneo will have clean drinking water available.
  • If you smoke, never throw your cigarette butts on the ground or in the forest – dispose of them in ashtrays or bins, otherwise carry them until you can dispose of them thoughtfully.
  • During outdoor and nature activities, take your cues from the expert local guides. Follow their instructions when observing wildlife. Be aware that you may need to take extra care in these areas to respect the natural environment.

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