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This 2-week itinerary to Borneo includes a PADI Open Water Diver course, and chances for pupils to learn about marine conservation, orangutan rehabilitation and experience life in a jungle camp on the Kinabatangan River.

Borneo is famed as having some of the world's top dive sites, and during this trip your team can learn to dive and gain a PADI Open Water qualification in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. 

Pupils studying biology will be spoilt by Borneo's vast diversity of wildlife and plant life, and a visit to the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre at Sepilok will give groups the opportunity to learn about the habits of these incredible mammals, as well as helping to contribute to their conservation.

Afterwards you will visit the Kinabatangan River, the second largest river in Malaysia, where you can observe a variety of wildlife from boat cruises, such as the indigenous proboscis monkey, orangutan and Asian elephant, as well as a variety of birdlife.

Typical itinerary

  1. Day 1: Depart the UK

    Leaving the UK, you begin your first leg of your journey to Borneo, travelling to Kuala Lumpur on Peninsula Malaysia. This is an overnight flight and you will arrive in Malaysia the following day.

  2. Day 2: Arrive Kota Kinabalu

    Landing in Kuala Lumpur, you transfer onto a domestic flight to Kota Kinabalu, known by the locals as KK. On arrival in KK, you will be met by our in-country team and transferred by coach to the backpacker’s lodge where you will be based. It will be late afternoon by the time you arrive, but you should have time for a quick visit to the lively fish and vegetable market before dinner and an early night.

  3. Day 3: Begin Learn to Dive course in Kota Kinabalu

    Today, you will join a study session and complete the pre-study required for your PADI Open Water Diver certificate. The study session will take four to six hours and will include watching the PADI Open Water DVD, completing the knowledge review and quizzes. At the end of the study session, you will be ready for the wet part of your diving adventure.

  4. Day 4: Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

    Today you will start the physical part of your PADI Open Water Diver course. You will complete the mandatory skills sessions, with a morning shore dive followed by an afternoon boat dive along a tropical coral reef. All your diving activities will be in the tropical waters of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (TARP). You will camp in the Marine Park for the next three nights.

  5. Day 5: Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

    Continuing your diving studies, you will join a morning skills session to learn a range of abilities to help you become a confident diver and buddy. After lunch at an island café, join an open water dive and get to see a range of tropical marine life.

  6. Day 6: Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

    Today is the last day of your PADI Open Water Diving course. By now you will be feeling more comfortable with your diving skills, including managing your buoyancy during dives. Join two more open water boat dives along coral reefs. Upon finishing your afternoon dive, you will be a certified PADI Open Water Diver! 

  7. Day 7: Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

    Today the group will be joined by Reef Check Malaysia- an NGO in Malaysia who focuses on marine conservation education and coral reef conservation activities. You will join briefings covering the coral reef ecosystem, threats impacting the reefs, the impact of marine debris and measures we can all take to preserve the reefs.

    Join three dives during the day - two in the morning, one in the afternoon - during which you can practice coral reef monitoring skills. After lunch you will be debriefed by the Reef Check Malaysia instructor before you join an afternoon marine debris clean up dive or shoreline clean up activity. After your last dive, the marine debris collected will be transferred to a Sabah Parks Jetty for proper disposal. 

    You will then transfer by boat back to the jetty, and the rest of the afternoon and evening are free to explore Kota Kinabalu.

  8. Day 8: Transfer from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan

    After breakfast you will be collected from your lodge and transferred by coach from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan. You will have a stop on the way for lunch at a local café, before arriving at your lodge near Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre by late afternoon. 

  9. Day 9: Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre & Kinabatangan River

    After breakfast, you will visit Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. At the sanctuary, watch the morning feeding session, and a video to learn more about conservation efforts aimed at protecting the critically endangered orangutan.

    After lunch, you will be transferred to Kinabatangan River, the longest river in Sabah, providing a rich and unique ecosystem. Mid afternoon you will join a river cruise in search of wildlife; this gives the group chances to see various species such as proboscis monkeys, leaf monkeys, macaques, Bornean gibbons and even orangutans. Arriving back at the lodge at around 6pm, there will be time to freshen up before dinner, after which you can join a night jungle trek in search of nocturnal wildlife.

  10. Day 10: Tree Planting, Trek & River Cruise

    You will join an early morning river cruise along the Kinabatangan River in search of wildlife and birds – typically you see different species in the early morning to the ones you would have encountered the previous afternoon/evening.

    You will then head back to the lodge for breakfast, before departing the lodge to embark on a trek through the surrounding secondary rainforest to a nearby oxbow lake. The trek will take approximately two hours (round trip), with a rest at the oxbow lake, and along the route your naturalist guides will point out plant life that has medicinal or survival purposes.

    After lunch you will be transferred to the tree planting site, where each team member will plant a seedling near the river. This activity helps regenerate the rainforest in one of the many 'gaps' or fragments along the river as part of the 'Kinabatangan - Corridor of Life (CoL)' programme. In the late afternoon, the group will join a river cruise from the lodge in search of wildlife and bird life along the river banks. After dinner you will join another night jungle trek behind the lodge, looking out for nocturnal species of mammals, birds and amphibians. 

  11. Day 11: River Cleaning & Cultural Show

    Before breakfast, join an early morning two hour river cruise in search of wildlife. After breakfast, the team will join morning and afternoon river cleaning activities (with a break for lunch back at the lodge). One of the conservation activities included in the Kinabatangan Corridor of Life Programme, you will help to remove water hyacinths from the Kinabatangan River. The water hyacinth, a floating plant with thick, glossy, round leaves, inflated leaf stems, and very showy lavender flowers, is considered a nuisance due to the physical problems and ecological impacts arising from its uncontrolled growth.

    In mid afternoon, the group will join a river cruise again from the lodge, in search of wildlife and birds along the river banks. Dinner will back at the lodge, after which you will join a local dance class at the lodge, led by villagers from Bilit Youth Club – an opportunity to watch, and then try some local traditional dances.

  12. Day 12: Transfer to Sepilok

    After breakfast, check out of the lodge and be transfer by coach (approximately two hours) back to the Sepilok area, arriving mid morning. .After checking into your lodge, in the afternoon, visit the Rainforest Discovery Centre to walk in the canopy, studying life in the rainforest from up high. Afterwards, you will visit the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, an important conservation project focussed on the rehabiltation of the Malayan sun bear. 

  13. Day 13: Transfer to Sandakan & depart for the UK

    You will be collected from your lodge near Sepilok in the morning and transferred to Sandakan town for some souvenir shopping before you head to Sandakan Airport for your flight home. You will once again fly via Kuala Lumpur on an overnight flight.

  14. Day 14: Arrive UK

    Today you land back in the UK - welcome home!

Key info

This suggested itinerary is based on personal recommendation and can be tailored to suit your requirements.
  • Destination: Borneo
  • When to go: Apr to Oct
  • Duration: 14 days
  • Trip type: Explorer
  • Itinerary highlights:
    • Learn to Dive: PADI Open Water Course
    • Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (TARP)
    • Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
    • Kinabatangan River cruises
    • Incredible wildlife diversity
    • Exhilarating jungle treks
  • Activities:
    • Boat trip

    • Nature walk

    • River cleaning

    • Scuba diving

    • Tree planting

    • Trekking

  • Accommodation: Lodges and hostels
  • Ideal for: Ages 15 to 16
  • Travellers will need:
    • High level of fitness
    • Appreciation for outdoor adventure
    • Interest in encountering new cultures

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Featured locations:

Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary

Orangutan playing at Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary

Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary offers the finest orangutan encounters in Borneo. Here you can experience some of the clearest and closest meetings with these apes in their natural environment.

Kinabatangan River

Morning mist over ox bow lake on Kinabatangan River

Home to some of the finest wildlife encounters in Borneo, the Kinabatangan region has been a haven for scientists and conservationists for many years due to its prosperous environment.

Kota Kinabalu

Reflection of Kota Kinabalu mosque at sunrise

A must-see on your visit to Borneo, Kota Kinabalu is the capital of Sabah and offers amazing opportunities to explore World War II wrecks on diving tours, as well as learn about the city's history and culture.

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

turtle underwater in clear blue sea in Borneo

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park offers exceptional opportunities to explore a marine environment, identify fish and coral, and get involved in marine conservation.