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Borneo Trek - Mount Kinabalu

Borneo is known for its vast tracts of ancient rainforest and high biodiversity, harbouring many endangered animals including the orang-utan. Malaysian Sabah occupies the north-eastern corner of Borneo, and is a land of mountains, dense jungle, rushing rivers and friendly traditional villages. Our challenging trek takes us through the lush rainforest of the Crocker Range before tackling the highest mountain in Malaysia and Borneo – the spectacular and demanding Mount Kinabalu (4095m).  Combining varied and demanding trekking with rewarding cultural discoveries and spectacular natural beauty, this is truly a trip to remember!

The itinerary

Day 1: Depart London

Day 2: Arrive Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

We arrive in this bustling city, known widely as KK, and transfer to our hotel for dinner and a full trip briefing! Night hotel. (Lunch not included)

Day 3: KK – Crocker Range National Park

An early start sees us loading up the vehicles for the hour’s drive to the Crocker Range National Park – stunning jungle-covered mountains which separate the coast from the interior. Our trek takes us downhill on jungle paths, passing native villages with some cultivated land, and into primary rainforest with rushing streams and dripping, steamy vegetation tangled with creepers. It’s very atmospheric, with insects buzzing and melodic bird-calls high up in the canopy. We reach our host village and enjoy a wonderful insight into the local people’s everyday lives. Night community hall. Trek approx 5 hours

Day 4: Crocker Range National Park Trek

Our route takes us through more dense jungle, experiencing this incredible and remote habitat close-up! The paths we trek on are old trading paths used by villagers who crossed the mountains to the coastal markets to trade for goods such as salt.  Some of the remote villages in this region have no road access and still rely on these paths. We cross rushing streams and jungle ridges as our route takes us up and down through the jungle; the paths get muddy and overgrown and, although the paths are not too steep, it’s hard work and a great warm-up for our Kinabalu summit trek. We spend the night in a native village beside the river. Night village house. Trek approx 6-8 hours

Day 5: Crocker Range National Park – Kota Kinabalu

Our last day of jungle trekking takes us through more dense vegetation into secondary rainforest, past more small villages and photogenic rice-paddies. The scenery is wonderful! We have lunch at the end of the trail, and transfer back to our hotel in Kota Kinabalu for a well-appreciated shower and bed! Night hotel. (Dinner not included)

Day 6: Kota Kinabalu – Kinabalu Park – Laban Rata

After an early, energising breakfast, we drive (approx 2 hours) to Kinabalu Park, the gateway to the mountain. We complete Park formalities and start our trek (1866m), initially on easy terrain. We then trek steadily up through lush vegetation, which provides welcome shelter from the hot sun. The landscape around us gradually changes to conifers, shrubs and mosses as we ascend, and becomes steeper and more demanding. Kinabalu is one of the most biologically diverse spots on the planet and has World Heritage Site status. Many of the incredible ferns and orchids are endemic, and provide plenty of distraction from weary legs! Coming out of the vegetation onto a clear rocky plateau at around 2500m, we can see the mountain-top above us, an impressive sight with waterfalls cascading down the bare slopes. It’s not far now to Laban Rata, where we will have time to relax before retiring early. Night mountain hut (3270m). Trek approx 5-6 hours

Day 7: Laban Rata – Summit – Kinabalu Park

We start in the early hours and trek up to the summit in the dark, using our headtorches to light the way. A series of steps cut into the rock takes us through low shrub, and then out onto bare granite rock. It is hard-going, especially if you are feeling the effects of being at altitude, so we trek slowly and steadily. Some parts arevery steep but we use the permanent rope bolted into the rock to pull ourselves up when we need the extra help! After optimistically ascending a number of ridges to see only more rock ahead of us, we finally see the distinctive marker of the summit of Low’s Peak (4095m.) A magnificent sunrise awaits us, and in clear conditions we can enjoy views which stretch for miles – a well-earned reward for our efforts. We descend the same way, stopping for breakfast back at Laban Rata and returning to the Park Gate and Kinabalu Park. Night cabins. Trek approx 6-8 hours (3-4 hours ascent, 3-4 hours descent)

Day 8: Kinabalu Park – Poring Hot Springs – Kota Kinabalu

Leaving the mountain behind, we depart Kinabalu Park and start our journey back to Kota. Kinabalu. En route we stop at Poring Hot Springs, one of Sabah’s chief attractions and a great way to relax any aching muscles. We can take a dip in one of the soothing, hot mineral springs set in beautifully landscaped gardens, and walk along the canopy walkway 100ft above the forest floor – a fantastic way to observe the flora and fauna. We then return to Kota Kinabalu for a great evening of celebrations to mark our achievements this week. (Dinner not included) Drive approx 2 hours

Day 9: Sandakan – KK

We have most of the day free to explore the varied sights of Sandakan (or just relax and rest your aching legs!); we then transfer to the airport for our short flight to Kota Kinabalu. We check into our hotel and enjoy an evening of celebration to mark our achievements. Night hotel.

Days 10 – 11:  Extended stay in KK

Day 12: Fly Kota Kinabalu – UK

We transfer to the airport for our international flight via Singapore.  

Day 13: Arrive UK

Discover Adventure reserves the right to change the route or itinerary for safety reasons should local conditions dictate. Copyright Discover Adventure 2014 / Updated 2015


Detailed information

What's Included?

The tour cost includes all accommodation, flights and transport, internal air taxes, all meals except three as specified, and any sites visited as part of the itinerary. Experienced Discover Adventure leaders and doctor (depending on final group size) are also included, along with a local support crew of guides, porters, cooks and drivers. It does not include personal travel insurance, airline fuel supplement if charged by the airline, meals as specified, tip for local crew, or international airport tax.  We strongly recommend you carry a credit card in case of personal emergency.

What's Excluded?

 It does not include personal travel insurance, airline fuel supplement if charged by the airline (capped by Discover Adventure), meals as specified, tip for local crew, or international airport tax. It also does not include any entrance fees to any optional sites you may wish to visit.

Flight Information

Group flights leave from London Heathrow or Gatwick, (we regret that we are unable to book connecting flights), and are booked through Discover Adventure Ltd under ATOL licence 5636. By travelling with Discover Adventure you are protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). We are most likely to fly with Singapore or Malaysian Airlines; internal flights will most probably be with Garuda, however, we don’t always use fly with the same airline so this is a guideline only. You will usually receive confirmed flight details several months before departure.  Our itineraries are always based on current flight schedules and are therefore subject to change by the airline. If you prefer to book your own flights please ask us for a land-only cost. 


We stay in good tourist-style hotels in the cities, and Park cabins which are clean and comfortable; rooms are twin-share. In jungle home-stays we bed down on the floor in shared rooms – more basic but a great cultural experience. On the mountain we stay in a guesthouse in dorm rooms. 


All food is included when trekking.  Expect most meals to be local-style; the food is plentiful and very good. 3 meals as detailed are not included. 

Dietary Requirements

Being vegetarian or having other dietary requirements is not usually a problem provided you let us know well in advance. Please do not expect as much variety as you would have access to at home – we will be in rural areas and among people of a different culture who may not understand your requirements, however willing they are to help. If you know there are plenty of foods you cannot eat you may wish to bring extra snacks from home so you can top up your energy supply. Any meals not included are listed in the itinerary and are generally when we are in towns or cities and you are free to explore and try other culinary experiences! There is always something to suit every budget.

Trip Support

Discover Adventure Crew

Your trip will be led by experienced Discover Adventure leaders. Our leaders are selected for their experience in harsh wilderness environments, knowledge of travel in remote areas, friendliness and approachability, sense of humour and ability to safely and effectively deal with any situation that arises. You are in very safe hands with a Discover Adventure leader.

All our leaders are from the UK or other English-speaking countries. Most work for us on an ad-hoc basis and have ‘real’ jobs in-between trips! We never send our leaders to the same destination for months on end – we want them to be as enthusiastic about your trip as you are.
Although our leaders are trained in expedition first-aid, they are accompanied by an expedition doctor or medic (dependent on group size), who is there to look after the well-being of the whole group and deal with any incidents. They help the leaders to ensure the trip runs smoothly and encourage you when things get tough. The number of crew looking after you will depend on the final size of your group, but an average-sized group in Borneo would be led by one or two leaders and a doctor. At Discover Adventure we pride ourselves on our high leader: trekker ratio and believe it leads to greater trip enjoyment as well as excellent trip safety.

Local Support Crew

Our local support crew is made up of local guides, porters, cooks and drivers. Your local guide knows the local area well, and is a great source of knowledge about local customs and lifestyles. Drivers, cooks and porters rarely speak more than a few words of English but are very friendly and approachable. The Discover Adventure crew work closely with the local crew to ensure your trip runs smoothly and safely. Your leader will arrange a collection of tips for the local support crew at the end of your trek. Tipping is not obligatory, but once you see how hard they work on your behalf you will be happy to donate something! See ‘Costs in Borneo’ above for a guideline amount; your leader will let you know if there is any change to this guideline. All our local crew are paid wages, but bear in mind that the average wage in this country is far below what you would spend on a normal night out.


Vehicles take the group to the start of the trek and pick us up at the end. All luggage, food, water and equipment is carried by vehicles or boats. Space is limited and hard-sided luggage is not suitable, so it is essential that your kit is packed in a soft sailing bag, rucksack or expedition kitbag. Ask us about our specially-designed low-cost kitbags if you don’t have one already. You should also bring a small daypack to carry for items needed during the day as you will not have access to your main luggage until the evening. Bags should be waterproofed or lined with plastic bags to protect the contents.

Trip Safety

Your safety, and that of the rest of the group, is our highest priority. Our trips are designed and planned with safety in mind. Your crew will be equipped with radios and emergency satellite phones, extensive medical kit and other safety apparatus where necessary. They always have access to our 24-hour emergency back-up in the UK. Our leaders are responsible for safety on the trip, and will make any changes to the itinerary they deem necessary should local conditions dictate. Pre-trip administration – such as compulsory medical questionnaires and travel insurance – is all done with your safety in mind.

Preparing for the challenge

Trekking Information


In the jungle our trails can be narrow and overgrown, and can get slippery. We will be crossing numerous watercourses; some have bridges, varying from planks to well-constructed rope bridges. On the mountain we trek on constructed stepped dirt paths through forest and moorland, to bare rock, with more steps. There is some scrambling involved, and a rope to assist with the steep gradient. Lower down it can be wet, muddy and humid; higher up barren and windy, and cooler. This trek is challenging in itself, but the main challenge lies in the altitude. Symptoms of being at altitude include tiredness, shortness of breath, headaches and nausea. Altitude affects people differently and being super-fit is no guarantee of being less likely to feel the effects. Where a participant is suffering from the effects of altitude, it may be necessary to walk them back down the mountain before reaching the summit.

Clothing & Equipment

We are travelling through very remote regions, where we could be exposed to extremes of weather at any time so be prepared for all weathers and temperatures. Weather conditions can change quickly. We provide you with a detailed packing kit-list on registration, as well as details on useful discounts you are entitled to as a Discover Adventure customer.


It will generally be hot and humid, day and night, though as you gain height in the mountains expect temperatures to cool, especially at night.

Fitness Levels

Our challenges attract people of all levels of experience and fitness, all ages and backgrounds. We expect all participants to train hard in advance to achieve this challenge, but we respect everyone’s limits. We design our challenges so that everyone can go at their own pace: this is not a race. For logistical and safety reasons we sometimes need to re-group, so the front-runners will find themselves waiting for the slower ones. Please relax, and remember that this is a team effort that enables people to achieve their personal goals and earn sponsorship.

Passport & Visa

A valid ten-year passport is essential for travel in Borneo and must be valid for at least 6 months after entry into the country. Visas are required for British passport-holders; we recommend obtaining it in advance from the Indonesian Embassy in London. Visas for UK passport-holders, as well as some other nationalities, can be obtained upon arrival at Jakarta airport but queues are notoriously long and slow, and we do not recommend you rely on this option. Other nationalities should check with the embassy.


We insist that you have had a tetanus injection in the last 10 years and highly recommend vaccination against hepatitis A, typhoid and polio. You will need a yellow fever vaccination certificate if coming from an infected area and we recommend malaria prophylaxis.
You should always check with your GP or travel clinic for up-to-date travel health advice as it does change.

Cultural Differences

For most people, the main attraction of travelling to a different country is to see new sights and enjoy new experiences. Sometimes those new experiences can make life harder or more inconvenient than you may like, such as toilet hygiene or different food, or simply a different attitude to solving problems. This is all part of the challenge you are signing up for! We are very privileged to live in a country with a high standard of living, and travelling exposes us to different challenges – all of which help broaden our horizons. We can guarantee that coming face-to-face with experiences outside your normal ‘comfort zone’ will help you bond with your fellow trekkers and provide you with plenty of things to laugh about! A sense of humour and sense of adventure are two of the most important things to bring with you!

Worldwide Sustainable Tourism

Long before ‘Responsible Tourism’ became a recognised phrase, we designed and ran our trips to ensure they made minimum impact on the environment and a positive impact on the local communities we pass through. 

Discover Adventure Projects

We are supporting a tree-planting project in Peru and a children’s home in Tanzania on a long-term basis. If you would like to ‘give something back’ please consider donating £5 to our projects when you sign up.

Carbon Offsetting

We encourage all our customers to offset emissions connected with their trip. You can offset at any time in the lead-up to departure by visiting Climate Care via our website and making a donation to a worthwhile project supported by them. Alternatively, if you wish to take more practical action in the UK you can volunteer for a day with TCV and work on an environmental project local to you. Work may include construction footpaths, dry stone walling, creating wildlife habitats or planting trees in your community. Volunteer today at or call 01302 388883.