Sabah, Sarawak and Anzac Day in Sandakan
- Tour Map
- 12 nights’ accommodation in the highest quality hotels available, mostly 4-5 star
- Airport transfers on arrival and departure
- All excursions and entrance fees to attractions, as listed in the itinerary
- Breakfast daily, eleven lunches, and nine dinners
- Comprehensive sightseeing with an English-speaking guide and colleagues
- Drinks included with welcome and farewell dinners
- Internal flight from Kota Kinabalu to Labuan, and Kota Kinabalu to Kuching – Economy class, 20 Kilo luggage included
- Luxury chartered coach, with luggage transport throughout the tour
- Tipping and gratuities
- International flights
- Travel insurance
- Tour Plan
Day 1 • Saturday:
On arrival in Sandakan, we’ll be taken to our hotel to check in for the next three nights. Enjoy some free time to freshen up before regrouping for Welcome Dinner.
Overnight: Sabah Hotel, Sandakan (D)
Day 2 • Sunday:
SANDAKAN – SEPILOK – SANDAKAN
Today is all about conservation, rehabilitation and creating awareness. After breakfast, we take a short drive to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre for a close encounter with the ‘wild man of Borneo.’ Here we’ll walk in this primary forest reserve to the observation deck to witness the orangutan feeding by the rangers and learn about the centre’s conservation and rehabilitation efforts. We’ll then head to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre next door. The Malayan sun bears, found only in Southeast Asia, are the world’s smallest bear species. While Borneo is a remaining stronghold for this species, it is seriously threatened if not extinct in many areas of mainland Asia. Enjoy lunch at the nearby Forest Edge Restaurant.
After lunch, walk to the Rainforest Discovery Centre and view its amazing biodiversity while walking along a network of self-guided trails in the forest. Not to miss the 150 m-long canopy walkway which provides a spectacular view of the lush rainforest of Sepilok from 25 m above the ground. Back to the hotel, this evening is at leisure.
Overnight: Sabah Hotel, Sandakan (B, L)
Day 3 • Monday:
Today we’ll explore Sandakan. Beginning at St Michael’s church – the oldest stone church in Sabah and the place where many POWs spent the night before marching to the 8-mile camp. Enjoy lunch at the English Tea House, a former colonial residence perched high overlooking the city. After lunch, walk over to the restored colonial home, now a museum, of famous American writer Agnes Keith. During the years between 1934 and 1952, Agnes Keith penned a trilogy – “Land below the Wind”, “Three Came Home” and “White Man Returns “of her moving experience during her stay in Sandakan. On the way back to our hotel we visit the Puh Jih Syh Buddhist Chinese temple, offering beautiful views of the city and Sandakan Bay, and experience how the locals live in the floating village of Sim Sim where houses are built on stilts. This rest of the afternoon is at leisure ready for our early morning pre-dawn start the next day. Dinner at the hotel.
Overnight: Sabah Hotel, Sandakan (B, L, D)
Day 4 • Tuesday:
SANDAKAN – ANZAC DAY SERVICE – KINABATANGAN
It’s an early start this morning to attend the Anzac Day dawn service at the Sandakan Memorial Park, once the site of the prisoner of war camp. Here we will remember our fallen heroes – 2,345 allied prisoners of war who suffered and perished during the infamous death marches from Sandakan to Ranau in 1945. The mostly Australian and British soldiers were taken to Sandakan to build airstrips. After enduring horrific treatment and malnourishment, they were forced on a torturously long walk to Ranau, a distance of over 260km. Only six Australians survived.
The story of Sandakan is one of the most tragic of World War II. Every year, family members and friends of the POWs who perished during the death marches travel to Sandakan to reflect and remember. This event also remembers local residents who risked their lives to help the POWs during this tragic period. The service begins at dawn and is approximately one hour long, after which we’ll have a gunfire breakfast at the memorial.
From here we’ll travel to the Sandakan Yacht Club Jetty and board our boat to the Kinabatangan Wetlands Resort in Abai, Kinabatangan. The one-and-a-half-hour boat ride will take us across Sandakan Bay, passing historical Berhala Island and fishing villages. On arrival at our resort, we’ll check in and enjoy a cup of coffee and local banana fritters while we’re briefed about the lodging and activities, after which we’ll have some time to relax, freshen up and explore.
Later in the afternoon, we’ll board another smaller boat for a cruise along the Kinabatangan River in search of wildlife. You’ll just love the stunning serene river setting from our boat as the sun sets over the landscape. If weather permits, we’ll watch the fireflies shimmering as the evening falls before journeying back to our resort for dinner. After dinner, geared up with our headlamps and torchlights, you can take a guided stroll along the boardwalk to look for interesting insects and other unique wildlife that might turn up after dark.
Overnight: Kinabatangan Wetlands Resort, Abai (B, L, D)
Day 5 • Wednesda:
Early morning cruise to observe more wildlife and birdlife. We cruise to the nearby ox-bow lake, Danau Pitas, to explore the area. Enjoy your packed breakfast while admiring the natural surroundings. Return to the lodge for rest and lunch. Explore the resort grounds for interesting plants and insects and birds within the resort area.
In the late afternoon set off for another river adventure, cruising in search of more wildlife along small tributaries. Return to the resort to refresh. Enjoy dinner and then set off again for a night cruise along small tributary rivers in search of nocturnal wildlife.
Overnight: Kinabatangan Wetlands Resort, Abai (B, L, D)
Day 6 • Thursday:
KINABATANGAN – KINABALU PARK
We’ll farewell our resort after breakfast this morning, travelling back to Sandakan and arriving just in time for lunch at the local English tea-house and restaurant. We’ll then embark on a scenic journey by coach to Kinabalu National Park, arriving at dusk (depending on the road conditions). We’ll check in to our cosy lodge, freshen up and re-group for dinner at the Balsam Restaurant.
Overnight: Nepenthes Lodge, Kinabalu Park (B, L, D)
Day 7 • Friday:
KINABALU PARK – KOTA KINABALU
This morning enjoy some free time to explore the stunning natural environment of the Kinabalu National Park. You can admire the rare flora of the area with a morning walk around the Botanical Gardens or simply relax in the lodge. You’ll also have the option of taking a side trip to the nearby Kundasang War Memorial. We’ll depart this tranquil scene at midday and drive to the bustling centre of Kota Kinabalu.
On the way into the city, we’ll take note of various important sites such as the spectacular State Mosque with its gold motif domes and the waterfront area bursting with markets, restaurants, and fleets of fishing boats. After checking in to our centrally located hotel and having some time to explore and freshen up, we’ll enjoy a buffet dinner together at the hotel’s restaurant.
Overnight: Le Meridien, Kota Kinabalu (B, L, D)
Day 8 • Saturday:
You have the morning at leisure before we embark on an excursion by coach to the Mari Mari Cultural Village to learn about the different tribal groups, the types of housing, foods and warcraft, topping the visit off with a cultural performance. On our way back to our hotel in Kota Kinabalu we’ll call in for a short visit to the interesting museum of Sabah, which showcases much of the history and culture of the area, including a collection of rail-related rolling stock and artefacts. We’ll enjoy dinner at our hotel later this evening.
Overnight: Le Meridien, Kota Kinabalu (B, L, D)
Day 9 • Sunday:
KOTA KINABALU – LABUAN
Enjoy a morning at leisure before checking out with our overnight packs and boarding our plane for the short hop to the Federal Territory of Labuan. On arrival, we’ll enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before embarking on a tour of the island with our expert local guide. We’ll begin with a visit to the interesting History and Culture Museum, giving us an overview of this unique island territory.
Next is a stop at the Commonwealth War Cemetery; home to 3,908 graves of soldiers who either died at the POW camp sites, on the death marches, or in battle. The remains of the Allied troops were gathered from all over Borneo to be interred at the cemetery, all bearing a plaque, some identified, but so many still listed as, ‘Known only to God.’ The peace and tranquillity of the place takes hold as you seek to understand the senselessness of the deaths of so many brave young men. We’ll then make our way up to Surrender Point where plaques mark the spot where the 37th Japanese Southern Army surrendered to the 9th Division Australian Imperial Forces on the 9th September 1945, which led to the end of World War II in Borneo. Later, we’ll settle into our accommodation for the night and enjoy dinner together.
Overnight: Grand Dorsett Hotel, Labuan (B, L, D)
Day 10 • Monday:
LABUAN – BEAUFORT – TENOM – KOTA KINABALU
Today is devoted to a unique journey on a variety of transport, including the North Borneo Railway, on a route not usually explored. This railway was built in the late 1890s and was originally constructed for the tobacco trade. We’ll begin our morning with a ferry ride from Labuan to Menumbuk, before continuing by coach to the town of Beaufort. From here we’ll board our private chartered railcar and embark on our journey on the North Borneo Railway. We travel through lush forest, following the scenic Padas River, before arriving in the frontier town of Tenom in time for lunch at a local restaurant.
Following lunch, we’ll depart Tenom, travelling back to Beaufort where we’ll call into a memorial to the bravery of the Australian 9th division. This memorial includes details of the battles that defeated the Japanese and also the heroics of Tom Starcevich VC. We’ll travel by coach back to Kota Kinabalu, re-unite with our luggage and enjoy the rest of the evening at leisure.
Overnight: Le Meridien, Kota Kinabalu (B, L)
Day 11 • Tuesday:
KOTA KINABALU – KUCHING
This morning we say goodbye to the state of Sabah and transfer to the airport for the mid-morning flight to Kuching, the capital of the state of Sarawak. On arrival, we’ll check in to our centrally located hotel and have lunch at the café in the Old Courthouse building. Enjoy some downtime before regrouping for an early evening walking tour through old Kuching before boarding our boat for a sunset cruise on the Sarawak River. The rest of the evening is at leisure to explore and take advantage of the abundance of restaurants and shops in the vicinity of our hotel.
Overnight: The Waterfront Hotel, Kuching (B, L)
Day 12 • Wednesday:
Following breakfast, we’ll embark on a guided tour of Kuching, beginning with a visit to Batu Lintang, once a Japanese internment camp during WWII. The camp housed both Allied prisoners of war and civilian internees, up to 3,000 souls at its peak. Following this, we’ll explore Fort Margherita, an unmistakable landmark along the Sarawak River, built by Raja Charles Brooke in 1879 to guard Kuching’s river approaches from pirates and rebels. Fort Margherita is also home to The Brooke Gallery, a museum that depicts the story of the work and influence of the White Rajas. We’ll then visit the State Museum which includes the extensive collection of the renowned botanist Alfred Russel Wallace.
After lunch at a vibrant local restaurant, Café Café, we’ll continue our tour with a visit to the Chinese History Museum to learn about the enormous influence of the Chinese on the region. We’ll then return to our hotel and regroup for our celebratory farewell dinner on the waterfront, including a box seat for the amazing musical fountain light show that plays out on the river, against the backdrop of the extraordinary parliament building.
Overnight: The Waterfront Hotel, Kuching (B, L, D)
Day 13 • Thursday:
KUCHING – DEPART
Our Borneo adventure comes to an end after breakfast this morning. You’ll be taken to the airport for your flight home or onward to more adventures.
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