Gap Expedition to Borneo

Our 6-week Gap adventure in Borneo takes you on a journey through the jewel of Malaysia, combining rainforest exploration and life with the indigenous tribes of the Sarawak jungle with trekking, rafting, wildlife and visits to World Heritage sites, volunteering and river safari's before visiting the endless white beaches of Kudat and finishing the trip off in the bustling city of Kota Kinabalu for some R&R. The theme throughout the programme is one of personal development through close interaction with, and enhancement of local community infrastructure.

Travelling through the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah with our itinerary offers so much more than the average Borneo trip. Even though you'll still see and experience all the sights and wildlife which Borneo is famous for at the likes of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Mulu National Park, on the Kinabatangan River or at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, there is so much more to experience off the beaten track, well away from the traditional tourist trail. Highlights for many include the time spent with the traditional tribes of the Sarawak rainforest, volunteering in the Tea Plantation Schools or even enjoying a swim in a natural pool in the jungle with a private waterfall to shower in!  

The Gap Expedition to Borneo is an itinerary that is run jointly by Adventure Alternative and The Leap, and as such will have like-minded participants who book through both companies.

Borneo Map - Gap Expedition.jpg

Dates & Bookings

Bespoke Dates


Gap Expedition to Borneo itinerary

The trip is 42 days in total and visits Sabah and Sarawak using a variety of forms of transport including light aircraft, canoes, 4x4 and on foot! The itinerary follows the broad plan below, with plenty of time for travelling and spending time in each place to properly appreciate and enjoy the experience. A final itinerary will be confirmed about 4 weeks before travel as projects and volunteering priorities can change depending on the season and community preferences.

1-2 Kuching - The itinerary starts in Kuching, the cosmopolitan capital of the largest state in Malaysian Borneo – Sarawak. Kuching is a bustling, diverse city of old colonial buildings mixed with modern towers where the focal point is the Sarawak river.

Project location 1 (Sarawak Jungle Village) - About 3-4 hours inland from Kuching you'll find yourself deep in the Sarawak rainforest where life immediately becomes more basic. We'll leave the internet behind and move in to our traditional longhouse and homestay accommodation and get involved with the local community projects, including the renovation of community buildings, teaching English, building communal vegetable gardens and helping to survey the area for future eco-tourism activities which will benefit the local indigenous tribe.

Whilst Sarawak has by no means been spared from logging activity, the sheer size and geography means there are many areas still 'untouched by progress' and it is such an area that you'll be located, experiencing a life that has not changed for centuries.

13-14 Kuching - After the 10 days in the rainforest it's back to civilization in Kuching, where you'll walk along the riverside, shop in the evening markets, and visit local National Parks and wildlife centres (including Semengogh orangutan sanctuary where you get up close and personal with these amazing creatures).
15-16 Gunung Mulu National Park - A short flight from Kuching takes you to Mulu for a couple of days at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Mulu National Park. The park is packed with natural wonders including the Pinnacles, a forest of razor-sharp limestone spires and beautiful old-growth tropical rainforests and some of the largest caves in the world where you can see the spectacular evening bat exodus.

Project location 2 (Plantation School) - Two short flights from Mulu via Kota Kinabalu and you'll arrive in Tawau where we'll transfer to an area in Sabah once covered in towering tropical rainforest but unfortunately now covered in oil palm plantations punctuated with a couple of National Parks and wildlife reserves preserving the habitat of old. The project here is in association with Borneo Child Aid, who over the last 10 years have established over 100 schools which provide education to thousands of children born inside the oil palm plantations, who are not entitled to state education.

The Plantation Schools are an inspirational story of what can be achieved with relatively few resources and our team will be hosted by a BCA representative and their teachers in the tight knit community of migrant families from Indonesia and the Philippines. You’ll have the chance to assist members of the teaching community with their everyday work within the schools, as well as helping improve the infrastructure around and within it. There may be opportunities to assist with cooking, as well as entertaining and volunteering with the pre-school kids; playing games, sports and teaching basic English.

25-26 Kinabatangan River Safari -  A 4-hour road trip across Eastern Sabah to the small village of Bilit, on the banks of the longest river in Malaysia, the Kinabatangan, where daily river cruises will provide the best possible opportunity to see much of Borneo’s famous wildlife in its natural habitat; including proboscis and leaf monkeys, macaques and gibbons, beautiful birds and insects and with a bit of luck, wild orangutan and the pygmy elephants of Borneo.
27-28 Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre - After the final dawn river safari a 90-minute road transfer brings you to Sepilok, home to the world-famous orangutan rehabilitation centre - where you will also visit the sun bears and the excellent Rainforest Discovery Centre.
29-35 Lupa Masa Jungle Camp - Located near Poring Hot Springs, the Lupa Masa Jungle Camp is an opportunity to spend a couple of days learning about forest survival skills before heading off on a 3-day jungle trek, sleeping in hammocks at different camps each night. Lupa Masa is next to Mount Kinabalu National Park, and hosts incredible bio-diversity, so look out for the western tarsier, slow loris, flying colugo and squirrels and countless birds and insects and amphibians. The forest symphony at dusk is an unforgettable experience which will remind you of the natural beauty of Borneo and your efforts in the jungle will be rewarded at Poring on the last day where you can relax in the hot springs.
36-39 Project location 3 (Kudat Rungus Village Beach) - This is a small community tourism project and a ‘must see’ part of Sabah - endless deserted beaches and islands dotted in clear blue sea offer the perfect location for beach activities, including snorkelling, fishing and beach sports/games. You can also try your hand at traditional handicrafts and jewellery design and help with the beach clean-ups, helping educate the villagers about litter disposal. You can also go hiking on the surrounding hills and experience some exceptional marine bioluminescence, all topped off with beach barbecues. Accommodation will be in a Rungus tribal styled longhouse, in twin rooms with mattresses and mosquito nets or in tents on the beach.
40-42 Kota Kinabalu - Back to civilization, bars and nightlife in the capital city of Kota Kinabalu where you can finish your expedition with optional climbs on Mount Kinabalu, PADI courses, island hopping or stay on for another 4-week trip to the Philippines!


Gap Expedition to Borneo cost £2448.00 (6 weeks)

The following are the details regarding the inclusions and exclusions. Contact us for a trip pack which includes a more detailed itinerary and details on safety, support and more optional add-ons (the trip pack is made available automatically on your personal Adventure Alternative booking page if you secure a place by booking through our website.

  • Adventure Alternative UK organisation of your trip
  • 24 hour emergency back-up, management and support from Adventure Alternative UK
  • Adventure Alternative Borneo staffing and ground logistics
  • Medical back-up from Interhealth
  • Safety and induction course on arrival
  • Airport transfers and transfers to and from project locations
  • All internal flights
  • All accommodation and food in-country
  • Day visit to Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary
  • All payments and donations made to host communities and projects
  • Volcano trek and city tour (on the Philippines add-on)
  • International return flight to Borneo (and departure taxes)
  • All internal flights
  • Travel Insurance
  • Travel vaccinations
  • Independent/weekend travel expenses


We make payments as flexible as possible and give you control over what you pay and when you pay it. A deposit of £250 is required on booking to secure your place and we ask that the remaining balance (trip price minus the deposit) is paid in full 4 weeks prior to your departure. When you book with us you're given your own secure online account which you can access 24/7. Through this account you can edit your booking, add flight, health, insurance and dietary details and also make interim payments. Therefore you can choose, if you wish, to pay a bit off your trip fee whenever it suits you.


You are required to purchase insurance for this trip and we strongly recommend buying a policy after booking your trip so that you are covered for cancellation due to unforeseen circumstances.

Make sure you have cover for personal belongings, personal liability, cancellation cover, personal accident, legal expenses and always check the exemptions!


Adventure Alternative Borneo is the main local provider; it has all the staff, equipment and a share in the Lupa Masa jungle and beach camps to manage your stay and also all our school trips, treks and expeditions. We may outsource on some specialist provisions such as all-terrain vehicles but we check out all the companies and their equipment first and we keep an eye on all the agreements and contracts to make sure that nobody is exploited or taken advantage of.


Gap Expedition to Borneo - fitness and terrain

The expedition element for the Gap Expedition to Borneo is moderately demanding with some long days of sustained walking with a backpack. The effects of heat and humidity will also further tax your body. You will enjoy the trip all the more if you are in good physical shape having exercised regularly over at least the 6 months leading up to the trip.

You do need to be in good health as we will spend some time in locations that are hours from professional medical care. Any pre-existing medical or dental conditions should be fully appraised by a doctor and their nature fully disclosed to your insurer and to ourselves.


The rainforest is actually a very clean and pure place to visit. The canopy offers excellent shade from the intense sun and traps moisture, however it can be very humid and a lot of water will need to be continually drunk. We travel using trails and the rivers which have been the jungle arteries for the local native residents for hundreds of years. It is very unlikely that you’ll be off the beaten track with a machete. Sometimes the paths can be muddy and slippery, and there are logs to clamber over, streams to cross and it is always up and down.

Movement in the jungle is generally very slow, about 10km maximum per day, and it is easy to feel exhausted after just a few hours. Keeping rehydrated is paramount and looking out for natural dangers such as thorns or tripping over moss-covered rocks. It is unlikely you will see much wildlife while on the move, except for birds, but if you keep very still and quiet you will find the jungle is full of wildlife! Just a short while spent listening and watching carefully will yield some tremendous sights of indigenous mammals like the red leaf monkey. Moving through the jungle you will begin to see how a completely green and seemingly impenetrable terrain is actually filled with ‘signposts’ and guides; the lore of the jungle is what you have come to experience.

Crossing streams is an ideal time to have a quick cooling down in the water, get some liquid on board and take a rest, however some of the streams become minor cataracts after a heavy downpour. You should buy locally made jungle shoes to walk in, these are rubber and they have moulded studs for grip on the muddy ground, some also have holes in them for aeration.

Mt Kinabalu (optional add-on for Gap Expedition to Borneo)

Mount Kinabalu is an oval-shaped granite dome which arose from volcanic and tectonic movements about 1.5 million years ago, which was followed by glacial erosion during the Ice Age, and this accounts for the smooth rock surface. The lower slopes are steep, but the path is well trodden with regular water stops and many wooden steps that meander ever upwards. There is no doubt that it seems never-ending, especially in the midday heat! As you trek through the vegetation zones, there are many view points to enjoy and lots of stops. A lot of people climb the mountain, so you are rarely alone, although you do feel very jealous of those coming down.

Above the hut at Laban Rata you pass onto the high plateau, from vegetation to rock, and the terrain is altogether different. It is utterly bare of plant life, just miles of granite and many peaks and spires. It is easy to walk across, except when it is raining. When the surface is wet you have to be very careful of slipping. When the cloud comes down it is very easy to get lost up on this plateau, so be very aware of the weather and stick close to your guides.

Coming down the mountain can be difficult too, with hundreds of steps to negotiate until your knees are complaining and your feet are sore. Again, it seems never-ending, but at least you are now passing people on their way up who are feeling jealous of you!

Camps & accommodation used on Gap Expedition to Borneo 

In Kuching, Plantation School, Gunung Mulu National Park, Sepilok and Kota Kinabalu we stay in small, family run guest houses. These are comfortable with dormitory style or twin rooms, showers and western-style toilets. In the Sarawak jungle we will be staying in basic longhouse/homestay accommodation built out of the jungle. Life in the villages follows an ancient rhythm of hunting, foraging, gathering and socialising, you will receive a very warm and friendly welcome. The longhouse/homestay accommodation is comfortable and although some will have bucket showers, you will find a lot of baths and showers are taken in rivers and streams. Most of the houses have long drop toilets. On the Kinabatangan River safari accommodation will be provided in a basic river lodge.

The Lupa Masa jungle camp and beach camp is basic but comfortable, nights are spent in simple jungle huts or in longhouses with stretcher-type hammocks in traditional “sulaps” (or tents) by the beach. In the bathrooms there are bucket showers but as with the accommodation in the Sarawak jungle most prefer to shower in one of the beautiful waterfalls or streams surrounding the lodge. Toilets are squat toilets. At the jungle camp there is a kitchen and dining area, power supplied by the water and some lovely places to just sit and relax and watch the wildlife. During the jungle trek out of Lupa Masa we will be using fly camps, and the expedition will be travelling self-sufficiently, using hammocks en-route. This is one of the great experiences of the trip; sleeping under the forest canopy listening to the jungle around. 

Experience needed for the Gap Expedition to Borneo

You do not need to have any previous experience for this expedition as our guides will show you everything you need to know. The people from the Sarawak and Sabah will show you how to live off the jungle, how to make a plate out of a leaf for example and how to build hammocks, and how to travel efficiently in their environment. Clearly this trip is quite challenging if you are expecting modern amenities, since there are none in the jungle, so the trip will require patience, teamwork and a willingness to work with Mother Nature!

Sometimes the heat and humidity can be debilitating, and sap even the most positive of minds. Mental preparation and an open mind are essential. Adventure Alternative supplies excellent guides and where appropriate local porters, plus of course all the villagers who will be supporting you. The team leader has a lot experience of travelling in Borneo and will manage the situations and help teach you any skills which you may not already have, but in the villages there will be no better support or teacher than the local people.

Kit List

Gap Expedition to Borneo - Kit List

The following is an outline of kit that is suitable for the gap expedition to Borneo;

  • Strong, waterproof duffle bag or rucksack for your main gear
  • Waterproof day sack of about 30 -40 litres for carrying your daily needs
  • Variety of waterproof/zip lock bags - for dirty clothes, sleeping bag and things to keep dry
  • Full length closed cell sleeping mat/therm-a-rest
  • Sleeping liner or lightweight sleeping bag (1 season)
  • Lightweight trekking boots with ankle support, and a sole that does not bend too easily
  • Waterproof windbreaker and trousers, preferably breathable
  • Base Layer (top & bottoms) for sleeping and Mt Kinabalu
  • Pair of lycra style cycling shorts to wear whilst trekking (keeps leeches out!)
  • Trekking clothes - lightweight trousers and shorts, shirts and T-shirts, jumper or midlayer fleece, underwear and several pairs of hiking socks, trainers or sandals
  • Warm hat, lightweight and mid-weight gloves for Kinabalu
  • Clothing for travel, dining in restaurants, and the heat and humidity of the coast
  • Sun hat, sun lotion, SPF lip screen and sunglasses
  • Swimming costume and small trek towel
  • Sarongs x 2 (Kota Kinabalu – ideal style and cheaper)
  • 2 x Water bottles and/or camelback (take a protective cover for the mouthpiece) and water purification tablets (iodine-based is fine)
  • Head torch with spare batteries
  • Camera with spare batteries
  • Personal wash kit – include a nail brush, moisturising cream, a small towel, tweezers, soap, nail clippers and wet wipes
  • Personal first aid – include aspirin, Nurofen, plasters, Germolene, Immodium, strepsils and prescription medicines for possible gastric problems
  • Passport, insurance papers, spending money, air tickets, reading books, diary, pen

Jungle travel for the Gap Expedition to Borneo

Travel light and compact in the jungle. The large holdall will carry everything on international travel and can be used to store anything that is not going in to the jungle, but once you start the journey into Sarawak or Sabah you'll find that you don't need much. Normally you have two sets of clothes, a day set which gets very damp from the humidity, and a dry set for the evening. At night you could be sleeping in hammocks with a cotton sheet and a light sleeping bag, wearing a t-shirt.

In the jungle you have to contend with the heat and humidity, so there are lots of water stops and plenty of opportunity to jump in streams and cool down. Insects are attracted to the sweat so wear lightweight long sleeved clothing and shorts, and no cotton underwear or anything which might chafe. Insect repellent is useful and you may want to consider a repellent for clothing. Leech socks are also useful, basically knee length socks that are very smooth so the leech cannot latch on as you walk past. They dangle of grass stems and branches and wait for you to brush by. They are not painful, in fact you have no idea they have landed on you until you see the blood. Apart from being a bit gruesome, dealing with leeches is not a big problem. Most people find it takes time to acclimatise to the humidity in the forest, but once this has happened after a few days most people love the experience of being under the canopy and travelling so light.

There are many brands/types of water purification bottles and you can get them in good outdoor/travel shops and online shops. The Aquapure Traveller Bottle or something similar will work well in Borneo. Actually if you are using running water there are few problems to worry about, the water is from the rain and it's lovely and fresh. Sieving the water is useful in case of bits, and by all means use the chlorinated tablets that are common, or a water filter.

The two main brand names for suitable hammocks are 'Hennessy Hammocks' and 'Nomad Travel' though if you end up getting the a Nomad hammock then remember that you will also need to get a mosquito net too, all suitable Hennessy hammocks have a mosquito net built in. A Nomad hammock and mosquito net should work out much cheaper than a Hennessy hammock. We do rent them out to people on trips, or you can buy one for yourself online.

Clothing should be lightweight cotton or synthetic (bear in mind that cotton is slow drying, a synthetic fabric like polyester or nylon will be much quicker drying) though no matter how quick drying your clothes are you should expect them to be damp at best throughout your time in the jungle! 

Beach and other places

This is a tropical paradise so bring swimming stuff, sandals or flip-flops, towel, sunglasses and cream, beach gear and T-shirt for swimming in. It's really easy to get a sunburnt back while snorkelling over coral reefs. Some people like to bring light neoprene gloves and socks for the snorkelling just in case you step on something or touch something that is sharp or stings. For sightseeing and just being around, keep it simple and light and remember that the sun can do a lot of damage to our fair skin.

Personal Medical Kit suggestions;
Antiseptic Wipes
Adhesive Plasters
Blister Plasters
Zinc Tape
Insect Repellent
Antihistamine tablets
Sunblock Cream
Water Purification Tablets
Rehydration Sachets
Personal Medication as required: eg. Anti-Malarials, Asthma Inhalers, Insulin, Epi-Pen etc

Possible Additional Personal First Aid Items;
Lip Salve
Throat Lozenges
Latex gloves
Crepe Bandage
Hydrocortisone Cream
Prochlorperazine tablets (for sickness/nausea)
Ciprofloxacin tablets (general antibiotic; prescription required)
Acetazolamide tablets (altitude prophylactic; prescription required)

Note: you must check with your GP for your personal suitability to all medicines and their possible side effects and interactions. Please inform us of the details of all regular medication that you intend to use though the course of your trip and any relevant allergies and medical history related to them. You also need to check the requirements and regulations of the airline and all countries visited in relation to medications. For example; laws governing transport of some pain control medication and the need keep insulin at a suitable temperature, ie not in the cargo hold.

On this trip there is a strict baggage allowance on the internal flights, so please pack light.

Extra Info

Gap Expedition to Borneo - Extra Information

The 6-week Gap adventure in Borneo (with an optional 4-week add-on to the Philippines) combines extensive adventure travel, volunteering and wildlife with a jungle expedition.


Adventure Alternative have fully trained and experienced UK and Borneo staff in place to ensure that you will always have the backup and support that you need. We will organise the logistical aspects of your trip and assist you in all aspects of your experience. However, we will also be careful to give you the degree of freedom and responsibility which is essential to your development and to allow you to get the most out of your involvement.


The projects you will be involved in are long term development programmes designed to support the communities and villages in which you live. Every Gap Borneo trip will give you the chance to get hands-on experience with all of the projects and programmes that you visit, which is a remarkable opportunity to see the country and work with Malaysian and Borneo-based staff off the traditional tourist trail.

The time spent at the Plantation School is in association with Borneo Child Aid, based about one hour from Tawau. Over the last decade Borneo Child Aid have established over 100 schools which helps to provide education to the thousands of children born inside the oil palm plantations, who are not entitled to state education. It is an inspirational story of what can be achieved with minimal resources!

Adventure Alternative Gap Borneo trips should attract people who have a real desire to explore a country and understand both it's development needs and also appreciate it's uniqueness. This will take an open mind, initiative and a sense of curiosity about the world. We really want people to come back from our trips and use their experiences to gain skills and help them in their career and lives. It may even contribute to people making some significant life choices. 


At the end of your expedition with us you have the opportunity to stay in Borneo and do some independent travel. We can help you with this and ensure that where you are going and where you stay will be safe. We can provide a friendly face in most areas, and our company in Borneo can act as a back-up for emergencies and leaving gear. However you will be responsible for yourselves, and it is important to understand that although we take a moral responsibility for you, we can't be on hand every day. You and your family should see this as an additional service of safety and advice if you choose to travel a bit by yourself or with some friends after your trip with us.


Your trip fee is calculated to benefit as many local individuals and organisations as possible. This is a big part of our commitment to the principles of Fair Trade Volunteering, which tries to ensure that companies follow a moral responsibility to make sure that the host community gets some of the money from tourism, and it doesn't end up costing them to look after you.


The programmes in the project locations will all benefit from your presence, but also from the external cash that we bring into the area courtesy of your visit. We employ many local people and nobody is left out. A family who offer you a homestay will be paid for their hospitality, and we will also cover your food. A school will benefit from having a roof fixed, courtesy of your visit, and that school will be part of a long term action plan that we have.

We would highly recommend that you independently read up on Borneo before you travel, in particular the areas that you are planning to travel to. Prior knowledge on the history, cultures, tribes and local customs will only enhance your trip. The majority of Malasians speak some English but you may find it useful learning a few key Malay words and phrases. Malaysians will love that you have made an effort to learn their language



Open trips or tailor made dates at no extra cost. 
£250 deposit and the balance in instalments.
Click Dates & Booking below to start your holiday!

Tours from only pp book
Key Information
  • Duration 6 weeks
  • Numbers max 8