Primates of the Ancient Forest


May 13 - 28, 2020
Cost: $9,990
Leader: Charlie Ryan
Group Size: 8
Days: 16

Safari Overview

Explore an island with pristine ecosystems, home to charismatic and rare wildlife and one of the oldest rainforests in the world. Visit an orangutan sanctuary where these charming gentle giants feed and socialize. Take in breathtaking views atop the rainforest canopy while watching birds weave their way through the foliage. Cruise the Kinabatangan River and witness pygmy elephants bathing along the riverbanks. Participate in game drives and jungle walks through various habitats and observe orangutans, Bornean gibbons, proboscis monkeys, maroon langurs, and so much more! Visit Mount Kinabalu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its diverse habitats and incredible diversity of flora and fauna, including 18 Bornean endemics. Discover one of the most species-rich equatorial rainforests on this unique island.

• Visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and observe orangutans visiting feeding grounds in the rainforest.
• Explore the Kinabalu National Park, a birdwatcher’s paradise with 326 bird species.
• Discover the Gomantong Caves and experience the million-bat exodus.
• Marvel atop the Danum Valley as the sunrise burns off the morning mist, revealing the forest canopy below.

Itinerary Updated: October 2018

Print Trip
Date Description Lodge Meals
May 13 - 14 Travel to Borneo.
May 15 Arrive in Sandakan, Sabah, Borneo. Enjoy a welcome dinner. Sepilok Nature Resort, Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve D
May 16 Explore the Sepilok Forest Reserve. Visit the Orangutan Sanctuary and Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. Sepilok Nature Resort, Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve B, L, D
May 17 - 19 Spend two full days of birding, jungle walks, and river safaris through the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. Explore nearby Gomantong Caves and watch the bat exodus cloud the sky. Kinabatangan Wetlands Resort, Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary B, L, D
May 20 - 21 Discover the Tabin Wildlife Reserve with afternoon and nighttime exploration and game drives. Hike to a mud volcano for stunning views of the surrounding forest. Tabin Wildlife Resort, Tabin Wildlife Reserve B, L, D
May 22 - 24 Travel to Danum Valley and contemplate the undisturbed rainforest and its pristine, diverse ecosystems. Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Danum Valley Conservation Area B, L, D
May 25 Enjoy breakfast as the sun rises over Danum Valley. Optional morning trek before flying to Kota Kinabalu. Hyatt, Kota Kinabalu B, L, D
May 26 - 27 Drive to Kinabalu National Park and explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Liwagu Suite, Kinabalu National Park B, L, D
May 28 Spend one last morning birding and walking through the park. Return to Kota Kinabalu for flights homeward. B, L
May 29 Arrive home.

Our Trip Leaders

Charlie Ryan

After signing up for a volunteer program in Indonesia in 2008, Charlie was re-routed to Sabah, Borneo where he helped set up community initiative programs for the Abai village. He has resided in Sabah ever since. Charlie guides for the National Geographic Adventure groups in Borneo and helps train nature guides, providing them with first-hand knowledge and experience. He is also an avid photographer, which compliments his passion for wildlife, culture, and travel.

Detailed Itinerary

A glimpse into our journey

Fly to Borneo

May 13 - 14

Leave home for Borneo.

Arrive in Borneo

May 15

Arrive in Sandakan, Sabah, Borneo. You will be greeted at the airport and transferred to the Sepilok Nature Resort, located amongst the forest not far outside of the city. Once settled in, your guide will give you a trip briefing, followed by a welcome dinner. After dinner, head out for an optional night walk in the forest to search for nocturnal wildlife.

Sepilok Forest Reserve

May 16

Spend the next two days exploring the Sepilok Forest Reserve and its surroundings. You will participate in early morning canopy walks, searching for birds and mammals unique to this region. Visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and witness these gentle primates feed and interact in the rainforest. Enjoy day and night treks through the forest to observe wildlife including giant red flying squirrels emerging from their nests and “flying” up to 500ft between trees. You will also get a behind-the-scenes tour with the founder of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre and learn about the Bornean sun bear.

Kinabatangan River and Wildlife Sanctuary

May 17 - 19

Continue to the Kinabatangan River, home to one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in all of Borneo. After settling into your lodge for the next few days, go on a dusk cruise in search of orangutans, hornbills, slow lorises, western tarsiers, civets, proboscis monkeys, and more. Watch the sun rise as you embark on an early morning river safari cruise to explore this region’s natural beauty and rich wildlife diversity. Before lunch, enjoy another walk through the jungle to search for wildlife accompanied by a talk from an orangutan expert. After lunch, you will embark on a short boat ride and transfer to the famous Gomantong Caves to spend the afternoon exploring these caves and their surroundings. At dusk, you will get a chance to see a mind-boggling bat exodus, where over one million bats emerge from the cave to feed in the night. After dinner, head back out for a night cruise in search of nocturnal wildlife on the riverbanks.

Tabin Wildlife Reserve

May 20 - 21

Drive to one of the most biodiverse regions of Borneo, the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, which boasts an impressive 220 bird species as well as the wild banteng cattle. You will explore the reserve in 4x4 off-road vehicles in the hope of witnessing leopard cats, marbled cats, flying squirrels, and binturong bearcats in their natural habitats. Participate in a morning trek to the mud volcano, where salt-enriched mud bubbles up and attracts many different animals. Climb an observation tower and soak in the stunning views of the surrounding forest canopies. You will meet the executive director of the Borneo Rhino Alliance who will teach you about current Sumatran rhino conservation efforts. Here, you will also take part in nightly game drives to find nocturnal wildlife.

Danum Valley

May 22 - 24

Travel to Danum Valley, known for its 150 square miles of virtually undisturbed primary rain forest. You will spend your time exploring the local nature trails on your own or with a guide. Stretch your legs with a moderately challenging hike to a nearby waterfall or go on a canopy walk in the treetops surrounding the lodge. Bird life is especially diverse, with more than 275 recorded species. You will have a chance to witness rare species such as pygmy elephants, clouded leopards, endemic Bornean gibbon, and endemic maroon langur. Witness a dazzling sunrise over the valley from atop an observation tower. You will also go on a guided night walk to experience the forest when it is buzzing with activity.

Danum Valley Sunrise and Kota Kinabalu

May 25

Wake up before dawn for a drive to the top of Danum valley to enjoy breakfast while watching the sunrise. As the sea of mist dissipates, it reveals the forest in the valley below. Upon return to the lodge, join an optional trek before checking out and driving to Lahad Datu for your flight to Kota Kinabalu. Once checked into your hotel, enjoy a dinner altogether to celebrate the incredible journey through the jungle.

Kota Kinabalu and Kinabalu National Park

May 26 - 27

You will travel the scenic road up to Kadamaian Valley on the way to Kinabalu National Park. Enjoy an afternoon birding in the park. Kinabalu National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its incredible diversity of flora and fauna. The park’s Mount Kinabalu is a granite intrusion formed 15 million years ago and thrusted upward one million years ago from tectonic movements that continue to shape its landscape today. It contains a wide range of habitats including rich tropical lowland and hill rainforest to tropical mountain forest, sub-alpine forest, and scrub on the higher elevations.

Enjoy a full day exploring the various trails at the base of the park while birding. This park is a birdwatcher’s paradise with about 326 species recorded, representing over half the bird species in Borneo (18 are Bornean endemics). As you traverse the beautiful scenery, try spotting some of the endemics (found only in Borneo) which include the mountain black eye, the mountain blackbird, the Bornean treepie, the Kinabalu friendly warbler, the Kinabalu serpent eagle, the Bornean mountain whistler, the Everett’s thrush, and the whitehead’s trio.

Fly Home

May 28

Spend the morning birding and walking in the park. Depart Kota Kinabalu for flights homeward.

Arrive home

May 29

Arrive home today depending on your flight schedule.


Explore an island with pristine ecosystems, charismatic and rare wildlife, and one of the oldest rainforests in the world.

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Cost & Payments

Costs (in US$)

Type Cost Per Person
Trip Cost, double occupancy $9,990
Single Supplement (subject to availability) $2,640

Costs are per person, double occupancy, not including airfare (except flight between Lahad Datu and Kota Kinabalu), singles extra. See Included and Not Included sections for more details.

We reserve the right to charge for cost increases that occur between when we set tour prices and the date of travel, for example, changes due to the cost of lodging and transportation. If you are a single traveler and you desire, we will find a roommate for you. If we cannot find you a roommate, we may charge you a single supplement fee. Single rooms are subject to availability.

Payment Schedule

Payment Due Date Amount Per Person
Deposit Due now to reserve your space $500
Second August 15, 2019 $2,000
Final December 15, 2019 Remaining Balance

Payments will be due based on the schedule above. All reservations require a deposit to confirm reservation of your space. For reservations made after a due date, all past payments will be due with registration. By sending your initial deposit, you agree to accept our payment schedule and cancellation policy as a contract. If payments are still outstanding two weeks after the due date, your space may be forfeited.


Until the Final Payment due date, deposits are refundable except for a cancellation fee of $150 per person, which can be applied toward another tour if reserved within six months of the cancelled trip’s departure date. Cancellations are non-transferrable. No refunds are given after the Final Payment due date.


  • All leaders, transport, camera fees, park entry fees, landing fees, and permits for all activities unless described as optional.
  • Flight between Lahad Datu (LDU) and Kota Kinabalu (BKI).
  • Accommodations for the nights of May 15 through May 27.
  • Meals from dinner on May 15 through lunch on May 28.
  • Airport transfers on May 15 and May 28.
  • Non-alcoholic bottled beverages throughout the trip and snacks during travel between destinations.
  • Trip Materials – information about flights, packing, entry and departure requirements, airport transfers, gratuities, etc.
  • Lectures from an orangutan expert and from the executive director of the Borneo Rhino Alliance.
  • Private access to Sun Bear Centre.
  • Mammals of Borneo book.

Not Included

  • All airfare (except flights listed as included), airport and departure taxes, and excess baggage fees. Airfare is approximately $1,200–$3,000 from the USA to Sabah, Borneo depending on origin.
  • Passport and visa fees.
  • We can arrange divergent airport transfers and extra hotel nights for an extra cost.
  • Gratuities – tipping is, of course, discretionary, however we suggest budgeting about $335 to $355 total per participant for the entire tour.
  • Emergency medical and evacuation insurance and trip cancellation insurance. For more information see www.cheesemans.com/travel-insurance.
  • Items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone calls, medical costs or hospitalization, room service, alcoholic beverages, items not on the regular menu, etc. If you have special dietary needs, please indicate them on your Reservation/Release Form.


Temperatures vary greatly. The lower altitudes are often hot, while the forests and higher altitudes can be surprisingly cool. In May, the average daytime temperature in Borneo is in the mid 80s°F (28°C), with highs in the low 90s°F (33°C); the evenings get down into the mid 70s°F (24°C). Temperatures in the forest and at higher altitudes are only slightly cooler, averaging between 75 and 85°F (25 and 29°C). Although May is considered the dry season, rain can be encountered at any time of year.

Fitness Level

Most wildlife viewing is done from small boats, vehicles, and on foot. Walks to search for wildlife are generally less than an hour long and along relatively flat trails or gravel roads. You have the option to split into smaller groups based on desired level of exercise. Please contact us if you have any health concerns that may make this trip challenging.


Unless listed as included, airfare is not included in trip costs. Detailed logistical information and the contact information for our recommended flight-ticketing agent are included in the Trip Materials we will send you. Please let us know if you are arriving earlier or staying later as we are happy to assist you with any extra overnights that you might want to arrange.

Flights you (or a travel agent) book: Arrive in Sandakan (SDK) anytime on May 15. Depart from Kota Kinabalu airport (BKI) after 5:00pm on May 28.

Flights we book for you: The flight from Lahad Datu to Kota Kinabalu on May 25. The cost of this booking is included in the tour cost.






  • Non-smoking policy: We have a strict non-smoking policy. Smoking is not permitted at any time or any place during our tours.
  • Maximum time in nature: We try to spend as much time in nature as possible, sometimes resulting in long days but giving you a more in-depth experience.
  • Itinerary route: The itinerary route, stops, and plans are subject to change by unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, such as weather or road conditions.
  • Additional forms: For some of our tours, you may be asked to fill out additional forms (e.g., medical questionnaire).
  • Medical conditions and travel risks: Travel to remote places is exciting, but it is important to understand and accept the risks, both medical and logistical. Minor medical problems can usually be treated, but because we are often far from medical facilities, there can be no expectation for immediate medical treatment or evacuation, even in cases of trauma. Anyone with health problems needing close medical supervision should not consider going on this tour. Bring enough medication for the duration of the trip for any chronic medical needs, since pharmacies are usually not available. When you send your deposit and signed Reservation/Release Form, you certify to us that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions that would create a risk for yourself or for other trip participants.
  • Use of Drones/UAVs on Tours: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), AKA drones, are not suitable for use on most Cheesemans’ Ecology expeditions due to logistical constraints and in many cases, local and national laws or regulations. In some cases, such as on our polar voyages, we operate under environmental regulations that ban the use of recreational drones. Do not bring a drone on safari without contacting us first.