Journey from Borneo’s highest peak to the South China Sea by mountain ascent, on-road cycle, off-road cycle, jungle trek, including river crossings and kayak.
We created this unique challenge following a request from one of our clients, and it remains a firm favourite. It combines pretty much everything: summiting a mountain, biking, trekking through jungle, getting off the beaten path and finding little known villages.
Get used to the altitude and humidity with an acclimatisation trek;
Summit Borneo’s highest peak, Mount Kinabalu, standing at 4095m;
Watch the sun rise over Sabah, and set your sights on your goal – the South China Sea;
Then, over the course of the following days, bike off-road and on quiet roads, and jungle trek your way from the summit down to the beautiful sea;
End this fabulous journey on the sea by taking to the water on kayaks;
Discover villages where tourist are unheard of;
Stay in homestays to experience the local culture and cuisine;
Learn some jungle survival techniques.
Day 1 – Arrive Kota Kinabalu Sabah
After your flight from London, you will land in the bustling city of KK (Kota Kinabalu), the capital city of Sabah, Borneo. After meeting your local guides at the airport, you will be transferred to your hotel in the heart of the city. It’s a free afternoon for you to rest or to explore the city – the waterfront area, the Filipino market, the clock tower and the view point at Signal Hill are all worth making the effort!
Twin-share at a hotel in KK, dinner.
Day 2 – Kiau Village and acclimatisation trek
It is an early start for the 2½ hr transfer to Kiau village, at the foot of Mt Kinabalu. On the way you can soak up the views of Kinabalu, towering high above you.
Today we will do an acclimatisation trek in the Kiau rainforest. You will trek at an average altitude of 1000-1300 metres above sea level. Though the trek is short, it is challenging due to the rugged terrain – a perfect acclimatisation for the Mt Kinabalu trek which will follow! On the way to Camp 1 (our destination), we will pass pineapple and rubber plantations, rice fields, fruit orchards and some primary rainforest. Along the way your trek guides will show you a trick or two as to how they survive in their jungle!
We have lunch at Camp 1, have a quick dip in the cold mountain water and then trek back to Kiau village.
Tonight we will get the opportunity to meet and mingle with the local Dusun people who call Kiau their home. They are some of the most friendly people you will ever meet, ever always ready to smile and have a chat.
We sleep in basic dorms or a homestay. Full board.
Day 3 – Trek up to Laban Rata Mt Kinabalu
We are up really early today to leave Kiau for the start of our trek. The trek begins at Timpohon gate at 1,800m, and ends at Laban Rata at 3,270m, which is why the acclimatisation trek on Day 2 is so important. We should get to Laban Rata by early afternoon, with enough time to enjoy the sunset and some amazing views of the surrounding jungle and villages far below. On a clear day we can see all the way to the South China Sea. The temperature here can dip to 0°C at night, but usually it will be between 3°C and 8°C. We get an early night as we have a pre-dawn start tomorrow.
Mountain rest house dormitories, full board.
Day 4 – Summit Mt Kinabalu (4095m) and descend to hotel near the park HQ
We rise at 2am, and after a quick snack and some coffee or hot chocolate, we start trekking at 3am. Starting this early will ensure that we make it to the summit of Mt Kinabalu by sunrise. Because of the altitude (we have just over 800m of vertical ascent to go), we take it steady, trekking slowly along the granite slabs to the summit.
The temperature at the top of Mt Kinabalu is often below freezing so we don't spend too long at the top. We wait for the glorious sunrise over Sabah, but as soon as the sun is up, and we have taken all the pictures we need to, we turn around and head back down to the rest house for a full breakfast. We then pack our bags and begin the descent to park headquarters and to our hotel for the night.
Overnight in hotel (Kinabalu Pine Resort or equivalent), full board.
Day 5 – Cycle and Trek to Tambatuon village.
After breakfast, we get fitted for our bikes, have a route briefing then begin the ride to Kiau junction (13km sealed road).
We then ride through Kiau Valley to Kampung Kaung on a mixture of quiet roads, and off-road, with excellent views of the jungle-clad valley and Mount Kinabalu. When we get to the end of the rideable trail, we put the bikes onto the truck and from here we walk through Kampung Kaung where we begin a jungle trek (about 2 hours walk).
We make a few river crossings and trek over suspension bridges until we arrive at the paddy fields of Kampung Tambatuon where we overnight in the village community homestay. If we are lucky, we may spot wild otters or wild boars or some colourful birds.
The homestay offers comfortable dorms and a huge veranda facing the granite walls of the western flanks of Mount Kinabalu. In the evening, there will be a sit-down dinner of local cuisine prepared by our guides in the local way, and we can chat through the day’s thrills while the team service the bikes and get ready for the second day’s adventure.
Village homestay, full board.
Day 6 – Cycle to Rang Bulan Village Kota Belud beach
This is the day we reach the sea!
It is a full day - 50km in the saddle. This may not seem much to seasoned cyclists, but the heat and humidity can make it very challenging.
We head north on mostly gravel roads, stopping to swim in the cool river at Melangkap Village, and maybe get our feet treated by the local carp (we call this the “fish spa”- it is maybe not for everyone!) and in doing so, provide endless entertainment to the bemused locals. The terrain will be a mix of 60% off road and 40% sealed road, but we’ll be exposed to the sun quite a bit today. There will be plenty of cool drinks and snacks supplied by the support vehicle along the way.
Be prepared for the Three King Hills, with a last uphill stretch of about 5km before we ride downhill again to the main road!
Our journey ends at Rang Bulan village, a quiet village where tourists are very rarely seen. It offers a beautiful white sandy beach. The sea gypsy tribe, also known as the Bajaus, used to roam the seas here to catch fish and traded their catch for rice and clean water from the Dusun tribe (Sabah farmer tribe). We’ll taste the local cuisine at a local restaurant for a late lunch before we transfer to our hotel for the night.
Overnight hotel, breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 7 – Kayaking! The End of the Journey.
Today we complete our summit to sea challenge with our final challenge – a morning kayak trip!
As we take to the sea, we look back to Mount Kinabalu where we started our journey so many adventures ago, paddling along the coast and completing the circle of Summit to Sea.
After lunch, it’s then time to simply relax or visit a nearby island and try the island-to-island zipline, snorkel or visit other places of interest, before our final night celebration dinner.
Hotel, full board including celebratory dinner.
Day 8 – Depart KK
Depending on which we hotel/resort we stayed at the past 2 nights, the airport transfer can be anything between 10 minutes and 45 minutes (B) Or why not extend and see more of what Borneo has to offer? Anything is possible.
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