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Secrets of Borneo Photo Tour

October 9 – 20, 2025 : $13,455pp

Join me on a unique rainforest adventure in Borneo! This part of Malaysia has long been known for its unique biodiversity, something this tour specifically highlights as we seek out some of the more elusive mammals found in the region. We don’t visit any sanctuaries or spend time photographing captive animals on this trip. Instead, we put in the work to try and track down the more elusive cats and civets, a variety of primates, magnificent birds… and even some exotic herps and bugs.

Those who may have spent time in the jungles of Latin America will marvel at the different types of animals we’ll see on this trip. Up to six species of civets! Eight species of hornbills! And exotic primates… not just orangutans (still a goal!), but smaller, less familiar species like western tarsier and slow loris.

This is an exclusive experience limited to only four guests, in order to maximize comfort. It’s a quieter, more intimate experience, and will feel like a true adventure as we tackle different activities (game drives, river floats, forest walks) while trying to reveal Borneo’s secrets.

Target species on this trip include:

  • Small cats: Leopard Cat & Flat-headed Cat
  • Medium cats: Clouded Leopard, Bay Cat, Marbled Cat (all rare)
  • Civets: Eight species, including Binturong, palm civets, and more
  • Great Apes: Bornean Orangutan and North Bornean Gibbon
  • Monkeys, including Proboscis Monkeys, langurs, macaques
  • Exotic Primates and their cousins: Tarsier, loris, and colugo
  • Pygmy Asian Elephant
  • Flying Squirrels (several species)
  • Hornbills: Including Rhinoceros Hornbill and seven other species
  • Kingfishers
  • Owls
  • Many other colorful birds: Trogons, Bee-eaters, and more
  • Monitor lizards
  • Creepy Crawlies: from frogs, to snakes to bugs

See photos from past Borneo trips:

2023 Trip (scouting for this tour)
2012 Trip (from a lodge we’ll be using for the tour)

Bornean Orangutan Flat-headed Cat Proboscis Monkey Rhinoceros Hornbill Asian Palm Civet Harlequin Tree Frog

What to Expect

Like many of my trips, I’ve tried to craft an itinerary that offers a variety of experiences. In an environment where we hope to see and photograph a multitude of species, my goal is to not only increase the number of interesting sightings we may have, but also present a tour experience that allows us to explore the ecosystem in different ways.

As mentioned, this tour will combine some traditional photo safari elements: game drive, night drive, boat exploration, forest walks, and night walks. In some cases, the transportation method is dictated by the environment (e.g., Deramakot has no trails, so we mainly stick to driving a single road). In other cases, we need to get out on foot to give ourselves the best chance of photographing some of our target species (e.g., finding smaller creatures during night walks).

Daytime conditions may be hot and humid, rain could fall at any time, and night time conditions may be occasionally buggy. Oh, and leeches are also common (not dangerous, by the way, but they are a nuisance).

This tour will put your photography skills to the test. The Bornean rainforest is one of the most challenging environments I’ve ever photographed, from dealing with backlit orangutans high in the dense canopy, to hornbills zooming across the river, to capturing fleeting glimpses of a wild cat or civet during a night drive.

Trip Itinerary

We recommend participants arrive in Kuala Lumpur on October 8.

Western TarsierOctober 9: Participants fly into Sandakan on a morning flight. Transfer to our hotel in Sepilok. In the evening, we will head to the nearby Rainforest Discovery Center for a night walk, including a walk across a suspended canopy walkway. Targets include red giant flying squirrel, western tarsier, and slow loris.

Sepilok, 1 Night

October 10: Following a morning walk at the RDC, we will hit the road to transfer to Deramakot. Deramakot is a unique place. It’s challenging to explore (there are almost no trails), and nearly all of our exploration will be done in a single safari vehicle (one reason the trip is limited to four guests is to ensure conditions in the vehicle don’t get too cramped).

Our reason for visiting Deramakot? It gives us some of our best chances to see some of Borneo’s most elusive mammals! We scan the roadside trees as darkness descends in hopes of spotting the diminutive leopard cat, or a palm civet. If we’re extremely lucky, we’ll chance upon a clouded leopard or bay cat! Deramakot demands patience, but the rewards can make the challenge worthwhile!

Deramakot Forest Reserve, 3 Nights

October 11 – 12: We will rest during the day before we undertake two more seven-hour afternoon/evening drives in search of cats and civets. Orangutans, monkeys, and hornbills are also a possibility during daytime hours. Owls such as the Barred Eagle-owl may appear at night.

October 13: We depart for our next stop, the Kinabatangan River. This location is famed as one of the best places to see proboscis monkeys. They are big, unique-looking characters, but also highly acrobatic. We hope to photograph them as they make daring leaps from tree to tree. Other primates are also found here, from long-tailed macaques to silver and maroon langurs. Orangutans are also a possibility here. As darkness descends, we will head out on the river for a night float in hopes of seeing nocturnal species.

Borneo Nature Lodge, 3 Nights

October 14 – 15: Two more days on the Kinabatangan. During the day, we’ll continue to search for primates, monitor lizards, and many of Borneo’s colorful hornbill species. At night, our focus changes. Buffy Fish Owls come to the water’s edge to hunt, and we’ll search for the region’s smallest feline, the flat-headed cat, which also stalks the muddy shores. Don’t forget to scan tree trunks for the odd colugo, a distant primate relative that can glide over 100 meters!

At some point during our stay here, we will visit a nearby cave system, where millions of bats emerge at dusk. The cave was closed during COVID times, only re-opening in 2024.

Red Leaf MonkeyOctober 16: We depart for the final stop on our trip: the famed Danum Valley! Danum is home to one of the world’s oldest rainforests (estimated to be 130 million years old), and some of the tallest trees in the tropics. It hosts a stunning array of species. Combined with our luxury lodge setting, this is a fitting way to end our adventure.

Borneo Rainforest Lodge, 4 Nights

October 17 – 19: We will explore the area around the lodge. This includes perhaps the most impressive rainforest canopy walkway I’ve ever visited. We will look for orangutans, langurs (including the white morph of the maroon langur), and other mammals. Colorful sunbirds, kingfishers, and pheasants roam the grounds, while pygmy squirrels dash up nearby tree trunks.

Our night time adventures will be split between night drives (searching for flying squirrels, civets, and cats), and night walks (some of the most impressive macro subjects I’ve seen… everything from giant millipedes to the atlas moth, to leaf mantids and colorful frogs).

October 20: We will depart for Lahad Datu, and flights back to Kuala Lumpur and home. Some participants may choose to overnight in KL before flying home.

Alternatively, we are planning an optional scouting extension to Tabin Wildlife Reserve. Tabin gives us better chances to add species we may not have seen during the main tour, including pygmy elephant, gibbon, and more cats. This extension would be offered at no markup, since it’s a scouting adventure. Participants in the extension would travel to Tabin on the 20th, staying three nights before returning to Lahad Datu for flights back to Kuala Lumpur.

What’s Included in the Price of Your Tour

  • All guiding and transportation from pick-up in Sandakan.
  • Optional photo instruction by Max.
  • All lodging during the tour.
  • All food breakfast and lunch on the first day and lunch and dinner on the final day.
  • Park entrance fees.

What is NOT Included in the Price of Your Tour

  • International flights to/from Malaysia.
  • Domestic flights to Sandakan and from Lahad Datu.
  • Extra baggage fees
  • Hotel in Kuala Lumpur before or after the tour.
  • Alcohol/bar tabs at our hotels/lodges
  • Tips for guides/drivers/hotel staff.
  • Single supplement lodging fee listed below.

Cost

Main Tour: $13,445US per person, based on double occupancy
$690 single supplement

Optional Tabin Extension: Price TBD

This tour is limited to four guests.

Claim your spot on the Secrets of Borneo Photo Tour!

If you would like to register for the 2025 tour, get on a waiting list for a future trip, or arrange a customized private tour, please contact me.

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