Exotic animals are found in Maliau Basin, a region in the northeast of Borneo. // © 2015 Wild Planet Adventures
Feature image (above): Wild Planet Adventures’ new Borneo tour provides travelers unique experiences with wildlife. // © 2015 Wild Planet Adventures
Adventure seekers who have long dreamed of exploring a rarely visited corner of the globe in search of exotic animals may want to consider a new Wild Planet Adventures ecotour to the island of Borneo. The trip features Maliau Basin Conservation Area, the remote Malaysian destination often called “the lost world of Borneo.”
The lush region is located in the northeast of the island and surrounded by steep cliffs, which protect the complex ecosystem from thorough exploration even to this day. As a result, Maliau Basin harbors some of the oldest rainforest on Earth, according to Josh Cohen, director of Wild Planet Adventures.
“The rainforest of Borneo is 130 million years old,” Cohen said. “It is also disappearing faster than any rainforest on Earth, so it’s a destination where ecotourism dollars can make a real difference in wildlife and habitat conservation.”
Wild Planet Adventures is the first international tour operator to take guests into Maliau Basin, and Cohen says that the destination, and Borneo overall, is home to a stunning array of wildlife, as well as a center of evolution for many rare, endemic species.
“It’s one of the only remaining natural habitats for endangered orangutans, proboscis monkeys, pygmy elephants and the Bornean rhinoceros,” he said, noting that many of Borneo’s creatures have evolved in extraordinary ways.
“A prime example of this is Borneo’s incredible gliders, a group of 33 mammals, reptiles and amphibians that have evolved to fly or glide amongst the ancient trees, including flying lemurs, rare Wallace’s flying frogs, flying squirrels, paradise tree snakes and draco lizards,” he said.
This year, Wild Planet Adventures ran three separate versions of its new 16-day Weird & Wonderful Wildlife tour in August, September and October. The itinerary included not only stops in Maliau Basin, but also snorkeling trips in Sipadan, which is one of the top five diving destinations in the world, according to Cohen. The tour operator will begin the 16-day tours again in March 2016, starting at $7,998 per person. Wild Planet Adventures also offers a 12-day version of the trip, starting at $6,498.
Although not guaranteed, of course, a potential highlight of the tour is seeing wild orangutans in the pristine rainforest of Maliau Basin, an experience Cohen enjoyed during his first scouting visit to the destination earlier this year.
“The vast majority of travelers only see orangutans at rescue centers, and only a select few are fortunate enough to see them in the wild,” he said.
“We found several remote destinations where we saw 11 of Borneo’s 13 primate species, including literally dozens of wild orangutans,” he said. “We had countless high-quality sightings of rare animals, such as slow loris, tarsiers and pygmy elephants, and during a midnight boat ride by electric motor up a small creek, we saw one of the most extraordinary sightings of all: a rare flat-headed cat, which had not been sighted in the area for nearly eight years.”
For those skeptical about the likelihood of enjoying similar results during their own Wild Planet Adventures trip, Cohen insists the tours produced remarkable results during the first season.
“All of the activities that we did when we were scouting that we felt produced consistent, high-quality wildlife sightings have been included in Wild Planet Adventures’ Weird & Wonderful Wildlife ecotour,” he said. “And they’ve really paid off. Every one of our clients this season has seen dozens of wild orangutans, innumerable troops of proboscis monkeys and the vast majority of the 13 primate species — usually including rare tarsiers and slow loris — as well as many pygmy elephants and huge numbers of flying lemurs, flying fox and other gliders on every trip.”
Accommodations for the tours consist of four- and five-star Borneo lodges, including Sukau Rainforest Lodge, named one of the top 50 jungle lodges in the world by National Geographic Adventure. Other properties include beachfront accommodations and even overwater bungalows. Meals are also included in the tour prices. Along with the many wildlife excursions, the product offers a chance for authentic cultural experiences with Borneo’s people, as well.