The Wonders and Wildlife of
September 16 - October 5 2024
Day 1 London to Singapore. *
Fly by scheduled flight.
Day 2 Singapore.
Arrive this afternoon and transfer to our hotel for an overnight stay. The remainder of the day and evening are at leisure.
Day 3 Singapore.
After breakfast in the hotel spend a relaxing morning enjoying the facilities or exploring independently. An afternoon tour will include the National Orchid Garden which displays the largest collection of orchids in the world with 2000 hybrids. Later we transfer to the Heritage Adventurer moored in the city and set sail this evening.
Day 4 At Sea.
Spend a leisurely day at sea as we make our way to the island of Borneo during which our lecture programme will commence.
Day 5 Kuching, Malaysia.
A day to explore this most charming of Asian cities that sits astride the Sarawak River in Malaysian Borneo. On our guided morning tour we will learn more about the exploits of the Brooke family who, some 200 years ago, were awarded Sarawak by the former owner, the Sultan of Brunei, in recognition for the aid provided to quash a rebellion. See Fort Margherita which was built in 1879 to guard Kuching’s river approaches from pirates and the Chinese History Museum which houses many artifacts of past eras and contains memorabilia of Chinese affairs during the time of Charles Vyner Brooke who is popularly known as the White Rajah in Sarawak history. Return to the ship for lunch and either spend the afternoon at leisure or join an excursion to the nearby Semenggoh Nature Reserve. Since 1975, the wardens here trained young orangutans, who had been orphaned or rescued from captivity, how to survive in the wild. The success of this programme has left the surrounding forest reserve with a thriving population of healthy adolescent and young adult orangutans, who are now breeding in the wild. Besides orangutans, Semenggoh Nature Reserve is also a habitat for rare flora and fauna including the giant squirrel, pigmy squirrel, gibbons and a splendid variety of birds.
Day 6 Bako National Park.
This morning we will anchor off of the Muara Tebas peninsula and use our Zodiacs to access the Bako National Park, the oldest national park in Sarawak and known for its amazing diversity containing almost every type of vegetation found in Borneo. Established in 1957 it occupies more than 27 square kilometres of rainforest, waterfalls, secluded beaches and rocky shorelines. On a series of guided nature walks for all levels we will explore the jungle keeping an eye out for proboscis monkeys, long tailed macaques, silvered langurs, monitor lizards and bearded pigs as well as some of the 190 species of birds that can be found here.
Day 7 At Sea.
Take some time to relax after a busy couple of days as we continue our journey up the Borneo coast.
Day 8 Brunei.
We arrive this morning in oil-rich Brunei. A full day excursion will include the immense Kianggeh open air market before taking a scenic boat ride along the Brunei River offering views of the magnificent Sultan’s Palace. The Istana Nurul Iman is the official residence of the Sultan of Brunei and one of the largest residential palaces in the world. After cruising around the palace, we will make our way slowly under mangrove trees to view a myriad of marine life and maybe even proboscis monkeys. We will also see the colourful water villages built on stilts and connected by wooden walkways before continuing to the stunning Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. We end at the Royal Regalia Building, which is home to the Sultan’s marvellous collection of royal gifts and ceremonial weapons. A local lunch will be served ashore and we sail in the late afternoon.
Day 9 Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.
Returning to Malaysia we have a full day to explore the city and surroundings of Kota Kinabalu. A full day tour will take us to Kinabalu Park located beneath the jagged granite peaks of Mount Kinabalu. This UNESCO World Heritage Site provides a glimpse into the fascinating and often unique plant life of the region. Walk through the montane oak and chestnut rainforest at park headquarters to view some of the 700 species of orchids, nine species of carnivorous pitcher plants and 27 species of rhododendrons found here. Next, visit the botanical gardens where a diverse collection of unique flora is gathered from the entire park and transplanted here for conservation and educational purposes. Take lunch in the park before returning to the ship later in the afternoon. Alternatively enjoy a Kota Kinabalu Town Heritage walk this morning which provides the link between the pre-war, post war and post-independence eras and includes the famous Atkinson Clock Tower, North Borneo War Memorial, Australia Place and Museum Kopitiam. A further option is nearby Gaya Island, the largest island in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. The island is covered with unspoilt and undisturbed lowland rainforest with pockets of mangrove forest and beach flora along the coast. On a guided walk we may find long-tailed macaques, wild pigs, pangolins, squirrels, monitor lizards and numerous varieties of birds such as pied hornbills, whitebellied sea eagles and sunbirds.
Day 10 Sandakan.
After a morning at sea we arrive in the city of Sandakan. For the keen nature lovers there will be an excursion to the Rainforest Discovery Centre, one of the most accessible natural rainforests in Sabah. It sits by a lake at the edge of the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve and is managed by the Sabah Forestry Department which has been in operation since 1996 for environmental education purposes. Today, it is a 3-in-1 park (wildlife, bird and plant) for nature lovers and bird watchers where we can see the unique flora and fauna of Borneo. Our walk in the forest trails will lead to the canopy walkway where the centre boasts a pristine lowland dipterocarp forest with an astounding 300 species of birds recorded in the area. Alternatively a Sandakan city tour will visit the lively market, the old-fashioned stone building of St Michael Church, one of the few surviving pre-war stone building built in 1893. We will also visit Newlands, former home of author Agnes Newton Keith.
Day 11 Sandakan.
Today we will learn about the rehabilitation of the orangutans at the Sepilok Centre and hear about their threats to survival. We will visit the Sepilok Forest Reserve feeding platform and see orangutans in the third stage of their rehabilitation programme where the orphaned and injured orangutans are brought to Sepilok to be rehabilitated to return to forest life. Sepilok is a primary lowland forest and one of the few remaining rainforests in Sabah. Observe the fascinating diversity of plants, trees and wildlife as Sepilok is known to have more 450 species of trees and more than 250 species of birds and we also have a good chance of sighting macaques, leaf monkeys and other mammals. Close by is the Sun Bear Conservation Centre. Opened in 2014 this centre provides rehabilitation to the smallest bears in the world which are at risk from deforestation and poaching. We end at the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary. These distinctive primates, endemic to Borneo, live mainly in the mangrove and lowland forests near fresh water and rivers.
Day 12 At Sea.
We have a day at sea as we continue our journey around the Borneo coast and make our way to Indonesia.
Day 13 Derawan Islands, Indonesia.
Here in the idyllic Derawan Islands, we spend the day either on nature walks or snorkelling over the colourful coral reefs. On Pulau Kakaban we can walk to the lake in the centre of the island which is home to many types of nonstinging jellyfish which are strangely beautiful. Over lunch we will relocate to another of the islands for an afternoon of swimming, snorkelling or Zodiac cruising.
Day 14 Sulawesi.
Today we sail over to Sulawesi and the charming township of Toli-Toli. Few tourists and even fewer cruise ships visit here. We will be collected by local becaks (cycle rickshaw) to explore the town including the local church, mosque and the small market to see the trading of local crops. At the traditional house ‘Rumah Adat of Toli’ we will be treated to a welcome ceremony.
Day 15 Menumbar River & Pulau Birahbirahan.
Today we enjoy the benefits of our small ship as we spend a day of exploration well off the usual cruise ship and tourist routes. Spend the morning at the Menumbar River where we will launch the Zodiacs. This remote river, flanked with pristine mangrove forest is a haven for birds and crocodiles and offers the opportunity to see an unexplored part of Borneo. Over lunch we position to the small island of Birahbirahan where our onboard naturalists will lead a series of nature walks in the rainforest. We will keep an eye out for kingfishers, sunbirds and Pacific swallows and learn about the flora. Alternatively a snorkel platform will offer the chance to explore the reef with its colourful fish and turtles.
Day 16 Samboja Lestari.
From our berth in Balikpapan we enjoy a full day excursion to Samboja Lestari, an area of restored tropical jungle. This once barren area has seen a remarkable regeneration with the planting of over a million trees. Wildlife has returned and the density of the forest has increased cloud cover, lowered temperatures and increased rainfall. The great work by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation has profoundly changed the lives of the local people and the wildlife. We will have the opportunity to see the great work being carried out by the foundation where 200 orangutans live in its protected environments as well as over 50 Malayan sun bears. We enjoy lunch at the lodge overlooking the jungle before returning to Balikpapan and sailing later this afternoon.
Day 17 At Sea.
Enjoy a day at leisure as we cross from the Makassar Strait and into the Java Sea sailing towards Bali. Maybe join the lecture programme in the lounge or find a spot on deck to relax with a book.
Day 18 Celukan Bawang, Bali.
We arrive in Bali this morning but are well away from the main tourist hubs as we land on the north eastern coast from where there will be a choice of two full day excursions. You may wish to visit the West Bali National Park which comprises of 19,000 hectares of land with an additional 7,000 hectares of coral reefs and coastal waters. Here we can take a gentle trek to the protected mangrove and monsoon forest and hope to see grey monkeys, black monkeys, giant lizard and some of the 160 species of birds that live here. Afterwards we take a short boat ride to Menjangan Island to snorkel in beautiful coral reef gardens and hope to also see electric clams, scorpion fish, starfish, eels and reef fish. Alternatively drive inland to the Munduk Highlands. Passing through Singaraja, the former capital city of Bali, we continue to the mountainous area of Bedugul to see the three lakes, Bratan, Buyan and Tamblingan. Alongside Lake Bratan is Pura Ulun Danu, an important Hindu-Buddhist temple dedicated to the water goddess and a site of pilgrimage. The scenery is stunning and we will have time to take in the surroundings before continuing to the appealing town of Munduk which is set amongst hillsides full of fruit trees, jungles and rice fields.
Day 19 Bali to London.
Disembark in Benoa and transfer to the airport for our scheduled indirect flight to London.
Day 20 London.
Arrive this morning.
* Passengers may elect to travel to Singapore via a different route. If so, they will receive a discount of £850 off the tour price.