A Motorcycle Tour – 14-Days in Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei
Is Laos too wild for your tastes but still looking for a really exotic locale to cover by motorcycle? How about touring by bike? The name evokes images of darkest jungles, savage headhunters, and rare animals. Today, of course, the situation is quite different.
Headhunters are no more, but we meet their progeny who still cherish their ancestors’ slain enemies’ skulls in their communal longhouses. Commercial harvesting of the forest is widespread but A.M.A takes you to extensive pockets of truly virgin rainforest. The majority of big mammals are gone, yet A.M.A knows where to find thriving colonies of wild orangutans, elephants, and clouded leopards. Wonders like the Mulu Caves, virgin rainforests, deserted beaches, and forest-dwelling indigenous tribes all will be visited on this BORNEO–EAST MALAYSIA motorcycle tour.
Just like all the other A.M.A motorcycle tours, the motorcycling in is top notch as well.
Borneo, the world’s third largest island is divided amongst three nations: Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. The territory covering the northwest coastline of the island belongs to Malaysia and is commonly referred to as East Malaysia. East Malaysia is further split up into the two huge provinces of SABAH and SARAWAK, which when added togeher are larger than the entirety of their motherland; Peninsula Malaysia.
Nestled between Sarawak and Sabah lies tiny Brunei, a devout Muslim sultanate where all the citizenry share in a vast oil wealth that lies offshore.
The remainder, and majority of the island, is known as Kalimantan, governed by Indonesia is not visited on this tour. But it is included in our 28-day TRANS-BORNEO MOTORCYCLE EXPEDITION.
3,400 + kilometers (2,000 + miles) of fine motorcycling riding and off-bike activities stretch between the East Malaysian anchor cities of Kuching and Kota Kinabalu. This is too much distance to fit into a standard A.M.A 10-day motorcycle tour, so the BORNEO–EAST MALAYSIA MOTORCYCLE TOUR is extended to 14 days.
A.M.A only offers two BORNEO–EAST MALAYSIA MOTORCYCLE TOUR every couple of years, and the next one is scheduled for May 2014. The motorcycle tour, as described in the itinerary below, starts in Kuching and ends in Kota Kinabalu (KK). The second tour runs the same exact route but in reverse–starting in KK and ending in Kuching. Otherwise all riding and activities are identical.
This tour starts in KUCHING, Sarawak “The Land Below the Wind”. Kuching is often described as the “best little city in Asia”, with touches of its colonial past liberally scattered about. Clean, lushly landscaped, uncrowded and unhurried, Kuching is filled with warm and friendly people. There is an excellent museum, great shopping, and many historical points of interest.
2nd & 3rd Night
We immediately jump into the spirit of . Our first morning’s ride is to a reservoir where we board an indigenous-built canoe for an up-river journey deep into pristine rainforest. We arrive at a Dyak longhouse after negotiating some rapids on the ULU AI RIVER, and then we spend two days and nights living with a culture whose days are numbered. The Dyaks feel honored that our group has traveled so far to visit them and they want to show off their way of life, of which they are so proud. Native guides lead us around their slice of the jungle, explaining the ecology and their relationship with their land in an intimate way.
Our quarters are in an adjoining longhouse with Western-style toilets and showers. We sleep on a bamboo platform atop mattresses and under a mosquito net. The night jungle noises and scented air will lull everyone quickly to sleep.
SIBU is our next stop. This is an active, medium-size city (by standards), and Sibu is also the riverine transportation hub of East Malaysia. Tribal people from the interior travel long distances to come here to trade and purchase supplies. The night market is an especially lively affair, with snake charmers and outdoor Chinese opera troupes competing for customers. Sibu’s large Fuchow Chinese community is esteemed for their delicous cooking.
5th & 6th Night
A Twin-Otter flight from MIRI airport whisks us to MULU NATIONAL PARK, and one of the world’s great natural wonders. Mulu is synonymous with caves. They are awesome and we visit several of them in depth–literally. The spectacle of two million bats flying out of Deer Cave at dusk in a thick, swirling cloud is one of nature’s most wondrous daily shows. An optional guided caving trek through miles of underground passages will engulf you in a world few ever have the opportunity to experience.
Many of Southeast Asia’s most spectacular religious and secular monuments are in BRUNEI, a tiny, oil-rich sultanate. We visit their Water Village; a community built entirely on stilts above a river, whose fabric of life is little changed since 1521 when it was first described during Magellan’s voyage.
At night we go play in Jerudong Park, a giant amusement park with state-of-the-art rides with never a line to wait on, despite all the attractions being totally free!
After crossing into Sabah, we load the bikes onto an antiquated narrow gauge railway for a journey up the untamed Padas River gorge and over the Crocker Mountain Range. We arrive in Tenon, and spend the night in the chilled air of this pastoral hill town.
We are now high in the mountains and the driving is superb. The Tambunan Plain has some of the most picturesque scenery in . Terraced rice paddies stretch forever in a carpet of organic green, swaying in the breeze, crying out to be photographed.
The rice paddies end and palm oil plantations begin, stretching for unbroken miles that must be seen to be believed. We roar through these plantations on a high-speed road and arrive in SANDAKAN, a busy fishing port and market town. As many Filipinos and Indonesians walk the streets as do Malays.
10th Night & 11th Night
More palm oil estates line our southward route towards DANUM VALLEY. We begin an awesome 82-kilometer drive over an easy, dirt logging trail, an Asian “top 5” road for sure. Stunning jungle surrounds us the entire length.
The BORNEO RAINFOREST LODGE is the finest adventure travel facility in Asia and this becomes our home for a two-night luxury stay in private chalets. A healthy population of wild orangutans make their home in this secluded valley, as do clouded leopards, elephants, and 275 species of birds. A knowledgeable staff of guides will unravel some of the mysteries of the rainforest and they will also point out the forest denizens when we go on a couple of photographic safaris.
We enjoy the same logging road once again on our trip back out and head northwards up to MOUNT KINABALU, at 4,101 meters (13,454′), ‘s highest mountain by far. With a mountain this size, you know the roads leading to it are going to be superb, and they are. On the way we stop off at a hot spring complex and a butterfly farm. After a full day in the saddle we sleep the night in a lofty hilltop hotel.
The next-to-last day we spend roaming the remote northern tip of this enormous island and spend some time exploring deserted beaches. Our last night on the road is spent visiting the Rungus people at their BAVANGAZZO LONGHOUSE. This is a working farm community in a lovely valley and we witness another lifestyle so different from our own. We eat their native foods cooked Rungus style, wholesome and delicious. Afterwards they entertain us with song, music, and dance from their legends.
Sadly it is time to head to KOTA KINABALU, the terminus of this BORNEO-EAST MALAYSIA MOTORCYCLE TOUR. The memories from this fantastic island will remain with you for a lifetime.
Kota Kinabalu is a gateway to more holiday fun, including some of the world’s top dive sites and scores of beautiful islands. You should consider spending extra time here either after or before your A.M.A tour. One of the most famous diving sites in the world is Sipidan, and this island is easily accessed from Kota Kinabalu. There are several scuba diving schools in Kota Kinabalu if you want to become certified to take advantage of this unique diving opportunity. You can earn certification in three days. Our travel staff can help you organize an extension.
Price for rider: USD 4,995. Price for pillions: 2,695. Contact A.M.A for full details about this tour.
(Sorry, but this tour is not scheduled for the 2015-2016 touring seasons.)
Questions / requests / feedback: Send us an email.
Click to view -East Malaysia map.