The scene is one of amazing diversity, dramatic coastlines and lush jungles. There are aquamarine waters and coral reef systems, wildlife and endangered species.

National Geographic’s 11-day exploration trip to Malaysian Borneo is a unique opportunity to explore the world’s third largest island and stay in jungle lodges tucked within wildlife reserves in the center of the animal action.

The Borneo rainforest is one of the few remaining natural habitats for the endangered Borneo orangutan. It is an important refuge for many endemic forest species including the Borneo elephant and the Eastern Sumatra rhino.

Your adventure begins on arrival in the bustling eastern coast city of Sandakan for a welcome dinner before an early morning start heading out to the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, site of the orangutan rehabilitation center. The visit is highlighted by an opportunity to join scientists in observing morning feeding.

You’ll move on to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation and then travel to the Kinabatangan River where you’ll encounter the highest concentration of wildlife on the island. Once settled into the lodge there, a night cruise is the recommended way to observe orangutans, pygmy elephants, silvered langurs, hornbills and proboscis monkeys. The main attraction of this trip is the ability it provides to get up close to animals few have ever seen at home in their natural habitats.

Hop on a safari river cruise to watch the sun rise before a stop at a local village for a traditional breakfast and chance to learn more about the native culture. There’s time for a jungle walk in search of wildlife and another river cruise at dusk.

The next several days will be spent in the heart of the Tabin Wildlife Reserve that is home to nine primate and three cat species, 220 different species of birds, and two rarely-seen animals, the pygmy elephant and the banteng.

Jump on a 4×4 to explore, searching for leopard and marble cats, flying squirrels and bearcats (known here as binturongs.) You can also hike to the mud volcano – a place where enriched mud bubbles up and attracts wildlife, or climb the nearby observation tower for panoramic views into the surrounding forest. The executive director of the Borneo Rhino Alliance will hold a special meeting, allowing you to learn about Sumatran rhino conservation efforts.

Your Borneo stay includes accommodations at Gaya Island Resort, a stunning rainforest retreat overlooking Malohom Bay’s aquamarine waters.

Gaya Island also means an excursion to Tunka Abdul Rahman Marine Park and snorkeling along the coral reef. This reef is comprised of more than 170 species of coral and is a home to sea turtles, hundreds of fish, and whale sharks. There will be leisure time to enjoy the white sand beaches and to toast your adventure with sunset cocktails before a farewell dinner. Travelers return to Kota Kinabalu via ferry in the morning to transfer to the airport for flights home.

It’s a small group experience for 8-15 people with easy to moderate activity of hiking for up to 2 hours daily and transfers of up to 3 1/2 hours between destinations. The lodges and resorts where you’ll stay combine comfort and local charm, and are chosen for ideal locations relevant to the planned activities.

This total trip costs $7495 based on double occupancy and excluding airfares.

Photo credit: Dreamstime