Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia: Borneo Jungle Travel Cheap Under $20 Day


Travel Cheap to the Borneo Jungle, near Sandakan. Sabah, Malaysia, for under $20 Day.  Visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center while you are in Borneo.  This is an uncaged sanctuary for orangutans who have lost their jungle habitat from palm oil deforestation.

Borneo is one of the largest islands in the world.  Borneo is south of Vietnam between Singapore and the Philippines.  Borneo is so large that it includes parts of Indonesia and Malaysia and all of Brunei.  

As you fly over the Borneo Jungle, it looks like over 50% of the old growth jungle has been cleared for palm oil farms.  I asked a palm oil farming engineer I met on the bus about it and he said the Malaysian government will only allow 50% of the jungle to be cleared.  But from the air it looks like it is already more than 50% palm oil farms.  Conservation organizations have been reporting on this for some time, but the international community continues to consume palm oil for cosmetics and other products.  Please read labels and use products that do not contain palm oil.  

You may want to come visit the Borneo Jungle before it is gone.  I see very little political desire to save this jungle.  

Things to Do: Although I came to see the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, I also really enjoyed the Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary, The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, and The Rainforest Discovery Centre.  The owner of the Sun Bear sanctuary is a wealth of knowledge about how to save the jungle.  Other than the scuba diving in Sipadan, these sanctuaries were my favorite days in Borneo.  

The Proboscis monkeys stole the show.  The orangutans are amazing creatures but don’t miss the proboscis monkeys.  Also, although I only spent a few hours at the Sun Bear Sanctuary, my friend Charles Hummel spent the whole day there and got some amazing pictures.  My camera was giving me trouble and Charles was kind enough to allow you to see some of his photos.

Accommodations and Food: The Sepilok Jungle Resort is right across the street from the orangutan sanctuary, and next door to the sun bear sanctuary.  It is also only a few blocks to the rainforest discovery and the resort will arrange for your travel to see the proboscis monkey sanctuary.  A private hotel room at the Sepilok Jungle Resort goes for $41/night and a hostel dorm goes for about $10/night there.  Breakfast is included and lunch or dinner is about $3-4 each.  There is a swimming pool on the premises which is a nice treat after a day walking in the jungle.  The hotel was booked upon my arrival, so I stayed in the dorms and my cost of living including food but not excursions was just under $20 per day.  

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Sandakan:  I didn’t spend any time in the city of Sandakan, but friends did.  Hostels are $7, hotel rooms are $17, and meals are about $3.  A furnished townhouse just outside Sandakan is $26/night on  The cost of living estimates below are based on Sandakan rather than the Sepilok Jungle Resort.  

Transportation:  I flew from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan for $44 which gave me a nice view of Kinabalu Mountain and confirmed the same level of deforestation I saw in other parts of Malaysia.  The taxi to the Sepilok Jungle Resort was $12.  After visiting all the sanctuaries, I caught the bus to Semporna for $8, which took 5 hours.  You catch the bus right up the street from the Sepilok Jungle Resort.  Just ask for directions.  

Thank you for reading this post about the Borneo Jungle.  Please leave a comment below, subscribe to our youtube channel, like this post on Facebook or share this video with your friends.  Your time is greatly appreciated.  

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Dan from  

Monthly Multiplier: Sandakan (Borneo, Sabah) Cost of Living
Expense Cost Each Low Medium High
Airbnb (1 Bedroom Apt) $26.00 0 14 30
Moderate Hotel $17.00 0 12 0
Backpacker Hostel $7.00 30 4 0
High-End Restaurant $5.00 1 4 8
Neighborhood Restaurant $3.00 30 44 48
Food Cart $2.00 30 12 4
Subway/Train/Metro $0.00 20 26 8
Bus $0.60 20 10 0
Taxi $3.00 6 10 20
Total Per Month $395.00 $808.00 $1,032.00
Total Per Day $13.17 $26.93 $34.40

I am not offering you any of the above prices.  These are just my notes and estimates from the time of my visit and this post.  Your costs will likely be drastically different if significant inflation or deflation occurs or the market changes after this post.  I will not update these numbers until I am on the ground again here, if ever. (c) 2016

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