Spirit of Borneo Treks:
Our Spirit of Borneo Trek programs honour the many hundreds of prisoners of war who marched through the jungle from Sandakan to Ranau in 1945. By following in their foosteps, we hope that all those who walk in their memory will gain an appreciation of their indomitable spirit, their bravery and their determination.
Challenge Highlights / Challenge Tour
(12 Days 11 Nights – Full Tour
8 Days 7 Nights – Short Tour)
Photo Gallery :
This twelve-day tour follows the Death March route from beginning to end, from Sandakan to Ranau, and includes a very interesting two-day trip through Sabah’s interior to Labuan Island, where the POWs are buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery. TYK’s program has been especially designed to show the visitor more of what Sabah has to offer, combining hard physical effort with sightseeing, cultural and historical elements. It not only caters for the more adventurous traveller with a fairly high level of fitness, it also has great flexibility, allowing all trekkers to choose their own level of physical challenge each day.
The short 8-day tour begins in the foyer of the Hotel Sandakan at 7.45 am on Day 2 of the full 12-day program, and ends on Day 9. It does not include transfers from Sandakan airport to the town, or any accommodation and meals in Sandakan. Transfer from Kundasang to Kota kinabalu is included.
The six-day trekking section from Bauto to Ranau covers the most challenging section of the Sandakan Track. There are two daily trekking programs available: Challenge Highlights, which involves a half-day walk each day, and Challenge, a full-day walk. Highlights walkers can undertake the full-day trek if they wish, provided they are fit enough.
For groups wishing to incorporate the trek into their own itineraries, or individuals wishing to join a scheduled tour for the trek only, there is a shorter, 8-day trek tour, finishing at Kundasang. (Transfer back to Kota Kinabalu is included.)
The minimum number of trekkers required is four. Fixed departure dates in May, August and November enable individuals and small parties to form a group. These treks are accompanied by Lynette Silver and are a must for those who want to learn more about wartime events in Sabah. Lynette’s knowledge and expertise in this area, officially recognised by the Australian, Malaysian and Sabah governments, has been amassed over a twenty-year period and is unparalleled.
Trekkers not as interested in wartime history can opt for a locally-led trek. The minimum number to form a group is four. Departure dates are flexible, and are throughout the year. Contact TYK for further information.
Alternate sight-seeing programs are also available for groups of non-trekkers who wish to join family or fiends but wish to opt out of the more strenuous sections between days 3 and 6. If in Australia, please ask TYK to put you in contact with Lynette Silver, to discuss this option.
Itineraries for common-interest groups can also be tailored to suit individual requirements. A more challenging program, which completes the walking section in five days, is also available for private groups with an excellent level of fitness. However, if selecting this option, be aware that trekking in tropical heat can be very taxing.
TYK also offers a cycling tour along the first section of the POW route, from Sandakan-Bauto (click here for details) ; customised tours to climb Mt Kinabalu and Mt Trusmadi, and specialty trekking, including the historic Salt Track and expeditions for botanists and nature lovers. ( see www.tykadventuretours.com)
Overnight accommodation while trekking is basic but comfortable, with good sanitation and bathing facilities, fans and/or air conditioning, so essential for a good night’s sleep in a climate that is often hot, very humid and frequently subject to violent thunderstorms in the evening. After twenty-years of jungle trekking, TYK is only too aware that fatigue not only reduces the enjoyment of the trekking experience, it also leads to lack of concentration and the risk of accidents. Although camping is possible, it is no longer offered as a standard option due to a number of factors, including the fierce tropical rainstorms storms that can sweep in without warning, high heat and humidity, poor (or non-existent) sanitation facilities in rural areas, and a lack of suitable campsites with safe drinking water.
Please note that this trek is not for those whose aim is to travel from point A to point B in the fastest possible time. We do not conduct ‘fast, elite’ treks, or set ‘records’. TYK considers that to do so is an insult to the memory of those who walked this route in 1945 and perished. The normal daily schedule has been carefully designed and paced to provide an all-round experience, combining Sabah’s natural beauty with hard physical and mental effort, and historical, cultural and spiritual elements, in what is, essentially, a challenging pilgrimage to retrace the footsteps of some of World War 2’s finest heroes. This program also offers an excellent opportunity for common interest groups to develop team building. The various challenges to be overcome each day allow participants to forge strong bonds, as they pull together to discover the true meaning of ‘mateship’.
The track pioneered by Tham Yau Kong and Lynette Silver in 2005 was based on the route of the death marches, retraced and recorded by the Australian Army War Graves team while recovering bodies in 1945. Copies of this map, preserved in Australian Archives, are on public display ay the Australian Government Commemorative Pavilion at the Sandakan Memorial Park and at the Quailey’s Hill and Kundasang War Memorials.
In 2011, the accuracy of this route was challenged by an Australian tour operator, who claimed in media interviews that the path being followed by trekkers was incorrect, and that the death march track, after crossing the Telupid River, had passed through the village of Miruru in the Labuk Valley. His claims were based on a map, appearing in a book privately published in 1999. Compiled by the author from inadequate and incomplete information, this map had then been used to create another, equally erroneous map that was used in good faith by a local group organising a commemorative march in 2005.
To clarify the situation, Australian Army historians and Defence Department mapping experts began a thorough investigation at the request of the Australian government. A search of archival material was undertaken to ensure all available evidence was located and examined. This included the 1945 map produced by the War Graves team, other 1945 maps also showing the route, the search teams’ diary entries naming rivers crossed and distances travelled, records showing the locations of bodies found along the track, and information obtained from five local people who had used the track regularly between late 1944 and August 1945. In April 2012, the experts released their findings in the form of an official Defence Department map, endorsed by the Commonwealth of Australia. It clearly shows that the route, established by Tham Yau Kong and Lynette Silver in 2005, is correct. There was no evidence to suggest that the death march route had deviated from the path mapped by search teams in late 1945.
Sabah’s Tourism Minister, senior government officials and Tham Yau Kong were formally presented with copies of the Defence Department map by a representative of the Australian Government at Sandakan on Anzac Day 2012. A copy is also on display at the Sandakan Memorial Park and is on-line.
However, the route shown is an approximation only and is not intended for use as a trekking map. To follow in the footsteps of the prisoners of war requires additional and specialised local knowledge – expertise that the highly experienced TYK team has acquired and refined over the years. Consequently, TYK is confident that its trekkers follow, as closely as possible, the path taken by the POWs in 1945.
Note: Owing to restrictions prohibiting entry into the highly protected, Class 1 Forest in the Lolosing River area (see home page for details), Sabah’s Forestry Department has sanctioned the use of an alternate route via a less environmentally sensitive area for the ascent from the Taviu River up Taviu Hill. This area is also restricted, and a special permit is required.
Sabah’s Tourism Minister, senior government officials and Tham Yau Kong were formally presented with copies of the Defence Department map by a representative of the Australian Government at Sandakan on Anzac Day 2012. A copy is also on display at the Sandakan Memorial Park and is on-line. http://www.dva.gov.au/commems_
Challenge tour participants aged over 55 years, or those carrying additional weight, are required to provide a statement from a medical practitioner attesting that they have achieved a level of fitness necessary to walk for at least three hours, uphill, in humid, tropical heat. This is a minimum requirement. We advise trekkers not used to tropical conditions to consider arriving a day or two early, to help acclimatise. All walkers can choose to omit a sector, or sectors, on any day. However, the Challenge Highlight Walk scheduled for Day 6 must be completed, as there are no easy evacuation points. The final decision regarding fitness of any participant on any sector on any day lies with the trek leader. While trekking, the accommodation for all tours is in comfortable rest houses, with bathroom facilities. It is essential, in tropical heat, for trekkers to be sufficiently rested at the end of each day. Trekking times are approximate and are subject to weather and track conditions and physical fitness of the party.
A word of caution:
Before you sign up for a trek with any tour company, make sure that the local company facilitating the trek holds a current and valid tour operator’s licence, issued by the Sabah government, and employs an adequate number of fully-trained and experienced guides. To help ensure your safety and well-being, TYK employs only fully licensed tour guides and, while trekking, highly-skilled jungle and mountain guides – usually one for every two trekkers. Details of TYK’s tour operating licence appear at the end of this web page.
Basic requirements for trek tours:
All participants must ensure that they have adequate travel insurance.
Note: Information and instruction sheets, along with a detailed daily schedule, will be emailed to trekkers, once the booking is confirmed.
B =breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner
Day 1: (D)
Your TYK adventure begins with arrival at Sandakan Airport, where you will be met by a member of the team and transferred to the Hotel Sandakan in the centre of the old town. After checking in, the remainder of the day is free until a ‘meet and greet’ in the hotel lobby at 6.45 pm, followed by dinner at a top local restaurant. Spend the intervening hours resting, visiting the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre at Mile 14 (you can go there directly on arrival at the airport, depending on your flight), exploring the local markets, strolling down to the waterfront for a relaxing drink, or visiting the nearby Museum, which houses a fantastic collection of black and white photographs, taken by American adventurers in the 1920s and 30s.
Day 2: (all meals)
After an optional early morning walk to the markets to see the day’s catch arrive, return to the hotel for buffet breakfast. After check out, we visit the stone, heritage-listed St Michael’s Church with its magnificent stained-glass Windows of Remembrance. It was here that many of the POWs spent the night before they walked the eight miles to the Sandakan Camp. We follow their route to the old camp site, now a peaceful memorial park, where there is ample time to inspect the various relics, as well as the beautiful commemorative pavilion, before departing for the Kinabatangan River, checking into the riverside Lodge in time for the afternoon river cruise. Lunch is en route. The Kinabatangan, renowned for its wildlife, is home to orang utans, proboscis and other monkeys, reptiles, crocodiles and a variety of exotic birds including the hornbill. You may be fortunate enough to see pygmy elephants, which frequent the grassy areas on the river banks.
Day 3: (all meals)
After an early breakfast, there is a morning cruise along the river before departing by road for Bauto, where the six-day trek begins mid-morning, with a steep climb along a jungle track above the Labuk River. After lunch at the top of the climb, Highlight walkers transfer to the comfortably appointed Forestry rest house, the group’s accommodation for the next three nights, leaving Challenge walkers to continue with a steep, and sometimes muddy, descent through the rainforest. Dinner is either at the rest house, where staff prepare tasty and nourishing meals, using fresh local produce, or at one of the local restaurants. Full trek, 5-6 hours’ duration; Highlights, 3-4 hours. Medium to hard grade.
Day 4: (all meals)
Today’s trek is a series of ascents and descents along the full length of Gumbaron mountain. Highlight walkers are advised to tackle only the morning sector if the weather is very hot, and then join the Challenge walkers later in the afternoon in a refreshing swim in the Maliau river, after they descend the mountain. Full trek 6-7 hours; Highlights, 3-4 hours. Medium to hard grade, depending on weather conditions.
Day 5: (all meals)
The day begins with a fairly flat walk along foot/estate tracks through semi-jungle, small farms and cultivated land. There are numerous creek crossings and a small steep hill to climb just before lunch, where Highlights’ walkers can elect to finish. The afternoon sector, which has further creek crossings, continues on to the Taviu River, following mainly village and farm roads, some of which are in the open. Full trek, 6-7 hours; Highlights trek, 3-4 hours. Easy to medium grade, depending on the heat.
Day 6: (all meals)
Today’s trek continues through cultivated land along the Taviu valley before following a small stream edged with small, isolated farms and then jungle, to the foot of Taviu Hill. From here, there is a relatively short but fairly taxing climb through secondary jungle to the summit.
After lunch, Highlight walkers join the others for a pleasant, relatively flat walk to the Liwagu Valley, through mainly cultivated land. After a visit to Paginatan village, a key POW staging post, we transfer to Sabah Tea Plantation for an overnight stay in a purpose-built Rungus longhouse. Dinner is in the Plantation dining room, which has a fine view of Mt Kinabalu. Full trek, 7 hours’ hours duration; Highlights trek, 3 hours. Easy to hard grade, with a steep uphill section.
Day 7: (all meals)
Day 8: (all meals)
Day 9: (all meals)
Day 10: (B)
Day 11: (B/L)
Day 12: (B)
- A two-day/one night package is also available for those wishing to climb Mt Kinabalu, South-East Asia’s highest peak. It is best to do this at the completion of the trek (either day 9, for the short tour, or day 12 for the full tour). Please advise TYK at the time of booking your trek if you wish to take this option, especially in peak periods. Wherever possible, TYK will arrange for your trekking guides, who are also trained mountain guides also, to accompany you.
Jungle Survival School
- For those wanting to try something different, TYK can organise a two day/one night package at the Miki Jungle Survial Camp, hosted by TYK’s guides, at Kiau village, on the slopes of Mt Kinabalu.
White water rafting
- Enjoy an hour or two paddling and riding the rapids along a jungle river at the end of your trek. Ask TYK to recommend a white-water rafting trip that will suit your level of expertise, budget and sense of adventure.
TYK’s Spirit of Borneo Treks in 2013-14
a) Treks led by Lynette Silver
TOUR 1: 3 -14 May
TOUR 2: 16 -27 August
TOUR 3: Remembrance Day Trek, 3-14 November
Other departure dates
- Private groups wishing to have Lynette Silver accompany them at a time outside the fixed departure dates, to provide expert and exclusive historical commentary need to contact TYK to ensure that she is available, and to obtain a quote, before making a firm booking.
|Full 12-day tour
(per person, twin share)
|Short 8-day tour
(per person, twin share)
Above rates led by Australia historian (Ms Lynette Silver)
b) Treks led by a local guide
Flexible Departures (dates by arrangement)
|Full 12-day tour
(per person, twin share)
|Short 8-day tour
(per person, twin share)
- THE PRICE QUOTED ABOVE MAY BE SUBJECT TO CURRENCY FLUCTUATIONS AT THE TIME OF PAYMENT
FOR ALL BOOKINGS CONTACT
TYK ADVENTURE TOURS SDN BHD
C/N 477861-U L/N KKKP3443
ot 38, 2nd Floor, Damai Plaza IV,
88300 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.
Tel : (6088) 232821, 238702
Fax : (6088) 232827
e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
TYK Adventure Tours recommends Flight Centre Group Travel to trekking parties requiring group airline tickets. Group airfares offer great value and flexibility and are the perfect solution for organised tours.