Dame Judi Dench's Wild Borneo Adventure
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Dame Judi Dench's Wild Borneo Adventure

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Dame Judi Dench fell in love with Borneo, and so did we. In ITV's most recent series, we travelled with Dame Judi on her Wild Borneo Adventure, meeting some of the much-loved wildlife famous to the region. From steaming rainforests to tropical island; get ready to discover the spectacular destinations that Dame Judi explored...
BY Emma Hookway
Luxtripper Travel Editor

I loved watching Dame Judi Dench's Wild Borneo Adventure and I can't wait to pack my bags and head straight off to Borneo!

Jump Into Borneo!

The third-largest island in the world, Borneo's size cannot be underestimated. Home to ancient rainforest, vibrant cities and paradisaical beaches, Borneo is an unparalleled natural wilderness in the heart of South East Asia, teeming with unique wildlife and beautiful landscapes. 

Shared by three South East Asian nations, Dame Judi Dench on her Wild Borneo Adventure explores the Malaysian portion in the north of the island, visiting the wildlife-rich state of Sabah. Her passion for Borneo is clear; she is an awe of the all the creatures she encounters on her journey, from beguiling dung beetles to lovable orangutans. 

For a wild Malaysia holiday, Borneo is the perfect place to connect with nature and experience extraordinary wildlife, whether it be in the jungle or snorkelling in coral reefs. Following Dame Judi Dench's journey, I'll highlight the top spots she visited that are absolutely unmissable on a first trip to Borneo! 

Danum Valley

Where better to start than the Danum Valley Conservation Area? Among the oldest tropical rainforest on the planet, the reserve has never been logged, making it one of the last untouched rainforests in the world. 

Considering that so much of Borneo's wildlife lives in the trees, you can experience this wildlife-haven for yourself on a Borneo holiday as you go on a Tree Top Canopy Walk in the Danum Valley. 300m in length, you can walk through the misty jungle canopy, listening to the song of the gibbons echoing around you through the forest. 

Danum Valley really feels like it's in the middle of nowhere, but don't worry, you won't have to sleep in the trees on your Malaysia holiday! Like Dame Judi, you can stay in the Borneo Rainforest Lodge, your own luxurious haven in the jungle. With riverfront villas that have their own private infinity pools, you can cool off from the heat whilst feasting your eyes on the million-year-old rainforest. (Photos courtesy of Borneo Rainforest Lodge Copyright)

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabiliation Centre

On her Wild Borneo Adventure, Dame Judi Dench brought environmental concerns to the forefront of the series, highlighting the problems caused by palm oil plantations and human poachers. Orangutan numbers have halved in the past few years, so their rehabilitation is key. 

Dame Judi shares her passion for orangutans, (a love so strong that she has adopted three!), when she visits the remarkable Sepilok Orangutan Rehabiliation Centre, the first centre established in the world for orangutans. The Rehabiliation Centre is a great place to visit on your Malaysia holiday, as you'll learn how these incredible creatures are cared for and prepared for their return to the wild. Although it's in the best interests of the orangutans to have no physical contact with the public, you'll be able to see adolescent orangutans transition to life in the rainforest, training on the ropes and the trees - it really is a heartwarming experience and a must-see on your Borneo holiday! 

Kinabatangan River

The Kinabatangan River is described as the 'grandfather of all rivers' in Borneo. A jungle highway, the Kinabatangan is a lifeline for much of Borneo's wildlife, as well as being a key route explored by traders from the 7th century. 

On her Wild Borneo Adventure, Dame Judi Dench sees a cacophony of life on the river, from cunning salt water crocodiles to playful Borneo pygmy elephants. You can experience this incredible waterway for yourself on a Malaysia holiday; embark on a river safari such as the Borneo 'big 5' cruise, where you'll have the opportunity to see the iconic Proboscis (big-nosed) monkey, unique to Borneo, as well as the vivid hornbill or pygmy elephants splashing in the water! 

You can access these unrivalled river safaris from the Sukau Rainforest Lodge, a luxury lodge nestled in amongst the rainforest on the banks of the Kinabatangan River. With both overland treks and river cruises available, you'll be able to see the top wildlife of the region in its natural habitat on your Borneo holiday!

Kota Kinabalu

There are cities in Borneo? Bustling cities don't often spring to mind when thinking of Borneo, but Kota Kinabalu is waiting to prove you wrong. The capital of Sabah state, this is the place to experience Malaysian culture at its finest, from the vibrant Gaya Street Sunday Market and the Masjid Bandaraya mosque to the modern boardwalk on the waterfront. 

Dame Judi Dench certainly enjoyed beachfront luxury whilst staying in Kota Kinabulu, a deluxe precursor to her adventures in the rainforest! Shangri's La Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa is the best place to stay when in Kota Kinabulu to unwind and enjoy pure luxury on a Malaysia holiday. Only 10 minutes away from the city, the resort is in a a beautiful beachfront setting, with its own unique island spa attached by a private causeway! 

Gaya Island

There's more to Borneo than it's rainforests. On the north-west of Borneo off the coast of Kota Kinabula lies Gaya Island, an ecological haven with lush, tropical flora, crystal-clear water and white, sandy beaches.

On Dame Judi Dench's Wild Borneo Adventure, we see just how wildlife-rich Gaya Island's tropical water's are; fringed with kaleidoscopic coral reefs, these vivid underwater gardens are the hosts to a spectacular array of marine creatures, such as the iconic clownfish and mesmerising sea turtles. Investigating the work of the Gaya Island Resort Marine Centre, Dame Judi meets the team dedicated to preserving the underwater paradise of Borneo, from remarkable turtle rescue strategies to innovative coral reef restoration techniques.

When in Borneo, you must explore this beautiful natural environment beneath the waves. Staying at the Gaya Island Resort, a luxury sanctuary nestled between lush rainforest and turquoise water, you can be guided by the resident Marine Biologist on an unforgettable snorkelling adventure, marvelling at the brightly-coloured house reefs of the resort on your Malaysia holiday! 

Borneo Is Waiting....

Eager for your own Wild Borneo Adventure? Whether it's encountering orangutans in Sabah's ancient rainforest or snorkelling in the beautiful coral reefs of Gaya Island, our luxury travel specialists will be ready and waiting to tailor-make your own unique Borneo holiday or honeymoon... 

Hotels in this article
Gaya Island Resort
Asia, Malaysia
Malaysia holidays are nothing if not astounding, and this fabulous resort proves this. Nestled within a gorgeous marine park amidst protected mangroves and on top of pristine white sands, the Gaya Island Resort is truly breath-taking to behold. The 4.5-star
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Sukau Rainforest Lodge
Asia, Malaysia
Immerse yourself in Borneo’s world-famous rainforest at the Sukau Rainforest Lodge. Sustainability is at the heart of the resort, making for an eco-conscious and luxury stay. Choose between an exotic Borneo Villa or an indulgent Superior Room, both with solar-heated
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Shangri La's Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa
Asia, Malaysia
Just 10 minutes from Kota Kinabalu, Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa is true Bornean beachfront luxury, surrounded by tropical flora with glistening views across the South China Sea. Looking across the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, guests at the resort
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