Travel to Sukau, Danum Valley, Tabin Reserve and Sandakan remains very safe. That said, we take every precaution necessary, have emergency measures in place and avoid where possible crowded areas and outlying areas vulnerable to danger. All boat transfers offshore happen only during the day. We only have boat transfers to areas deemed safe and avoid other areas altogether.
Sukau is approximately 2.5hrs each way inland from the sea and thus the significant distance forms a huge deterrent to any threats from the Philippines. Armed groups usually target the offshore island and coastal areas because it is easier for them to make a getaway across the Malaysian-Philippines border. There is a permanent military-police presence in Sukau village that is only 10 minutes by boat away from Sukau Rainforest Lodge. The river also forms a natural deterrent because there is only one way in and out. A military outpost was recently constructed in December 2014 and is currently stationed with 15 armed military personnel at the entry point of the river that continuously monitors all boats entering and leaving the river and provides a quick response military presence in the area.
All our speed boats are equipped with high-powered outboard engines and longe range radios that maintain continuous 24 hrs communication with our base in Sandakan and in Sukau. The areas that we bring our guests on the east coast all host a sizable military presence on location or guarding key entry points to the areas.
Other inland jungle lodges including Borneo Rainforest Lodge (Danum Valley) and Tabin Wildlife Lodge remains safe to travel due to their inland locations and military presence stationed at entry points.
In spite of travel advisories from some countries to Selingan island and Lankayan island, we still believe that travel to Selingan island (Turtle island) and to Lankayan island is very safe due to their permanent military presence, further enhanced with the deployment of police and military personnel at all tourist attractions in Sabah by the Defence Minister. An enforced nightime curfew on boats also helps by restricting undetected incursions.
Since the Malaysian police and navy intercepted an attempted kidnapping on 8 December 2016, there has not been a single reported or attempted kidnapping from Malaysian waters. We believe that the situation has improved sufficiently to once again consider travel to areas offshore of Sipadan and Semporna. Unfortunately, due to foreign travel advisories, bear in mind that your insurance may not cover you for travel in these areas (Sipadan, Mabul, Pom-Pom and Mataking islands) until they are lifted.
We advise that our clients exercise every precaution when traveling to Sipadan and islands off Semporna due to the possible threat of kidnapping for ransom. This includes ensuring that you're travelling with a licensed tour operator who has safety procedures and emergency protocols in place. Security at these islands have been bolstered but there remains a residual risk of incursions due to these islands' relatively close distance with the Phillipines border. These island resorts continue to enjoy brisk business and our advise is precautionary on our part.
Travel advisory from USA, UK and Australia on Sabah security situation are normally based on their assesment at the time of the incident and not based on the current situation on the ground and thus tend to the side of overcaution. These travel advisories take months if not years to be downgraded regardless of actual conditions on the ground.
The following are links to the travel advisories from the respective countries.
2016 was the turning point for kidnapping in the Sipadan area of Sabah. The successful ambush and elimination of kidnappers by the marine police on 8 December 2016 marked the last attempted kidnapping from waters close to Sabah. A summary of kidnap attempts and the final attempt is as follows.
2015 was a very eventful year for Borneo, in particular Sabah: the 5.9 magnitude earthquake that claimed the lives of 18 people on the summit of Mount Kinabalu and the kidnapping of two local Malaysians in the east coast area. Since then, the Mount Kinabalu climbing trail has been reopened, albeit now only limited to the Timpohon Gate trail, and no further kidnapping / safety incidences have affected Sabah.
While no tour operator or government can provide a 100% guarantee of safety for visitors, we can offer some compelling assurances that it is generally safe to travel to/within Sabah. Recent incidents have led law enforcement agencies to increase and take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of the people and visitors.
There is a general threat in the east coast of Sabah due to its close proximity to the Sulu archipelago in the southern Philippines. All travels to islands, dive sites and associated tourist facilities will have a certain level of risk. That said, the safety and well-being of our guests is our top priority and we take necessary measures to ensure all of our tours are run safely by avoiding crowded public places and areas vulnerable to intrusions. We would also like to remind and advise our guests to exercise normal safety precautions when travelling along the east coast and within Borneo.
Safety measures by Borneo Eco Tours and Law Enforcement Agencies in Sandakan:
Safety measures by Borneo Eco Tours and Law Enforcement Agencies in Sukau: