Latest Travel Update : 6th April 2020

Coronavirus (Covid-19) situation in Sabah, Borneo

Confirmed Cases

In Treatment





Dear Valued Guests,

Please be informed that the Malaysian government has extended the Movement Control Order (MCO) for another 14 days, from 18 March 2020 until 14 April 2020 to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 in the country

The extension of the MCO was announced on 25 March 2020 by the Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin at 1300 hours.

The Movement Restriction Order will entail as follows:

  • Cancellation of all religious activities, social activities, including mass gatherings for religious, sport and cultural activities.
  • All Malaysian's are banned from travelling overseas and Malaysians returning from overseas to be on self-quarantine for 14 days.
  • All foreign tourists and visitors are banned from entering the country.
  • Closure of all schools, kindergartens, public and international schools
  • Closure of all universities and colleges.
  • Shut down of all government and private offices and premises, excluding essential services such as water, post office, power, petrol station and TV, banks, ports, airports, groceries.

What Borneo Eco Tours are doing during this time:

  • All customers who are currently on tour with us will continue their tour but exclude attractions that are closed. Please inform us if you would prefer to cut-short your tour.
  • All customers who are travelling with us from 18 March 2020 onwards will be given a 12-months Flexi Plan. If you wish to cancel your tour instead, please let us know.
  • 3. Due to the government requirement, our physical office be closed from 18 March 2020 to 14 April 2020. However, some of our team members are working remotely from home. Should you have any questions regarding the Movement Control Order or in case of an emergency, please email:

List of attractions and places of interests that are closed to visitors:

  • Selingan Island
  • Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
  • Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre
  • Gomantong Caves, Kinabatangan
  • Borneo Rainforest Lodge
  • Parks under Sabah Park:
    • Kinabalu Park (including Mt. Kinabalu Hiking)
    • Tunku Abdul Rahman Park
    • Tawau Hills Park
    • Crocker Range Park
    • Pulau Tiga Park
    • Tun Sakaran Marine Park
    • Sipadan Island Park
    • Turtle Islands Park

Effective 18 March 2020, the Sabah government has imposed an immigration restriction order to non-Sabahan residents and tourists. Anyone who is a non-resident of the state will be barred from entering Sabah unless they obtain a special approval by the state government of Sabah. Those from the Peninsula and Sarawak who wish to enter the state must provide a medical certificate from the hospital to prove that they are not infected with Covid-19. This was announced in a statement issued by the Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal on 17 March 2020.

As of 6 April 2020, there has been 238 confirmed case of Covid-19 in the state of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo and all patients are currently undergoing treatment, with 34 recovered patients. However, there have been 2 deaths thus far in the state. Whereas Sarawak has 239 confirmed cases, 9 recovered patients and 9 deaths. Meanwhile, neighbouring country Brunei has 135 confirmed cases thus far, with 73 recovered patients and 1 death.

With the pandemic happening globally, precautionary measures are being taken all over the world to safeguard nations and contain the spread of the COVID-19. Malaysia has also taken the necessary measures by restricting a temporary travel ban on a few countries.

Citizens and foreigners travelling from these countries are barred from entering or making a transit in Malaysia:

  • South Korea
  • Italy
  • Iran
  • China
  • Japan
  • Denmark

Nationalities and foreigners with recent travel history to these countries are also barred from entering Sabah, Malaysian Borneo:

  • China
  • South Korea
  • Italy
  • Iran

Effective 30 January 2020, Sabah has suspended all direct flights between China and Sabah, Borneo until further notice as a further precaution. This precaution was strengthened on 7 February with the restriction that those who have traveled to China within the last 14 days, including Malaysians who do not reside in Sabah, are not allowed entry into Sabah until the 14 days have elapsed.

On 1 March 2020, Sabah has also extended its travel restrictions to South Korea and all foreigners with travel history to South Korea within the last 14 days will not be allowed to enter Sabah.

The Malaysian government has also extended a temporary travel ban on citizens and foreigners from Italy and Iran effective 10 March 2020.

Effective 14 March 2020, a travel ban will also be imposed on nationals of Denmark and foreigners who have been to Denmark.

Covid-19 in Malaysia

New Straits Times 5 April 2020: Sabah records 10 new Covid-19 cases

The Star 5 April 2020: Covid-19: 179 new cases, death toll now at 61 (updated)

Borneo Post 5 April 2020: Covid-19: Sarawak suffers two more casualties, death toll at 12

The Star 2 April 2020: WHO expects Malaysia's Covid-19 cases to peak in mid-April

The Star 2 April 2020: Covid-19: 208 new cases, death toll now at 50

Borneo Post 2 April 2020: Covid-19: Death toll rises to nine in Sarawak

Daily Express 2 April 2020: Sabah Covid-19 cases up by one in B'fort, one more discharged

The Edge Markets 29 March 2020: Update: Eight new Covid-19 deaths in Malaysia, while 68 more recovered from infection

Sabah State Government: COVID-19 In SABAH



Frequently Asked Questions



Travel to Sukau, Danum Valley & Tabin

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.

Travel to Selingan & Lankayan Island

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.

Travel to islands in the vicinity of Sipadan Island

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.

Foreign Travel Advisory

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.

UK Travel Advisory updated 25 January 2020

Australia Travel Advisory updated 25 January 2020

USA Travel Advisory updated 9 April 2019

Sabah Tourism Advisory updated 15 October 2019

Past Events

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.

  • 8 December 2016 - Three suspected kidnappers were killed in a firefight with police and a further three were apprehended during a kidnap attempt in Merabung offshore from Lahad Datu
  • 19 November 2016 - Two Indonesian fishermen were kidnapped in waters of Merabung near Lahad Datu
  • 5 November 2016 - Two Indonesian fishermen were kidnapped in waters of Kertam
  • 28 September 2016 - A local boat owner was kidnapped from in the ocean off Semporna
  • 10 September 2016 - Three people on fishing boat kidnapped off Malaysia: Official.
  • 3 August 2016 - One Indonesian sailor was kidnapped but 2 of his crew were left unharmed in Malaysian waters. He was released on 22 September 2016.
  • 9 July 2016 - Three Indonesian fishermen were kidnapped off the south-eastern coast of Sabah before midnight. They were offshore fishing in Malaysian waters when they were intercepted and taken. The three Indonesian fishermen were released on 17 September 2016.

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:

  • The ESSCOM (Eastern Sabah Security Command) oversees the security stretching from Kudat in the far north to the entire east coast including Sandakan, Lahad Datu, Semporna and Tawau. Dusk to dawn curfew are strictly enforced out at sea to ensure the safety of all guests.
  • The jetty where our guests embark and disembark is situated between the ESSCOM and the Police Marine Base.
  • 24 Hour air (helicopter) and sea (speed boats) surveillance.
  • Army bases are set up at the mouth of Kinabatangan River in Mumiang Village (first 30 minutes boat ride to Sukau), Abai Village (another 30 minutes) and at Sukau.
  • All our open sea speedboats are equipped with long range radio communication equipment including walkie-talkie coverage that can be received by Sandakan and Sukau Rainforest Lodge offices during the entire boat ride.

Safety measures by Borneo Eco Tours and Law Enforcement Agencies in Sukau:

  • A police station is situated 5 minutes away from Sukau Rainforest Lodge. It has six military personnel attached to the station.
  • Police patrol in Sukau Rainforest Lodge

  • Daily river patrols are conducted by the military attachment.
  • Sukau Rainforest Lodge is located 1.5 hours away from the river-mouth heading towards the sea.
  • There is another police station situated 45 minutes away (Kota Kinabatangan) from Sukau Rainforest Lodge by land.
  • Almost daily roadblocks are conducted. All vehicles are stopped and inspected.
  • We have members of The People’s Volunteer Corps (RELA) working at the lodge – Mr. Jamri on day shift and Mr. Shahrin on night shift.
  • Sukau Rainforest Lodge admin and operation staff are connected 24-hour via phone (Whatsapp) to all security forces, where daily security updates and warning are communicated. A 24-hour communication by long range radio is also kept with our office in Sandakan.