Reasons to Visit
Simply grab your snorkelling gear and jump in to the warm turquoise waters awash with life! Coral reefs, turtles and brightly coloured fish can be seen all over the east coast. For keener divers, several islands off the east coast are considered amongst the world's best locations.
The times of headhunting in Borneo are behind us now but even up until the 1960's this was common practice in the interior of the country. Today you can still visit the riverside tribal longhouses and enjoy a glass of rice wine with the elders of the village.
Critically endangered, orang-utan are now found on only two islands in the world, Borneo being one of them. There are three main areas where you can see these fantastic creatures: the Kinabatangan River, the Danum Valley and the Tabin Wildlife Reserve.
Climbing Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in Southeast Asia, is top of many people's list when they come to Borneo. The five day Headhunters Trail takes you through longhouses and forest camps. In Maliau Basin you can experience a unique Lost World rarely visited by anyone other than researchers. In Danum Valley you can explore the jungle on the look out for wildlife.
Taking a boat through the jungles of Borneo gives you an amazing opportunity for a close-up view of pygmy elephants, proboscis monkey, crocodile and dozens of bird species, such as native hornbills. If you prefer to explore by land then you can trek through pristine rainforests on the look out for monkeys swinging through the trees - and of course there are orang-utan.
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Our country specialists have travelled the length and breadth of Borneo - here are a few of their favourite things to do
Borneo’s lush rainforests engulf a region serrated with jagged peaks, carved by ancient rivers into sheer valleys that shelter prolific wildlife and diverse tribal people, living off the land much as they have done for thousands of years.
The island of Borneo is actually divided into four areas, with the Malay states of Sabah and Sarawak forming two distinct regions along its northern coast. The largest part of the island (Kalimantan) belongs to Indonesia, and the smallest part is the Sultanate of Brunei. Across Sabah and Sarawak the coastal and inland national parks abound with some of the most untouched wildlife habitats in Asia, sheltering an incredible number of plant and animal species from fish eagles and rhinoceros hornbills to leopards and pygmy elephants.
Highlights include the orang-utans of Sepilok and Semenggok, the sun-soaked coast and tropical islands, world class diving, boat journeys down the Kinabatangan River in search of proboscis monkeys, night safaris in the Danum Valley, the vast caves of Mulu National Park, visiting the Iban longhouses to learn about their long tradition of headhunting, seeing turtles hatch on Lankayan Island and watching the sunrise from the summit of Southeast Asia’s highest peak.
The smallest but oldest of all Sarawak’s national parks, it is home to a variety of wildlife, including bearded pigs, over 150 species of birds and the rare proboscis monkey.
You get to Batang Ai via 'longtail' boats, and once there you will witness the distinctive lifestyle and experience the ancient culture of the local Iban people.
The Danum Valley Conservation Area is nature lover’s paradise where it is possible to spot wild cats, orang-utans, macaques, gibbons, red leaf monkeys, pygmy elephants and possibly, the very rare clouded leopard.
Sabah’s longest river is home to an impressive array of wildlife and is a real highlight of any trip to Borneo: it is home to macaques, monitor lizards, elephants and, most famously, the proboscis monkey.
Kota Kinabalu is the entry and exit point for flights to Sabah. The city has a few historic buildings and museums but is best enjoyed for its wonderful tropical islands.
Kuching is the capital of Sarawak. Highlights include Sarawak Museum, and the excellent Semenggok Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, one of few places in Sarawak where you can see orang-utans.
The soaring peak of Mount Kinabalu, at 4,093 metres, is the highest in Malaysia. Two days of hard trekking with a night en route will get you to the top, or take a scenic helicopter flight.
Mulu National Park has the world’s largest limestone cave system. The park is home to an abundance of fauna and flora, including gibbons, cicada, hornbills, bats and frogs.
Sepilok is most famous for its orang-utan sanctuary, which has gained a worldwide reputation for its conservation work. Regular feeding times ensure spotting these creatures is almost assured.
Approximately an hour’s boat ride from the Eastern town of Semporna, the islands of Kapalai, Sipadan and Mabul, offer some of the finest coral reefs and dive sites in the world.
15 hours (Kuching, via Singapore)
Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines & Singapore Airlines
The best time to travel.
A good time to travel, but there may be some factors to be aware of.
Travel is possible, but this is not the best time of year.
Travel is not recommended.
Snow or ski season.
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Further reading:Tours in BorneoWhen to GoItinerary IdeasPlaces to GoThings to DoAccommodationAbout BorneoCountry Guides
Other countries in Southeast Asia:BurmaCambodiaIndonesiaLaosMalaysiaPapua New GuineaThailandThe PhilippinesVietnam
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