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Female orangutan at Semenggok

When is the best time to visit Borneo?

The best time to visit Borneo is between March and October, when the island is hot, humid, and at its driest. This makes it one of Southeast Asia’s few summer destinations. It is also the best time to see orangutans in the wild, while turtles can be seen on Lankayan Island between June and September.

During the rest of the year, Borneo experiences a tropical climate, and the rains come to water the forest below. It’s hot and humid, with temperatures averaging 81°F to 90°F, and humidity usually at around 80%.

However, there’s always somewhere to break up the trip. Trek up Mount Kinabalu to be rewarded by stunning views and a cooling breeze, or head to the beaches for some swimming and world-class snorkeling.

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Borneo Climate Guide

Destination Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Brunei 86°F 12" 86°F 6" 88°F 6" 88°F 8" 90°F 10" 88°F 8" 88°F 9" 88°F 8" 88°F 12" 88°F 13" 88°F 14" 88°F 14"
Danum Valley 81°F 9" 81°F 6" 82°F 7" 82°F 6" 84°F 8" 84°F 7" 82°F 7" 84°F 7" 84°F 7" 82°F 8" 82°F 8" 82°F 8"
Gaya Island 86°F 6" 86°F 3" 88°F 3" 90°F 6" 90°F 10" 88°F 11" 88°F 10" 88°F 10" 88°F 12" 88°F 14" 86°F 12" 86°F 10"
Kota Kinabalu 86°F 6" 86°F 3" 88°F 4" 88°F 6" 90°F 10" 88°F 12" 88°F 10" 88°F 11" 88°F 12" 88°F 14" 86°F 12" 86°F 10"
Kuching 86°F 27" 86°F 21" 88°F 13" 90°F 11" 90°F 10" 90°F 8" 90°F 8" 90°F 9" 90°F 10" 90°F 12" 88°F 14" 86°F 20"
Mulu National Park 82°F 11" 82°F 9" 82°F 11" 82°F 11" 82°F 13" 82°F 10" 82°F 9" 82°F 10" 82°F 12" 82°F 13" 82°F 13" 82°F 14"
Sepilok 84°F 18" 84°F 11" 86°F 8" 88°F 5" 90°F 6" 90°F 8" 90°F 8" 90°F 10" 90°F 10" 88°F 10" 86°F 12" 86°F 17"

Month-by-month guide to traveling in Borneo

Kinabalu National Park, Malaysian Borneo

Visiting Borneo in January

During January, Borneo sees some of its highest rainfall for the year; particularly in Sarawak. Sabah will most likely receive less rain at this time, but storms and high winds can make sea travel and reaching the more rural areas difficult. The poor weather also means that much of the wildlife remains hidden from view as animals shelter in the dense forest.

Events & Festivals

  • Chinese New Year (date varies): Chinese New Year is celebrated throughout Borneo with the usual festivities of singing, dancing and merrymaking.
Turtle, Sipadan-Mabul, Malaysian Borneo

Visiting Borneo in February

You should still expect to see some rainfall in Sarawak over this time, but it shouldn't impact your exploration too much. Lower visitor numbers and drier weather in Sabah - particularly in the north - make February an appealing month to visit if you are looking to take advantage of low season promotional offers; with Kota Kinabalu and the northern coast, including Gaya Island, being warm and relatively dry at this time. However, southern areas such as Danum Valley and the Sipadan Islands are still likely to receive heavy rainfall.

Events & Festivals

  • Chinese New Year (date varies): Chinese New Year is celebrated throughout Borneo with the usual festivities of singing, dancing and merrymaking.
Lankayan Island, Malaysian Borneo

Visiting Borneo in March

Visitor numbers are still relatively low at this time of year, and for the most part, the island is dry. As such, this is a wonderful time to visit; taking advantage of shoulder season offers and lower crowds. This is also the start of the whale shark season.

Events & Festivals

  • Chinese New Year (date varies): Chinese New Year is celebrated throughout Borneo with the usual festivities of singing, dancing and merrymaking.
Female orangutan, Kinabatangan River, Malaysian Borneo

Visiting Borneo in April

April is one of the best months to visit Borneo, as dry weather dominates. It also has some of the best conditions for trekking, and you'll have a good chance of seeing some orangutans.

Flying Lemur, Kinabatangan River, Malaysian Borneo

Visiting Borneo in May

During May, Borneo should have good weather all round, making it a perfect time to visit before high season prices set in. Orangutans are out in full force, making jungle treks extremely rewarding. This is also a good time to visit the beaches as their white sands are basked in sunshine.

Events & Festivals

  • Gawai Dayak/Harvest Festival (31st May - 1st June): An annual festival celebrated by the Dayak people in Sarawak, where it's a public holiday. It's marked with the sharing of food, decorated longhouses and traditional dress.
  • Malaysian Labour Day (1st May): A national holiday throughout Malaysia - including Borneo - in celebration of the economic and social achievements of workers.
  • Miri Jazz Festival (May): A two day festival where local and international jazz musicians perform for visitors from around the world.
Turtle, Sipadan-Mabul, Malaysian Borneo

Visiting Borneo in June

Hot, dry weather is present across most of Borneo in June, with the occasional rain shower occurring on Borneo's northern coastline. June marks the start of turtle season off Lankayan Island, while the fruiting season is in full swing in the forest, causing orangutans to venture closer as they forage. All of this makes June an extremely attractive time to visit.

Events & Festivals

  • Gawai Dayak/Harvest Festival (31st May - 1st June): An annual festival celebrated by the Dayak people in Sarawak, where it's a public holiday. It's marked with the sharing of food, decorated longhouses and traditional dress.
  • The King's Birthday (first Saturday in June): A national holiday marking the birth of Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Malaysia's head of state.
Female orangutan, Kinabatangan River, Malaysian Borneo

Visiting Borneo in July

July is perhaps the most popular time to travel to Borneo as it experiences near perfect conditions throughout. Turtle season continues to enthrall visitors, and orangutans are still active amongst the fruit trees. You should expect greater crowds and high season prices during this time of year.

Events & Festivals

  • Borneo Cultural Festival (July): Annually held in Sibu, this ten day festival includes traditional music performances, various contests and plenty of good food.
  • Rainforest Music Festival (July): Renowned world musicians and indigenous musicians of Borneo gather in Kuching to perform, with lectures and workshops also taking place for visitors.
Mataking Island, Malaysian Borneo

Visiting Borneo in August

With conditions similar to July, if not better, booking far in advance is recommended as jungle lodges and beach properties fill up fast. Baby turtles begin to hatch on the beaches and fruit is still abundant in the forests, making this a great time to visit for wildlife enthusiasts.

Events & Festivals

  • Borneo Arts Festival (August or September): A variety of performances celebrating the arts take place over a week on the island of Labuan.
  • Hari Merdeka (31st August): Malaysian Independence Day commemorates the independence of the Federation of Malaya from British colonial rule in 1957.
Boat trip on the Kinabatangan River, Malaysian Borneo

Visiting Borneo in September

It's the end of turtle season on Langkayan Island, and hotel prices start to return to normal. However, the weather remains fine and dry throughout, so it's still a very appealing time to visit for relaxing on the beach, snorkeling, and wildlife watching on Kinabatangan River.

Events & Festivals

  • Borneo Arts Festival (August or September): A variety of performances celebrating the arts take place over a week on the island of Labuan.
  • Borneo International Kite Festival (September or October): Hundreds gather at Old Bintulu Airport, Bintulu to fly colorful - and often complex - kites.
  • Hari Raya Haji (September): Celebrated by Muslims around the world, when those who are able are required to undergo the hajj pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.
  • Malaysia Day (16th September): Commemorates the establishment of the Malaysian federation in 1963. It marked the joining together of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore to form Malaysia.
En route to Mataking Island, Borneo

Visiting Borneo in October

October is a great month to catch the last of the good weather prior to the rains setting in. Shoulder season prices take effect, and orangutans can still be seen in the wild. This is also the prime time for diving at Sipadan.

Events & Festivals

  • Deepavali/Diwali (October): The Hindu 'Festival of Lights' is celebrated throughout Borneo as families gather to pray and give gifts.
Pygmy Elephant Calf on the Kinabatangan River

Visiting Borneo in November

Visitor numbers decline as rainfall and thunderstorms return to Borneo. The rains create lush jungle, attracting an abundance of wildlife. Fewer people at national parks and sanctuaries may mean that this is a favored month for keen wildlife enthusiasts who don't mind getting wet.

Kinabalu National Park, Malaysian Borneo

Visiting Borneo in December

Thunderstorms and rainfall during December can hinder access to parts of Borneo and mean that wildlife sightings are not as common. We would therefore avoid traveling to Borneo at this time.

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Travel advice

Practical tips for traveling to Borneo, from social protocols to guidance on money matters, with a link to the latest government travel advice.

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