If there’s any place in Southeast Asia where you can still feel lost in the jungle, totally immersed in wilderness, and enthralled by the wildlife its Malaysian Borneo. Packed full of stunning natural beauty, captivating culture, and offering a superb choice of activities and experiences, our blog post gives an insider’s overview on what you might like to include on your own guided Borneo tour.
East Malaysia occupies the northern section of this massive island – the third-largest in the world – and its range of different habitats house thousands of different plant and animal species. Some of these species – the orangutan, for instance – are alone enough to drive travel to the region.
Borneo’s unique geography, too, invites travelers, with Mount Kinabalu and the UNESCO-listed Kinabalu Park examples of the island’s spectacular landscapes. Then there are its coral reefs, its mangroves, its old-growth rainforests, peat swamps and alpine meadows to explore. Borneo’s cave systems are home to some of the world’s largest bat populations, while the Kinabatangan River – the second-largest in Malaysia – harbors countless freshwater fish, including the endemic Borneo river shark.
Not so commonly known is the fact that Borneo is as culturally rich as it is biologically and geologically diverse, with a myriad of different communities – rural, urban and tribal – contributing to the region’s multicultural makeup. Getting in touch with Borneo’s human side is as exciting and enlightening a travel experience as a jungle safari or a summit climb up Mount Kinabalu.
To delve into the different sides of Borneo’s multifaceted character, a good place to start is in Kuching, Sarawak’s quirky ‘Cat City,’ where it’s possible to enjoy a walking tour that encompasses colonial architecture, spice markets, mosques, temples and, of course, cat monuments. Village visits are also a must, with a homestay in a traditional Iban longhouse or an overnight stay in a rural village, enjoying local meals with host families a truly authentic experience.
For travelers keen to launch themselves into the wilder side of Borneo, there are adrenalin-pumping activities such as white-water rafting and mountain biking. What better way to immerse yourself in a country than to kayak through its highlands or drift along its rivers in a traditional longboat? It’s possible to cycle from village to village, explore limestone caves or snorkeling protected reefs – the island has a treat at every turn.
Seeing Borneo’s wildlife in its natural habitat is a bucket-list experience for many travelers. The island’s weird and wonderful inhabitants are everywhere and visiting a sanctuary to meet some orangutans is truly memorable. Taking a river cruise to spot proboscis monkeys swinging overhead, or walking the Hornbill Trail, a forest trek where rhinoceros hornbills, macaques and mouse deer regularly make appearances, are both equally memorable experiences.
In Borneo world-class snorkeling is found in teeming marine zones and the coastline here is as idyllic as any in the Southeast Asia region, with pristine beaches fringed by the most diverse coral reefs in Malaysian waters. You may want to spend a few days relaxing by the sea in a luxury resort or spend your days hiking through impossibly scenic wilderness, past waterfalls, through orchid gardens and, at night, beneath trees alight with fireflies.