7 amazing reasons to visit the beautiful island of Borneo

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Borneo – famous for its orangutan rainforest, the famous Sipadan dive site and Mount Kinabalu – a must-visit for aspiring trekkers. Borneo is the third largest island in the world, bordered by the Java Sea to the south, the Celebus Sea to the east, China to the east and the South China Sea to the north. They comprise four political regions: the two states of Sabah and Sarawak in Malaysia; Kalimantan is part of Indonesia; and is the youngest sultan of the kingdom of brunei.

I have been to Kalimantan twice and visited 3 of its 4 political areas. It was the possibilities that drew me to this exotic island. Will you meet wild elephants and pygmy orangutans?

I never thought I would fall in love with Borneo’s unforgettable creations or develop a strong desire to never use palm oil again.

1. See the natural wildlife on the Kinabatangan River

Along the Kinabatangan River in Malaysia’s state of Sabah is a small patch of protected natural rainforest that offers an unforgettable opportunity to see orangutans, pygmy elephants, orangutans and crocodiles in the wild. Bird watchers will be in heaven to see rhino horn and many other exotic bird species.
A boat tour along the Kinabatangan River is a great way to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Borneo rainforest. The highlight of my two trips to Borneo was seeing Asia’s smallest herd of pygmy elephants swimming in mud baths and blowing their trumpets quietly from boats on the Kinabatangan River. The boat trip along the Kinabatangan River saw new species of birds and monkeys that I didn’t even know existed. Seeing and hearing monkeys jumping from branch to branch never gets old.
I just returned from a trip to Sungai Kinabatangan with a firm resolve to never buy products containing palm oil again. While exploring the Kinabatangan River the nature reserve is sometimes so narrow that you can see oil palm plantations. Take a boat from Sandakan on the Kinabatangan River and you’ll see rows of palm trees unlike anything you’d see in a rainforest. The human impact on these animal habitats has left an indelible mark on me.

Getting to the Kinabatangan River

Flight from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan. Or take the 7 hour bus. There is a ferry from the booked accommodation to Sandakan which takes 2 hours to reach the river.

Where to stay near the Kinabatangan River

We stayed at Nature Lodge Kinabatangan twice. The rooms are simple and the tours are great.

2. See orangutans in Borneo

The orangutan whose name means forest man is only found in the forests of Kalimantan and Sumatra. Orangutans are dying due to habitat loss from poachers and the illegal pet trade.
They should be abundant in nature. The land is a natural home where they build nests in tall trees and where mothers raise their young often up to 10 years. But the reality is that most visitors to Borneo will see orangutans in rehabilitation centres.
The Sepilok Sabah Orangutan Rehabilitation Center is located in a protected forest area. Started in 1964 this rehabilitation center takes care of Bornean orangutans and teaches orphans to survive in the wild. The afternoon visit was a wonderful experience. Animals move from tree branches to feeding areas, take bananas, find a place to sit and enjoy their food. It is unforgettable to see these creatures interacting feeding and playing peacefully.

Where to stay near Sepilok

Return to your jungle paradise after a day of orangutan viewing at the Sepilok Forest Edge Reserve.

3. See the world’s largest flower in Borneo

The Rafflesia arnoldi lily, which comes from the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra, is an interesting sight to behold. The diameter of the flowers is 3 meters and the weight reaches 15 kg. This flower is parasitic because it has no visible sepals or stems and is the most fragrant flower in the world. Called carrion flower because the bees that pollinate it are attracted by the smell of rotting meat.
We heard through our hostel that our vineyard draw was being held in Gunung Geding National Park a conservation area about 83 miles west of Kuching the state capital of Sarawak.
If you are interested in seeing this unique red flower, there is no time to waste because it only blooms for 5 days.
In the summer we were walking through the rugged forest trails in Gunung Gading National Park and we finally saw (or heard) the rafflesia flowers. What a unique site!

4. Go diving at Sipadan in Sabah

Sipadan is located in the Sulawesi Sea and is a world-famous dive site. At Sipadan I personally met many travelers who raved about their travel companions. There are more than 3000 species of fish to see hawksbill and green turtles, manta rays and sharks. Seeing various pictures of Sipadan was enough to encourage me to dive.
Starting December 2020 Sipadan Island will be closed to visitors every December to provide some quiet time for coral reefs and marine life.
You can no longer live on Sipadan Island. Divers stay on one of the nearby islands and arrange day trips with one of the divers.

5. Walk the canopy walkway in Ulu Temburong National Park,

The oil-rich Sultanate of Brunei has adopted a no-logging policy in its rainforests since the 1990s. Currently only a small part (one percent) of Ulu Tamburong Park can be visited by the public.
Getting to the park involves two exciting boat rides through the open bay and through the mangroves. Arrive at the base of the park by boat and be greeted by a guide who will take you deep into the rainforest along the trail and plan to reach the end of the trail at the top of the building. A series of steep stairs leads you to a wooden walkway that rises 164 meters above the forest floor. The view from the top of the rain tree is amazing.
If you are afraid of heights, it is a bit annoying to climb all the stairs to the top of the route. The walk through the forest is totally worth it if you decide not to go to the top.

6. Visit Kinabalu Park and Mount Kinabalu in Sabah

Kinabalu Park The first UNESCO World Heritage Site in Malaysia is one of the most important biological sites in the world. It is a sanctuary for 4500 species of flora and fauna. Nature lovers will be delighted. The superstar of this park is Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Borneo and Malaysia with an altitude of 13,435 meters. Diligent climbers sign up in advance for a two-day and one-night peak pass. Other adventurers may wish to explore Mount Kinabalu using via ferrata an alternative rock climbing route.
Kinabalu Park has nine hiking trails of varying lengths that can be accessed from the park’s headquarters. Go alone or with a guide. Bring your binoculars if you are a bird lover!

Accommodation near Kinabalu Park

Sutera Sanctuary Lodges is the perfect place to relax after visiting Kinabalu Park.

7. Hiking in Bako National Park in Sarawak

A day in Bago National Park is a must when visiting Sarawak. Arrive at the ferry and arrange a drop off time and location with your driver. Superstar Baku National Park is the oldest national park proboscis monkey in Sarawak. The proboscis monkey sitting on the branch of this tree is only found in Kalimantan. Other wildlife to watch out for are monkeys and silver langurs which have gray faces. Watch out for the orange splash in the forest. Silver Langer cubs are orange and can be seen clinging to their mother.
Bako National Park has 16 different forest hiking trails of varying length and difficulty. There are steep cliffs of caves and sandy beaches to explore. where I first swam in the South China Sea.

Getting to Borneo

Decide where to start your Borneo exploration. Daily direct flights from Kuala Lumpur land in Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Malaysia’s state of Sabah. Kuching is the capital city of Sarawak. and Bandar Seri Begawan the capital city of Brunei. There are also direct flights from Singapore to Borneo.

Pro tips

Comfortable and sturdy walking shoes are essential for any trip to Borneo. It’s hot and humid here. Drink lots of water every day. You might consider packing it in a change bag.

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