8 Things to Do in Borneo
Featured destinations: Malaysia, Indonesia, Borneo, Brunei
Published 26 August 2016
Borneo. Even the name sounds exotic. A mere mention of it conjures up images of steamy jungles, rugged mountains and the old man of the forest himself, the orangutan. This wild and remote island, the third largest in the world, its land shared between Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, is filled with natural spectacles, fascinating history, and plenty of adventure.
Here are eight of our favourite things to do in Borneo:
Climb Mount Kinabalu
“Why would I climb a mountain on my holidays when I could be lazing on Borneo’s beaches?” I hear you cry! Well, it’s a tough yet rewarding trek requiring no experience, and the 4,095m summit offers the best views on the island, bar none. Following a day’s climb through the steamy Bornean rainforest, you’ll spend the night in a cosy mountainside rest camp, rising very early the next day to complete the final stretch in the darkness, reaching the peak at sunrise. And after two days hiking, you’ll have the perfect excuse for some beach time.
Meet Sepilok’s orangutans
Borneo is home to around 54,000 orangutans, and there’s no better place to spot them in their natural habitat than at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. Here, orphaned and injured orangutans are cared for and taught the skills needed to return to the wild. The best time to come is at 10am and 3pm, when the apes are fed, and don’t miss a visit to the nursery, where the little ones are looked after just before being released back to the forest.
Spot the world’s largest flower
With a diameter of up to a metre and weight of over 10kg, the rafflesia is the world’s largest flower. Although they only bloom for a week or so, you might spot one on the banks of Mount Kinabalu (another reason to climb it), or in Sarawak’s Gunung Gading National Park. Don’t forget to hold your nose though, as you’ll most likely smell the rafflesia before you see it – its distinctive odour of rotting flesh is designed to attract flies.
Look for proboscis monkeys in Bako National Park
Famous for their protruding noses, proboscis monkeys are endemic to Borneo’s riverine and coastal forests. You’ve a very good chance of spotting one, or even a whole troupe of them, if you head to Bako National Park in Sarawak, easily accessed from Kuching. It’s a lovely spot, and even if the monkeys elude you, look out for monitor lizards, bearded pigs, frogs, and the carnivorous pitcher plant among the volcanic rock formations.
Go spelunking in Gunung Mulu National Park
In case you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘spelunking’, it’s just a posh word for caving, and Gunung Mulu National Park is the ideal place to try it. In the heart of Borneo, this remote region is home to a vast cave system and a whole load of strange jungle-dwelling creatures. Look out for alien-like insects and plenty of bats, which tend to congregate at dusk and exit the caves in one long black ribbon. You can be as adventurous as you like with the spelunking, with activities ranging from a quick cave walk to a full day clambering over rocks and through underwater caverns.
Pop into Brunei
A small but very rich country dotted with patches of virgin rainforest, devoutly Muslim Brunei makes a fascinating stop for a day or two. Most visitors head for its capital Bandar Seri Begawan, where the main attraction, found among the floating houses of Kampong Ayer, is the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. It was built alongside a replica 16th century barge in the middle of a man-made lagoon. You can’t miss it – look for an enormous pure gold-gilded dome gleaming in the sunlight.
Canopy walk in the Danum Valley
There’s plenty to do in the Danum Valley Conservation Area, a protected area of forest boasting 340 species of bird, 200 plants and 124 mammals, including the critically endangered Sumatran rhinoceros. Hold on tight and walk the canopy walkway, 26 metres above the ground, for a bird’s eye view of the forest. Back on the forest floor, look out for pitcher plants, swim in the pools or, for a bit more excitement, tube down the Danum River. After dark, set off on a night-time jungle walk to spot elusive nocturnal creatures such as bats and owls.
image: Angela Griffin
Celebrate all things cat in Kuching
Kuching’s name is thought to come from the Malay word ‘kucing’, meaning cat, causing the locals to refer to it as ‘Cat City’. Playing along with the theme, they’ve erected a number of cat statues, ranging from an adorable white one with deep blue eyes (reminiscent of Disney’s Duchess from the Aristocats) to a whole family of all shapes and sizes (pictured). But the purr-fect place to celebrate the feline is at the city’s Cat Museum, stuffed to the brim with over 4,000 examples of moggy paintings, models and sculptures, and even an ancient Egyptian mummified cat.
If you'd like to explore Borneo in more detail, take a look at Round the World Experts' Best of Borneo Journey or give your Expert a call today.