Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is geographically divided into two sections. The northern part of Borneo is considered to be still in Malaysia while the southern part of the island, known as Kalimantan, is considered to be a part of Indonesia.
Borneo is one of those mysterious destinations where travelers find that everything is off the beaten path. The island is deeply steeped in ancient tribal history, which still heavily influences Borneo today. Over four million tribal natives, divided into 450 ethno-linguistic groups, still inhabit Borneo today.
Borneo is covered by thick, lush tropical rainforests and rivers that crisscross the island like major highway system. In fact, they are – most people in Borneo do still travel by boat and lots of the island’s commerce is related to the river ways. Borneo’s tourism industry relies heavily on the natural beauty of its landscape, which is the main reason people travel to Borneo. The island has some of the most spectacular river rafting tours in the world, the sites and sounds of which are unmatched by any other destination on Earth.
Located in the area of three, smaller outer-lying islands off Borneo, Turtle Islands Park gives visitors the opportunity to get up close and personal with sea turtles in their natural habitats.
These islands are prime breeding grounds for the Green Turtle. Each night, female turtles make their way onto the beaches of these islands to lay their eggs in the sand. Once the baby turtles hatch, they hobble into the sea to join the others.
Because the Green Turtle species was endangered, local park rangers set up a program where members of the turtle task force take the turtle eggs to a local hatchery until they are born and then release the babies into the sea. If the park rangers had not intervened, the hatchlings only had a 3% chance of ever reaching maturity, due to environmental dangers like predators.
Located within a close proximity to Turtle Islands Park is the largest orangutan sanctuary in the world.
The sanctuary isn’t your typical variety which holds animals in captivity. Instead, it provides a safe haven for orangutans to come and go as they please – until they are able to survive on their own in the wild.
Visitors to the sanctuary can watch as the staff feed the orangutans twice daily and explore the sanctuary during other times at their leisure.
Mt Kinabalu is located in the Kinabalu National Park in the province of Sabah in Malaysian Borneo. At 4,095m/13,432ft it is the tallest mountain in South-East Asia (or more exactly, the highest between the Himalaya and New Guinea).
The ascent of the mountain requires no technical skill, or even scrambling, and at its latitude near the equator the absence of snow makes the climb significantly less arduous than the ascent to alpine peaks of similar height. Mt Kinabalu therefore has a reputation as one of the easiest peaks of its elevation to reach, and certainly it is a good introduction to altitudes of 4000m and above.
Other attractions are the spectacular views from the summit at Low’s Peak – made all the more dramatic by early and late sun on the tropical cloud formations below – and of course the fact that the national park in which the mountain stands is a nature-lover’s paradise – even climbers with limited interest in such things cannot fail to be struck by the remarkable biodiversity evident in the various strata of habitat through which they ascend.
The expedition typically involves a trip of either two or three days from Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah. Either way, a 90min journey is involved to the park gate at the base of the mountain, where time is normally required at the park headquarters to arrange admission, guiding and porterage. Even after an early start from KK, the two-day option involves a later start up the mountain, more climbing during the heat of the day, and less time either to acclimatise or to rest at altitude before the night-time summit push.
The Beaufort Train is a primitive rail system linking the towns of Beaufort and Tenom in Borneo.
Some people do use the train for business and other non-tourist purposes, but just as many use the train as a way of exploring some of the hidden interior of the island.
The route takes rail riders through the Padas Gorge and across the Padas River, which features Grade 4 white water rapids. The trail also passes quaint and secluded areas in the rainforest that the typical visitor to Borneo doesn’t get to see – like villages, farms and plantations.
The Borneo Rainforest Lodge was established by a group of nature conservationists and built using locally-produced materials.
The lodge allows visitors to stay on-sight and visit the natural elements of Borneo – including some of the island’s most abundant species in their natural habitats.
The lodge is home to over 250 varieties of birds and 100 species of animals, like elephants, orangutans and rhinoceros. The accommodations are quaint and comfortable and food is provided.
Lodge staff offer guided tours and various information presentations about some of the area’s native flora and fauna. Guests of the lodge can tour the outback in an open Jeep, explore waterfalls, visit ancient tribal burial grounds and more.
Tunku Abdul Rahman Park
Tunku Abdul Rahman Park is comprised of chain of five islands – Pulau Mamutik, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Gaya, Pulau Sulug and Pulau Manukan.
‘Island hopping’ is popular with the locals, who visit these islands regularly to partake in the variety of activities that each one has to offer. Pulau Mamutik is the closest to Borneo proper and the smallest in the chain. It has a hilly overlook where visitors can get a bird’s eye view of their surroundings. Pulau Sapi is said to be the best place to swim in all of Borneo.
It’s accessible at low tide via a sandbar. The clear waters surrounding Pulau Sapi give visitors a crystal-clear glimpse at the live coral reefs below. Monkeys and Sea Eagles call Pulau Sapi home. Pulau Gaya is the largest island in the chain and boasts some of Borneo’s most significant flora and fauna.
Twenty kilometers of trails and boardwalks meander through some of the best kept natural secrets of Borneo on Pulau Gaya. Monkeys and birds are found in abundance in the tropical rainforest and hardwood mangroves on Pulau Gaya while Pulau Sulug boasts some of the best snorkeling waters in all of Borneo. Pulau Manukan is the second largest of the islands, but pales in comparison to Pulau Gaya.
It’s sort of like a ghost town, with the ruins of a quarry and lots of old, undated graves scattered about. The park’s headquarters are located on Pulau Manukan and the island offers scuba diving and coral reefs, with an abundance of colorful marine life.
Borneo truly is unlike any other place on Earth. So much of the island remains untouched after centuries of human in-habitation. Traveling to Borneo is for the adventurous because luxury on this island is scarce.
Most of the time, you’ll be “roughing it” and living life as the natives do, but what better way to experience all that a destination has to offer? Contact your local travel or booking agent for more information about visiting Borneo.