Luring travelers from far and wide, Borneo is more than twice the size of Germany and ranks as the world’s third largest island. Administered by Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei, it is not only home to more than 200 ethnic groups, but also one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet, boasting more than 15,000 plant species, including the world’s largest individual flower, Rafflesia arnoldii.
In this article, we look at 9 of Borneo’s most exciting sights.
1. Mount Kinabalu, Sabah
The tallest mountain in Southeast Asia, where the outlook for a post-pandemic resurgence in tourism is largely positive, Mount Kinabalu reaches to 13,345 feet (or 4,095 meters) and requires two days to summit. Deriving its name from a Kadazan word meaning “the revered place of the dead,” it is Borneo’s state emblem and one of the most important biological sites in the world, hosting an estimated 6,000 plant species – more than those of Europe and North America combined.
2. Derawan, Kalimantan
Located off the east coast of Borneo, the Derawan Islands have been noted for their white sand, lush interiors, and hidden lagoons. This region of the Sulawesi Sea offers exceptional diving opportunities, its submerged reefs and islets accommodating 500 types of coral and 872 species of fish.
3. Danum Valley, Sabah
A protected region of East Sabah since 1995, Danum Valley has largely escaped the deforestation that blights other parts of the island. Encompassing approximately 438 square kilometers of rainforest, Danum Valley boasts not only a dipterocarp forest that dates back more than 130 million years, but also thousands of species of flora and fauna, including orangutans.
The valley also includes comfortable bungalows to accommodate visitors taking part in jungle treks, night safaris, or canopy walks. Situated in the middle of the jungle, two hours from the nearest town, Danum Valley offers an exciting opportunity to immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the jungle while escaping the hustle and bustle of urban life.
4. Kuching, Sarawak
The capital of Sarawak, Kuching is known as “the city of cats” and boasts stunning heritage buildings and colonial architecture, colorful temples, and floating villages in addition to its famous cat statues.
Like most cities in Borneo, the focal point of Kuching is its river. Meandering along the Sarawak River on a sampan is an excellent way to explore the city, providing impressive views of the Victorian fort, 19th-century Chinese shophouses, a golden-domed mosque, Malay villages, and the magnificent wooden-roofed palace set against a stunning mountain backdrop.
5. Sepilok, Sabah
One of Borneo’s most famous attractions, the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre opened in 1964. Since then, its staff and volunteers have cared for baby or orphaned orangutans, victims of poaching, deforestation, and the like. Around one-third of the 80 resident primates are babies. The best time to visit the center is feeding time, which takes place at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily.
6. Bako National Park, Sarawak
One of Borneo’s most beautiful attractions, Bako National Park showcases a convergence of deserted islands and beaches with a jungle experience. Despite the national park’s modest size, it offers an impressive array of rare and interesting wildlife. Home to approximately 150 proboscis monkeys, the park is one of the best places in the world to observe the endangered species. Other species that can be spotted here include the Bornean bearded pig, long-tailed macaque, monitor lizard, plantain squirrel, and silvery langur.
7. Sipadan Island, Sabah
Voted one of the best dive sites in the world, Sipadan Island is the only true oceanic island in Malaysia, rising 600 meters from the ocean floor. Its stunning underwater visibility enables visiting divers to observe a myriad of rare marine life, including sea turtles, reef sharks, and huge schools of barracudas. With hundreds of coral species and over 3,000 species of fish, the region is classified as one of the richest ecosystems on Earth.
8. Niah Caves, Sarawak
Niah National Park has earned an international reputation for its vast caves, Iron Age cave paintings, and Paleolithic and Neolithic burial sites. The region was once a major center of human settlement, with remains discovered at the site that date back 40,000 years.
The walls of the Painted Cave are adorned with illustrations depicting boats carrying the dead to the afterlife. Remnants of these “death ships” found on the cave floor are now exhibited at Sarawak Museum.
9. Monsopiad Cultural Village, Sabah
Nestled on the banks of the Penampang River, this living museum is named after a fearsome warrior who lived more than 200 years ago. The main building is dedicated to Monsopiad and his descendants, displaying ceramic items, and the ceremonial costume of Bobohizan Inai Bianti, a senior high priestess and direct descendent of Monsopiad. Other interesting exhibits include a huge monolith, as well as the House of Skulls, containing 42 human skulls reputedly collected by the Kadazan headhunter.