Amazing Reasons to Visit Borneo

Deer Cave is a major tourist hotspot in Sarawak, one of the Malaysian parts of Borneo
Deer Cave is a major tourist hotspot in Sarawak, one of the Malaysian parts of Borneo | © robertharding / Alamy
Sam Bedford

Borneo, the world’s third-largest island, lies to the west of the Malaysian Peninsula and Singapore. Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei share this biodiverse island, which is home to a vast array of wildlife, sumptuous cuisine, diverse landscapes, and rich cultural heritage. Here, we’ve rounded up the reasons why Borneo should definitely be on your travel bucket list – if it isn’t already.

You can visit the Malaysian state of Sabah, on Borneo, on Culture Trip’s specially curated 10-day Borneo adventure, led by our Local Insider.

Diverse wildlife

Borneo’s tropical rainforests, swamps and mangroves provide habitats for elephants, sun bears, clouded leopards, proboscis monkeys, orangutans, and pangolins, as well over 400 species of bird, including hornbills and mountain serpent eagles. As such, it’s one of the best places in the world to see an abundance of wildlife roaming in the wild. In the past, a significant population of Sumatran rhinos lived on Borneo, but sadly, they have been declared functionally extinct, with only a tiny handful remaining.

The floodplains around the Kinabatangan River are a particular wildlife hotspot – and you can enjoy several river safari cruises as part of Culture Trip’s exclusive small-group Borneo tour, as well as visits to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.

Orangutan hanging at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

Vast cave networks

Deep in the interior of the island lies a series of cave systems extending for hundreds of kilometres underground – so, if you’re up for an adventure, this alone is enough reason to visit Borneo. In Sarawak, visit the Mulu Caves, which are part of Gunung Mulu National Park, twisting for at least 295km (183mi), and containing the largest known underground chamber in the world. See the 40,000-year-old archaeological remains of ancient human settlements at Niah National Park, or visit Gomantong Cave in Sabah, North Borneo – a series of 19 smaller caverns housing swallows, renowned for their use in the Chinese delicacy, bird’s nest soup.

Sumptuous food

Borneo combines many different styles of cooking and flavours – and while there are similarities between them, each region of the island has its own culinary identity. In the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, laksa (a spicy, noodle-based curry) and linopot (leaf-wrapped rice) are ubiquitous, while soto banjar (chicken noodle soup) is extremely popular in the Indonesian province of South Kalimantan. In Brunei, rich and spicy beef rendang rules the roost.

The rainforests

Vast areas of Borneo’s interior in Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Kalimantan have dense primary rainforests covering vast areas of the surface. At the ripe old age of 140 million years, the island’s forests are among the oldest in the world. More than 200 mammals, 400 birds and 15,000 species of flowers call it their home. Visiting the jungles is one of the popular reasons to visit Borneo.

The Meratus Mountains lie in South Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo

Seeing the fireflies

Fireflies live in the mangroves and forests next to some of the rivers. Tours take passengers on a cruise along the river after nightfall when the small bugs begin to light up and glow. Watching the trees sparkle provides a magical experience for all who get the chance to witness it.

Snorkelling and diving

Rated among the top reasons to visit Borneo by divers, the abundant marine life appeals to some tourists. The Tunku Abdul Rahmen National Park, consisting of five small islands off the coast of Sabah’s Kota Kinabalu, offers incredible snorkelling experiences. Diving spots include Kota Belud’s Mantanani Islands, Semporna’s Sipadan and Layang Layang a few hundred kilometres in the South China Sea.

The coral in Sipadan attracts plenty of divers


Few take the time to visit the tiny Sultanate nestled between Sabah and Sarawak. But the chance to visit the oil-rich nation and explore exotic spots is a valid reason to visit Borneo for adventurous travellers.

The unexplored

Think Sabah and Sarawak feel unexplored and refreshingly undeveloped? Head across the border into Kalimantan. Only a tiny fraction of visitors witness the Indonesian state’s nature, landscapes and wildlife.

The beaches

Picture soft grainy sand and the warm sea lapping against the coastline. Now imagine a line of palm trees forming the border of the beach and the bright red and pink colours radiating across the sky as the sun slowly sets. With gorgeous beaches and featuring arguably the world’s best sunsets, the chance to witness this beauty first-hand should give any tourist a good enough reason to visit Borneo.

Tourists come to relax on one of the many beautiful beaches in Borneo

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.?>

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Culture Trip Spring Sale

Save up to $1,100 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

Edit article