Borneo, the third largest island on Earth, forms the giant landmass to the east of Malaysia’s Peninsular. Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei share this biodiverse and exotic ecotourism destination. There are several reasons to visit Borneo in 2018, here are a few of Culture Trip’s favourites.
The diversity in wildlife
Providing a habitat for monkeys, rhinos, elephants, bears, leopards as well as a vast array of birds, including hornbills and eagles, few places claim more diversity than Borneo. Orangutans and the strange-looking Proboscis monkeys live in the jungle, and the island has a small population of the critically endangered Sumatran Rhinos.
Because of its biodiversity, conservation areas and ecotourism are popular. Tourists can visit and spend a few nights deep in the rainforest at Danum Valley Conservation Area in Sabah and join jungle treks, see wildlife and learn about the almost unlimited types of plants and flowers. Other protected and unspoilt areas include Maliau Basin and Imbak Canyon.
Deep in the heart of the island lies a series of cave systems extending for hundreds of kilometres deep into the ground. Adventurous tourists usually find this a good enough reason on its own to visit Borneo. In Sarawak, visit Mulu Caves in Gunung Mulu National Park and see the 40,000-year-old archaeological human remains at Niah National Park. Sabah’s Gomantong Cave, a series of 19 smaller caverns, house the renowned swallow known to produce the lucrative bird’s nest delicacy.
Ethnic and cultural diversity
With more than 20 million inhabitants, a significant portion of today’s demographics are indigenous. From Sabah’s Kadazan-Dunus, Bajau and Murut groups to Sarawak’s notorious headhunting Iban tribes and many others in Brunei and Kalimantan, Borneo is among Asia’s most culturally diverse destinations.
As with much of Asia, the food in Borneo combines different styles of cooking and flavours. Featuring an impressive list of Malaysian cuisines along with delicacies from the hundreds of ethnic groups, the culinary experience is second to none. Those looking to taste the exotic and experience different flavours rate the diversity of food as one of the top reasons to visit Borneo.
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.
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.
Few take the time to visit the tiny Sultanate nestled between Sabah and Sarawak. But the chance the to visit the oil-rich nation and explore exotic spots is a valid reason to visit Borneo for adventurous travellers.
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.
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.