The Most Thrilling Adventure Activities in Borneo

Trekking through the breathtaking Mount Kinabalu in Sabah
Trekking through the breathtaking Mount Kinabalu in Sabah | © JMount Kinabalu at Kundasang Sabah / Alamy Stock Photo
Sam Bedford

Most associate Borneo with ecotourism, wildlife and biodiversity. But the island shared between Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia has an impressive range of activities to satisfy thrillseekers, too. Discover the best adventure activities in Borneo, from ziplining between two islands to paragliding over mountains.

Planning a trip and want all the details taken care of? Book yourself onto Culture Trip’s 10-day adventure to Borneo, which includes visits to an orangutan sanctuary and an organic tea farm, and a snorkelling trip in Kota Kinabalu.

1. Ziplining, Sabah

Sports Center

Head to Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park near Kota Kinabalu for the rare treat of ziplining between two islands. Coral Flyer zipline crosses more than 250m (820ft) of open water between the islands of Sapi and Gaya. Not only will adrenaline junkies get the thrill they crave, but matchless bird’s-eye views of lush jungle canopy and turquoise waters will be at your feet. This flight is worth attaching a GoPro for.

2. Climbing Mount Kinabalu, Sabah

Natural Feature

Mist hovers over the forests on Mount Kinabalu in Sabah
© blickwinkel / Alamy Stock Photo

Mount Kinabalu, at a height of 4,095m (13,435ft), is the tallest mountain in Borneo and Malaysia. With deep cultural ties to Sabahans and believed to be the final resting place of departed spirits, reaching the summit is one of the biggest thrills in Borneo. To keep the climb safe, a maximum of 135 climbers can get a permit each day. Kinabalu National Park is a two-hour drive from Kota Kinabalu; hikers begin their trek at Timpohon before following a stepped trail to a base camp at Laban Rata. At 2.00am the next morning, climbers follow the trail to the summit and witness the sun rising over the mountain landscape and a sea of clouds.

3. Whitewater rafting, Sabah

Sports Center

What better way to explore wild Sabah than with a day of whitewater rafting? The waters range in difficulty from beginner to expert. Head to Kiulu River near Tamparuli for a relatively calm 15km (9mi) course with class one and two rapids, or, for more thrills, check out Padas River near Beaufort.

4. Tandem paragliding, Sabah

Sports Center

Red-roof buildings sit a sloping green hill in Kundasang in Ranau, Sabah
© Derek Dryland / Alamy Stock Photo

Consider heading to Lohan to paraglide over rice paddies and mountains. Located 108km (67mi) from Kota Kinabalu, thrillseekers have the opportunity to soar over these exceptional landscapes and gain a unique perspective of Sabah from above. Packages are both affordable and accessible to first-time paragliders.

5. Diving in Sabah

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Sabah is among the world’s best diving sites. With a plethora of marine life including mantas, barracudas, turtles and the occasional shark, certified divers are sure to satisfy their urge for adventure. The top diving spots are found along the eastern coast. Both Mabul and Sipadan islands, a short distance from Semporna, have unpolluted and relatively unexplored diving areas similar to what would be expected in the Galápagos Islands.

6. Rock climbing, Sarawak

Natural Feature

A moss-covered wall in Fairy Cave in Bau, Sarawak
© Crystite RF / Alamy Stock Photo

Sarawak’s Fairy Caves can be found in a village called Bau, located 46km (29mi) from Kuching, and are a haven for rock climbers and outdoor enthusiasts. With a total of five climbing areas – Fairy Cave, Stage, Batman, Nepenthes and Zoo Wall – adventurous tourists will have ample choice to keep busy for the day. The limestone cliffs and caves along Gunung Sireh (Chalk Mountain) are the best places in Borneo for rock climbing.

7. Caving, Sarawak

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Malaysia’s largest state features some of the world’s best cave systems. Niah National Park is home to the oldest known residents of Sarawak, dated to at least 40,000 years ago at the archaeological site of the Niah Cave. Gunung Mulu National Park (which can only be reached by flight) is home to one of the largest known cave chambers in the world, Sarawak Chamber; the second largest cave passage in the world, Deer Cave; and the ninth longest cave system in the world, Clearwater Cave, which is over 200km (124mi) long.

8. Hiking and trekking, Borneo

Forest, Hiking Trail

The South China Sea laps the beach in Kota Kinabalu on Borneo, Malaysia
© Barrie Harwood / Alamy Stock Photo

From following an hour-long trail towards a Kota Kinabalu viewing point on Bukit Padang Hill Peak, to spending a week taking part in jungle activities in Danum Valley, those looking to experience primary rainforest and endemic wildlife will find it in Borneo. There’s no better way to experience the natural beauty of this region than on foot.

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