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Most associate Borneo with ecotourism, wildlife and biodiversity. But the island shared between Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia boasts an impressive range of activities to satisfy thrill seekers too. Discover our best adventure activities in Borneo, from ziplining between two islands to paragliding over mountains.
Ziplining is growing in popularity as a favourite adventure activity in Borneo. Head to Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park near Kota Kinabalu and have the rare treat of ziplining between two islands. Coral Flyer Zipline crosses more than 250 metres (820 feet) of open sea between Sapi and Gaya Island. Not only will adrenaline junkies get the thrill they crave, but the views of Sabah’s most visited islands are stunning. Remember to attach the GoPro before attempting the longest zipline in Borneo!
Mount Kinabalu, at the height of 4095 metres (13,435 feet), is the tallest in Borneo and Malaysia. With deep cultural ties to local Sabahans and believed to be the final resting place of departed spirits, reaching the summit is one of the biggest thrills in Borneo. Because of its popularity and for safety reasons, a maximum of 135 climbers can get a permit each day. The mountain is located in Ranau’s Kinabalu National Park, approximately two hours from Kota Kinabalu. Hikers begin their trek at Timpohon before following a stepped-trailed to Laban Rata, a kind of base camp. At 2:00am the following morning, climbers follow the trail to the summit and witness the sun rising over the mountain landscape and a sea of clouds.
What can be a better way to explore wild Sabah than taking part in a day of white water rafting? Ranging in difficulty from waters more suitable to beginners up to expert levels, riding the rapids ranks among the top adventure activities in Borneo. Head to Tamparuli’s Kiulu River and follow the river along a 15-kilometre (9.3-mile) course through relatively calm water with rapids between levels one and two. Or, for more thrills on longer and faster white water, check out Beaufort’s Padas River.
Looking for the ultimate adventure activity in Borneo? Consider heading to Lohan, Ranau’s tallest point to paraglide over the rice paddies and mountains. Located 108 kilometres (67 miles) from Kota Kinabalu, thrill-seekers have the opportunity to soar over the landscapes and get a perspective of Sabah from above. Not only are the packages affordable, ranging from RM 80 to RM 200 ($20 to $51), but they also cater to first-timer paragliders too.
It’s no secret that Sabah in Malaysian Borneo consistently features 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 spots for diving in Sabah are found along the eastern coast. Both Mabul and Sipadan Island, a short distance from Semporna, attract several divers for the unpolluted and relatively unexplored diving areas similar to what would be expected in the Galapagos Islands.
Sarawak’s Fairy Caves in a village called Bau, located 46 kilometres (29 miles) from Kuching, is a haven for rock climbers and outdoor enthusiasts. With a total of five climbing areas, including Fairy Cave, Stage, Batman, Nepenthes and Zoo Wall, adventurous tourists will have ample choice to keep them busy for the day. The limestone cliffs and caves along Gunung Sireh (Chalk Mountain) are the best places in Borneo for rock climbing.
Apart from the rich culture and headhunting traditions, Malaysia’s largest state features some of the world’s best cave systems. From following trails through humongous chambers to spending multiple days getting deep into the systems and far from civilisation, Sarawak has it all. By far the most prominent adventure activity in the ‘Land of Hornbills’ is the chance to experience its famous caves.
Perhaps among the most thrilling adventure activities in Borneo are hiking and trekking in the jungle. From following a trail for an hour to a viewing point near Kota Kinabalu, to spending a week taking part in jungle activities at Sabah’s Danum Valley, those looking to experience the primary rainforest and wild will find it in Borneo. Almost all parts of the island give the adventurous a chance to get down and dirty in the midst of nature. Few places offer this level of biodiversity and accessibility to the abundant wildlife.