Borneo is a fascinating place set in the Malay Archipelago of Southeast Asia, but this island doesn’t belong to just one country.
Visitors can enjoy the traditions and food of several different cultures, all on one island. The multi-cultural destination is home to the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah. However, it is also home to the small nation of Brunei and Indonesia’s Kalimantan.
The island is renowned for its gorgeous beaches lining crystal-clear turquoise water and backed by an ancient and lush rainforest. Wildlife in the rainforests includes magical clouded leopards and endangered orang-utans. However, there is plenty more to see and do in Borneo.
1. Sabah – Diving and wildlife
Mount Kinabalu stands tall over Sabah and, at 4,095m in height is the highest peak on the island. Sabah, Malaysia is also known for the popular Sipadan and Mabul Island dive sites.
Sabah’s capital, Kota Kinabalu looks onto five islands, all with reef-lined beaches, ideal for scuba diving and snorkeling trips. These islands are part of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.
This part of Borneo is also renowned for its glorious sandy beaches, overlooking coral reefs and backed by lush rainforest, where plenty of wildlife can be seen.
The city of Sandakan is worth visiting for the Sepilok Oran-gutan Rehabilitation Center and the Gomantong Caves, where bats, kingsfishers and swiftlets reside. In the city itself, visit the hilltop Puu Jih Shih Temple with its 360-degree views across the city. Also head to Anges Keith House, a wooden bungalow which represents the former colonial-era life in the city.
2. Diving and music in Sarawak
Sarawak is up in the northern part of Borneo Island and is home to Gunung Mulu National Park. This is an area renowned for its huge cave systems and limestone pinnacles. This is also a fascinating spot for scuba divers to explore.
Meanwhile, the busy state capital of Sarawak is Kuching City is a worthwhile visit with its markets, restaurants and shops.
Kuchung City is also famous for a three-day festival held each year and known as the Rainforest World Music Festival. This unique music festival is set in a magical rainforest and brings in musical offerings from all over the world. It also hosts a range of music workshops, craft and food stalls and evening concerts.
The mix of music includes everything from traditional and contemporary music to acoustic and world fusion. However, the Rainforest World Music Festival is best known for its acoustic sets, played by instrumental bands. The festival is also ideal for the whole family, with plenty to see and do, day and night.
3. Animal watching in Brunei
Brunei is home to the Ulu Temburong National Park, a rainforest filled with native flora and fauna. The park is particularly famous for the curious proboscis monkeys with their amazing noses. Kalimantan is a quieter option for jungle trekking and reef diving around the offshore islands like Sangalak.
As noted by the BBC, Ulu Temburong National Park is a source of rare medicinal plants. The park can be enjoyed from above on the 50m-high canopy walkway through the forest.
City life can be enjoyed in the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, with its fascinating markets, opulent mosques and colourful architecture.
4. Kalimantan, Indonesia – Go diving in Derawan Island
Kalimantan takes up 73 percent of the island of Borneo and the name translates to “Burning Weather Island.” This is apt, as with its location so close to the equator, it gets pretty hot here! Of interest to note, Indonesians call the entire island of Borneo Kalimantan in their language.
Get out into nature on Derawan Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Indonesia, just off the coast of Borneo. This is one of the best places to dive and where you can see plenty of scorpion fish, octopus, seahorses and ghost pipe fish swimming around in the crystal clear waters.
One of the top diving spots in Derawan is Blue Trigger Wall, a famous rock that heads 10 meters under the surface and 18 meters in length.
Enjoy a visit to Banjarmasin, set in the Meratus Mountains and nestling on waterways. Here visitors can explore with a canoe and experience local traditions and culture along the way. Those interested in architecture will appreciate the beautiful Mesjid Raya Sabilal Muhtadin mosque.
Take a trip to Borneo this year and explore the many natural wonders, different cultures and traditions of this fascinating island.