Travel in Borneo

An introduction

Simon, tailor-made travel specialist

'My first trip to Borneo was like a travel epiphany; the rainforests of Sabah and islands of Lankayan and Selingan were everything I had been searching for.'

Simon - Borneo tailor-made specialist

A destination that never disappoints

Borneo has it all - wildlife, adventure, culture and some of the finest beaches in Asia. Home to a truly staggering abundance of flora and fauna, Borneo also has one of the most diverse cultures in South-East Asia, with visitors gaining access to its ancient tribal civilization - and more recent Colonial heritage - with relative ease.

As if pristine rainforest wasn’t enough, the island boasts record-breaking caves, impressive climbs and treks, and superb coastal regions with world-class diving and deserted sandy beaches. Add an excellent infrastructure - it’s easy to travel in Borneo by either road or by using short flights - and you’re looking at a phenomenal holiday experience.

Where to travel in Borneo

Both Sarawak and Sabah have excellent opportunities for adventure and tribal encounters, but Sarawak is especially good for adventure, and escaping modern infrastructure. You can camp in the rainforest with Iban tribesmen in Sarawak's Batang Ai region, and find great climbing in Gunung Mulu National Park, where you can also explore the record-breaking Mulu Caves.

Sabah is stronger for wildlife, with Kinabatangan River, Danum Valley and Tabin Wildlife Reserve all offering near-guaranteed sightings of wild elephant and orang-utan, while Sepilok Orang-utan Sanctuary is a lovely chance to see conservation in action. It’s also famous for Mount Kinabalu; the highest mountain in Malaysia, but a surprisingly do-able climb.

Reasons to love Borneo

  • Wildlife here is superb, from famous faces like orang-utans and elephants to extraordinary sights like the proboscis monkey. 20% of Borneo's mammals are endemic, and just one of its giant dipterocarp trees can harbour 1,000 types of insect.
  • The perfect beaches and sandy little islands off Borneo’s north-east tip let you take a beautiful break from exploring the rainforest. They’re also right in the Sea Turtle Corridor, and turtles can be seen here all year round.
  • Danum Valley Conservation Area is 170 square miles of primary rainforest, home to thousands of severely threatened species. Guests at its magnificent Borneo Rainforest Lodge can explore on guided treks, nocturnal 4WD excursions, and via a suspended walkway through the rainforest canopy.

Diverse roots

Much of present day Borneo was ruled by the Empire of Brunei between the 15th and 17th centuries - a time when infamous indigenous headhunter tribes resided across much of the island. Inter-tribal warfare was common, and there was little infrastructure to speak of. It was a wild land, impenetrable to all but the hardiest travellers, thanks to its dense rainforest and the unwelcoming reputation of the locals!

During the 19th century, much of North Borneo and what is now Sabah came under the control of the British North Borneo Company, which made North Borneo a protectorate of the British Empire, while a large percentage of present-day Sarawak was under the ‘guidance’ of controversial adventurer James Brooke. Both Sabah and Sarawak became part of Malaysia in 1962/63.

Sarawak’s capital Kuching is the place to explore the island's colonial heritage. Doing that won’t take you more than a day, but it is more historic than Sabah’s capital, Kota Kinabalu, which was largely levelled by bombs during World War Two.

18.6 million
Kuching & Kota Kinabalu

Please note...

...that the Foreign Commonwealth Office is currently advising against all but essential travel to all islands off the coast of eastern Sabah from Kudat to Tawau, including (but not limited to) Lankayan, Mabul, Pom Pom, Kapalai, Litigan, Sipadan and Mataking. 

20 January 2016

6 superb short adventures in Malaysian Borneo

12 January 2017

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Best beaches in Borneo

If you decide to travel through both states, and wish to end your trip on a beach, start in Sarawak - the beaches are much better in Sabah! Take your pick of paradise islands - on Selingan you can witness turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs at night, and Lankayan has world class diving and fantastic beaches; the south-eastern islands of Sipadan, Kapalai and Mabul also offer some of the finest diving on the planet. 

Find out a little more about Borneo

Borneo on our blog

Borneo on our blog

From record-breaking caves where you could hide a jumbo jet, to the best places to spot Borneo's wildlife and meet its famous tribespeople, our Borneo blog shares real life experiences of this sought-after island...

Read more about Borneo...