No matter how well travelled you are, you won’t have been anywhere quite like Malay Borneo. The region is famous for its orang-utans, and the fantastic fauna in this rainforest paradise will undoubtedly knock your leech-socks off - but a holiday to Malay Borneo takes you way beyond wildlife.
On a classic trip to Borneo, you'll head to the heart of Danum Valley Conservation Area and along the Kinabatangan River for a glimpse of Pongo pygmaeus - better known as the orang-utan, and the star attraction of any Borneo holiday. The excitement doesn't stop at orange primates, however - Sabah’s interior is home to a wealth of wildlife stars, from pygmy elephants and gibbons to kingfishers and hornbills, and everything in between!
In Borneo we get you conscientiously close to some of the world's most thrilling wildlife in its natural habitat. And if you'd like to try something that few of Borneo's visitors get to experience, we can also give you the rare chance to travel along the jungle waterways to stay with tribes whose families have thrived here since prehistory, and to witness cutting-edge conservation first hand.
Eco-tourism offers a welcome alternative to less sustainable industries, and there's still enormous biodiversity to experience here, despite the infamous habitat loss. There aren’t a huge number of eco-lodges to experience it from, however, so the key advice we give to anyone who wants to visit Borneo is ‘book early!’, because rainforest lodges don't grow on trees, especially during wildlife-viewing season, so when they're full they're - well, full.
Borneo's coast is just as enticing as its jungle interior, with idyllic sandy beaches and gorgeous tropical resorts that sit right in the Sea Turtle Corridor conservation zone - depending when and where you visit, you’ll get carefully supervised opportunities to see turtles hatching or laying eggs on protected beaches. There are beaches for humans, too, their warm sand ocean-washed and perfect for lazy days after your rainforest adventure. If you’re planning a honeymoon, Borneo might well be on your shortlist - thanks to this blend of beach luxury and world-class wildlife, it's hard to see it being far from the top.
Our Destination Specialists have travelled extensively in Borneo and across Asia, researching the best hotels, sights and activities - read more in our Borneo travel guides. You can also visit our ‘weather and when to go’ pages for the best time to visit Borneo based on weather and climate, or get in touch with one of our Borneo specialists to discuss your travel plans.
Things we love in Borneo
What to do in Borneo: discover our hand-picked experiences & highlights
Borneo's rich wildlife and biodiversity is unlike anywhere else on the planet. For most it's the reason you're reading this page and certainly the driving force behind your plans to visit Borneo on holiday. Whilst in Borneo, you have the opportunity to see a breath of wildlife: find out more with our guide to Borneo's wildlife.
Staying at the outstanding Borneo Rainforest Lodge allows you to fill your time looking for orang-utan and rare Bornean pygmy elephants, trek the sepulchral ‘Coffin Trail’, and enjoy a dip in one of the forest’s natural pools. The canopy walk gives you a special opportunity to get a little closer to wildlife, whilst the lodge's premium villas will leave you wanting for nothing.
Visitors to Sarawak's Batang Ai region will soon find themselves in Iban territory - this is real rainforest living, a contemporary tribal lifestyle that has evolved here for millennia. Facilities are simple - think local longhouses and camping beneath the rainforest canopy - but if you keep your mind open to the unexpected, this trip guarantees an unforgettable rainforest experience.
The Kinabatangan River is the second longest river in Malaysia, winding its way through 560km of stunning scenery, spectacular limestone caves, placid oxbow lakes and mangrove swamps. The soothing rhythms of the water provide a timeless backdrop to a rich web of plant and animal life - it’s an intoxicating blend of peace and thriving life. You’ll glide through Kinabatangan’s backwaters to the sound of hooting gibbons and exotic birds, keeping a look-out for rare pygmy elephants on the tangled banks.
Perfect straight ‘off the peg’ or as a source of inspiration allowing us to start with blank canvas. You decide.
The Selective difference
With us, you are taken care of from enquiry until your reluctant homecoming. Your holiday is designed by a specialist who knows your destination first-hand. Throughout your travels, you'll have expert personal guides where requested & our full logistical support. And, it goes without saying, we'll be waiting to hear all about it once you're home.
Our Brighton-based Destination Specialists spend each day working closely with colleagues and partners across Asia. This ensures we stay several steps ahead when designing inspiring holidays, staying up to date and overcoming obstacles, which means your holiday will be crafted using both local and international expertise.
The welfare of our destinations and their communities is incredibly important to us. We are focused on ensuring that your money makes a positive impact, as often as possible, by supporting communities and wildlife conservation through dedicated initiatives and by very carefully choosing our partners in Asia.
We may be partial to the occasional bad pun, but we don’t joke around when it comes to designing first class travel experiences. Over 90% of our clients rate us 5/5 after their holiday, and we're not ashamed to crack a proud grin on behalf of our award-winning teams in the UK and Asia.
We know your time is precious, before and during your trip. We want you to have a smooth and relaxing experience so that your main concern on holiday will be whether to order noodles or rice. There will be no hidden extras, and your holiday will be orchestrated seamlessly by your Destination Specialist plus our local guides and behind-the-scenes crews in your destination.
Where to go in Borneo?
Sabah for wildlife, adventure & tropical beaches
Sabah is a natural paradise for wildlife and nature enthusiasts, with Kinabatangan River, Danum Valley and Tabin Wildlife Reserve all offering near-guaranteed sightings of wild elephants and orang-utan, while Sepilok Orang-utan Sanctuary is a lovely chance to see conservation in action. For the more adventurous wanting to escape the crowds, the Maliau Basin promises remote trekking opportunities on a multi night camping programme.
Gaya Island & TKR Marine NP
Kota Kinabalu, Sabah’s capital, is often overlooked in favour of the nearby National Parks - both on land and offshore - and has first-rate beaches within easy reach. The pick of the bunch is the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park and in particular Gaya Island, the latter the home two of our favourite Borneo resorts. Enjoy fine dining, turquoise waters and plenty of activity.
Danum Valley Conservation Area protects 170 square miles of primary rainforest, and it’s teeming with wildlife. With logging and palm oil industries kept at bay, a group of lodge owners and local operators work with organisations like the WWF to protect and revive Borneo’s endangered species.
Floating between the forested banks in small, open-top boats perfect for wildlife spotting. Kin River connects a broad variety of fascinating habitats, from mangrove swamps, with their population of saltwater crocodiles, to the lowland rainforest, which is home to orang-utans (and plenty of conservationists).
Sarawak for culture & adventure
Often overlooked in favour of its wildlife-rich neighbour, Sarawak delivers a range of markedly different experiences. Share rainforest camps with Iban tribesmen in Sarawak's Batang Ai region, explore record-setting caves in Gunung Mulu National Park and look for primates and other wildlife in Bako National Park near the capital of KK. Sarawak is no second fiddle.
Responsible Travel in Borneo
There's precious little left of Borneo's rainforest, with much of it now removed to make way for oil palm and other crops. What remains is generally protected, and home to tribes who've lived there for millennia, along with endangered species — the orang-utan, of course, the most famous of these.
The island's biodiversity is the stuff of legend, and there's no exaggeration — one rainforest dipterocarp tree supports up to 1,000 species, and 40% of the island's 15,000 plant species can be found nowhere else on the planet. It's not limited to the rainforest, either — Borneo sits in the 'Sea Turtle Corridor', a protected area of ocean recognised as vital to marine life, with several turtle species laying eggs on Borneo’s offshore islands.
For first-time visitors, we like to combine a stay in the rainforest (including a few short treks accompanied by expert trackers) with a visit to an ethical orang-utan rehabilitation centre, a wildlife-spotting boat trip along a jungle-clad river, and a few days at an island resort with a sound conservation policy. Participating in these activities and through your stay in our carefully selected, conservation focused lodges and resorts helps to ensure that part of your holiday spend makes it back to the wildlife, environment and communities that needs it the most.
Only found in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra – literally translated as ‘man of the forest’.
Borneo is home to Asia’s highest peak, the world’s most voluminous cave system and its oldest rainforest.
The Dayaks are the main tribe – and they have over 200 ethnicities.
A breakfast plate of rice topped with four kinds of curries – days don’t start better than this!
The Malaysian call it ‘Borneo’, the Indonesians say ‘Kalimantan’.
The Malaysian call it ‘Borneo’, the Indonesians say ‘Kalimantan’.
Borneo is administered by three different countries – Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia.
In 2007, Brunei, Indonesia & Malaysia signed a declaration to conserve 85,000 square miles of irreplaceable rainforest, known as the 'Heart of Borneo'.
Scientists discover an average of three new species a month here, and of Borneo's 220 mammal species, 20% are unique to the island
Looking for more?
Stories from our latest Borneo blog
23rd January 2020
Birding in Bhutan: bird watching in the Happiest Country on Earth
Whether you’re a keen birder or new to the pastime, a Bhutan bird watching holiday gives you a fresh perspective on this quiet country’s rich wildlife wonderland. Peppering your holiday in Bhutan with unique birding opportunities is a great way to see the landscape from a new angle, and gives you the chance to experience some of Bhutan’s best festivals, as many take place during the height of bird watching season.