Borneo's astonishing biodiversity doesn't end with the rainforest. It's time to grab your flippers and head beneath the waves to experience some of Earth's rarest diving and snorkelling, before taking a break at some of Asia's loveliest beach resorts.
Borneo might be world-famous for its rainforests, but it's also celebrated by diving aficionados thanks to its envy-inducing marine habitats. The region is protected by what's known as "the turtle corridor", an international agreement to conserve waters between Malaysia and the Philippines.
The corridor is a crucial habitat for sea turtles and a profusion of other marine life — coupled with fantastically clear waters and strict conservation, it makes for excellent diving. We can't guarantee that you'll find yourself diving alongside the turtles themselves, but it's fairly likely, and if not, you'll still be spoilt by the astonishing array of species beyond the headline act.
The turtles can also be spotted on land, when they come ashore to lay eggs. This means you may sometimes find yourself banned from certain beaches during egg-laying season. But there will be rangers on hand, and you may get the chance to watch a turtle egg-laying or hatching under careful supervision — which, we think, is infinitely more magical than accidentally trampling on a nest.
There are also several well-run marine conservation projects that enable visitors to help look after the local habitat, principally through reef regeneration, although sometimes you can see baby turtles being rehabilitated.
The best resorts depend on when you travel, but our favourites tend to be in the marine park just off the island's north coast. You have to reach these resorts by boat, which is fun and gives a great sense of arrival, but the boat trips are only 20 minutes long, which is doable after the rest of your journey... and you embark at Kota Kinabalu, which has good connections to both the rainforest interior and international air routes. We can make sure you have diving and snorkelling conditions that are suitable for all abilities, which is ideal if you're travelling with family, or one of you is more of an expert than the other. Non-divers will also be happy to hear about the fabulous shoreside spas, soft golden sand, and tropical forest trails that you can enjoy on dry land!
So when's the best time to do it? People often put "the beach bit" at the end of their holiday, which is certainly good for relaxing after time spent exploring and touring. But there are plenty of good reasons to start on the shoreline instead. There's nothing quite like plunging into the ocean to freshen up after months at work, and that sense of arrival you get when you reach the seaside helps you feel truly on holiday as quickly as possible. Diving certainly offers the highest possible contrast to daily life… unless, of course, you're a dive instructor.