Borneo is the third-largest island in the world and the largest in Asia. Its name has origins that are somewhat mysterious, with some suggesting it might derive from “Brunei,” while others believe it’s from early trade languages. The island is politically divided among three countries: Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei.
Malaysian Borneo, located to the south of the South China Sea, is composed of two states: Sabah and Sarawak. It’s flanked by Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) to the south and the tiny nation of Brunei in the northwestern part. Across the South China Sea to the west is Peninsular Malaysia.
Historically rich and boasting a mix of indigenous cultures, Borneo is home to rainforests that are over 130 million years old, making them some of the oldest in the world. Borneo was once a hub for trade, which led to the influence of various regional powers. Over the centuries, sultanates, colonial powers like the British and the Dutch, and Japanese forces during World War II have left their mark on the island.
Highlights of Things to Do
- Kota Kinabalu (Sabah): The state capital is known for its stunning beaches, the nearby Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, and Mount Kinabalu, Southeast Asia’s highest peak.
- Kuching (Sarawak): This riverside city captivates with its colonial architecture, museums, and the nearby Bako National Park, home to the peculiar proboscis monkeys.
- Sandakan (Sabah): A launching pad for ecotourism adventures, be it the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, the Turtle Islands Park, or the Kinabatangan River.
- Mulu National Park (Sarawak): Famed for its limestone karst formations and vast caves, including the world-renowned Deer Cave and Clearwater Cave.
- Sipadan Island (Sabah): One of the world’s top diving sites, with its vibrant marine life and crystal-clear waters.
- Danum Valley (Sabah): A conservation area, this untouched rainforest offers a glimpse into Borneo’s rich biodiversity.
How to Get In and Out:
By Air: Borneo is well-connected by air, with major international airports in Kota Kinabalu (Kota Kinabalu International Airport) and Kuching (Kuching International Airport) facilitating travel from various global destinations.
By Land: There are border crossings between Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei, and Kalimantan, making overland travel possible but a bit more challenging.
Malaysian Borneo beckons with its promise of adventure, be it trekking in ancient rainforests, diving in colorful coral gardens, or understanding the rich tapestry of its indigenous cultures. It’s a land where nature and tradition converge, offering travelers a unique Southeast Asian experience.