Our favourite places in Malaysian Borneo
Borneo is a place of record-breaking superlatives. Biggest tropical trees, oldest primeval rainforests, most biodiverse ecosystems, and more species than Darwin ever dreamed of – but what’s it actually like to visit?
Slap-bang in the middle of maritime Southeast Asia, Borneo is the world’s third-biggest island, surpassed only by Greenland and New Guinea. Divided unevenly between three countries, nearly three-quarters of the south is Indonesian, a tiny sliver (about 1%) belongs to Brunei, and what remains is part of Malaysia – namely, the two northern states of Sabah and Sarawak.
The state of Sabah is Malaysian Borneo’s tourist hub. 55% forested, it’s home to some of the very best wildlife experiences in Borneo, including the “corridor of life” along the Kinabatangan River, a jungle basin so remote that half of it remains unexplored, and the most incredible reef diving anywhere in the world. It’s also the home of Mount Kinabalu, the tallest mountain in Southeast Asia, and beach-fringed islands to rival any in the region.
Sarawak State lies to the northwest of Borneo, and covers an area roughly equal to Peninsular Malaysia. Here, it’s less about wilderness and more about culture. Stay in tribal longhouses with the indigenous Iban people of Batang Ai. Learn about the colonial history of the White Rajahs of Sarawak. Cycle out into the farms and villages of Dayak minority countryside, and enjoy a street-food scene born from a fusion of Chinese, Malay, Indian and European influences in the gastronomic capital of Kuching.
“It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.” David Attenborough