Aerial view of Kuching

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

Borneo

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BORNEO KUALA LUMPUR IPOH PENANG CAMERON HIGHLANDS MALACCA PANGKOR LANGKAWI REDANG ISLAND TIOMAN ISLAND TAMAN NEGARA NP PERHENTIAN ISLANDS BANDING ISLAND KUCHING BATANG AI MULU NP SEPILOK KINABATANGAN RIVER DANUM VALLEY GAYA ISLAND KOTA KINABALU KINABALU PARK MALIAU BASIN TABIN
Borneo

Remote Batang Ai is the ancestral heartland of Sarawak’s Iban people and the best place to spot orangutans in the wild. After exploring the jungle, experience life in a tribal longhouse, sharing song, dance and tuak rice wine long into the night.

Borneo

Danum Valley is one of the few places in the world that has never been settled, logged, hunted or otherwise interfered with by humans. Hidden in its untouched forests, wildlife thrives – from the world’s tallest tropical tree to the highest concentration of orangutans anywhere in the world.

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With coral reefs, dense mangroves, sandy beaches and thick jungle, all just fifteen minutes by speedboat from Sabah’s capital, Gaya Island is a microcosm of the Borneo wilderness and a true tropical paradise.

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Rising 4,095 metres over Borneo and surrounded by rainforest, Mount Kinabalu is the tallest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea, and the national park that surrounds it is among the most biodiverse regions on the planet.

Borneo

Stay in an eco-lodge on the banks of Sabah’s longest river, where elephants, macaques and gibbons forage in the dense riverside foliage, and frogmouths, nightjars and hornbills wheel overhead.

Borneo

Beyond its colonial clock towers, lakeside mosques and ocean-fresh seafood, Sabah’s up-and-coming capital is the gateway to the tallest peak in Southeast Asia and one of the most important areas of biodiversity in the world.