BORNEO - WHAT TO SEE & DO
WHAT TO SEE/DO
Borneo is one of two places on Earth where you can still see Orangutans in the wild, and you’re probably going there to see the “old man of the jungle”. With it’s habitat fast being destroyed by massive palm oil plantations, there’s only a few locations where you are still likely to see them in the wild, although there’s no guarantee. There are, however two rehabilitation centers the Sepilok (the most popular place) and Semenggoh Rehabilitation centers, where you will get a chance to see them up close. These centers work with previous pet orang-utans, individuals caught in snares, bush fires etc. and work to re-introduce them into the wild. If you’re in Sepilok do yourself a favor and visit the moon bear sanctuary – which ironically is a sanctuary for the sun bear, which is also threatened by habitat loss.
For those of you who really want a chance at a “real” wild orangutan encounter, head out on a Kinabatangan River cruise or visit the Danum Valley rainforest. These areas have the largest populations of wild organutans.
Snorkeling & Diving
There are a number of islands around Borneo that are famous for their world class snorkeling and diving. Sipadan is truly a snorkelers paradise and provides some of the best snorkeling/diving in the world. Conservationists issue only 120 permits per day for Sipadan, so you need to organize your permits well in advance. Lankayan Island, whilst not as much diving orientated, provides some great beach relaxation as well some casual snorkeling, while Kapalai Island is a world class dive resort.
You’ll get to see turtles, be surrounded by curious batfish and brilliant-yellow snappers. If you snorkel out to where the reef drops away you’ll see barracuda, tuna, as well as hammerhead and whale sharks
Whale shark watching (or even swimming with them) is best done off the shores of Borneo throughout March and April. Every year migrating whale sharks frequent the coastline of tropical Borneo, making it a real highlight for any snorkelling or diving trip.
Only a few hours north of the capital city of Kota Kinabalu, Mt Kinabalu stands majestically at 4,095m above sea level. It is the tallest mountain in Malaysia and the 3rdhighest peak in Southeast Asia. It is also very accessible, with well-maintained paths and no need for technical equipment. The last part of the climb does, however require a rope-assisted scramble through the clouds to the peak.
The mountain is a mecca for botany enthusiasts. Trek through a variety of vegetation zones, admiring the insectivorous pitcher plants and over 1,200 varieties of orchids. The trail also boasts some spectacular vistas. Whilst it is possible to climb the mountain in a day it is a grueling trek and most people prefer to overnight at Laban rata. Accommodation is of a basic nature, but it is all you need.
For some relaxation afterwards, treat yourself to a long revitalizing soak in the nearby Poring Hot Springs.
The best area for a river safaris is undoubtedly the mighty Kinabatangan River. Originating deep in the jungle, Kinabatagan cuts a pathway through Borneo’s tangled primal rainforests, and out to a tropical sea. It’s a land of pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys and traditional tribes.
Overnight at a lodge in the small village of Sukau where you can savor traditional food. Take a night walk with an expert local guide who will point out things you’d never have spotted on your own. Set out at dusk or dawn in small river boats, in search of the highly endangered proboscis monkeys, orangutans, pythons, crocodiles and pygmy elephants.
Stay in a Longhouse
Visiting an Iban longhouse is possible one of the most unique experiences a visitor can have in Borneo. These elongated, traditional wooden structures are built on stilts. One side is sectioned off into separate family units, while the other side is used as a meeting space and social area. If other families join the community, the house is just lengthened.
Visitors to Sarawak can visit and stay in a longhouse with an indigenous Iban community. While some longhouses are strictly tourist experiences, it is possible to see authentic ones only accessible by river and far removed from city life. You'll get to sample authentic food, see a traditional dance performance, and even learn to shoot a traditional blowpipe. It will offer you a chance to interact with people who called the jungle home long before modern civilization, and experience their simple yet beautiful way of life.