Borneo with its spectacular mountain vistas and jungle streams, exotic flora and rare fauna, vertigo inducing gorges and vast network of underground caves is a breath of fresh air for most wildlife lover and outdoor enthusiast. With so much on offer, it's hard to choose which places to visit. To help you make this tricky decision, we've listed some of the best places to visit in Borneo below.
Covering more ground than the whole of Singapore, Kinabalu National Park in Sabah is home to a remarkably diverse range of flora and fauna, and was Malaysia’s very first UNESCO World Heritage Site. But at the heart of the park – and what attracts tourist in their throngs – is Mount Kinabalu. Standing at over 4,000m it is the highest mountain in Malaysia, and rivals some of Southeast Asia’s most impressive peaks. Despite its height Kinabalu is a relatively easy climb, and upon reaching the summit hikers can admire striking views. The park has an education centre and mountain garden, showcasing some of the park's plant species, including orchids, ferns and flowering Rhododendrons.
Without a doubt the stars of any visit to Borneo are the incredible creatures at the orangutan rehabilitation centres in Sepilok and Semmenggon. Set within protected grounds both centres rescue orphaned and captive orangutans, providing much needed medical and nutritional support, while also teaching them survival skills with the hope of reintroducing them to the wild. The centres also aim to educate visitors and locals on the importance of the rehabilitation process in safeguarding the future of the species, and as a result of the programs local orangutan populations have seen a dramatic increase. Visitors can catch a glimpse of the mammal from viewing platforms within the centre's grounds.
Located in Sarawak this UNESCO-listed site is one of the most popular national parks in Borneo, and it’s no wonder why. While the park’s untouched wilderness makes for brilliant trekking and wildlife spotting, its most impressive attraction lies beneath the surface. Formed over millions of years, the Mulu Caves are made up of a complex network of deep gorges and vast caverns stretching over 300km underground. The caves can be explored via a plank walkway starting with a scenic walk through the primary rain forest leading into the entrance of the Deer Cave. From the impressive stalactites and stalagmites of the Lang Cave, to the vast cave system of Clearwater – argued to be the largest in the world – the Mulu Caves are remarkable in both size and scale, and are definitely worth a visit.
Established in 1957, this coastal national park is the oldest and smallest in Sarawak, and is easily accessible by boat from the capital city of Kuching. Despite its size, at just 27 sq km, the protected park is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including over 150 species of bird and the elusive proboscis monkey – known for its reddish-brown fur and comically pendulous nose. The early hours of the morning or late hours of the evening are the best time to catch a glimpse or capture a photograph of Bako’s wildlife. The park is also recognised for its varied landscape, with jungle streams, waterfalls and bizarre rock formations, which can be explored via an extensive network of colour-coded trails.
Tangling 560km through dense jungle and lush rain forest from its beginnings in the southwest, to its outlet into the Sulu Sea, the grand Kinabatangan is the second longest river in Malaysia. Sustaining one of the world's richest eco-systems with an impressive variety of animal species and interesting habitats - such as salty mangrove swamps and lime stone caves - it a real treat for wildlife enthusiasts. The river is best explored by boat and throughout the year the banks can be seen teeming with wildlife, from the rare proboscis monkey to the marbled cat, and even an odd elusive elephant. Bird watchers should visit in the wet season while the banks are a flurry with activity; expect to check off sightings of hornbill and pitta species, while also the rarer Storm’s stork and Oriental darter.
Spend the day exploring the five beautiful coral islands of Gaya, Mamutik, Sapi, Sulug and Manukan that make up the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. Located just a short boat ride away from Kota Kinabalu the shallow turquoise waters surrounding the islands are bubbling with marine life and are ideal for snorkelers and divers alike. Blue-spotted rays, mantis shrimp, and hawksbill turtles are just some of the underwater creatures that can be spotted in the coral gardens, as well as the rarer mandarin fish and harlequin ghost pipefish. Those more comfortable on land can explore various jungle trails, or simply dig their toes into the sand and catch some rays on the islands’ white beaches.