The best time to visit Borneo

Updated: 14th June 2019

Seasons and Weather

Borneo's location on the equator means the country experiences a tropical rainforest climate characterised by hot and humid conditions throughout the year with rainfall typical most months. Variations in precipitation levels do result in what is considered two distinct seasons - the dry season and the wet season. Unlike much of Southeast Asia, the dry season falls between the months of March and October so while Vietnam and Thailand are at their wettest, Borneo is actually at its driest making it a popular time to visit though prices are at their highest between July and September.

Weather in Borneo is very diverse and it's possible for one region to receive double the amount of rain than another part of Borneo in the same month. Generally speaking Sarawak receives far more rainfall than Sabah though wherever you go, weather conditions change quickly with sunny mornings turning to afternoon downpours. November to March sees the most amount of rain, although even in these months rainfall can be sporadic and it does result in lower visitor-numbers, which means fewer crowds and lower prices.

Best time to visit Borneo for wildlife

April sees weather conditions improve and it's a great time for jungle trekking across Borneo with orang-utans starting to appear in the canopies, a sight you may be lucky enough to be graced with right up until November. In June the jungle bursts into fruiting season, which attracts wildlife in abundance so this is a particularly good month for wildlife enthusiasts. Turtle season also starts in June around Langkayan Island and continues through to September when the waters are calmer. Between March and May whale sharks migrate through the Sulu Sea so this is an ideal time for scuba divers though diving in Borneo is excellent year-round.

Best time to climb Mount Kinabalu

Reaching a height of 4,095 metres above sea level, Mount Kinabalu has its own micro-climate with two monsoon periods that affect the whole of Sabah. For the least amount of rainfall, February to April are considered the best months to climb Mount Kinabalu with August, September and early October acceptable months. At all other times of year frequent heavy rains make the trails dangerous to tackle and may even result in closures.

Thinking of visiting Borneo? Download a copy of our Asia brochure for inspiration.

View of the beach in Kudat - Borneo Tours - On The Go Tours

Climate | Kuching


JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp Min °C232323242424232323232323
Temp Max °C293031323232323231313130
Rainfall (mm)670490330290270240190230250320390460

Climate | Kota Kinabalu


JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp Min °C232324242424242424242424
Temp Max °C313132333332323232323231
Rainfall (mm)1007986132212289265245297411279211

Festivals and Events

With a population consisting of ethnic tribes, each with their own distinct customs and traditions, Borneo has a surprisingly vibrant calendar of events and here's our guide to the best of them.

Chinese New Year

Those of Chinese descent make up almost a third of the population of Sawarak which means Chinese New Year is celebrated with colourful festivities and performances across Borneo though particularly in Kuching.

Harvest Festival

Known locally as Gawai Dayak, this festival is celebrated by the Dayak people in Sarawak to usher in a successful harvest. It is one of the most important celebrations for Borneo's indigenous cultures with performances of traditional music and dance.

Miri Jazz Festival

Jazz musicians from across Borneo and the rest of the world descend on the city of Miri in the north of Sarawak for this two-day festivals of live performances. Also referred to as the Borneo Jazz Festival, the event attracts a variety of styles under the jazz umbrella including Cuban percussion and funk.

Want to know more about Borneo? Check out our latest blog posts

Rainforest Music Festival

Held just outside of Kuching each year, this three-day event is one of the largest music festivals in Southeast Asia and features international musicians showcasing traditional instruments and styles of music. The Rainforest Music Festival takes place in July/August with workshops, cultural demonstrations and live music attracting thousands of people.

Borneo Cultural Festival

Held every year in the city of Sibu, this is one of Borneo's longest events with a 10-day programme of traditional music, contests, a beauty pageant and plenty of food. The town's main square hosts three stages that Sarawak's indigenous culture.

Borneo Arts Festival

The island of Labuan, situated between Brunei and Sabah, hosts this annual festival that celebrates the arts with traditional and progressive music, dance performances, and even shows focusing on tattoos and fire-eating. The event takes place over three days in August.

Borneo International Kite Festival

Now in its 12th year, this fun and colourful festival is quickly gaining popularity as hundreds gather to fly beautiful kites over the wide expanse of the Old Bintulu Airport. World records have been broken at this event with 400 kiters from 25 countries usually participating.

Upcoming events

To help plan your visit to Borneo here's an overview of the upcoming festivals and events taking place:

2019:

July 12th-14th - Rainforest Music Festival (Sarawak Cultural Village)
July 18th-27th - Borneo Cultural Festival (Sibu)
August 31st - Hari Merdeka/Malaysian Independence Day (Nationwide)
September 25th-29th - Borneo International Kite Festival (Bintulu)
Dates TBC - Borneo Arts Festival (Labuan)

2020:

January 25th - Chinese New Year (Nationwide)
May 1st - Labour Day (Nationwide)
June 4th - King's Birthday (Nationwide)

There's also a number of national holidays in Malaysia that are observed in Borneo and on these dates many businesses and some tourist sites will close for the day so plan your visit accordingly.

See Also

Take a look at our handy Travel Guide resources for further help planning your visit to Borneo:

Best Places to Visit - where to go and what to see in Borneo
Tourist Visas - information on visa regulations for Borneo
Top Travel Tips - useful info on money, health and food in Borneo