Best places to visit in Borneo

Updated: 04th September 2017

Top 10 Destinations in Boreno

Our pick #1

Kinabalu NP & Mount Kinabalu

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.

Our pick #2

Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

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.

Our pick #3

Gunung Mulu NP & Mulu Caves

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.

Our pick #4

Bako National Park

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.

Our pick #5

Kinabatangan River

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.

Our pick #6

Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

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.

Maliau Basin - Best places to visit in Borneo - On The Go Tours
Our pick #7

Maliau Basin Conservation Area

Known as ‘Sabah’s Lost World’, this is Borneo’s last untouched wilderness. The pristine tropical rainforest is a new discovery with the first recorded human entry as recent as the early 1980s. While it gives off the appearance of being an extinct volcano, the basin is in fact an uplifted plateau which over the years has eroded in the middle giving its saucer-like shape. This is the perfect destination for those who love adventurous treks with hiking trails taking you through the verdant jungle, past towering trees and underneath draping vines. Due to its unique formation of sandstone and mudstone, Maliau has a high number of waterfalls including the seven tiers of the awe-inspiring Maliau Falls. The wildlife that can be found in the basin includes pygmy elephants, clouded leopard and Malayan sun bear.

Kota Kinabalu -  Best places to visit in Borneo - On The Go Tours
Our pick #8

Kota Kinabalu

While not the most beautiful of cities, Kota Kinabalu still has plenty to entertain visitors. Kota Kinabalu has the signs of any modern city on the rise with new shopping malls full of the latest retailers, flashy condos and a range of restaurants catering for international tastebuds serving delicious Japanese, Cantonese, Malay and Western food. For those after a more authentic experience of Malay food, visit the huge night food market to try some traditionally prepared fish. The Mari Mari Cultural Village is a popular museum, showcasing the traditional homes of the Sabahan ethnic communities. The City Mosque is a mysterious and beautiful sight, giving the appearance from a distance it’s floating over the Likas Bay. While there is not much to see on the inside, the outside is very impressive especially at sunset.

Klias Wetlands - Best places to visit in Borneo - On The Go Tours
Our pick #9

Klias Wetlands

To get up close with Borneo’s wildlife in its natural habitat, travel to the Klias Peninsula to enjoy a river safari through the Klias wetlands. Just a two hour drive from Kota Kinabalu, head out on a boat through the mangrove forest, immersing yourself in the wild sounds of the untouched rainforest. The fauna includes the rare silver leaf monkey, long-tailed macaques, tree snakes and a huge variety of birds including eagles. As the sun begins to set you can see crocodiles creeping out and above the water. You may also be able to see the golden coat and strange long red nose of the proboscis monkey, an endemic primate of Borneo. During night-time visits you’ll be treated to a natural light show performed by hundreds of fireflies along the riverbanks.

Kota Belud - Best places to visit in Borneo - On The Go Tours
Our pick #10

Kota Belud

Kota Belud is found in a beautiful region of Borneo, a town surrounded by rolling hills, lush valleys and verdant green paddy fields with Mount Kinabalu standing proudly in the background. The best way to experience this beautiful landscape is with a hike or a horse ride. The town comes alive on Sundays with a vibrant atmosphere at the weekly tamu (market) and every October it holds the Tamu Besar, the biggest open-air market of Sabah. An authentic market you are on more likely to pick up traditional dried fish and chains of yeast beans used to make rice wine then cheaply made souvenirs, as well being able to sample a range of local delicacies. You can also watch the traditional events of the water buffalo race, the horse and Bajau horsemen parade, and the crowning of the Serempak Queen.

See Also

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

Best Time to Visit - climate and weather in Borneo
Tourist Visas - information on visa regulations for Borneo
Top Travel Tips - useful info on money, health and food in Borneo