Your Trip to Borneo: The Complete Guide SEE FULL GUIDE prev next Museums to Visit Best Beaches Where to Go Scuba Diving Best Hiking in Borneo National Parks Where to See Orangutans Events & Festivals Food to Try Best Time to Visit Weather & Climate Airports in Borneo Best Hotels in Borneo Staying at an Iban Longhouse Driving in Borneo One Week in Borneo Top Destinations in Malaysian Borneo Sarawak vs. Sabah Guide to Kuching Visiting Kalimantan Guide to the Derawan Islands Brunei Travel Guide Top Things to Do in Malaysian Borneo Your Trip to Borneo: The Complete Guide close Overview Asia Borneo The Top 8 Things to Do in Malaysian Borneo Written by Greg Rodgers Facebook Twitter Greg Rodgers is a freelance writer and photographer from Kentucky. He's been covering all things Asia for TripSavvy since 2010. Tripsavvy's Editorial Guidelines Greg Rodgers Updated 05/26/20 Fact-Checked by Reviewed on 05/26/20 Jillian Dara Facebook Twitter Jillian Dara is a freelance travel writer and fact checker. Her work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, USA Today 10Best, Michelin Guide, Hemispheres, DuJour, and Jetsetter. About TripSavvy Fact-Checking Jillian Dara Share Pin Email Borneo is one of those rare places where you can sense the adventure in the air, along with the green air from thousands of square miles of rainforest, just waiting to be explored. The third-largest island in the world is a virtual paradise for anyone who has a love for plants, wildlife, and adventure. The island of Borneo is divided among Malaysia, Indonesia, and the small, independent nation of Brunei. The Indonesian part of Borneo, known as Kalimantan, covers about 73 percent of the island, while Malaysian Borneo occupies the rest along the northern edge, along with tiny Brunei. Malaysian Borneo has two states, Sarawak and Sabah, that are separated by Brunei. Sarawak's capital of Kuching and Sabah's capital of Kota Kinabalu are the usual entry points; the two cities act as bases for exploring Borneo's wild attractions. 01 of 08 See Wild Orangutans TripSavvy / Jess Macdonald View Map Address Sabah Wildlife Department, W.D.T. 200, Sandakan, Jalan Sepilok, Sepilok, 90000 Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia Get directions Phone +60 89-633 587 Web Visit website Borneo is one of two places on Earth (Sumatra is the other) where endangered orangutans can still be seen in the wild. Orangutans are among the smartest primates; they make medicine, craft tools, and even exchange gifts. Unfortunately, because of habitat loss caused by massive palm oil plantations, orangutan numbers are dwindling; now is the time to see them while you still can. The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in East Sabah is the most popular place to view orangutans in Borneo. A better option is the cheaper and less crowded Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre just outside of Kuching. While there are never guarantees, you have a pretty good chance of seeing semi-wild orangutans at both refuges during feeding times. Alternatively, you can chance a real orangutan encounter in the wild by taking a river cruise along the Kinabatangan River. 02 of 08 Discover the Rainforest Andrea Pistolesi / Getty Images View Map Address Jalan Fabia, Sepilok, 90715 Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia Get directions Phone +60 89-533 780 Web Visit website Only open to the public since 2006, the Rainforest Discovery Centre in Sabah is a world-renown environmental education center. For a low entrance fee, visitors can explore a fantastic array of plants, insects, and animals found in Borneo's rainforests. After touring the well-manicured botanical garden and education center, visitors can then apply their new knowledge while trekking along the many trails nearby. An impressive matrix of canopy walks elevate visitors above the dense trees where they can spot rare birds and sometimes orangutans. 03 of 08 Go Scuba Diving fototrav / Getty Images Not all of Malaysian Borneo's natural attractions are found on land. Sabah boasts some of the world's premier scuba diving sites. Compared to diving in places such as Malaysia's Perhentian Islands, diving in Borneo is indeed not cheap. But since you'll get to see turtles and macro life, along with hammerhead and whale sharks, it's worth the extra money. The diving in Sipidan is so famous that conservationists only issue 120 permits per day to preserve the fragile reefs; you must organize your diving well in advance to make sure you get a permit. Mabul, a nearby alternative to Sipadan, offers arguably some of the best muck diving in the world and is also considered the best dive site for underwater macro photography. 04 of 08 Climb Mount Kinabalu John Jodeery View Map Address Mount Kinabalu, Ranau, Sabah, Malaysia Get directions At 13,435 feet tall, Mount Kinabalu in Sabah is the tallest mountain in Malaysia and one of the tallest peaks in the region that can be climbed without technical equipment. Reaching the summit of Mount Kinabalu requires only the stamina and heart to do so. About 40,000 people per year come to try the grueling, two-day ascent; many don't make it to the top. The last part of the climb requires a rope-assisted scramble through the clouds to the peak. Aside from one impressive mountain, the 300-square-mile Kinabalu National Park has a mind-boggling amount of flora and fauna. Meeting international biologists and botanists who have come to study the estimated 4,500 plant species is an everyday occurrence on the trails. Continue to 5 of 8 below. 05 of 08 Go Trekking in a Rainforest Peter Adams / Getty Images From monkey encounters and poisonous snakes to waterfalls and hidden beaches, trekking in Borneo is the real deal. Dayak headhunters once roamed the same trails, relieving a few early spice traders of their heads; only in relatively recent times did they stop their head-removing practices. The national parks in Sarawak can mostly be explored without a permit or mandatory guide, while some other parks require that you hire a guide. Camping is available in most places, as are simple longhouses that offer accommodations while you take day hikes and explore the area. 06 of 08 See Exotic Wildlife on the Kinabatangan River Caroline Pang / Getty Images Although the name is a mouthful, the Kinabatangan River area in Sabah is often the favorite highlight for visitors to Malaysian Borneo. Lodges along the tiny, single-path village of Sukau offer accommodations and guides who take people up the muddy river by small boat. A quiet approach by boat allows visitors the opportunity to spot highly endangered proboscis monkeys, orangutans, crocodiles, pythons, and elephants when they are in season. The Kinabatangan River is reached via minibus from the city of Sandakan in East Sabah. 07 of 08 Chill on a Beach or Island Nora Carol Photography / Getty Images Malaysian Borneo is not at all just about sweating and swatting insects in the jungle. Miles of pristine and wild beaches will give you plenty of opportunities to unwind after a few days of trekking. Tiny Mamutik Island in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park—only 20 minutes by boat from Kota Kinabalu—allows camping directly on the beach. Alternatively, check out Tanjung Aru, more of a local's beach scene with very few tourists, just a few minutes south of Kota Kinabalu. If you need some island time, check out the different vibe on Labuan Island, an enjoyable, duty-free island off the coast of Sabah. "Survivor" fans should get to remote Pulau Tiga where the first season of the hit show was filmed. 08 of 08 Stay in a Longhouse Anders Blomqvist / Getty Images Visitors to Sarawak can visit and stay in an Iban longhouse to see how indigenous people live. 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 learn to shoot a blowpipe gun just for fun. Was this page helpful? Thanks for letting us know! Share Pin Email Tell us why! Submit Your Trip to Borneo: The Complete Guide 9 Top Destinations in Malaysian Borneo How to See the Best of Borneo in One Week How to Find Cheap Flights to Borneo The Best Time to Visit Borneo How to Decide Where to Go in Malaysian Borneo How to Choose the Best Airports in Borneo for Your Trip 5 Places to See Orangutans in Borneo Visit These 12 National Parks in Borneo for Wildlife and Adventure A Complete Guide to Driving in Borneo The 10 Best Hikes in Borneo The 11 Best Hotels in Borneo Make Traveling Around Sabah, Borneo Easy With These Tips The Weather and Climate in Borneo These 10 Places Offer the Best Scuba Diving in Borneo Where Exactly Is Borneo?