Malaysian Borneo is an adventurer’s paradise and a dream destination.
From ancient rock formations, lush, humid rain forests, exotic flora and fauna, secluded beaches, misty mountains and glorious waterfalls, clear springs and mangroves, Borneo rightly shows off in its jaw dropping beauty and nature.
Have you ever wanted to explore deep in the heart of the rainforest? Go dolphin or crocodile spotting? Watch a night time firefly light display under a jet black, clear starry sky? Cruise along still and calm mangrove rivers ? Climb the pinnacles? Go caving in some of the worlds largest and most magnificent and witness a bat exodus? Swim in clear cool rivers and bathe in natural hot spring? Test your nerves at new heights on a treetop canopy walk or a high ropes course? Discover the culture of the Iban tribe and learn how to use a blowpipe?
If so, add beautiful Borneo to your destination bucket list!
Malaysian Borneo is spread out between the states of Sarawak and Sabah with the Sultanate of Brunei sandwiched between them, and Indonesian Kalimantan occupies the bottom. Borneo is the largest island in Asia and third largest island in the world. The sheer size coupled with the number of national parks, sights and activities makes it quite a daunting and overwhelming trip for a backpacker to plan. I suggest you focus on one area and create an itinerary there.
I spent only 8 days in Borneo and stayed in Sarawak, on the North west of the island. This was mainly because it involved fewer domestic flights and is less touristic and therefore far cheaper than Sabah. I flew from KL to the city of Kuching, used that as a base and then flew directly into Mulu national park (smallest airport ever) To return to KL, I had to fly Mulu to Miri on a small propeller plane and connect there. Flights were reasonably cheap. I have a sample itinerary but, honestly, there is so much to see and do that you won’t go wrong.
Here are my must sees
Kuching City – an artsy, cool and laid back town which makes a great base for day trips. Wonderful selection of hostels and cafes. Cat lovers rejoice at the cat museum.
Kuching Wetlands – Go dolphin spotting or take an evening cruise to spot Proboscis monkeys in the mangroves, and the glowing red eyes of crocodiles in the swamp. Visit the local fisherman village and enjoy a beautiful sunset, before going to see a magical firefly light show.
Permai Rainforest retreat – Here you will find the most gorgeous beach, surrounded by mountains and forests. Stay in a tree house and enjoy the tranquility and solitude of the forest in comfort and style. Go for hikes, night walks in the forest or compete in some team building activities. The high ropes course will definitely get your adrenaline pumping. Permai is a nature lover’s dream.
Mulu National Park – Immerse yourself in Mulu lifestyle with a longhouse homestay. Be warned, there are no creature comforts here – little electricity, cold water, biting insects, noisy cicadas, humidity… Or stay at Mulu park itself. The slumming is worth it however, for the stunning scenery and astounding ancient caves at this world heritage site. Cycle or walk to the park, buy a three day pass and check out the daily info board for what’s on. For a tranquil escape or more of a challenge; choose from caving, boat trips, guided walks, hikes, mountain treks and the epic tree top canopy walk….
Mulu Marriott Resort and Spa – The Marriott here was the classiest and least offensive of the Marriotts I encountered in Asia. In fact it is tasteful and very in keeping with the natural and lush surrounds. It’s the only place with 24 hour electricity. If you can’t afford the price tag for a night, come and use the pool and treat yo’self to a fancy dinner and drinks, or a massage after a hard day’s hiking. You’ll want to after a nights in a longhouse!
Borneo is a once in a lifetime trip filled with opportunities for unbelievable activities and sights that most of us only dream of. I highly recommend hopping on a plane to Sarawak if you are backpacking or travelling through SE Asia.
Been to Borneo? Thinking about a trip? Leave a comment!