Borneo is 1 of the least explored areas on the planet, the mention of Borneo conjures up images of primeval rain-forest, undiscovered tribes, and rare, exotic species.
Comprised mostly of impenetrable jungle, the world’s 3rd-largest island is shared by Indonesia, Malaysia, and the small Oil rich Sultanate of Brunei.
Home to critically endangered rhino, elephant, leopard, and orangutan – Borneo’s wildlife is its Top draw. But as pressures from logging, forest fires, and the growing demand for palm oil mount, refuges are increasingly the best way to see wildlife, so travel there while you can. While there, take a trek up Sabah’s Mt Kinabalu, search for the world’s largest flower, or learn the ancient traditions of the island’s headhunter tribes.
Borneo is 1 of Southeast Asia’s few Summer destinations, with the best time to travel being between March and October when the island is at its driest.
This is the best time to see orangutans aka jungle men, in the wild, while turtles can be seen on Lankayan Island between June and September.
During the rest of the year, Borneo experiences a tropical climate and the rains come to water the forest. It is hot and humid for most of the year, with temperatures averaging 27°C to 32°C and humidity usually at around 80%.
But, there is always somewhere to break up the trip, you can trek up Mount Kinabablu and be rewarded by stunning views and a cooling breeze, or head to the beaches for some swimming and world class snorkeling.
If you decide to travel to Borneo, April is really the best month.
Borneo can be visited as a destination in its own right or combined with Peninsular Malaysia.
There is a regular domestic flight service, so no particularly long drives are required. We’ll also provide you with private specialist guides who will have in-depth knowledge of the wildlife or culture of the region.
A trip to Borneo will usually feature boat journeys as this is the traditional method of travel along the networks of rivers, and we try to reflect this in our itineraries. Many operators to Borneo will base you in one particular beach resort and provide day trips to see something of the wildlife and culture.
Despite there being some very good beach and city accommodations, we encourage you to go off the beaten track and stay in some of the atmospheric jungle lodges. This provides a more authentic experience and allows wildlife to be viewed in the early morning and late afternoon, when sightings are at their best.
Bahasa Malaysia is the national and official language, but English is widely spoken. Other languages are Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Iban and other tribal dialects.
Food and drink
In multi-racial Malaysia, every type of cooking from Southeast Asia can be tasted. Malay food concentrates on subtleties of taste using a blend of spices, ginger, coconut milk and peanuts.
Sambal (a paste of ground chilli, onion and tamarind) is often used as a side dish.
Blachan (a dried shrimp paste) is used in many dishes and ikan bilis (dried anchovies) are one popular snack.
Popular Malay dishes include satay, which consists of a variety of meat, especially chicken, barbecued on small skewers with a spicy peanut dipping sauce and a salad of cucumber, onion and compressed rice cakes. The best sauce often takes several hours to prepare to attain its subtle flavor.
There are many regional types of Chinese cooking including Cantonese, Peking, Hakka, Sichuan and Taiwanese. Indian food is also popular, with curries ranging from mild to very hot.
Vegetarian food, chutneys and Indian breads are also available. Indonesian cuisine also combines the use of dried seafood and spiced vegetables with the Japanese method of preparation with fresh ingredients cooked to retain the natural flavor.
Japanese, Korean and Thai food are available in restaurants. Western food is served throughout the country, particularly in major hotels which have continental menus and international coffee shops.
Drink: Although the country is partly Islamic, alcohol is available. Local beers are Tiger and Anchor.
Tipping: 10% service charge and 5% government tax are included in bills. If you would like to reward good service we recommend tipping guides at around MYR25-30 per day and MYR15 per day for drivers per couple. Obviously this is a rough guide and you are completely free to give whatever you feel is appropriate. For porters in hotels we recommend that you give approximately MYR3.
Social conventions and etiquette
Malaysian Borneo’s population is a mixture of diverse cultures and characters. In general, the racial groups integrate, but keep to their individual traditions and lifestyles. Society tends to be governed by the authority of elders and a strong sense of respect and etiquette.
Hospitality is always warm, lavish and informal. Visitors should follow Malaysian example and respect religious beliefs, such as taking off footwear at the door and wearing appropriate clothing. Dress should be informal, but not over-casual.
Within towns, smoking has now become the subject of government disapproval and fines are levied in a number of public places.
You should avoid touching food with your left hand.
Shaking hands has become common place.
Enjoy your travels