Borneo, a giant, rugged island in Southeast Asia’s Malay Archipelago, is shared by the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, Indonesian Kalimantan and the tiny nation of Brunei. It’s known for its beaches and ancient, biodiverse rainforest, home to wildlife including orangutans and clouded leopards. In Sabah is 4,095m-tall Mount Kinabalu, the island’s highest peak, and, offshore, the famed dive site Sipadan Island.
WHERE TO STAY
Gaya Island Resort
Nestled among mangroves on Malohom Bay in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, this posh island beach resort overlooks the South China Sea.
Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa
Set on an 18-hole championship golf course, this luxe beachfront resort is 39 km from Kota Kinabalu International Airport.
Gayana Eco Resort
On a secluded island, this high-end resort overlooking the sea is located in Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. It’s a 6-minute walk from the Marina Ecology Research Centre.
The Pacific Sutera Hotel
This elegant resort is nestled between the Sutera Harbour Marina and the Sutera Harbour Golf & Country Club.
THINGS TO DO
Swim with turtles in Sipadan
To get a deeper understanding of what lies in these waters, book a diving trip. It’s no surprise the site is renowned as one of the best diving spots in Malaysia, and is among the best in the world. Take the plunge for a chance to swim amongst thousands of barracuda, mantra rays, eagle rays and mating hawksbill turtles. There’s also a plethora of sharks, including hammerhead, reef, and whale sharks. If you want to experience this diving paradise, bear in mind that only 120 people are allowed to visit this uninhabited island a day.
Climb Malaysia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site
Standing majestically at 4,095m above sea level, Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea. It is also one of the most accessible, with well-maintained paths, and the world’s highest via ferrata at 3776m above sea level. The mountain is a jungle-clad botanist’s Mecca. Not only are there 5,000 species of plants here, but 1,200 varieties of orchids and a carpet of the largest mosses in the world.
Picnic with the Penan
If you are looking for a genuine experience in the jungle with local people, this one is exceptional. The Penan, once a truly nomadic tribe, know exactly how to live in harmony with the forest. You’ll need to take a light aircraft flight to Long Lellang, deep in the rainforest and maybe a boat journey in a dug-out canoe.
Head up river
It is a land of pygmy elephants and proboscis monkeys and traditional tribesmen. Your best chance of seeing the smallest elephants in Asia as well as Borneo’s other beautiful wildlife is by booking a river tour. Cruise along the Kinabatangan, scouring the river banks for monitor lizards, crocodiles, and even orangutans. Turn your head skyward for sightings of hornbills and kingfishers.
WHERE TO DINE
Kedai Kopi Yee Fung
Brass Monkey Cafe & Bar