By Times travel writer James Ellis
They say ‘it’s a jungle out there’ and nowhere is that more true than on Borneo, the third biggest island in the world. Straddling the equator in Southeast Asia and covered in lush rain forest, Borneo is an adventure lover’s paradise with incredible dive sites, towering mountains, and diverse wildlife including orang-utans and clouded leopards. Play your cards right and you can get three countries for the price of one: the island consists of the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, the oil-rich and alcohol-free Sultanate of Brunei, and Indonesia’s Kalimantan.
Book Borneo early
Grab a couple of pens and a notebook to tick off all the wildlife you’ll spot with a visit to the Borneo Rainforest Lodge, a luxury hotel in a gorgeous rainforest setting by the Danum River. The Danum Valley Conservation Area covers a whopping 43,800 hectares and is home to 340 species of birds, 124 species of mammals, 72 species of reptiles, 56 species of amphibians and a staggering 200 types of plant per hectare. You’ll still be making notes by the time the sundowners arrive.
Scale new heights on Mount Kinabalu
A literal highlight of a trip to Borneo is the chance to climb iconic Mount Kinabalu. From a towering 4,095m, it dominates the Sabah skyline and is surrounded by the lush Kinabalu Park, a World Heritage Site. Treks start early in the morning with an evening stop at base camp to bed down, before a bleary-eyed morning rise. The final hike is timed to make the summit in time for sunrise… an experience that will stay with you for a long, long time.
Proboscis monkeys and pigmy elephants
You’ve not truly been to Borneo without setting eyes upon the famed proboscis monkeys, a species that is unique to the island. With their large noses and pot bellies, they are known locally as orang belanda – the Indonesian for Dutchman. Apparently, the locals thought Dutch colonial types had similar sized hooters and tummies.
Cruise captivating caves
Take a long shore-side hike or a gentle boat trip down the Melinau River to find Clearwater Cave – at 107 km in length, it’s Asia’s longest cave. Home to stalactites, stalagmites, flow rocks and rock corals, it’s easy to get around thanks to plank walks, paths and small floating bridges over a river that flows through it. Take a picnic in the picnic area and cool of before the return journey with a dip in the crystal clear waters of a natural swimming pool fed by river water.
Browse our suggested tours of Borneo.