Westerners have long thought of Malaysian Borneo as an exotic adventure, with images of orangutans and headhunters lurking around in ancient rainforests coming from the pages of National Geographic magazines.
Today Malaysian Borneo (East Malaysia) is no longer the remote and hard-to-get-to place it once was. A range of airlines fly there and it has resorts to suit all budgets.
But before you go, be sure to pin down an itinerary because the island is huge. Malaysia shares Borneo with Indonesia and Brunei.
Here are some of the options available for your trip:
Orangutans: Playing with the orangutans at the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary can be an awesome experience. It’s a rehabilitation center than re-trains displaced primates for life back in the jungle. The sanctuary is 23 kilometers from Sandakan town, and can be reached by bus or taxi.
Headhunters: You will receive a traditional headhunters welcome at the Marut Longhouse in the Mari Mari Cultural village, see a demo on blowpipe making, and jump and dance on the built-in “lansaran” – a traditional trampoline-like floor. The village just a 25- minute drive from Kota Kinabulu.
A more well-known option is the Sarawak Cultural Museum in the foothills of Mount Santubong, located 35 kilometers from Kuching. It celebrates all things Borneo, including headhunters and longhouses, and is home to the annual Rainforest World Music Festival.
Mount Kinabalu: It’s worth the visit, whether or not you climb to the top, which is 4,095 meters above sea level. Guides and permits are required for the one-to-three night trek options to the peak, but it’s a relatively easy trek.
Sipadan: The legendary waters off Malaysian Borneo offer pristine views of some of the world’s finest coral and sealife, with dozens of dive sites. The best is Sipadan, which is simply one of the world’s best dive sites. It lies 35 kilometers off the coast of Sabah.
Kuching Cat Museum: For cat lovers, this museum has several thousand cat-related displays and memorabilia, including an Egyptian mummified cat. It’s located in Bukit Siol, Kuching, Sawawak.
Rainforests and national parks: If you want to explore the rainforests, there are several national parks to choose from. Sarawak’s largest is Gunung Mulu National Park, and is filled with caves and karst formations in a mountainous eqautorial setting.
Another mountainous rainforest is Gunung Gading National Park, located two hours from Kuching, Sarawak. It’s a great place to spot rafflesia flowers in bloom.
You can stay in an ecolodge. North Borneo has Sukau Rainforest Lodge, and the South has Rimba Orangutan Eco Lodges, which offers wooden boat rides.
Many islands: There’s Pulau Tiga, location of the very first season of “Survivor”. It’s beauty remains incredible.
Gaya Island is another gorgeous and popular choice, and Selingan Island has green and hawksbill turtles that come onto the beaches at night to lay eggs.
Kinabatangan River: You can take a cruise down the Kinabatangan River and see pygmy elephants walking along the shore. Image/Google Images