Straddling the equator and dominated by luxuriant rainforests, Borneo is the world’s third-biggest island. Its territory is apportioned unevenly between the countries of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia. The two East Malaysian states Sabah and Sarawak lie in the north, surrounding Brunei, while the Indonesian state of Kalimantan occupies most of central and southern Borneo.
Borneo is hot and humid with a typically tropical climate. Sarawak receives an abundance of rainfall during the monsoon season between November and February each year, whereas the dry season generally occurs from May to October. The monsoon period should not deter visitors to the region as it brings respite from the tropical heat, though the wet season can be more encumbering for active and adventure holidays. Heavy rains may cause cancellation of flights and riverboat trips into remote regions, so the dry season is best for activities.
Borneo is a wildlife wonderland - the island is home to some of the world's rarest and most endangered wildlife species including the Bornean orangutan, Sumatran rhino, Bornean pygmy elephant, plus other curious species such as the large-nosed proboscis monkey and enormous-eyed western tarsier. There are thousands of unique flowering species there too, including the Rafflesia arnoldii, the world's largest flower a with metre-long diameter.
Borneo offers countless opportunities for other types of activities, whether you're a lover of culture, thrill-seeking adventurer or foodie fanatic. This colourful paradise combines relaxation and adventure with its idyllic beaches, scenic mountains and rich history.
Bornean food comprises three world-class cuisines - Malay, Indonesian, Chinese and Indian - with regional twists. Hawker markets offer opportunities to try a variety of dishes from the numerous stalls ranged around a central eating area - order enticing-looking treats from any stalls, take them to your table and tuck in.
Borneo has a full range of accommodation, from treetop lodges, budget hostels and small guesthouses, to luxury on-the-beach hotels. More intriguing options include Borneo’s ecolodge stays with the chance to see as many as nine primate species including crocodiles, butterflies and rare birds such as the Storms stork. It's advised that accommodation should be booked prior to travel.
Consult your GP or a travel health clinic for advice on inoculations and anti-malarial prophylaxis. Various biting bugs, leeches, parasites and venomous snakes are found in Borneo – particularly the jungles – so wear insect repellent, don’t walk barefoot and take sensible precautions to avoid bites and stings. Food hygiene is generally good and crime levels relatively low, but do take do take the usual common-sense precautions.
Sabah (Malaysian Borneo): Kota Kinabalu International Airport
Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo): Kuching International Airport
Balikpapan (Indonesian Borneo): Sepinggan International Airport
Pontianak (Indonesian Borneo): Supadio Airport
Barjarmasin (Brunei): Syamsudin Noor Airport
Domestic flights link all the regions of Borneo including Sabah, Sarawak, Balikpapan, Bajarmasin and Pontianak.
MASWings, AirAsia and Batavia Air provide regular services between the different areas of Borneo.
Air-conditioned express buses are the economical way to travel long distances within, and sometimes between, Borneo’s different states.
Ferry links between Labuan Island, Brunei, KK, Limbang and East Kalimantan are also an efficient way of exploring the Borneo states. Use the public express boats for fascinating journeys to coastal and inland towns such as along Rejang River or from Kuching East to Sibu.
Capitals of Borneo
Brunei: Bandar Seri Begawan
Kalimantan: Banjarmasin (South), Palangka Raya (Central), Pontianak (West), Samarinda (East)
Sabah: Kota Kinabalu
Kalimantan: 12 million
Sabah and Sarawak: 5 million
Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia
English is widely spoken
Malaysian ringgit (RM). Most outlets take major credit cards and ATMs are widely available. Tipping isn’t obligatory, but appreciated by porters, waiters and taxi drivers.
For the latest Borneo travel advice, check the Foreign & Commonwealth Office advice for Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia.
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