Borneo travel guide, including map of Borneo, Borneo travel advice and when to go to Borneo, plus guide to Borneo wildlife and trekking
Straddling the equator and dominated by luxuriant rain forests, 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 the rich Islamic Sultanate of Brunei, while the Indonesian state of Kalimantan occupies most of central and southern Borneo.
The island boasts remote jungle beauty, tropical adventure and tribal cultures, and is home to half of all known plant and animal species in the world. This wildlife wonderland has orang-utans, the Sumatran rhino, the Bornean pygmy elephant and thousands of unique flowering species. A colourful paradise combining relaxation and adventure with its idyllic beaches, scenic mountains and rich culture.
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. Only eat with your right hand.
The thumb or whole hand should be used to indicate something, or to wave down a taxi.
Especially outside urban areas, and more so in the conservative Muslim north, women should dress respectfully by covering shoulders and legs. The ideal is baggy clothing; loose trousers with a modest long-sleeved tunic or baggy shirt is fine.
Borneo is hot and humid with a typically tropical climate. Sarawak receives an abundance of rainfall during the monsoon 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.
Kota Kinabalu International Airport – Sabah, Kuching International Airport – Sarawak, Sepinggan International Airport - Balikpapan, Syamsudin Noor Airport – Barjarmasin, Supadio Airport – Pontianak
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.
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 is advised that accommodation should be booked prior to travel.
Borneon food comprises of three world-class dishes; Malay, Chinese and Indian, and has a hugely varied national menu. Even within each ethnic cuisine, there is a vast choice.
Indian influences can be divided into two schools; North Indian dishes are subtly spiced using more meat and served with a range of breads. South Indian dishes use fiery spices, emphasise vegetables and are served with rice. The most popular North Indian food is tandoori, which is served with delicious naan bread or roti (chapatti).
The Kadazan – the largest ethnic group in Sabah tend to use mango in their Sabahan food, which can be on the sour side.
Malay food is rich and creamy due to use of coconut milk. Malay curries are flavoursome with the use of herbs and spices including chilli, ginger, tumeric, Coriander, lemongrass, cloves, cumin and cinnamon. The best Malay food is usually found at stalls in hawker centres.
The Chinese cuisine in Borneo consists mainly of seafood, chicken, rice and noodles. Good Chinese food is available in restaurants and coffee shops. Regional dishes like Hainanese chicken rice and dim sum are mouth-watering.
Soft drinks, mineral water, and freshly squeezed juices are widely available. Malaysian brewed guinness and tiger beers are very popular. One of the most interesting cultural refinements of the Indian Muslim community is the Mamak man, who is framed for the Tarik (pulled tea), which is thrown across the distance of about a metre, from one cup to another, with no spillages.
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 of Borneo – 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.
Verdant and teeming with life, rainforests host more than 50% of earth’s animals and plants. For travellers, they are full of adventure, beauty and unforgettable wildlife encounters More
Impenetrable rainforests, rare wildlife, and diverse culture – the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo are perfect for adventure and nature lovers alike... More
From trekking in Nepal and safaris in Africa, to experiencing Japanese culture and chasing the northern lights in Sweden, these amazing family holidays are bound to give your kids a love of travel More
Seeing a creature in its natural habitat is one of the greatest moments in travel: here's your guide to finding, tracking, and encountering the most magnificent species on Earth... More
Whether you want to meet orangutans, cruise the Kinabatangan River, or hike through Borneo’s pristine rainforest, these are Sabah's most wild and wonderful places to stay... More
Borneo is a land of untouched rainforest, epic rivers and amazing wildlife. Award-winning guide Kevin Albin reveals how to avoid the honeypots, starting with sun bears – his personal passion More
Photographer Chris Rauch travelled deep into rural Borneo to capture its most charismatic locals on film – including orangutans, proboscis monkeys, kingfishers and more More
Add an exciting twist to your trip to Borneo – maybe a vast cave system, one of the world’s rarest leopards, or an epic jungle railway journey. Come to see the orangutans, but experience so much more More
From epic desert landscapes to intimate wildlife encounters, these trips are tailormade to capture the romance of adventure travel and provide plenty of memorable romantic moments More
From the snow-bound rocks of Japan's 'Hell's Valley' to the ripe jungles of Borneo and Belize, here are nine destinations for a really wild encounter... More
The world is a classroom and travel is a great teacher. Nichola West reveals the destinations that will engage, delight and educate your child in ways they will never forget More
It’s one of nature's most awe-inspiring sights: clouds of bats heading off to feed, silhouetted against colourful sunsets. From Zambia to Texas, here's where to witness this spectacle More
Borneo is one of the world’s great wildlife frontiers – home to rare creatures and epic landscapes. These trips will take you to its wild heart and give you the chance to help its endangered species too More
From walking with polar bears to swimming with humpbacks, these wonderful wildlife experiences, as picked by travel bloggers, including Johnny Jet and The Planet D, will stay with you forever... More
Malaysia's biggest state is home to the Iban - the most feared of Borneo's headhunters. But with times changing, can travellers still find an authentic Iban experience among the traditional longhouses? More
We talk tribes and Tawai with explorer Bruce Parry after his latest film project across India, Borneo and the Amazon. Find out the importance of indigenous people and how merging solutions can help society More
Ahead of World Animal Day (Oct 4), leading wildlife photographers, including Brian Skerry, Angela Scott and Peter Eastway, pick their favourite countries for photographing lions, gorillas and more... More
We all want authentic interactions and a local’s grasp of the cultures we encounter when travelling. Wendy Wu Tours’ new collection of trips do just that, helping you experience the real Asia… More
Make this Christmas one your kids will never forget by booking an exciting, exotic family holidays across the globe. If you're thinking of spending the festive season abroad, now is the time book More
We asked 11 famous folks, including Brian Cox, Kate Humble and De La Soul, the destinations that top their ‘To Do Before I Die’ list. From Borneo to Korea, these are their answers, and the clear favourite is…? More
Wanderlust subscribers now receive a free £50 voucher valid on trips from a great selection of top tour operators
And the best bit is, this isn't a one-off offer, you get one every time you renew as well!
The £50 discount can be redeemed against one trip booking with one of our tour operator partners, by the expiry date printed on the voucher. The £50 can even be redeemed on top of any discounts our partners are already offering, ensuring Wanderlust subscribers get the best deal possible.
Simply quote your unique voucher code when booking to claim the discount. This offer is only available to Wanderlust subscribers.
UK subscribers automatically receive the voucher each year. Overseas subscribers receive it upon request.
Perfect for... Active types and nature lovers who want a real adventure.
Perfect for... Nature lovers, willing castaways, and anyone wants a relaxing introduction to beautiful Malaysia and Borneo.
The Great Projects
Create enrichment for orangutans and sun bears at the world renowned Samboja Lestari rescue centre. Help to rehabilitate and improve the lives of these beautiful animals!
Perfect for... People who want to experience Borneo off the beaten track, before relaxing on beautiful Gaya Island.
Sign up today for free and be the first to get notified of new articles, new competitions, new events and more!