The Island of Borneo...
Just the name sounds exotic, intriguing.
Maybe even dangerous.
The Island of Borneo is actually divided between three Southeast Asian countries.
It is exotic, but we don’t think it’s dangerous.
Where is it?
What is it?
Should you travel there?
We went because just the name beckoned.
We went to the Island of Borneo because we wanted to see the Orangutans.
What we read hinted at elephants.... rhinos.... gibbons... proboscis monkeys.
And beyond wildlife.... giant rafflesia flowers....
Headhunters!... and... leeches? Yea, that too.
When we got there we discovered so much more....
Turtle Islands of Borneo,
the Kinabatangan River,
snorkeling and diving
wonderful people and interesting little cities.
Let's start with the geography.
The island of Borneo is located along the equator in South East Asia. It's south of the Philippines, north of Australia.
Borneo is not a country; the island is shared by Malaysia, Indonesia and the independent country of Brunei.
We went to the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, so we'll tell you about those.
We flew "straight" from San Francisco to Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu to Sandikan..... three flights in a row...
That's a long time flying and in transit... you might want to break it
We had no pre-arranged plans... We've had lots of practice, but it's not always the best way to see some of these more remote locations in the world.
We would suggest having plans in place when you arrive.
But... we did not have plans in place... we made arrangements on arrival, and that worked out just fine.
Green Sea Turtles
In Sandikan we were lucky and hooked up with an eco travel company that whisked us out to the turtle Islands of Borneo or Pelau Seligan.
We spent one night on Palau Seligan, the boated back to Sandikan where we finally paid for our expedition.
Sandikan is a convenient little town to use as a base for the visit to Pelau Seligan and the Sepilok Orangutan Reserve, a wildlife adventure to the Kinabatangan River, or the Danum Valley (we didn't get there, but we wish we had.... next trip!).
Caves and Markets
On the drive to catch the boat to our lodge on the Kinabatangan River, we visited caves to see where they harvest swallow's nests for birds nest soup and shopped in roadside markets for the druians and star fruit.
Monkeys and Orangutans
We boated to the Sakau River
Lodge where we DID see one orangutan in the wild and Proboscis Monkeys,
Langurs or Leaf Monkeys, and Long Tailed Macaques.
On the way back to Sandikan, we visited Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center and all of it's Orangutans.
Rafflesia and Head Hunters?
And those head hunters? We flew back to Kota Kinabalu.
Outside of Kota Kinabalu, we hiked with a guide to find one of the world's biggest flowers. He told us his tribe used to be headhunters, but all we hunted for with him was a Rafflesia in bloom.
The species of Rafflesia we saw wasn't the biggest variety, but it felt like an adventure none the less.
In Kuching in the state of Sarawak, we only had time to enjoy the city and do a little shopping. Kuching is a lively city with interesting history and good museums, native masks and art. It's also a great place to start out for a visit to an Iban long house. That's something else we'll have to save for another trip, along with the caves and orangutans here.
Borneo is a big island... and we didn't even begin to explore the Indonesian part or the Sultanate of Brunei.
Just what we saw kept us busy for a couple of weeks. The Island of Borneo really is exotic and intriguing. Give it some thought when you're planning your next adventure.
If you'd like to spend some time in Peninsular Malaysia, see what our friends at About Malaysia have to say. They have an informative website with lots of up-to-date facts. Nothing like hearing it from a local.