Borneo Holidays: An Overview

One of the most alluring destinations in the Far East, the island of Borneo offers an unparalleled diversity of activities and cultures, and is a destination in its own right, even when not combined with mainland Malaysia. The two Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak are comprised of dense rain forest, unique fauna and flora, white sandy beaches and remote islands. The island is also home to the wonderful and rare Orangutans.

Miranda, Katie and Carrie are here to help give you the inside track.

Why we think you’ll love it

  • Sabah and Sarawak are primarily known for the natural wonders of their national parks, lush rainforests, endemic fauna and flora, beautiful sandy beaches, and idyllic islands

Luxury Borneo Holidays: The Detail

Sabah

Kota Kinabalu is the usual point of entry and from here, one instant focal point is the brooding presence of Mt Kinabalu, which at 13,500ft is the highest peak in Southeast Asia. Despite its height, the mountain makes for a challenging but eminently achievable climb involving an overnight stay on the mountainside. The mountain dominates the surrounding landscape of Kinabalu National Park, home to some of the richest flora in the world. As you climb the mountain, you pass through a variety of ecosystems, ranging from tropical forest at the bottom to cool alpine meadows at the top.

Further afield, the creatures the island is most famous for are the so called 'men of the jungle', or orangutans. These apes can be seen at the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, located in an area of virgin equatorial rainforest. Sadly, this is one of only a few places remaining on Earth where this endangered species can be viewed. Borneo's rainforests also contain a stunning biodiversity of other plant and animal life, and the forest itself is some of the most ancient on the planet, far older than the equatorial forests of the Amazon or the Congo.

For marine wildlife, the island of Lankayan has some of the best dive sites in the region, and Selingan Island is a favourite nesting place for giant turtles that travel hundreds of miles to lay their eggs on the same beach they were hatched on years before. Altogether, it would be difficult to overstate the attraction of Borneo for anyone with a passion for the natural world.

Sarawak

Malaysian Borneo is a melting pot of ethnic tribal groups, including the once-fearsome Headhunters of the Iban tribe and the Bidayuh people. Many Iban and Bidayuh people still inhabit traditional 'longhouses' which consist of a wide communal corridor lined with doors leading to private living quarters housing each family. They are still a feature of many villages in Malaysian Borneo and we can arrange a night to be spent sleeping in a longhouse during your holiday. Sarawak was also the setting for a curious episode of colonial history - once been ruled by the Brooke family, known as the 'White Rajahs' - for over a century prior to Malaysia's independence.

The state of Sarawak is known as 'Land of the Hornbills' in reference to the many species of beautiful Hornbill birds that inhabit the region. The regal Rhinocerous Hornbill in particular is an auspicious emblem for the Iban tribe. Birding aside, the Semenggok Orangutan sanctuary provides an opportunity to see the beautiful, endangered orangutan in close proximity, while the Bako National Park is home to all manner of wildlife, from the endemic Proboscis monkey, to grey languar, pit vipers and wild boar.

The other feather in Sarawak's beautifully plumed cap is the Mulu National Park. Mulu is home to the second largest cave in the world; it held the world's largest title until Vietnam's Hang Son Doong swiped the title early in the 21st century. Spend days exploring the caves on foot and by boat, and marvelling bats of Deer Cave - over 3 million exit the cave at dusk daily.


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A note on price

There is a great deal to do in Malaysia, and there are some fantastic hotels to stay in too. For two weeks, prices start from around £3,500 per person, including flights. Learn more about our pricing

Weather in January January February March April May June July August September October November December
  • Average Temp. — 31°C / 87°F
  • Rainfall — 16cm / 6.5 inches
Flight from London

12:45 hrs

Time Difference

GMT +8 hrs


Top picks for Borneo

 Shangri-La Tanjung Aru

Shangri-La Tanjung Aru

Borneo

For sheer ease of access alone this resort hotel is worth considering. Just ten minutes from Kota Kinabalu Airport Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru is also within easy reach of the city centre and several pristine coral islands.

Where to stay

Gaya Island Resort

Gaya Island Resort

Borneo

Gaya Island Resort is a luxury resort on the little known Pulau Gaya, the largest of a cluster of five islands that form the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. Gone are the days where visitors to the island had to settle for a rustic beach hut, Gaya Island Resort has set the precedent for hotels in one of Original Travel’s favourite destinations.

Where to stay

Tabin Wildlife Reserve

Tabin Wildlife Reserve

Borneo

Reconnect with nature in a private eco-resort of just 20 bungalows nestled in Malaysia’s largest wildlife reserve, and by large we mean twice the size of Singapore. Tabin Wildlife Reserve occupies an expansive area of dipterocarpaceae rainforest in the eastern part of Sabah, and is coloured in beautifully diverse flora and fauna.

Where to stay

Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa

Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa

Borneo

Amid lush grounds on the shores of the South China Sea, Bunga Raya Resort & Spa is everything and more when you picture when considering Borneo. Surrounded by nature, this is a jungle-meets-beach retreat.

Where to stay

Shangri-La Rasa Ria

Shangri-La Rasa Ria

Borneo

The resort is set beside the beautiful Pantai Dalit beach, north of Kota Kinabalu, and surrounded by lush tropical forest.

Where to stay

Lankayan Island

Lankayan Island

Borneo

Lankayan is a tiny island in the Sulu Sea, off the northeast coast of Borneo, reached by a one-and-a-half-hour boat ride from Sandakan, sitting within a vast Marine Protected Area.

Where to stay

Well it really is back to earth with a bump after our fabulous holiday. Thank you very much for all your hard work. It really was a dream holiday.

Jane

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