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.
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.
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 to lay their eggs. Altogether, it would be difficult to overstate the attraction of Borneo for anyone with a passion for the natural world.
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.