The worlds 3rd largest island and home to a variety of wildlife, Borneo is a popular destination for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts. Boreno is divied into 2 States - Sarawak & Sabah. Each has their own highlights and attractions and it is worth visiting both.
Borneo is fast becoming a popular family destination, not only to see the wildlife and lush tropical rainforest; it is gaining its rightful place as one of the top diving site in the world. Borneo also boasts of white sandy beaches and world class resorts to make it a sought-after beach holiday destination. Year-round sunshine and a relaxed atmosphere add to the fun.
Borneo is the place in South East Asia where you can find such a combination of nature and wildlife that are guaranteed to be seen in such a short time and it is truly a round trip not to be missed by anyone who is nature minded. Sandakan in Borneo has been described as a place with the highest concentration of wildlife in Borneo, Malaysia and indeed South East Asia. You can see orang-utan being fed in the forest, sea turtles coming on the shore to lay their eggs, unique proboscis monkeys gather by the riverbank every night, edible bird nest limestone caves, the highest mountain in South East Asia and its collection of native orchids and rhododendrons and appreciate the tropical rainforest from a canopy walkway.
Shopping may not be such a huge experience in Borneo but you can see a fantastic variety in traditional handicrafts of wooden carvings, Ikat weaving and bead ware. You can also visit Sunday Market in Kota Kinabalu and a very interesting Filipino flea market. Borneo or rather whole of Malaysia is a melting pot of various cultures and religions – Malay, Indian, Chinese and scores of ethnic tribes, each community has its influence on the traditions, day-to-day life and mainly food. Borneo is very different than what we see every day and therefore, it is important for you to prepare yourself for the initial culture shock
This information has been compiled for your reference in good faith but please use this only as a general guide. We advise you to check with relevant authorities with regard to the latest requirement for passport, visa, travel advisory, entry restrictions, health requirements, local currency etc. as these are subjected to change with without prior notice and our information given below may not be as updated.
Best time to go: Borneo is year-round destination – there is not really a “best time”. It’s hot and humid all the time and it can rain any time of the year though main monsoon time is between November to February when it generally rains in short but heavy bursts followed by a bright sun. During this time, there can be floods, causing some low lying resorts to close business for a while. Chinese New Year (generally early February), Hari Raya Festival (during Feb or March) and Christmas holidays are generally very busy periods when Hotels enjoy very high occupancy. Hotels are either fully booked for these dates or they charge a supplement to confirm accommodation.
Visa: New Zealand passport holders do not require a Visa to enter Malaysia. Entry Stamp for 30 days is given free of charge on arrival. Please ensure that your passport is valid for at least 6 months from the expected date of departure of Malaysia. Please check with Malaysian Consulate for more details.
Currency: Being a part of Malaysia, Borneo also has Ringgit as their currency. You can change New Zealand Dollars at Hotels as you will require Ringgits for cash transactions at all places. Hotels, big stores and few restaurants accept major credit cards.
Health: Borneo does not have any particular health risk but general hygienic conditions are not the same as in New Zealand. There are a few precautions recommended – avoid eating food exposed to natural elements, ensure that mineral water bottle is properly sealed when you buy it, cover arms and legs in the evening to avoid mosquito bites. Travellers taking jungle visits or trek to Mount Kinabalu should be of good health and well prepared for rather basic conditions. Carry your general medication with you and consult your doctor well in advance to prepare for the trip.
Food and Drinks: Mineral water is recommended but please ensure that it’s properly sealed before you buy it. Malaysia being multi-cultural society, Borneo offers a wide variety of food ranging from spicy curries from India, Cantonese or Sichuan style of Chinese dishes, dried seafood and spiced vegetables from Indonesia, Japanese flavours with fresh ingredients. American, Thai, Korean, Spanish, Italian and French restaurants are also popular in Borneo. Borneo has an amazing selection of tropical fruits available – fresh coconut, pineapple, banana, papaya, mango, and guava – to name a few but we suggest that you buy the fruit that you can peel off – to be on the safer side. Eating at night markets are also recommended where, besides tasting local Malay cuisine, you also get a chance to interact with locals.
Safety & security: Like in any other part of the world, a few precautions need to be taken to avoid any problems. Please do not leave your bags unattended at any times. Please use safe deposit in your hotel room or Reception to keep your money or valuables including passport. When you leave the room, it is recommended that you lock your suitcase. It is also recommended to carry a copy of your passport including the visa page.
Clothing: Malaysian, though quite modern, is a Muslim country and we urge you to respect their local traditions. You can dress casually – t-shirts and shorts at most places, please avoid revealing dress or overly casual dress in public. Please keep the shoulders covered and while visiting mosques during sightseeing, you will be required to cover your legs and arms as well.
Borneo has a warm equatorial climate year-round, hence light clothes are recommended. Please take good walking shoes with non-slip sole as you will be required to walk frequently during your sightseeing programs and sometimes on uneven surface. Travellers going for trekking or snorkelling should be prepared accordingly.
Language: Official language of Borneo is Malay but English is widely spoken.
Gratuities: Service charge is included in all bills in the restaurants, hence tipping is not required. . For your local guide and the driver, we can recommend a tip of USD 4.00 per person each per half day of service. To the Hotel Bell Boys, USD 2.00 on arrival or departure is sufficient.
Airport tax: There is a, airport tax of RM 45 pp payable directly on international departure. Domestic taxes are included in the air tickets issued by our local operators.
Internet: Internet is common in hotel rooms and a lot of hotels also have internet facilities at their Reception or Business Centre for use by guests at a small fee. Cyber cafes are popular and can be found near your Hotel.
Telephone: Mobile network covers the cities, coverage in the country-side is quite erratic. Dialling code for Malaysia is +60 and if you are calling New Zealand from Malaysia, the code is +64. Telephone numbers of Hotels arranged by us will be supplied to you in your itinerary. It is recommended to buy a mobile SIM card on arrival if you need to be in touch with people back home.
Time Difference: Borneo is 4 hours behind New Zealand from April to September and 5 hours from October to March.
Photography: Taking photos of airports, government buildings and military establishments are prohibited. If you are taking photos of local ladies, please politely ask for prior permission.
Electricity: Voltage supply in Borneo is 220 volts and square 3-pin plugs are used. Few Hotels have adapters available which you could borrow during your stay but it might be a good idea to carry one from home. Please visit this website for more information on plugs: http://kropla.com/electric2.htm
CITIES OF INTEREST
Borneo is divided into 2 States - Sabah & Sarawak.
Sabah (Kota Kinabalu & Sandakan)
The Land Below The Wind – Located on the north eastern tip of the island of Borneo, with its rich cultural heritage, lush tropical islands, dense rain forests and mountain ranges, Sabah offers traveller an idyllic retreat within easy reach of Asia’s major cities. While in Sabah, travellers can explore Mt. Kinabalu; see caves where edible bird’s nests are gathered; go on a river cruise to watch the unique Proboscis monkey with its long pendulous red nose; visit Orang-utans or marvel at nesting sea turtles. This great East Malaysian state on Borneo Island is naturally endowed with endless beaches and bays, ancient rainforests and amazing plants and animals, and the sacred Mt Kinabalu.
Kota Kinabalu lies under the watchful eye of Mount Kinabalu and is the bustling and colourful gateway to Sabah. KK, as it is locally known, has many places of interest. Major shopping malls are located along the main artery of the city, and you can find just about anything from branded goods to local handicrafts. Recreational activities include diving or snorkelling in the crystal clear waters of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, a mere 15mins from the city by ferry. Visit Signal Hill Observatory, with its magnificent views of the city; the State Mosque and the Likas Bird Sanctuary; or wander through the fascinating State Museum.
Sandakan is a town on the east coast of Sabah, facing the Sulu Sea. It is a town rich in historical sites and a gateway to many eco-tourism destinations. With the different nationalities of early settlers and traders, Sandakan was rich with early traces of foreign cultures. Places of interest in Sandakan include the Puu Gih Jih Chinese Temple – a majestic temple erected on top of a hill facing Sandakan Bay; St Michael and All Angels Cathedral, erected in late 19th century and one of the oldest stone buildings in Sabah. Other places of interest that can be visited are the world famous Sepilok Orang-utan Sanctuary, world’s oldest and largest Orang-utan Rehabilitation centre, which is located just 26 km from Sandakan. The Sandakan Crocodile Farm located on the Labuk Road near the Sepilok Orang-utan Sanctuary is also a major attraction.
Another spectacular attraction are the Gomantong Caves, situated 32 km south of Sandakan, the marvellous Caves are home to hundreds of thousands of swifts. They build their nests high on cave walls and roofs. Twice a year, nest collectors come to the caves and climb on tall bamboo poles to collect the nests, which are considered a delicacy. Besides swifts, the caves are also inhabited by millions of bats, which have become a spectacular sight to many tourists.
Sarawak (Miri & Mulu)
Sarawak is Borneo's largest state located on the northwestern side of the island. Tha capital city of Kutching is warm and invting and the gateway to the many places of interest and activities in the area.
Miri is an oil town located on the northern coast of Sarawak. Was once home to a large western expatriate community working for Sarawak Shell, Petronas Carigal and associated contractors. This led to the establishment of a lively bar and nightclub scene during the oil boom years. There have been a lot of significant infrastructure developments over the last few years. A favourite weekend spot for Bruneians who take the opportunity of finishing work early Friday to head over the newly opened Baram Bridge to spend their petro-dollars in the shopping malls and entertainment venues, Miri is a vibrant town with much to offer for Borneo residents.
By itself, Miri city has much to offer to travellers with spectacular diving paradises, breath taking national parks, frequent festivals and international events, multiracial and multicultural festive seasons, and plenty of delicious food. It also plays an important role as a transport hub for northern Sarawak, where interconnecting flights to the rural hinterlands of Borneo is crucial and available mainly from Miri. The city is the gateway to the Gunung Mulu National Park, which is a World Heritage Site, and the Kelabit Highlands of the interior of Sarawak. The Niah Cave, where it contains one of the oldest human remains in South East Asia, is located about 100km away. For eco-tourists it is the gateway to the famous Mulu Caves and the rainforests of Central Sarawak.
In Mulu, the heart of wondrous Borneo, you will be amazed by the rainforest around you. In the humid heat, plant life flourishes everywhere. Many thousands of species of ferns, mosses and flowering plants along with thousands of species of fungi thrive in this complex habitat. Considering Mulu’s spectacular scenery and its biological significance, it was not surprising that Mulu was successfully listed as a World Heritage site in November 2000.
Spectacular equatorial rainforest spanning 52,000 hectares present visitors to Gunung Mulu World Heritage Area with an outstanding diversity of flora and fauna. This is home to many fauna species from the world’s smallest mammal the Savi Pigmy Shrew to some of the largest insects on Earth. In the dense foliage secretive macaques, bearded pig, moon rats hide, blending in so well that we rarely see them.
Mulu’s concentration of caves, its geomorphic and structural characteristics are an outstanding resource, which allows a greater understanding of Earth’s history. You can also closely observe the various ethnic groups native this region – Lun Bawang, Murut and Iban to the north, Kelabit in the south east, Begawan and Penan to the south and some nomadic Penan within the boundaries of the park; all have lived in this rainforest since time began. Here in the mountains the local people are known as Orang Ulu, ‘up river’ people. They are a diverse group of many cultures – Kayan, Kenyah, Berawan, Penan, with a remarkable understanding of the rainforest, they have used for generations for their food, medicines, tool making and building shelters. Today this deep connection to the land still exists in the heart of the people of Mulu.