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What to see in Borneo Malaysia + Brunei in 16 days!

Borneo is a giant island in the Malay archipelago, shared by the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, the Indonesian region of Kalimantan, and the small nation of Brunei.

It is known for its beaches and its ancient biodiverse tropical forest that is home to wildlife such as orangutans and clouded leopards. You will not lack places to know and visit in Borneo. If you are thinking of getting to know the whole island, the ideal is to dedicate about 10 days to it. You can also combine it with Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Cameron Highlands... and complete your route with other essential places in Malaysia.

If you don't know how to combine a tour of Malaysia, you can see our Malaysia and Brunei itinerary on the blog.


In this post I will tell you what the island is like, how to get there, what to see in Borneo, both the Malaysian part and Brunei, how to get around the island and some travel tips that I hope you find useful. I will add links that will take you to other articles to further complement the information.



Borneo is still a natural and very authentic paradise, although little by little, the palm plantations on the island are getting larger and are literally eating all its flora, fauna and natural jewels. These plantations are located in the Malaysian part. And as you go around the island, they find them along the way. It is perfectly appreciated how entire forests and jungles have been destroyed to make plantations.


Orangutans are one of the great attractions of Borneo, and the goal of most people who live on the island is to be able to find them and see them in complete freedom. Fewer and fewer specimens remain in the wild, yet the government of Borneo and various associations fight to preserve the species.


In Borneo there are nature reserves where they live in freedom, and rehabilitation centers whose purpose is to rehabilitate them to return to their natural environment. It is very sad to know that due to the commercialization and elimination of their forests, to make palm plantations, they are running out of natural habitats.

Borneo also has several paradisiacal islands where you can enjoy diving, snorkeling, its beaches...


So I won't get involved anymore and I'll tell you about all those places in Borneo that are worth visiting.



WHAT TO SEE IN BORNEO, MALAYSIA


In Borneo, the Malay part is divided into two regions, Sabah and Sarawak.

The Sabah region is the most visited, as it has a wide variety of places to visit. Although you do have a few days, it is worth combining the two regions and including Brunei. To get to know the two regions in full, you will have to spend a lot of time on your trip. The distances are not short. You can also choose some places from each region and make your own cocktail. Keep reading that I tell you what to see in each region.

At the end I add the circuit that you can do and how to do it.


What to see in Sabah


This region of Malay Borneo is located in the northeast of the island. It has an autonomous political regime and to move from one area to another, at the airport you will have to go through passport control and an entry stamp again.



Semporna Archipelago


It is one of the best places to enjoy beach and marine nature in Malaysia. And even if you are not one of those who love to dive, here you can enjoy snorkeling, bathing in crystal clear waters, sunbathing and relaxing in a natural environment like no other.


The Semporna archipelago, with Sipadan in the lead, is one of the best places in the world to enjoy underwater nature. If you don't dive, don't worry, snorkeling there is more than enough reason to get to these islands.


You can make routes by boat, or speedboat and get to know the natural islands near the coast of Borneo. Cool islands to visit: Pulau Timbun Mata, Pulau Bodgaya, Pulau Bohidulong and Pulau Bum Bum.




Sandakan

The city of Sandakan with its beautiful Bay, where it is a good option to stay when you are touring this area. The city itself does not have many impressive places. I recommend you to visit the Puu Jih Syh Temple. The most remarkable are the natural areas that are close to the city. In the city there is also the Turtle Island Park, we could not visit it. But it is a nature reserve that is responsible for preserving the species of turtles in the area, controlling the laying of eggs... It looks like a nice project, so if you visit it, tell me about your experience.



Sepilok


Sepilok is located near the city of Sandakan. It is a protected nature reserve, where they have an orangutan rehabilitation center.

Twice a day, the orangutans are fed with fruit by the keepers of this center and if you arrive at meal times, you can enjoy this moment.

They leave the food on a platform, and they come closer to eat. There are some platforms in the form of viewpoints for tourists.

Although it may seem like a show and it is still a kind of zoo, going to Sepilok, you realize what is really happening with the orangutans in Malaysia and that they are in serious danger of extinction.

The entire enclosure is a jungle, with trees, vines and trails with paths and hanging bridges. There is also a place for bears, as they also suffer from deforestation on the island of Borneo.




What to see in Sarawak


Sarawak is the most southwestern region of the island of Borneo (Malay zone). It has, like Sabah, a different autonomous status than that which exists in mainland Malaysia. Although it is Malaysia, it is still far from the center of power that Kuala Lumpur means, and that is why they enjoy a special autonomy.



Kuching


Kuching is the capital of Sarawak and the largest city in Malaysia on Borneo.

A stop in Kuching is a must on your trip to Borneo.


The Waterfront or promenade along the Sarawak River is a place that is always lively, both day and night, and if you come to Kuching you cannot miss it. From this you can see some of the most emblematic places in the city such as the Assembly of Sarawak, Astana or the Kampung Boyan.

From here you can take walks, bike rides and there are even several boats to take rides on the river.

In the city there are several areas of street restaurants, bazaars, and areas with a lot of atmosphere.


Semenggoh


Not far from Kuching is the Semenggoh Nature Reserve. It is another place where you can enjoy seeing orangutans. Unlike Sepilok, here almost all orangutans were born within the reserve, and live freely within it.


Mount Santubong


Mount Santubong is a very popular trek on the Santubong Peninsula.

It is a place of pilgrimage, and it is not an easy trek, you have to have a certain physical shape. But it consists of two treks, one easy and the other more difficult. So you can decide which one to do.

Throughout the trek you cross jungle trails, you reach spectacular viewpoints and of course the views from above make the climb worthwhile.



Damai


Damai is located near Kuching and near Mount Santubong.

Damai is a perfect place to make a stop and a few days of relaxation on the beach. It is popular with local tourists, although there are also many foreigners who come here to make a break. (Although I personally prefer the shores of the Sabah region).



Bako National Park


Bako National Park is one of the essential stops to make in Sarawak, and one of the most visited places in this Malaysian region of Borneo.

In this park you can see the proboscis monkeys.

In this park there are many treks to do of different difficulties. Some of which end up on idyllic beaches, yes, bathing is prohibited due to the presence of crocodiles. Even so, the place is spectacular and it is worth dedicating a day to this Park.

You can go from beach to beach using the boats of the local boatmen. The tours are very cheap and it is a way to get to know the different places in the park through the sea.

In this area there are few accommodation options, and if you go in high season you will have to book well in advance. Although it is not very far from Kunching, so you can go from the city.




Gunung Mulu National Park


Gunung Mulu National Park is one of the coolest in Borneo. Apart from the fauna and vegetation that it has, similar to the other National Parks in Malaysia, this park is famous for its caves. Immense caves, full of stalactites and where you can make several excursions through underground tunnels.

I tell you much more about what you can do in the Gunung Mulu National Park in the post:



WHAT TO SEE IN BORNEO, BRUNEI


Brunei is a small independent nation on the Island of Borneo. It is famous for its beaches and the biodiversity of its rain forest, largely protected within reserves.

The capital is Bandar Seri Begawan, which offers many places to visit.

To get to know the most essential places in Brunei, you can spend at least 3 days.

I tell you what you can see and do in Brunei in the post:



BORNEO TOUR; MALAYSIA AND BORNEO in 16 days


Normally I like to detail the itineraries as much as possible, and you can download many of these itineraries in PDF. In this case, I am quickly including the itinerary that I recommend (I have subtracted a few more days from this route that we spent on the island getting to know other places, but I do not find them essential).


On this tour we took a rental car at some times and internal flights. I leave several links for you to find offers.


Day 1: We arrive in the morning from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching airport. With what we had time to visit the city. Flight deals in Malaysia. + Night in Kuching. Although the city is one of the most important in Borneo, it is not very big and you will be able to see all the emblematic places with a full day.


Day 2: We get up early to go to Semenggoh and visit the park in the morning. At lunchtime, we take the road again to reach Damai. Semenggoh is only 30 minutes from Kuching, we took a taxi agreeing on the price of a full day. There is the option of going by bus, but since we were going in a group, in the end we preferred to go by taxi and go on our own. In the afternoon we take advantage of enjoying the beach and resting in Damai. + Night in Damai.


Day 3: Bako National Park or Mount Santubong. If you have time, give yourself two days to get to know these two places. But if you can only do a few days in Borneo, choose one of these options. We return to Dami to spend the night.

Day 4: We enjoy a morning at the beach in Damai and return to Kuching to catch a flight to Mulu. Night in Mulu



Day 6: Morning flight from Mulu to Brunei


Day 7, day 8 and day 9: 3 full days to discover Brunei.

Day 10: Flight from Brunei to Sandakan + city tour.

Day 11: Visit Sepilok. + hiking (this area has trails with beautiful waterfalls, enjoy it!


Day 12: From Sandakan to Lahad Datu. We rented a car to do this tour. The whole journey is impressive! It's worth it, you go through an area full of vegetation everywhere for about 2 hours. With the car we were able to stop where we wanted, and we made some trails to get to know the area. In mid-afternoon we arrive and stay for the night at Lahad Datu.

Day 13: We took the car early again to get to the Hutan Rekreaski Madai Park and in the middle of the afternoon we arrived at Semporna, to enjoy its beaches and islands for the next few days.


Day 14,15: 2 full days to enjoy Semporna


Day 16: Return to Lahad Datu to catch a flight back to Kuala Lumpur. Our flight was at night, so we enjoyed the beaches of Semporna a little more during the day. (Semporna has an airport, but we couldn't get a direct flight to Kuala Lumpur for the return day) You can see flights from here.




PLAN YOUR TRIP STEP BY STEP



I hope you enjoy your trip to Borneo very much and that this article has been useful to you.



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A hug and see you soon!

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