The world’s third largest island, Borneo is divided into four separate areas: the two Malaysian states, Sarawak covering the Northwestern of the island and Sabah which occupies the Northeastern tip; the independent Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam between the two; and the Indonesia territory of Kalimantan making up the whole Central and Southern portion of Borneo
Since the 16th century when tales of the first European travellers emerged, Borneo has held the promise of wilderness, adventure and exotic unknown. Still steeped in mystery, enhanced by discoveries and wonderful plant and animal life and ancient human cultures, Borneo today lives up to its promise.
With its rich history of visitors and settlers over the centuries – cave dwellers from 35,000 years ago, Chinese and Indian traders, sea gypsies, European adventurers and explorers, and native tribes people – few regions in the world possess such a diversity of culture in such close proximity.
This medley of influences is reflected in the different traditions, customs, belief systems and languages alive in Borneo today and perhaps too, it is a reflection of the wondrous diversity, and bizarre construction of the natural world surrounding Borneo’s people.
Borneo is a place of spellbinding natural wonders. Like a land out of Gulliver’s Travel, it is crammed with superlatives – the world’s largest flower, the smallest owl, the largest butterfly, the smallest rhinoceros, largest free amusement part, longest cave system, the region’s tallest peak – Borneo is like no other place on earth.
As a single destination, Northern Borneo – comprising of Sarawak, Brunei and Sabah – is without parallel. Although each area has ample attractions to recommend it on its own, the combination of all three is irresistible to the traveller seeking the ultimate adventure holiday. Where else in the world can you dive with turtles, see the largest palace on earth and drink rice wine with a rainforest tribe in one day.
Generally hot and humid throughout the year. Average temperatures range from 24°C to 32°C, although much lower in mountainous regions. The rainy season occurs between November to February with an average yearly rainfall of between 3,200mm to 4,600mm.
English is widely spoken throughout the region and is the language of commerce, banking and international trade. Malaysia’s national language, Bahasa Malaysia, is spoken in Sarawak and Sabah, while the closely related Brunei Malay is spoken in the Sultanate. More than 100 ethnic dialects are spoken in northern Borneo.
The local currencies are the Malaysian Ringgit and Brunei Dollar. Major credit cards are accepted in the cities and main towns of all three areas. Travellers’ cheques can be exchanged at most commercial banks, hotels and authorised money changers. Automatic Teller Machines are also available in all the major centres.
Borneo represents a treasure trove of local handicrafts and antiques. Notably, basketry and rattan goods from Sabah, woven Than fabrics and beaded goods from Sarawak and traditional bras swear and silverware from Brunei. Duty-free outlets are found at the airports.
There are shopping malls in the main cities such as in Kota Kinabalu (Imago, Suria Sabah), Kuching, Miri and Brunei.
Electricity – 220-240V at 50 cycles.
It is safe to drink the water served at hotels and restaurants. Bottled water is readily available.
Light, cotton modest clothing is recommended. Wearing of shorts and sleeveless tops should be restricted to resort wear.