The Top 3 Utterly Incredible Things To Do In Borneo

mtkinabalu

Whether you’re a solo backpacker, a vacationing couple or heading off for the annual family holiday, Borneo’s rugged charm has something for all. Keep reading for the top three picks this majestic country has to offer. 

1. Hike Mt Kinabalu

Summiting Mt Kinabalu’s 4,095m is worth every ounce of the effort it requires. 

A steep and sharp four-six-hour ascent to Pendant Hut is accompanied by hiking poles and an ever-increasing altitude that culminates at 3,298m. It makes the first day of this overnight hike feel as ominous as the rockface resembling King Kong that awaits you the next morning. Though morning could be a generous term as tucked into bed by 7pm after a hearty supper, your guide will wake you at 2am to begin the sunrise summit. Pack some elbow grease with your woollies for this part of the tour that includes crawling up pieces of the mountain face that now lie near-vertical after the 2015 Sabah earthquake. It’s worth busting out your best Bear Grills moves for. The sunrise at the top slowly leaks through high clouds before spilling the sky with enough light to complete the via Ferrata cable climb around the mountain. Then it’s back to Pendant Hut for breakfast before beginning the 4-6-hour descent back to Timpohon Gate - arguably the hardest part of the entire trip and a heated debate amongst passing hikers!  

Check out the packages on offer at River Junkies and be sure to read the full itinerary before you book your tour.

2. See Orangutans in Sabah

Watching an orangutan munch his way through a mountain of leaves is akin to seeing your first shark while diving. Time stops. Awe replaces fear, and at that moment, you’re a child again, mesmerized by something new. 

You can witness these magical creatures at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and at Sukau Rainforest Lodge, one of National Geographic’s award winning eco-lodges located on Borneo’s Kinabatangan River. The sanctuary provides an ‘on the ground’ educational insight into orangutan rehabilitation, while Nat Geo’s eco-lodge combines education with luxury.  

Expect to glean your knowledge while river cruising past trumpeting pygmy elephants and more proboscis monkeys than you can shake a hiking stick at. (Which you could still be carrying to counter the effects of Mt Kinabalu’s overnight summit).

Both the sanctuary and the eco-lodge will appeal to nature lovers of all ages. And while you’re sure to see orangutans at the sanctuary’s nursery, at the lodge your ‘in the wild’ encounter is in Mother Nature’s hands. But don’t worry, the never-ending buffet served in David Attenborough’s remodelled 2011 expedition boat - complete with crocodile hull adoring the skull - is guaranteed.  

Check out Borneo Eco-Tours for packages and itineraries.

3. Dive Sipadan Island

 Snorkelers and divers alike will find the beauty of one of the world’s most well-known diving destinations unparalleled. Unless of course, you skip off for a manta ray sighting at nearby Derawan Islands.

Both islands hold an incredible amount of underwater life that top dive company Scuba Junkies take great care to protect. From like-minded travellers to a turtle hatch and release program, activities on land are as phenomenal as those underwater. Amongst a top-quality education in nudibranchs, there’s serene turtles and quick finned leopard sharks to spot, as well as beautiful coral walls that seem to go on forever. Or at least until 50 bar.

With accommodation ranging from dorm rooms to bunk beds, there’s a package for any budget and enough scrumptious buffet food to feed the fussiest traveller for days. You’ll be so well looked after, you’ll be more than inclined to check out their new water bungalows on Derawan Island.

 So, whether your backpacking, honeymooning or off for the school holidays you’re set to enjoy the world’s third-largest island. And remember that you'll be sharing it with the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, Indonesian Kalimantan and the tiny nation of Brunei. You'll need that when your booking insurance.

Enjoy!