Our guide to Borneo
Borneo is an enriching place to visit offering so much variety of wildlife, culture, scenery and beaches. Seeing your first wild Orangutan, eating lunch with the longhouse residents and witnessing the bats emerging from caves at dusk are memories that will stay with you forever – there are not many other places in the world where you can do this. Borneo is still quite undeveloped so be prepared to rough it a bit in the jungle but what would be the point in staying in a 5* hotel in the jungle? The experience would be nowhere near as authentic or indeed as memorable.
When is the best time to travel to Borneo?
The best time to travel to Borneo as a rule is between March and October so it has quite a long high season. The green season is usually between November and February with December and January being the wettest months. Sabah generally receives less rainfall than Sarawak.
How do you get to Borneo?
The easiest route to get to Borneo from the UK is to fly to Kuala Lumpur and then either overnight in Kuala Lumpur or take a connecting flight over to Kota Kinabulu, Sandakan or Kuching depending on your itinerary.
What is the geography of Borneo?
Borneo is an island in Southeast Asia and it is divided into three countries: Malaysia and Brunei in the north and Indonesia to the south. Malaysian Borneo is split into two states – Sabah to the east and Sarawak to the west.
Is it safe to travel in Borneo?
Yes it is safe to travel in most areas in Borneo and you will just need to take the same precautions as you would when traveling anywhere else in the world. However, there are some areas where the foreign office has advised against travel so please refer to the foreign office website for the most up to date information.
What is the accommodation like?
The accommodation in Borneo is much simpler than other parts of Southeast Asia such as Thailand and Indonesia. The lodges in the jungle are very basic with no air conditioning and in some cases almost a bit hostel like. But they are perfectly comfortable and add to the authentic experience of being in the jungle. The beach accommodation in Kota Kinabulu is much more luxurious but still not quite the top 5* resorts you will find in Thailand for instance.
How do you get around Borneo?
It depends how far you need to go! You can fly internally with Malaysia Airlines or their sister airlines Mas Wings which operate smaller propeller planes. For shorter distances you will travel by road and boat.
What are the visa and passport requirements for travel to Borneo?
UK passport holders do not currently need a visa for entry to Borneo, however please always do check and if you hold a passport of a different nationality please check this too. Your passport will need to be valid for up to 6 months after you arrive in Borneo.
Will I need any vaccinations or take malaria tablets?
You will need to speak to your local GP to make sure that you are up to date with all the recommended vaccinations for travel to Borneo. It is also malarial so you are advised to take malaria tablets too.
Is Borneo a good destination for families?
Yes, Borneo is a great place to go on vacation as a family. It may be tricky with children under 7 years, but above this they will absolutely love the sense of adventure and cultural experience. We work with some brilliant guides who will be able to tailor experiences to children.
Is Borneo a good destination for honeymoons?
Yes, if you are a couple who want to do a bit more than sit on the beach and are not afraid of roughing it for a few nights then absolutely! It will certainly be different to your average beach honeymoon as you will be moving around quite a bit and staying in places that aren’t so super luxurious, but you can also tag on some idyllic beach time before and after exploring the jungle.
What are the highlights of Borneo?
Are there any quirky experiences in Borneo?
Yes, many! I would say the quirkiest, would be to spend a night at a traditional longhouse in Sarawak. Arrive late afternoon, watch the residents perform a traditional dance for you, help to prepare dinner and drink rice wine. You will then sleep under a mosquito net and be woken early the next morning as the families begin to go about their daily lives.
Are you likely to see lots of wildlife?
We hope you will see lots of wildlife but we think the best mentality is to expect to see very little so you will then be surprised when you do see some. However, seeing Orangutans in the wild is quite rare so we would recommend going to see them at a sanctuary in case you don’t see them in the wild. Be prepared to spend a few hours on the boat and walking through the jungle and only seeing a few sightings, however these sightings become more and more special.
How close can you get to the wildlife?
This really depends on where the wildlife is! The guides will take you as close as possible providing it is safe, but make sure you take your binoculars with you especially for bird watching.
Is there wifi and phone signal in the remote lodges?
There is usually wifi and signal however it is very intermittent so you cannot rely on it. There is no signal at Borneo Rainforest Lodge but the wifi here is slightly better than the lodges on the river. For most of the remote lodges, we recommend you don’t rely on there being working wifi and adequate phone signal.
Which other countries can you combine with Borneo in an itinerary?
Peninsular Malaysia works well with Borneo as you are likely to need to fly through here. You can also fly from London via Singapore to Kota Kinabulu which makes for a fun city stopover. Or if you wanted to combine beach – Indonesia ties in really nicely as it is high season here too, Denpasar is just a 3-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur.