Our guide to Borneo
Borneo is nature at its most magnificent, from the towering rock pinnacles and deep caves of Mulu National Park, to pygmy elephants on the banks Kinabatangan River, to orangutans swinging through the rainforest in Danum Valley. The island is still home to a number of indigenous tribes, whom you can spend time with in their traditional longhouses. Borneo also now has a number of luxurious beach resorts, meaning the island really does have it all; adventure, wildlife, culture and relaxation.
This being said, the majority of accommodation in Borneo, including the higher-end properties, is much more basic than you will find in the likes of Thailand and Indonesia. This does mean it is not for everyone, however it also means it should be top of the list for those who are more focused on the nature rather than the hotels, and travellers who like to feel a bit more off the beaten track.
When is the best time to travel to Borneo?
The official high season is from March to October. As it is a tropical country, and a large percentage of the land is made up of rainforest, it is hot and humid year-round, and it can rain at any time. The wettest months are November, December and January.
How do you get to Borneo?
The easiest way to reach Borneo is flying via Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. Scott Dunn are easily able to incorporate a stop-off for a night or two in either of these cities as part of any itinerary, and this is often a fun way to break up the journey.
How to get around Borneo?
This will very much depend on what you are hoping to see and do, but most Borneo itineraries will include at least one or two domestic flights, some of which can be in small propeller planes. When the distance is not too far, it is possible to travel by car and boat. Scott Dunn are able to organise all transfers and domestic flights, and most road transfers will be private.
Accommodation in Borneo
Most visits to Borneo will include at least a couple of nights in the rainforest. The lodges tend to be fairly basic, but comfortable. Rooms are en-suite but many do not have air-conditioning, and facilities are limited. Food tends to be buffet-style and hearty, if not hugely exciting. The beach resorts and city hotels in areas like Kuching are more of an international standard, with more modern facilities such as swimming pools and a choice of restaurants.
Borneo for families
Borneo is a fantastic option for families with active teenagers. Itineraries can be action-packed with lots of adventures in the rainforest. Even at the beach, there are still options for trekking, zip-lining, snorkelling and diving.
Given the rustic nature and remote locations of a lot of the accommodation, Scott Dunn do not recommend Borneo for families with very young children. There is not a specific age limit to this restriction, and there are certainly itineraries that are more suited, or can be adapted for younger children. However, anyone considering travelling to Borneo as a family should consider the following:
- Will the children be happy in a hot and humid environment, and accommodation that will probably have fans, but may not have air-conditioning?
- Are the children happy to trek in the rainforest, sometimes over uneven ground? A lot of the wildlife spotting involves venturing into the rainforest on a trek, sometimes for a few hours. Whilst it is possible to just stay in the vicinity of the lodge, this may limit wildlife sightings.
- Are the children happy with limited entertainment at hotels (other than wildlife)? Wi-Fi is essentially non-existent in the more remote lodges, and there are only a few with swimming pools.
- How do the children feel about insects? As you can imagine, in a rainforest setting there can be quite a few! On some of the treks you also will need to wear leech socks.
Borneo for honeymoons
Borneo is a unique honeymoon destination, and a wonderfully adventurous way to start married life! Whilst a lot of the rainforest accommodation is basic, this just means the ‘wow’ factor will come from the incredible surroundings and experience. Scott Dunn also work with some lovely romantic beach properties, both in Borneo and further afield, and so this is always a great way to add in some luxury and to finish any honeymoon in style.
Combining Borneo with other countries
Borneo is fairly self-contained, and so most itineraries will just take in the island, with a stop-over in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore either way. It is possible to combine Borneo with Peninsular Malaysia, and there are direct flights between Kuching and Langkawi. If you don’t mind too much travelling, Kuala Lumpur offers many more international flight options versus the Borneo airports, and so an extra stop-over in the capital will then allow you to continue on to other Asian destinations such as Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.