The Mystical Island of Borneo, once a frightening and fascinating place for 19th century explorers, has retained it’s enchanting, exotic atmosphere, one that draws many adventurous women to the region every year.
The sublime Island encompasses three countries within its borders – Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Sultanate of Brunei.
Since tourism first took off, it has been an excellent destination for any type of getaway with lots on offer for nature lovers and culture vultures, bargain hunters and sun worshipers.
For wildlife enthusiasts, both Indonesian Kalimantan and the Malaysian state of Sabah offer travelers the unique opportunity to witness the endemic Orang-Utan up-close.They truly are a fascinating species; incredibly intelligent, they play and interact together like humans. Taking a trip to the wetlands of Borneo, one can also catch a glimpse of the rare Proboscis Monkey leaping through the trees and basking in the sunshine.Jungle treks and river cruises in areas such as Kinabatangan reveal snakes, crocodiles, macaques and pygmy elephants, as well as taking you deep into Borneo’s legendary rain-forests.
But if a wildlife trail ain’t your thing, how about some adventure?
Mount Kinabalu is the highest point of the island, some 4,095 meters above sea level. Visitors can scale the Mountain if they’re up for a challenge, after which there’s the option of visiting Kinabalu Park, a beautiful protected area with an array of botanical plant life and stunning views of the Mountain, as well as bubbling hot-springs where one can bathe in the sulfurous frothy streams and relax those tired muscles. Head down to the Padas River for some extreme rafting, take part in a rural mountain-biking tour, or get involved in some sublime scuba-diving excursions.
And if it’s culture you’re looking for?
Museums are dotted throughout Borneo, providing a window into pre-colonial times. Temples, churches and mosques are a common sight, and range from humble constructions to Magnificent structures such as Brunei’s famous Golden Domed Mosque. These are sublime to see, and reflect the traditions and values of the people. Those who are looking to catch a glimpse into the heart of native cultures will appreciate the many opportunities to visit tribal long houses across Borneo. Each area has it’s own tribes with their own distinct languages and cultures, and many offer visitors the chance to stay overnight in the traditional long houses, eating with the locals and learning about their way of life. Although Borneo’s famous headhunting tradition is no longer practiced, travelers can learn about the ritual that kept many a colonialist up at night in the days of yore. Check out local operators or guide books for more information on Borneo’s indigenous tribes.
How about the shopping?
Bargain hunting is great fun, and Borneo is the perfect place to trawl through markets and barter for gifts. In Indonesia, Batik-designing is a long-valued tradition, something that brought- and continues to bring- village women together. You can purchase their beautiful silk and cloth designed Batiks for next to nothing, and they can be used as sarongs, table cloths, throws or even dresses. As well as Batiks, jewelry, clothes, handicrafts, souvenirs, DVD’s, food-stuffs, wallets, handbags, belts and shoes are abundant at markets throughout Borneo. Of course, many of the big cities boast air-conditioned, multi-storey malls, and these are great for designer clothes, cosmetics and hair-salons.
Sunlight and Beaches!
Borneo is home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and, being an Island, these are in no short supply. In many parts of Borneo, secluded beach resorts offer travelers the classic tropical holiday experience; just you, your traveling partner/s, the waves, and the resorts open-air bar. Remember: WEAR SUNSCREEN.
Things to Bear in Mind:
Borneo is largely Islamic. While Sabah and the cities of Kalimantan are quite liberal, Brunei and rural Indonesia are more conservative. Modest dress should be observed in more conservative areas.
In Brunei, prohibition is in place. Alcohol is forbidden, and thus there are no bars or night clubs throughout Brunei. Great if you are looking to appreciate the culture, sights and sounds – not so great if you want to party.
No public displays of affection – these are considered highly inappropriate in Borneo, as with much of South East Asia.
Borneo is the jewel of the East – just remember your insect repellent and sunblock, and you will have a truly unforgettable experience.
Ally Maxwell has an insatiable hunger for adventure; a great food enthusiast, she is eating her way across the globe. She spent her childhood summers in Holland, before discovering parts of South East Asia as a young student. She soon landed in the good ol’ U.S.A as an exchange student, graduated in her Native Scotland, UK, before making her way to Malaysia, where she currently resides. There, she assists her good friends at Borneo Ultimate Sports Adventure Tours, writing for the site and designing awesome tours for clients.