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Borneo Holidays

Filled with ancient mist-drenched rainforest and some of the world’s rarest wildlife, Borneo is a tropical paradise of breathtaking biodiversity, golden beaches and chromatic coral reefs.

The sawing call of cicadas and rare tropical birds. Bornean orangutans swinging across primordial Danum Valley. Proboscis monkeys leaping from mangroves to water. Holidays to Borneo are to go where the wild things are.

The island, shared by the countries of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia, is home to some of the oldest rainforest in the world. Discover gliding lizards and jewel orchids in hot lowlands under the cloud-touching peaks of iconic Kinabalu Mountain. Cruise jungle waterways looking out for gibbons and pygmy elephants and cut across sky high hanging bridges with views guaranteed to thrill. Meet protected orangutans and sun bears in Sepilok’s conservation-savvy sanctuaries and snorkel the colourful underwater world within Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.

Pair one of our handpicked Sabah hotels with a stay on the golden sands of Gaya Island Resort and combine inland wilderness adventure with an exotic beach holiday.

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Borneo Hotels

Our recommendations for the best places to stay in Borneo

Shangri-La Rasa Ria, Kota Kinabalu

Backed by rainforest and overlooking a white sand bay, Shangri-La Rasa Ria is both escapist and a...

Shangri-La Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu

This sophisticated resort has excellent facilities including one of Borneo’s finest spas and fun...

Gaya Island Resort

Where mangroves and endemic species meet, is an unspoiled hideaway connected with Borneo’s nature...

Experience exhilarating landscapes, wildlife encounters with semi-wild orangutans and thrilling cave adventures on a tour through Malaysian Borneo

For naturalists and wildlife enthusiasts, a tour is one of the most insightful ways to discover Borneo. Along with a small group of like-minded people and a local guide, you can cover Malaysian Borneo from west to east, experiencing exhilarating wildlife encounters with Bornean sun bears and semi-wild orangutans, thrilling adventures involving a swim in the clear waters of South-East Asia’s longest cave, and nights spent in cool lodges along the river and in the jungle. Additional tour highlights could include a pre-tour stopover in Malaysia’s bustling capital, Kuala Lumpur and a post-tour beach escape at The Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa in Kota Kinabalu if you wish to tailor your trip to make it last longer.

Our recommended Borneo tours

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SUP Boarding & Snorkelling Adventure

Explore Boneo from on and underneath the water with a fun SUP and snorkelling adventure. The seas are typically calm in the morning, so you’ll have a gentle paddle around sand bars, coral bars or floating pontoons, depending on the tide. Then it’s time to dip under the waves with your snorkel and mask. The area is known for its clownfish colony, so you’ll spot brightly coloured fish darting through the waters. Your guide will also capture the best moments on a GoPro.

• Duration: 3 hours
• Time: 8am to 11am
• Daily departures
• Operates year round
• Private experience

Good to know
You’ll need a good level of fitness. Children must be at least 6 years old to take part. Children aged 6-12 must be accompanied by a guardian.

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Sunset SUP Boarding Adventure

Watch the sun sink into the ocean from your peaceful perch out on the water. Stand-up paddle boarding is a memorable experience at any time of day, but it’s particularly beautiful at sunset. You’ll paddle around sand bars, coral bars or floating pontoons, depending on the tide, and pause to appreciate the changing colours as the sky is reflected in the water. Your guide will also capture the best moments on a GoPro.

• Duration: 3 hours
• Time: 4.30pm to 7.30pm
• Daily departures
• Operates year round
• Private experience

Good to know
You’ll need a good level of fitness. Children must be at least 6 years old to take part. Children age 6-12 must be accompanied by a guardian.

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Malaysian Cooking Class in Kota Kinabalu

Cooking classes are a wonderful way to delve deeper into the local culture while learning new skills at the same time. Your host begins the experience with a stroll through the local market. Finding the freshest local ingredients and chatting with the stallholders, you’ll learn which spices to use and buy the groceries needed to whip up a Malaysian feast back in the kitchen. At your cooking station, you’ll learn how to prepare traditional home-cooked dishes and understand how food is such a big part of Malaysian heritage. After an insightful morning, you’ll get to tuck into your creations.

• Duration: half day
• Time: 9am to 1.30pm
• Departing daily from Kota Kinabalu
• Operates year round
• Group experience

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Kota Kinabalu – Step Back in Time

Leave the buzz of the city behind and take a journey into the past to see, hear, taste and feel the identity of Sabah. Meeting some of the people of the remote Mari Mari Cultural Village, you’ll get to understand what traditional daily life is like in this rural region. We’ll be welcomed into the homes of various indigenous people, who’ll chat to us about how their houses were built by tribal descendants and what the different architectural styles represent. As we explore the village, we’ll also stop at demonstration huts to see traditional activities such as blow piping, fire lighting and tattooing.

• Duration: half day • Time: 9am to 1pm, 1.30pm to 5pm or 5pm to 9pm
• Daily departures
• Operates year round
• Private experience

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Kota Kinabalu Canopy Walks

The journey is part of the adventure on this full-day experience. A scenic two-hour drive will whisk us away from city life, as we pass villages and paddy fields and wind our way up the mountainous roads of the Crocker Range. A short stop at lively Nabalu Market will showcase local fruits, vegetables and handicraft souvenirs before reaching the main attraction: Kinabalu Park. The park has around 4,500 species of plant, including a whopping 1,500 species of orchid – 77 of which are endemic to Kinabalu. It also supports more than 280 species of birds and 290 different types of butterflies. You’ll notice the change in air temperature and enjoy the cool air as you set off on a walk along the botanical garden nature trails. On a clear day, you might spot majestic Mount Kinabalu in the distance. After lunch at a local restaurant, we’ll continue to the Poring Hot Spring for a canopy walk. Climb up to 41 metres above ground level and walk across the suspension bridges hanging in the tropical jungle treetops.

• Duration: full day
• Time: 7.30am to 5.30pm
• Departing daily from Kota Kinabalu
• Operates year round
• Private experience

Good to know
There’s a small charge of MYR5 to use a camera and MYR3 to use a video camera at the canopy walkway (payable locally).

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Kota Kinabalu Street Food

A delicious melting pot of heritage and culture, Kota Kinabalu has a top street food scene. The markets come alive after dark, so put on your walking shoes and taste your way around the various influences. Your expert guide will take you around the best spots in the night market and tell you about all the foods on offer. You’ll have time to chat with the stallholders and get to know the subtle differences in food between Sabah’s tribes before tucking into authentic dishes such as noodle soup, hinava (a raw fish dish similar to ceviche) and pinasakan (braised fish with turmeric and fruit).

• Duration: 2 hours
• Time: 5.30pm to 7.30pm
• Daily departures
• Operates year round
• Private experience

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Mangroves & Fireflies of Kota Kinabalu

A scenic day awaits on this blissful back-to-nature escape. On a two-hour drive through the Klias Forest Reserve, we’ll pass coastal views and picturesque villages on the way to the Klias River Village Jetty. Tea, coffee and cakes will be waiting to refresh you ahead of your river cruise through the mangrove forests of the Klias River. Keep your eyes peeled for proboscis monkeys, abundant bird species, monitor lizards, crocodiles and other wildlife. We’ll return to the jetty for a traditional Malay buffet dinner. Then, as dusk sets, we’ll hop back on the boat for the best vantage point to watch flickering fireflies light up the riverbanks.

• Duration: half day
• Time: 2pm to 9pm
• Daily departures
• Operates year round
• Private experience

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Orangutan Encounter

Your wildlife adventure begins with a flight from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan Airport, where you’ll be picked up and whisked off to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. In this remarkable rehabilitation centre, which was set up in 1964 to help orphaned orangutans, you’ll be able to get up close with the orangutans and watch them being fed. Take a walk in Borneo’s lowland dipterocarp forest and visit the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, which improves animal welfare and rehabilitates rescued sun bears. After lunch, the final stop is the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary, where you can see hundreds of cheeky proboscis monkeys.

• Duration: full day
• Time: 7.15am to 7.25pm
• Departing daily from Kota Kinabalu, including return flights
• Operates year round
• Group experience

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Kota Kinabalu, Your Way

Join a private guide for a tour of Kota Kinabalu tailored precisely to your specification. Decide how long you want the time to last and where you want to go, and the driver will take you from place to place and offer expert commentary.

• Daily departures
• Operates year-round
• Private experience

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Get to know Borneo and those important practicalities when planning your perfect holiday.

Capital
TIME DIFFERENCE

GMT +8 hours

CURRENCY

Malaysian Ringgit

FLYING TIME TO DESTINATION

15¾ hours (not including stopover time)

RELIGION

Majority Muslim; Buddhism, Hindu and Christianity

LANGUAGE

Malay (Bahasa Melayu)

Where is Malaysian Borneo?
Sitting in South East Asia and part of the Indonesian archipelago, Borneo is surrounded by the South China Sea, the Java Sea and the Celebes Sea. It’s the world’s third largest island and the only one that’s shared by three countries: Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. The island’s Malaysian states are Sabah and Sarawak and Kuala Lumpur is under three hours away by air.

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Kota Kinabalu
Known locally as KK, Kota Kinabalu is the coastal capital of Sabah and gateway to your inland wildlife adventures. Much of it was destroyed in the 1940s Japanese invasion and although there are a few colonial buildings left, it’s here you'll find glinting shopping malls and a sizzling street food and night market scene. Hip restaurants, cool coffee houses and sunset views from the beach make this a vibrant capital and a great place from which to boat hop across to the islands that make up Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.

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Gaya Island
Located within Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, a 20 minute speedboat transfer from Kota Kinabalu, Gaya Island balances natural beauty and marine conservation with luxury touches and plenty of watersports. It’s a feet-in-the-sands escape fringed by crystal clear waters and thriving coral reef that are a paradise for snorkellers and divers. Stay at eco-friendly Gaya Island Resort and you can snorkel with resident marine biologists, follow naturalists out on the proboscis monkey jungle trail and dine with Mount Kinabalu views.

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Kinabalu Park
Shadowed by the revered Mount Kinabalu, one of South East Asia’s highest mountains, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kinabalu Park boasts an incredible bio-diversity. Here naturalists can attempt to spot thousands of varieties of flora and half of all Malaysia’s bird, mammal and amphibian species – it may take a while though. Adventure seekers descend on the park to climb Kinabalu, bathe in the Poring Hot Springs, explore the tropical rainforest, trek to the Langanan and Kipungit waterfalls and visit the nearby butterfly farm to witness just some of the 850 varieties that flutter throughout the forest.

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Danum Valley
Danum Valley is one of southern Sabah’s most spectacular attractions and comes with a spine-tingling diversity and abundance of wildlife. Its dense and steamy 130-million-year-old virgin rainforest is one of the best places to spot Bornean orangutans and the elusive clouded leopard. You’ll likely see red leaf monkeys, Asian paradise flycatchers and flying squirrels on morning treks and treetop canopy walks, keeping in mind this is their natural habitat and you never know when they’ll be making an appearance.

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Wildlife
The highly intelligent orangutan is Borneo’s most eminent species and, either on trek into the jungle or a visit to Borneo’s various sanctuaries and rehabilitation centres, you are sure to come eye to doleful eye with one of these endearing yet endangered creatures. In the past 50 years the number of orang-utans in the wild has declined alarmingly due to the loss of habitat caused by illegal logging and the conversion of land to agricultural use, hunting, and human conflict.

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Borneo Weather

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