East Malaysia contains many of the country’s most spectacular natural sights, including rare animal species not found anywhere else in the world.
The vast and mysterious island of Borneo has appealed to travellers for centuries, and still embodies a sense of adventure even in the 21st century. This is largely thanks to the dense rainforests that cover most of the island, offering a wide range of opportunities for jungle trekking and other outdoor activities for visitors of all abilities – and lots of chances to get up close to indigenous wildlife.
Even if you’ve been to other parts of the world celebrated for their diversity of flora and fauna, such as East Africa, Borneo can still hold many surprises – not least in the extraordinary diversity of its animal inhabitants, both high in the treetops and under the sea in coral reefs. From flying lizards and walking fish to diving monkeys and human-sized flowers, Borneo contains many of the world’s most remarkable species.
Although the bulk of Borneo belongs to the Indonesian state of Kalimantan, many international visitors find it easier to enter the island through Malaysia, which occupies the north-west and north-east regions, divided in the middle by the small sultanate of Brunei. The Malaysian state of Sarawak is also the best place to see colonial heritage in Borneo, and a great base from which all sorts of day trips and excursions can be planned deep into the forests.
Part of the reason for Borneo’s considerable diversity of species is its varied terrain, ranging from humid jungles and swamps that lie right on the equator to cooler forests high in the clouds. Borneo’s rivers are home to freshwater dolphins, and if you’re keen to try your hand at diving or snorkelling, you can see a spectacular array of colours when exploring reefs just off the coast.
Borneo’s most famous inhabitants are its primates, particularly the distinctive proboscis monkey – recognisable for its elongated nose – and orang-utans. These threatened species can be visited in protected areas, where tourist funds are important for helping to conserve the species, and some people even choose to spend their time volunteering on Malaysia holidays with various orang-utan projects.
Tourism has had negative effects on Borneo too, but modern responsible tourism initiatives are helping to preserve this unique island for future generations – including projects that work with native inhabitants to help preserve their cultures. Many holiday villas are now designed with an environmental focus in mind, so you won’t have to worry about your trip damaging this remarkable environment.