The island of Borneo sits just north of the equator, within Southeast Asia, and is made up of the countries Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. It has become a mecca for ecotourism, boasting incredible biodiversity throughout the lush tropical rainforests, spectacular coastline and intriguing cave systems. The people are just as diverse, with more than 40 ethnic groups living harmoniously within the 740,000 square kilometre land mass.

There are many reasons to put this beautiful island on your must-see list. Here, we outline some of the best.

1. The wildlife

Borneo is well-known for its orangutan population and conservation efforts. You can see these amazing creatures in the wild, or head to the Matang Wildlife Centre in Kubah National Park and witness the rehabilitation of several young orangutans rescued from unfortunate circumstances. You can even adopt an orangutan and help with conservation efforts to save this creature from extinction.

Borneo is also home to the intriguing fauna such as the proboscis monkeys, distinguished by their strange-looking noses and big bellies. You can see these animals hanging out along the river system in the jungle areas with other animals such as pygmy elephants, crocodiles, and birds such as rhinoceros hornbills and the spectacular longtail macaques. There are hundreds of other species of frogs, birds, bats and other smaller creatures to spot along the way. You may even be lucky enough to see one of the critically endangered Sumatran rhinos that call Borneo home.

2. The natural landscape

As well as the amazing creatures that call the rainforest home, the lush, humid tropical forests and river systems running through them are major draw cards in themselves. Borneo is home to some of the oldest rainforests in the world, and one of the best ways to witness the beauty and biodiversity is by floating along the river. Witness the ancient tall trees alongside shallow-rooted mangroves and brightly coloured lilies as you take in the beauty and tranquility.

Heading into the jungle on foot is definitely worthwhile as well, giving you another perspective and opportunity to take some pictures to remind you of your journey later. For those looking for next-level adventure, the island has a series of caves extending for hundreds of kilometres underground.

Mt Kinabalu is one of the highest mountains in South East Asia’s highest mountain and also well worth seeking out for spectacular bird’s-eye views of the forest.

Borneo is well-equipped for tourism, but it is wise to head out into these natural areas with an experienced tour guide. As one of the tour operators on the island, we can show you the very best areas to visit and ensure you stay safe on your journey through some of the fascinating but isolated and potentially dangerous landscapes.

3. The history, culture and food

More than 20 million people call Borneo home in one of the most ethnically-diverse regions in the world. Many of the inhabitants are native and there are many villages and tribal areas open to tourists if you plan your visit. The headhunting Iban tribes are notorious in the region and sound scary, but the people are very inviting and friendly.

Borneo’s history is worth discovering along the way, once a principal trade route between East and West Asia. WWII brought upheaval across much of the area, with Japanese occupation in Sarawak and Malaysia resulting in the deaths of over 2,000 allied soldiers. While you are there, take time to visit the memorials and learn more about these events that shaped the region.

For those who enjoy a taste of the exotic, Borneo will not disappoint. Malay cuisine is the most prominent, but each different area and tribal group offers its own unique fare to enjoy. Brunei offers a very different experience, shaped by British cultural influence of the islands history. Here, you can change out of your rainforest-exploring attire and enjoy a more formal Royal High Tea or luxurious meal at a restaurant.

4. The beaches

Crystal-clear waters, classic palm trees and soft sand makes Borneo’s beaches the perfect escape from the heat and humidity at the end of a day’s exploring. Go low-key with a stroll along the water’s edge, or bathe in the warm waters at one of the many local beaches.

For those with a yearning for more, the island is well-known for prime snorkelling and diving experiences. An abundance of turtles, rays and colourful tropical fish call these waters home and offer an underwater experience you won’t forget.

5. Before you go

As Borneo’s incredible activities mainly revolve around the outdoors and potentially dangerous areas, there are a few precautions you should take before booking your ticket. We recommend a reasonable level of fitness to keep you safe and allow you to properly enjoy all the island has to offer. We also advise you to pack long, loose clothing to protect against insect bites and carry an repellent while out and about.

You will also need to ensure your vaccinations for Malaysia and surrounding areas are up to date. Illnesses such as typhoid and dengue fever can be avoided with a little planning ahead, ending in a much more pleasant travel experience!

For more information on planning your trip to Borneo, visit our Know Before You Go page:

This article was written by Kym Wallis, the founding director of Higher Ranking has over 15 years of advertising sales, digital strategy, and business development experience. He is currently working as Digital Adviser for TravelVax.