Sunset in Borneo
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Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located at the centre of Maritime Southeast Asia. Administratively, the island of Borneo is divided into three separate countries: Indonesia (Kalimantan, population 12,000,000), Malaysia (Sarawak and Sabah, population 6,000,000) and Brunei (population 590,000). Indonesians refer to the island as "Kalimantan". However, for people outside of Indonesia, Kalimantan refers to the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo. Malaysia's region of Borneo is called East Malaysia or Malaysian Borneo. The independent nation of Brunei occupies the remainder of the island. Brunei is the wealthiest nation on the island of Borneo.
Borneo is surrounded by the South China Sea to the north and northwest, the Sulu Sea to the northeast, the Celebes Sea and the Makassar Strait to the east, and the Java Sea and Karimata Strait to the south. To the west of Borneo are the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra. To the south is Java. To the east is Sulawesi, and to the northeast, the Philippines. With an area of 743,330 square kilometres, it is the third-largest island in the world. Its highest point is Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia, with an elevation of 4,095 metres. The largest river system is the Kapuas in West Kalimantan with a length of 1,143 kilometres. Other major rivers include the Mahakam in East Kalimantan (980 kilometres long), the Barito in South Kalimantan (880 kilometres), and Rajang in Sarawak (562.5 kilometres). Borneo has significant cave systems. Clearwater Cave, for example, has one of the world's longest underground rivers. Deer Cave is home to over three million bats, with guano accumulated to over 100 metres deep. Before sea levels rose at the end of the last Ice Age, Borneo was part of the mainland of Asia, forming, with Java and Sumatra, the upland regions of a peninsula that extended east from present day Indochina and Thailand. The South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand now submerge the former low-lying areas of the peninsula. Deeper waters separating Borneo from neighboring Sulawesi prevented a land connection to that island, creating the divide between Asian and Australia-New Guinea biological regions known as Wallace's Line.
Sights and Activities
- Mount Kinabalu - Climb this 4,095-metre tall mountain for some stunning views.
- Sipadan Island
- Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre - This is a world famous orangutan centre where people can watch orangutans in their natural habitat up close and personal.
- Tabin Wildlife Reserve - a 120,500 hectare nature preserve on the east coast of Sabah.
- Danum Valley Conservation Area - A large section of virgin rainforest located near the middle of Sabah.
- Kinabatangan River - great wildlife, like proboscis monkeys and pygmy elephants
- Pulau Tiga (Sabah) is an island not far from Kota Kinabalu where the reality show Survivor I was filmed
- Turtle Islands (Sabah) is near Sandakan, consists of 3 islands - Selingaan, Bakkungaan Kecil and Gulisaan
- Maliau Basin - an extremely biodiverse site in the central parts of Sabah
- Tunku Abdul Rahman Park - just off the coast near Kota Kinbalu
- Sarawak Cultural Village - Located 35 km from Kuching on the foothill of Mount Santubong, it is a showcase of Sarawak's fascinating culture.
- Gunung Mulu National Park (Miri) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the world's largest cave chamber, the Sarawak Chamber, measuring 600 metres long by 415 metres wide by 80 metres high.
- Niah National Park (Miri), known as The Great Cave, in this park is a very important archaeolgical site where Paleolithic era settlement and a 40,000-year-old human skull was found.
- Bako National Park (Kuching) is home to rare proboscis monkeys, found only in Borneo.
- Batang Ai National Park (Sri Aman)
- Kelabit Highlands is a highland plateau in the interior Sarawak and home to the Kelabit indigenous people.
- Bukit Lambir National Park
- Loagan Bunut National Park - including the largest freshwater lake in East Malaysia.
- Gunung Gading National Park - good place to spot the Rafflesia, the world's largest flower
- Kubah National Park
- Tanjung Datu National Park
- Talang-Satang National Park - including Sarawak’s marine turtle population
- Similajau National Park
- Kampong Ayer (English: Water Village) is a district of Bandar Seri Begawan and home to 30,000 people. All of the buildings in the Water Village are constructed on stilts above the Brunei River and roughly one out of ten people in Brunei live here. Kampong Ayer contains many small villages that are linked together by almost 30 kilometres of foot-bridges, although speed boats nowadays are a more important mode of transport, especially on some longer distances. There are over 4,200 structures including homes, mosques, restaurants, shops, schools, and a hospital and on top of the foot-bridges there are 36 kilometres of boardwalks connect the buildings.
- The Ulu Temburong National Park, one of the natural highlights of Brunei, is comparable to Borneo's many other parks, including those in Malaysia. It is located in the remote part of the Batu Apoi Forest Reserve and can be accessed only by long boat. The main feature of the Ulu Temburong National Park is the canopy walkway, suspended from the treetops, 50 metres above the forest floor. From the canopy walkway there are tremendous views of the virgin forest and you can see wildlife including birds, butterflies and monkeys. Most people visit on tours which can be arranged in Bandar Seri Begawan or the administrative centre of the Temburong District, Bangar.
- Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
- Tanjung Puting National Park has several ecosystem as lowland tropical rain forest, dryland forest, freshwater swamp forest, mangrove forest, coastal forest, and secondary forest. Endangered and protected animal species inhabiting Tanjung Puting Reserve, include the orangutan (Pongo satyrus), proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus), maroon leaf monkey (Presbytis rubicunda rubida), sun bear (Helarctos malayanus euryspilus), lesser Malay mouse deer (Tragulus javanicus klossii), clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), and leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis borneoensis).
- Betung Kerihun National Park
- Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park
- Betung Kerihun National Park
- Gunung Palung National Park
- Kayan Mentarang National Park covers an area of 1,300,000 ha located in the far interior of North Kalimantan province and is the largest block of jungle and untouched rainforest in Borneo. Half of the Kayan Mentarang Reserve consists species of dipterocarp lowland and hill forest while cloud mountain forest at Kayan Mentarang covers 40% with mountain up to more then 2,000 metres above sea level. The park is inhabitated by several thousand Dayak and Punan people. WWF has been working on developing eco-tourist projects in cooperation with the local people.
- Kutai National Park - Kutai Park wildlife is exotic and includes the Orangutan, only found on Sumatra and Borneo, along with the endemic proboscis monkeys, and other forest denizens including clouded leopard, leaf monkey, macaque, pangolin anteater, tiny tarsier, lizards, crocodiles, pythons and more then 600 bird spieces as the most famous Sun Birds, pheasants, cockatoo and Hornbills.
- Wehea is a tropical rain forest area of 38,000 hectares, located in East Kalimantan province of Indonesian Borneo, it has diverse wildlife as clouded leopards, orangutans, proboscis monkeys.
- The Fascinating Mahakam River is a intriguing history of Sultan Kingdoms and traditional Dayak Tribes, with a wealth of ecological and cultural treasures that survive deep within the rainforest jungle of Indonesia's largest island. It's the highway into Kalimantan ’s dense jungle where you can discover the rich Dayak Culture and their Longhouses. The grand diversity of exotic flora and wildlife from black orchids to fresh water dolphins and orangutans give you an unforgettable trip at East Kalimantan.
- Derawan Island has a total land surface of 40,000 hectares and is a nature reserve with beautiful scenery and beaches. Several species of rare flora and fauna are preserved here, such as scaled turtles, belimbing turtles and sea cows.
Events and Festivals
- Kaamatan (Sabah) - A harvest festival celebrated by the Kadazan people of Sabah on 30 and 31 May each year.
- Gawai Dayak (Sarawak) - A thanksgiving day marking good harvest, held on 1 June yearly in Sarawak. Indigenous people, particularly the Iban and Bidayuh, in their colourful costumes make ceremonial offerings of traditional delicacies and tuak (home-made rice wine) to the gods of rice and prosperity.
Borneo's weather is tropical with hot and humid conditions throughout the year. Temperatures range between 27 °C and 33 °C during the day for most of the year, although mountainous areas can get cooler. Nights are mainly well above 20 °C though frost at the top of Mount Kinabalu isn't unheard of either. Borneo doesn't have a real dry season, just a somewhat drier season, which last from April to September. November to February is the wettest time of year and generally inland areas are wetter compared to coastal areas, especially in the mountains. Note that the southern tip of Borneo (Kalimantan in Indonesia) has a more characteristic dry seaons from June to September, like the surroundings of Banjarmasin.
There are several more airports (see below, getting around) in Malaysian Borneo and Kalimantan that have flights, mainly to Peninsular Malaysia and other island in Indonesia like Java
From Philippines - Ferry services between Zamboanga Peninsula and Sandakan (Sabah).
From Indonesia - Pelni is the main operator to/from Kalimantan, including services to Sulawesi and Java (Jakarta and Surabaya).
For longer distances, lowcost airlines like Air Asia are the way to go. MASWings is a good alternative as well, with some different places served. Just a little more expensive (especially if you book well in advance) and much quicker. They have an extensive network in the Malaysian part of Borneo between Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Kudat, Sibu, Miri, Bintulu and Mulu, Labuan, Lahad Datu, Sandakan and Tawau. There are also many flights between a number of cities in Kalimantan. Flights also exist between Kuching and Pontianak and between Brunei and both Kota Kinabalu and Kuching. Note that there are no flights between Brunei and Kalimantan.
The only trainline is in Sabah, the Sabah State Railway, operating the 134 kilometre-long railway track from Tanjung Aru (near Kota Kinabalu) to Tenom. There are three trains servicing the route daily from both ways, except for Sunday when there are only two trains available. The Beufort-Tenom stretch is regarded to be incredibly scenic.
The Pan-Borneo Highway, a joint project with Malaysia connects Brunei to the Malaysian part of the island, both Sabah and Sarawak. The only overland crossing with Kalimantan is the road between Kuching and Pontianak.
Buses travel between all the main places in Malaysian Borneo, a few in Brunei and also between Indonesia (Pontianak) and Malaysia (Kuching). There are extensive services by bus and minibus throughout Kalimantan, though travelling all the way from Pontianak in the west ot Balikpapan in the east is not possible by road. You need to travel overland by trekking and taking boats or otherwise take one or two plane trips.
- Between Indonesia and Malaysia - Ferry services available from Nunukan and Tarakan to Tawau (Sabah).
- Between Malaysia and Brunei - Daily services from Muara Ferry Terminal in Brunei to Labuan island and Lawas (Sarawak). There are also speedboat services between Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei) and Lawas (Sarawak).
- There are also connections between Kuching and Sibu in Sarawak and connections along Kalimantan's coastline.