Visit The Sungai Asap Resettlement Area
Sungai Asap is the site where the people from the Bakun area have been resettled to built the huge Bakun dam.Their ancestral homes and lands have been flooded and they were sent here, in the middle of oil palm plantation, very far from both their original territories and any notable town.
Youll have the chance to stay in a house longhouse, experiencing the local lifestyle in a resettlement area, while at the same time helping these people who are struggling to make a living. You can also taste very good Tuah, a local liquor made out of different stuff, usually palm or rice, and delicious local fruits.
In our humble opinion, visiting this settlement is an eye-opening experience, and one of the best things to do in Borneo.
Map Of What To Do In Borneo
Have you been to Borneo? What are your suggestions for what to see in Borneo?
Hopefully youve enjoyed this guide to the best things to do in Boren here. You can find more things to do in Sibu here. Alternatively, click here for a list of the best resorts in Malaysia or here for more planning resources.
Proboscis Monkeys On The Kinabatangan River
The Kinabatangan River meanders 560 kilometers through the jungle in eastern Sabah.
Millions of animals and plants live in the verdant landscapes surrounding the muddy flow of water.
Small communities of endemic proboscis monkeys live in certain channels. Estimates suggest only 7,000 of the pot-bellied and long-nosed primates remain on the planet.
The most convenient way to reach the Kinabatangan River is from Sandakan. Spend the night in the riverside bungalows.
River cruises take passengers to see primates, crocodiles and tropical birds.
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Explore The Indian Mosque
Some people may be surprised to know that there is a sizeable Tamil community in Kuching and the Indian Mosque is certainly one of the most unusual attractions here.
The building is located on the aptly named India Street and you will find small emporiums here selling a wealth of heady spices.
On the same road lies the mosque which was built out of ironwood in 1836 by Tamil traders who settled in Kuching.
- Check out the Cat Museum
- Visit Kuching Mosque
- Learn some history at the Sarawak Museum
- Shop at the Main Bazaar
- Visit Tua Pek Kong Chinese Temple
- Travel to Bako National Park
- Visit the Old Courthouse
- Admire the flowers at Gunung Gading National Park
- Shop at the Sunday Market
- Visit the Cat Statue
- Meet the turtles at Satang Turtle Island National Park
- Explore Fort Margherita
- Have something to eat at Kubah Ria Complex
- Get out on the river
- Discover Semenggoh Nature Reserve
- Eat at the Open Air Market
- Go kayaking on the Sarawak River
- Visit Annah Rais
- Enjoy the Sarawak Timber Museum
- Visit the Sarawak Islamic Museum
- Explore the Indian Mosque
Lambir Hills National Park
This small mountainous forest park is just 30km from Miri, according to the official website, this is the most diverse ecosystem in the world, too bad its just so small and everything around is oil palms.
There are many paths, all interconnected to each other, but the map that provided at the entrance is small and not very clear. Could be easy to get lost if you dont have a strong sense of directions, the paths are marked with colored stripes on the trees, but those are not always evident.
There are many waterfalls, one of which is pretty big, and the jungle is just beautiful and dense. Visiting the jungle is surely one of the best adventures you can have in Borneo, dont miss it. You can book a tour to Lambir Hills here.
Learn more about Lambir Hills National Park
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Bakun Dam Reservoir And The Floating Market
Almost the same size of Singapore, blue water, and jungle all around, the Bakun Lake looks beautiful when you reach it, but its not supposed to exist.
Situated 60 km from Belaga in Sarawak , it was created in 1986 as a hydroelectric reservoir, capable of supplying 90% of Sarawak energy demand. The dam that encloses it is the biggest dam in Asia, outside of China. To build this, thousands of natives were evicted from their ancestral lands and resettled near palm oil plantation, doomed to live a lifestyle unknown to them.
But some of them simply didnt accept that, they stayed, retiring in the jungles upstream the river, or building floating houses near the jetty. Its those people that, every Wednesday and Saturday, give life to one of the most peculiar floating markets in Southeast Asia.
Visit St Michaels & All Angels Church
Amongst all the interesting places in Sandakan, Sabah, not only is St. Michaels & All Angels Church the oldest stone building in the region, but it also displays stunning historical architecture.
Taking 13 years to complete, the Church opened in 1903. However, bombed and burned during WWII, a major restoration was completed in the 1950s. Before the bombing, the Japanese army took the church for military use and transient stays for POWs. Today, youll find magnificent stained-glass windows in the church, installed as an appreciation by the family members of POWs to the local community for their support during wartime.
The Church is a place full of stories, and a must-stop for anyone interested in wartime history.
Address: 51, Jalan Puncak, Pusat Bandar Sandakan, 90000 Sandakan
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Visit A Bidayuh Village Or Longhouse
Visiting a longhouse is often a highlight of a trip to Sarawak. Many visitors to Sarawak head to the Iban heartland of Batang Ai. However, if you are short of time this might not be possible. Luckily there are a few longhouse options closer to Kuching.
The Bidayuh are one of the many tribes of Sarawak. Most Bidayuh live in the wider Kuching area. There are countless Bidayuh villages located within an hour or so of the Kuching. However, there are only a handful of longhouses remaining. Annah Rais longhouse is located quite close to Semenggoh. Mongkos Longhouse is located a bit further away, around 2 hours drive from Kuching. You can do a daytrip to Mongkos or stay overnight in a homestay programme.
Another option for immersing yourself in Bidayuh culture is the Peraya Homestay. Whilst there is no longhouse at Peraya, you can explore the village, visit a waterfall and try your hand at traditional bamboo rafting.
Rajang River Cruise On The Public Speedboat
Borneo evokes myths of adventure, and a riverboat trip is a great way to see whats left of the jungle, and cast a glimpse on the traditional lifestyle of Borneo people .
For the budget traveler though, private river cruise are not an option, but there are still a bunch of routes that are connected by public boats for very low fares.
The fast boat connecting Belaga, Kapit, and Sibu is probably the last public river boat in Sarawak, from Sibu though, its still possible to get to Kuching by boat, a short part of it is through the estuary of the Rajang and the rest on the sea.
The boat ride from Kapit to Belaga is especially marvelous, quite an adventure, and it definitively makes it into the list of the best things to do in Malaysian Borneo.
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Helicopter Trip To Mount Kinabalu
Helicopter trip to Mount Kinabalu
This flight takes you on an unforgettable journey around the mighty Mount Kinabalu, standing at 4,095 metres, where you will enjoy stunning views of the endless Crocker Range, home to some of the world’s oldest rainforests.
Danum Valley Night Safari
Join one of the park’s open-top 4×4 safari vehicles and head out on a shared night safari through the dense rainforest with a driver and guide.
Chilling With The Orangutans
Obviously these cheeky red apes are one of the main attractions of Borneo. With its prime habitat fast disappearing, there are only a few select locations to spot orang-utans in the wild and if you are looking for a more up close and personal experience then a couple of rehabilitation centres. For those intrepid ones amongst you then head out to the Kinabatangan River or Danum Valley both of these areas are rich in rainforest and are the areas that have the largest populations of wild orang-utans remaining in the wild. To see conservation in action then consider a visit to Sepilok Nature Resort where the orang-utan rehabilitation centre works with previous pet orang-utans, individuals caught in snares, bush fires etc. and work to re-introduce them into the wild.
- Best places to see orangutans in Borneo: Kinabatangan River, Danum Valley,
- Best time to see orangutans in Borneo:
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Learn Some History At The Sarawak Museum
If you only have time to visit one museum in Kuching then the Sarawak Museum is an excellent pick.
The museum also has the claim to fame of being the oldest in Borneo and was founded in 1891 under Charles Brooke.
The museum is housed in a huge building that dates from the Victorian period and is, somewhat surprisingly, modeled on a traditional Normandy townhouse.
If you are interested in the culture of Sarawak, then the museum is a treasure trove of antiquities that include tribal weapons, models of longhouses, and a plethora of stuffed animals.
Another highlight is a model of the Niah Caves which are thought to be the source of the first human settlement in Borneo.
Remote Islands And Scuba Diving
Borneo may be an island itself, but the islands surrounding Borneo are not to be missed either. For relaxation, and for snorkelling and diving, a number of islands are famous for their world class underwater worlds. Sipadan of Jacques Cousteau renown provides some of the best diving in Asia if not the world. Lankayan Island, whilst not so diving orientated, provides some great beach relaxation as well as laid back snorkelling and Kapalai Island is a world class stilted dive resort . Whilst we cannot list all of the hotspots here, the best diving is off the east coast of Borneo so bear this in mind when pulling that itinerary together.
- Best places for beach, diving & snorkelling: Sabah Islands
- Recommended accommodation: Borneo Eagle Resort
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Visit Sam Sing Kung Temple
In contrast to the Puu Jih Syh Temple, Sam Sing Kung Temple is a small, non-flashy place of worship with a wealth of history. It is part of Sandakans heritage trail and was built in 1887, making it one of the oldest temples in the city.
The three saints worshipped at the temple are the saint of righteousness, the goddess of the sea and the god of culture and literature, revealing the cultural beliefs of the local Chinese community.
Address: Singapore Road, Pusat Bandar Sandakan, 90000 Sandakan
Visit The Puu Jih Syh Temple
A grand looking Buddist Temple situated at the hilltop overlooking Sandakan Bay, Puu Jih Syh Temple is a relatively modern structure built recently in 1987. Yet the carved details on the pillars and statues are equal to other great ancient temples found in the region.
Open to the public you are free to roam around and take photographs. Grand architecture, countless colourful lanterns and lush gardens that open to an endless sea view, this is a perfect spot for your daily insta post!
Address: Hilltop of Tanah Merha, 90000 Sandakan
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The Rainforest Discovery Centre
If you dont have time to explore some of Borneos lush rainforest, then a trip to the Rainforest Discovery Centre is definitely worth your time. This is conveniently located down the road from Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary. You can choose to walk here, which would take approximately 45 minutes or you can grab a taxi from outside Sepiloks entrance and whiz down the road in minutes for a few ringgit.
The entrance to the RDC cost 14RM/ £2.50 / $4.48. Inside, armed with a map, you will find several walking trails through the rainforest that allow you to experience the foliage and wildlife up close. The RDC features an exhibition gallery that details the history and formation of the rainforest, plus the plant and animal species you can expect to find here.
I enjoyed the tree-top canopy walk that allowed me a birds eye view of the rainforest, although that day I didnt see any of the rich birdlife present in the forest. However, on my walk along one of the trails I did spot a completely wild orangutan high up in the trees. I heard crashing in the tree tops first, and when I scanned the trees above me I eventually saw a lone orangutan in the branches above my head. It was one of those incredible moments from my years of travelling that I will remember forever.
After all that walking you may be searching for a place for lunch. I stopped at the Keruing Cafe in the grounds of the park where I ate a tasty, freshly cooked lunch for 10RM/ £1.60 / $3.00AU.
Riding The Sabah State Railway
The Sabah State Railway, formerly known as the North Borneo Railway, is the only railway in the island of Borneo. This is not just a train but a real experience, a piece of colonial history, a very unusual and adventurous train ride really worth including in your Borneo itinearary.
Its a total of 134km from KK to Tenom. The most interesting stretch is the 48km from Tenom to Beaufort. Following a placid river,its waters dark and muddy, where is possible to spot crocodiles, The train goes through lush tropical vegetation, some tiny houses can be seen hidden in the jungle, looks like the only way to reach these little houses in the forest is this train.
Learn more about the Sabah State Railway
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The Worlds Largest Floating Village
Almost every resident in Bruneis capital Bandar Seri Begawan once lived in Kampong Ayer.
The stilted village stands above the Brunei River like it has for centuries.
Approximately 13,000 people still live in their traditional houses.
Rather than roads and cars, water taxis take residents from one place to the next. Rickety boardwalks replace sidewalks connecting 42 mini-neighborhoods.
Take a water taxi from the Waterfront and discover this world above the river.
Kampong Ayer is practically self-sufficient with schools, mosques and shops.
Around Kota Kinabalu: Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park
One of the most popular day trips from Kota Kinabalu is to take the 20 minute speedboat ride from the Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal to Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. Considered one of the most idyllic Borneo destinations, its five islands are the definition of paradise: think warm, brilliant blue bays, blonde beaches and swaying palm trees.
A couple popular ones are:
- Manukan Island: Palm-trees concealing cheeky macaques fringe the soft, white sand, and you dont even need a snorkel to see tropical fish in the surrounding water.
- Pulau Tiga: The TV show Survivor put this spot on the map after filming a season here, and theres great snorkeling around Snake Island and the option to enjoy a volcano mud bath. Book a tour
- Sapi Island: Families love this easy getaway from Kota Kinabalu, which is one of the most developed islands with its restaurants, bathroom facilities and a diving centre. Enjoy relaxing on the sun-soaked sand, or wading into the water to see the likes of water snakes and clownfish.
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Island Hopping In Kota Kinabalu
Kota Kinabalu, Sabahs capital, shares its coastline with five tropical islands.
Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park is a favorite day trip.
Most of the hundreds of daily tourists head to Manukan for its beaches and crystal clear water.
More adventurous ones travel to Gaya, the marine parks largest island. Visitors can explore a floating village, hike along trails and climb hills for panoramic views of the mini-archipelago.
Mamutik, Sapi and Sulug offer empty beaches, clear water for snorkeling and fewer people.
Regular ferries leave Kota Kinabalus Jesselton Point to each island. Or go island-hopping and visit all five in a single day.
The Best Things To Do In Borneo & Where To Go
This is our Malaysian Borneo map & itinerary that we took throughout our backpacking trip to Borneo! We started off in Sarawak and then made our way to the state of Sabah. Our Borneo itinerary consisted of:
Kuching Kota Kinabalu Sepilok Kinabatangan River
We started off in the state of Sarawak after flying into Kuching from Malaysias capital city Kuala Lumpur. After spending a week in Sarawaks capital we flew to Sabah and then continued our Borneo adventure. There are so many things to do in Borneo, so lets get started on where you should visit!
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Explore The Kuching Wetlands On A Santubong Wildlife Cruise
The Kuching Wetlands National Park is just 15 km from Kuching and only 5 km from Damai Beach. The park protects 6,610 hectares of mangrove forest and small patches of heath forest. Kuching Wetlands is a mosaic of small rivers, creeks and streams.
The park is best explored by boat on a Santubong Wildlife Cruise. This late afternoon mangrove cruise takes you along the major rivers of the park.
Frequently seen animals include proboscis monkeys, Irrawaddy dolphins, silver leaf monkeys, long-tailed macaques, monitor lizards, estuarine crocodiles and a wide variety of birds.
Getting Around Bandar Seri Begawan
Getting around the city itself is fairly easy as its very small and pretty much everything is within walking distance. Buses depart from the airport to the city every thirty to forty minutes and cost around 2BND per person, although when we arrived there were none to be seen. The other option is to grab a taxi, which takes around 15 minutes depending on traffic and costs 15-20BND.
We found it easier to grab a taxi there and back, especially as one of the main mosques youll want to visit is near the airport and drivers will happily wait for you there and then drop you off at the terminal for your flight.
Getting taxis in the Bandar Seri Begawan once you arrive is a different story. Your best bet is to head to the rank near to the Chinese temple as there werent any at the other taxi ranks and its rare that youll spot one to flag down. Alternatively if you have an international SIM all taxi drivers carry cards with their details so you can use them again we definitely would have done this if we had a working mobile.
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