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Adventure Travel in Borneo: Wildlife and Headhunters

Penang people making a blowpipe in the cultural village The large island of Borneo is one of the rare places which is largely covered with dense jungle. It is ideal for Adventure Travel, looking for wildlife such as the Orang Utan or the Proboscis monkey. But there are also a large number of indigenous tribes living in the jungle, many of which used to be headhunters.

Borneo is divided between Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. And in fact, these parts of the island are very different from each other, as far as the cultivated parts are considered. Even Sarawak and Sabah, both Malaysian states, are different from each other.

Sabah: parts of jungle between the Palmoil Plantations

Sabah is the Malaysian state in the North East of Borneo. It used to be a rich state because of the export of tropical timber. But, as these resources became smaller, the state became poorer. The timber industry was more and more replaced by palm oil plantations (although the two go hand-in-hand, unfortunately).

Today, illegal lodging is still a big problem, and the many palm oil plantations are a sad sight when traveling through the country. Luckily, conservation and eco-tourism are winning ground, hopefully saving the unique jungle and wildlife.

Orang Utan Sanctuary and jungle camp

Large male bornean orangutan in Semengoh

The easiest accessible jungle and wildlife experience can be found at the Orang Utan Sancuary Sepilok, located close to Sandakan. Good accommodations, easy paths through the jungle, and the semi-wild Orang Utans, to be seen from up close.

A contrast to that can be found close by, at Uncle Tan's Jungle Camp. Here the conditions are harsh, but the jungle is untamed, and you are right in the middle of it! We enjoyed both experiences very much, so read our stories, and decide which you like best.

An alternative jungle camp can be found in Long Pasia, an indigenous village of the Lundayeh tribe. Read more about that here, and if you're interested to go there, just Contact Us, and we'll bring you in contact with the travel agency offering those tours.

Kota and Mount Kinabalu

The main cities of Sabah, Sandakan and Kota Kinabalu, are not very interesting. The visitors that go there, are mostly going to the Urang Utan sanctuary or the jungle, or they are going to climb Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain of Souteast Asia.

The Muslim Sultanate of Brunei

In the North of Borneo, the sultanate of Brunei survived inbetween the malaysian state of Sarawak. Once a much bigger nation, Brunei lost most of its territory to the English colonies. But when they struck oil, it became one of the richest countries in the world.

Unfortunately, there is not much of interest in Brunei. With all the money, no interesting things were built. And since the islam is followed strictly here, there is not much fun going on...

Sarawak, headhunters near the civilisation

Entrance of the Niah Caves Sarawak is the other part of Malaysian Borneo, but very different from Sabah. Stretched along the North West of the island, Sarawak has a more civilized and charming feel to it. The cities are nice, and it is easier to reach the inlands, where a visit to the longhouses of the indigenous tribes can be made.

Niah Caves

Close to the border with Brunei, the Niah Caves can be found. In these caves, the oldest archaeological human remains in Southeast Asia are found. Moreover, the caves, decoratively located in the jungle, are home to million of bats, and it is where the bird nests are harvested for the Chinese delicacy of bird nest soup.

Visiting the interior of Sarawak

The interior of Sarawak can be a bit difficult to reach, since there are no official roads. The town of Belaga can be reached by boat from Bintulu or Kapit, but only with high water levels. An alternative, unfortunately, are the dirt roads that the illegal loggers use to transport the trees...

Belaga is the main destination in the interior. From here, trips can be made to the longhouses of the several indigenous tribes. Adventure Travel in Borneo is not complete without a visit to several of these. Be careful, though, about which guides to choose.

Charming Kuching

Sampan on the Sarawak river in Kuching The central base from which it's best to visit Sarawak, is its charming capital Kuching. With a nice boulevard along the Sarawak river, it's a very pleasant city to stay. Too bad that there is not much budget accommodation to choose from.

From Kuching, you can easily make trips to Bako National Park, with its probiscis monkeys and other wildlife, to Semengoh Orang Utan Rehabilitation Center, and to the Cultural Village where you can learn all about the different indigenous tribes in Sarawak.

Indonesian Kalimantan

The major part of Borneo is Indonesian: the state of Kalimantan. But this is also the least accessible part, and most unknown.

Kalimantan has the same problem of deforestation, as the rest of Borneo. Maybe even worse, since there are less initiatives for eco-tourism for instance, and there are less conservation projects and well-run national parks. One of the exceptions is Kalimantan Tour Destinations

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