Borneo is the third-largest island in the world and a real paradise on earth for anyone who love exotic plants, wildlife, and adventures. It is divided between Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. We visited Sabah – the north part of the island in Malaysia.
How to get there?
There were regular flights from KL and Singapore. We arrived in Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the state of Sabah, using Malindo Airlines. We didn’t have any reservation for accommodation, but it was easy to find a hotel just for one night. The next day we took a bus to Sandakan. It was a long journey, about 6 hours, crossing the wild rain forests. Of course, we could have taken a plane and we would have been there in 40 minutes.
Sandakan is the perfect place to stay and explore Borneo’s wild life during the day time. It is the second largest town in Sabah after Kota Kinabalu.
We stayed at Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan. A nice hotel with a perfect location and gorgeous views. However it was raining all the day and we were able to see only the wet market, which is just a few steps away from the hotel.
The market is one of the most important seafood landing ports of Sabah. Every morning fishing boats docked to unload their catch directly into the market. Here we found such a variety of seafood that we didn’t imagine existed. And we saw some species that really should be left in the sea.
The rest of the ground level has dry and wet markets with fresh veggies, fruit, coffee, meat and more dried fish than you’ve possibly ever seen in your life. On the second and third floor you can find freshly cooked food and anything you need such as clothes, shoes, bags, cosmetics etc.
The next day we booked a private taxi driver from the hotel – Azmie Nakib– nice guy, who is ready to help you with everything. The price was 300RNG, about 60EUR for a one-day trip around – enough time to visit the orangutans, the proboscis monkey, the rain forest and the water village as we did it.
#2 Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
The orangutans are great apes and unfortunately nowadays they are threatened with extinction. There are only two places in the world where you can meet them in their natural surroundings – the rain forests of Borneo and Sumatra.
The culprit for their disappearance is the man and his greed for „bread and circuses“, and the main reasons are:
– Loss of their habitats due to deforestation and planting of oil palm crops. Palm oil is used in 50% of all consumer goods – from cosmetics and food to bio fuels. Searching for palm oil in the United States has tripled over the past few years, stimulating the cultivation of oil palm trees, and their plantations penetrate deep into tropical forests.
– Illegal hunting and illegal pet trade for pets and tourist attractions.
There are also good people who take care of the consequences of all this. And the consequences are cruel – orphaned little orangutans who, without the help of their parents, are doomed to death, wounded or ill adults.
Rehabilitation centers such as the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center give a chance to survive the sympathetic red monkeys.
To take a virtual tour of Sepilok and the surrounding area with Google Street View click here.
For more information about the price and the best time to visit orangutans click here.
#3 The Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary
Proboscis monkeys are endemic to the jungles of Borneo. At Labuk Bay they live in a fragmented habitat surrounded by an oil palm plantation. As there is insufficient food the monkeys receive a supplementary diet. The sanctuary operates in a way similar to the Sepilok orangutan centre in that the monkeys live wild in the mangrove forest but congregate at the feeding platforms at feeding time. There are also plenty of opportunities to see and photograph the monkeys away from the feeding platforms.
They live in organized harem groups consisting of a dominant male and two to seven females and their offspring.
As a bonus, you also can see silverleaf monkeys with their orange babies, but Proboscis Monkeys are the stars.
For more information about the price and the feeding time click here.
#4 Rainforest Discovery Centre – Welcome to the jungle
To walk through the jungle was one of my favorite experience in Malaysia, probably, because it was the most accessible rain forest in Sabah! You don’t need a spacial clothes and shoes, even I didn’t use repelent. It was like walk in the park, but with differant feeling. Sturdy sky platforms let you walk high above the forest for views of birdlife and if you are lucky like us you can see orangutans.
Loved walking through the huge trees, experiencing the sounds and serenity. So many beautiful tropical plants and insects, including colourful birds and butterflies to see.
There are beautiful places, where you can have a rest or have lunch.
For more information click here.
#5 Water village in Sandakan
At the end of our day trip we found ourselves in the water village. It was located about 3km east of the city centre. There was a main entrance with small fruit market. Approximately about 3500-4000 people live there. Most of them are fishermen, the other work in government, like our guide. There are a lot of children in the village, so they have kindergarten, primary and secondary school as well. The houses are made of wooden planks. The entire village is served by water from a narrow pipe that runs along the top of the wooden plank jetty. Toilets flush directly into the bay beneath the houses. It was raining again and there was an outflow so we could see a lot of rubbish under the bridges.
Our guide, who was living in the water village, has recommended us a fish restaurant for dinner. There were variety of fresh fish and seаfood, some kind of soups and everything was so delicious.
Travelling to Borneo is like a journey back in time, to a land that has not yet been revealed and which opens up countless adventure opportunities.
Our journey in Borneo is a small part of what the incredible island offer. If you are planning to visit Borneo check out these articles for more adventures and different points of view: