Teeming with jungles, wildlife and beautiful beaches, this vast expanse of land is the perfect destination for travellers who are thirsty for adventure. Malaysian Borneo is without a doubt home to some of the best hidden gems in Southeast Asia.
1. Niah Caves
Located in Miri, Sarawak, the Niah National Park is one of Malaysian Borneo’s most famous natural attractions because of its caves, one of the most remarkable archaeological sites in the world.
Bats and swiftlets throng the immense cave, commonly referred to as The Great Cave of Niah. As you tread through the cave, you might stumble upon rickety makeshift ladders that extend all the way to the high ceilings of the cave.
A torchlight and a good pair of shoes are highly essential when visiting Niah Caves, especially since the cave can be pitch dark in certain areas and the wooden walkways tend to be slippery from dripping water and guano.
2. Sipadan Island
Voted as one of the top diving destinations in the world, Sipadan Island is renowned for its rich marine life. The Sipadan Barrier Reef is also the largest barrier reef in Southeast Asia, and is home to thousands of sea turtles, schooling sharks, barracudas and also magnificent coral walls that drop more than 2,000 metres straight to the sea floor. Stay at the surrounding islands of Mabul and Kapalai to enjoy year-long diving at Sipadan.
3. Kinabatangan River
An authentic way to truly immerse yourself in Malaysian Borneo is to paddle down the Kinabatangan River. Spot pygmy elephants (often seen along the shores), proboscis monkeys, proboscis monkeys and even wild orangutans or sign up for the night safari tours to spot other nocturnal animals or crocodiles.
4. Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre nurses injured or orphaned orangutans before releasing them back into the wild. A mere 23km away from Sandakan town, the sanctuary is easily accessible by bus or taxi. Take a stroll along the boardwalk where you can observe these primates in their natural habitat.
5. Mari Mari Cultural Village
Venture deep into the countryside away from Kota Kinabalu City and you might stumble upon the homes of Malaysian Borneo’s infamous headhunters – the Mari Mari Cultural Village. It is made up of five different Sabahan tribes – Bajau, Lundayeh, Rungus, Dusun and the famously-feared headhunting tribe, Murut. Thankfully, their days of headhunting are long over (or so we may assume) and today, they are more welcoming in sharing their culture with the rest of the world.
Be treated to traditional blow-pipe making, tattooing, fire-starting and culinary treats, and gain deeper insights into the mystical beliefs of each of these tribes.
6. Danum Valley
Covering approximately 44,000 hectares of pristine and untouched tropical flora and fauna, the Danum Valley Conservation Area is one of the largest and best-protected expanses of lowland dipterocarp forest in Sabah.
Here, the 400-year-old trees tower over at an incredible height of 60 metres and the forest is abundant with wildlife. Numerous endangered wildlife species can be spotted here, including the Asian elephant, western tarsier and various species of birds including the Bornean ground cuckoo and the blue-headed pitta. Danum Valley is truly one of the best places to immerse yourself in the rich biodiversity that Malaysian Borneo has to offer.
7. Mount Kinabalu
Regardless of whether or not you make your way to the summit, Mount Kinabalu is still worth the climb. Located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kinabalu Park, it is the highest mountain in Malaysia, standing at 4,095 metres above sea level.
Despite the towering altitude, the trek up Mount Kinabalu is relatively manageable, though guides and permits are required. Challenge yourself to an overnight hike and you will be generously rewarded with breathtaking views of a starry night sky and magnificent sunrise. Additionally, you can expect a staggering expanse of flora at different altitudes, such as pitcher plants, ferns and and a rich variety of orchids.
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