Top 5 Things To Do In Malaysian Borneo

Adventure, jungle, wildlife and beauty are the first words that spring to mind when I think of my travels in Borneo. It’s my top adventure travel destination to recommend to friends, other than Oman and Madagascar. This place should definitely be on the list of places to go for the adventure-hungry traveller.

The island of Borneo is the third-largest in the world, which includes Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. The two provinces of Malaysian Borneo are Sarawak and Sabah, where I spent most of my time travelling.

Here is my list of the top 5 things to do in here, guaranteed to give you memories that will last a lifetime.

1. Climb Mount Kinabalu

This mountain in Sabah is the tallest in South East Asia. A fantastic 2 day/1 night hike will lead you up an impressive number of steps, through jungle and nature to a breathtaking (literally) view at a peak of 4095 metres. Although I wouldn’t call it easy, most people will be able to climb this mountain without a problem, confirmed by the large amounts of tourists on the trail that I must admit I wasn’t expecting. Our guide had climbed it over 1000 times!

After a well earned rest at the only accommodation near the top, a 3am wake up call will start your steep hike to the top. After several hours of a rope-assisted climb by torchlight, you’ll emerge at the peak piercing through the sky. Be welcomed by stunning views of a mountain-scattered landscape, perfectly lit by sunrise. A view that has been gratefully imprinted in my mind ever since.

Instead of getting back down by foot, we decided to start our descent by attempting the world’s highest via ferrata with Mountain Torq. With hearts racing, we clutched on metal brackets, inching our way across a sheer cliff face. Talk about a thrill ride! The spectacular views stretching far behind us is one I’ll never forget.

Things to do in Malaysian BorneoPhoto credit:

2. Dive Sipadan Island

This legendary island is one of the top dive sites in the world for good reason. Turtles, hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, manta rays and eagle rays are amongst some of the incredible sea life frequently seen. In fact, this island is so popular that only 120 permits are issued each day to get here. Hence plan and book ahead for this one!

Note: There are a ton of dive sites offering trips here. Make sure you do your research, read reviews etc. for an experienced dive master before booking.

Things to do in Malaysian BorneoPhoto credit:

3. Meet Wild Orangutans

A visit to Sepilok’s Orangutan Rehabilitation centre is a must. Borneo is one of two places in the world where wild orangutans can still be seen. This wonderful centre (located 25km west of Sandakan) nurses injured or orphaned animals as a result of illegal catching, logging or deforestation.

A boardwalk winds it way through the jungle, leading you to a large feeding platform where you can watch these delightful and adorable animals play in their own habitat. This centre really is a big highlight for most people visiting Borneo.

Note: Feeding times are usually at 10am and 3pm, with an entrance fee of 30RM.

Things to do in Malaysian BorneoPhoto credit:

4. Paddle down Kinabantangan River

A fantastic and authentic experience is to book several nights stay in a Homestay. We stayed with the most endearing family who looked after us incredibly well, serving delicious Malaysian feasts every evening.

They took us on a fantastic boat trip down Kinabantangan River, which allowed us to spot highly endangered probiscus monkeys, crocodiles and orangutans. Seeing these monkeys playfully swinging from the trees was a special experience. Their faces are pretty unique to say the least..

Things to do in Malaysian Borneo

5. Relax on Picture-Perfect Islands

After exploring through thick jungles, encountering endangered species and diving with hammerhead sharks, you may want to sit yourself on a gorgeous beach and do nothing but relax. You can truly experience pure bliss on the many picturesque islands off Sabah.

I recommend a trip to Pilau Tiga‘Survivor Island,’ where the very first Survivor show was filmed. Take the Mudtrail walk to experience the wonders of bathing in a pool of thick volcanic mud, so buoyant that it’s virtually impossible to stay upright! See if you can also survive the resident snakes and ginormous lizards on this island..

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Or take yourself to stunning Mataking Island (and relax or spend the night in the one resort), a sought after destination for honeymooners. Approaching this island by a small fishing boat – with its mesmerising blue waters and dazzling white sand – instantly makes you feel like you’ve discovered earth’s secret paradise.

Things to do in Malaysian BorneoPhoto credit:

Have you ever been to Borneo? Feel free to share your tips and experiences in the comments below!

Don’t forget to follow my travel adventures on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook where I’ll keep you updated on all my travel tips & recommendations.

About Veronica

World traveler + foodie. Sharing travel stories, tips & advice as I seek adventure around the globe.

29 comments on “Top 5 Things To Do In Malaysian Borneo

  1. Sepilok’s Orangutan Rehabilitation centre – was my highlight …amazing beaches … mountains … and river can be found on a couple of places around the world … but the orangutans – and after spending a day with them, no doubt about where we has come from. Your post is beautiful and very well written.

  2. Pingback: Top 5 Things To Do In Malaysian Borneo | Travel, Live and Work Abroad

  3. Hi Veronica, thanks for introducing yourself by following our site. Yours looks wonderful and we look forward to exploring it further. What a privilege to live a nomadic life on a boat! (I know there’s a story there, but I don’t see it told on these “pages”!) We thought you will enjoy one of our posts about Borneo:
    If you’re on facebook we also invite you to visit the RAXA Collective page to see what else we’re up to. See you there!

  4. Beautiful pictures and a very attractive description of the unique place. I’ve heard about it, but not nearly enough. It sounds enchanting. And you’re quite a travel guide. It’s a pleasure to read your posts.

  5. I’m heading to Borneo soon and was very glad to have stumbled upon your site. Your suggestions sound enchanting and your explanation of your choices are very to the point. This was a very useful post!

  6. Agree with your list! I would add that birdwatching in Borneo is outstanding and a must for all birders…Kinabalu National Park where you set off for the climb up Mt Kinabalu is a wonderful birding location in cool comfort!

  7. Hi!
    Me and my friend are going to work as volunteers at the Matang wildlife centre in october this year. Do you have any suggestions on what to do in our spare time?(Weekends) Hicking, diving, otherwise exploring:)

    Kind regards
    Chloe from Norway

  8. Pretty great post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to mention that I have really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts.

    After all I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write once more very

  9. Hi,

    Where do you fly into in order to do the hike up mount Kinabalu and the orangutan hike?

    Thanks so much!

    • Hey Gabrielle, we flew in to Kota Kinabalu International Airport, and traveled by bus to the different regions such as Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

  10. This is just great. Loved Reading your top 5. I just arrived i kinabalu this afternoon and was looking for something else than touristtraps 🙂
    Any chance you Will share the bane of the homestay WHO took you up the river. Or maybe where about you stayed.
    Thank you for this blog.

    XX Mia

  11. Nice! Thanks for this overview. How many days would you need to do all the activities above? Im flying from Singapore so not a long travel distance

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