Beyond the beaches: 4 of the best things to do in Borneo

Borneo is the world’s third largest island, divided among Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. It's a heavenly retreat for people looking to get away from the city life; packed with cultures, beaches, rainforests and mountains. The best part of a trip Borneo can't be found in your hotel room, but outside where nature's at its finest. Here are four things to do in Borneo that will get the heart pumping and show you the best of Borneo.

1. Climb Mount Kinabalu

Although climbing a mountain might not appeal to everyone, you should make an exception for Kinabalu. At 4095 metres it is relatively easy to climb. At the top you'll be rewarded with incredible views, a magnificent sunrise and at night - a starry sky you could almost reach out and touch. It is the tallest mountain in Malaysia and the 20th tallest in the world. Many people climb Kinabalu to see its miraculous biodiversity and unique and exotic species, especially orchids and pitcher plants.<

The mountain is the central piece of the Kinabalu National Park, a World Heritage Site located about an hour’s drive from Kota Kinabalu. The park's most famous attraction is the Rafflesia plant, which grows the world’s largest flowers. These fleshy, smelly, bright red flowers sprout on the ground and only last facouple of days before wilting. And then they smell even worse than the rotting flesh scent normally attributed to them. Although they sound hard to miss, they're actually quite rare and you'll only stumble across one if you're very lucky.

2. Dive in Sipadan Island

Sipadan Island is one of the best diving spots in the world with sightings of turtles, sharks, rays and other big marine creatures almost guaranteed. There are over 500 species of coral and 3000 species of fish identified to date. From the air, Sipadan is a circle of green forest surrounded by an apron of reef about six times the size of the island itself. Anemones grow thick on the sunny sides of the reef so there is plenty of colour.

Mention the name Sipadan in front of any scuba diver and their eyes will instantly glass over. The snorkelling and diving opportunities here are simply unmatched anywhere in the world, thanks to rich marine habitat. It's also one of the best places in the world to swim with turtles. Barracudas gather in hoards at Barracuda Point, like a sand storm of fish. Trevelly, snapper and reef shark are well represented and the bumphead parrotfish are more than just a funny name!

3. Jungle trekking and bird spotting at Danum Valley

If you have always dreamed of trekking through a tropical rainforest, this is one place you can't miss. The 400-year old trees grow to heights of a ridiculous 60 metres, and wildlife is readily spotted. Containing around 44,000 hectares of Primary Dipterocarp forest, the Danum Valley Conservation Area is a small part of over 1,000,000 hectares of protected forest in Borneo. Knowledgable leaders know where to find the birds you want, such as blue-banded and blue-headed pitta, the Bornean sub-species of banded pitta, Bornean ground cuckoo and the magnificent endemic Borneo bristlehead. Night walks and drives add to the experience with potential sightings of palm civets, Sambar deer, owls and perhaps a western tarsier.

4. See orangutans at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC)

SORC is the largest and oldest orangutan rehabilitation centre in the world. It offers volunteers the chance to help rehabilitate injured, sick and orphaned orangutans and release them back into the wild.  Day visitors can see the animals in the day release program and visit for a meal. So if you you can't make a full-time commitment you can still meet with these intelligent, and funny creatures. SORC doesn't only educate the orangutans to survive, you're guaranteed to leave with a renewed respect for animals and the world that we live in.

The program is very popular with volunteers, with an average of 800 tourists a day passing throuh the gates. People come from all over the world to donate their time and energy to these amazing, rare creatures in their natural habitats in the shrinking rainforests of Borneo. It’s a careful process where at first the animals are let out for only a few hours a day. They are then allowed to roam and come back for food if they need to before they’re finally captured and moved away from the centre into the wild.

Check out all our trips to Borneo and find one that inspires you. And with 10% off all our south Asia trips, there's no time like to present!

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