Covering an area of roughly 287,000 square miles, Borneo is the third-largest island in the world. It is divided into four political regions: Kalimantan belongs to Indonesia, Sabah and Sarawak are part of Malaysia and a small remaining region comprises the sultanate of Brunei. Located southeast of the Malay Peninsula and southwest of the Philippines, Borneo is primarily mountainous, with dense areas of rainforest.
If you’re a traveller looking for something out of the ordinary, your expectations will be fulfilled. You’ll be swamped by the jungle’s beauty and different cultural influences. Before taking on this tropical adventure, read these interesting facts about Borneo and what to expect on your journey!
For most of the last millennium, Borneo remained isolated from the rest of the world.
In the 16th century, emissaries of Spain and Portugal reached Borneo’s shores. Soon after, the Dutch and British arrived, and it was these two latter nations that held power in Borneo from the 17th century into the modern era.
In 1949, Indonesia became a foreign state, and in 1957, Malaysia gained its independence.
Today, the population of Borneo consists of non-Muslim Dayaks and Islamic Malays, as well as Chinese and Europeans.
Inland, Borneo is comprised of a variety of different native tribes, each distinguishable from others by distinct language and culture.
Borneo is home to Southeast Asia’s highest mountain: Mount Kinabalu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You can climb Kota Kinabalu over two days and one night, reaching the summit on the second day for spectacular views above the clouds.
The rainforest in Borneo is one of the oldest in the world and is estimated to be about 130 million years old. It is inhabited by many endangered species such as the Sumatran rhinoceros, the Asian elephant, and the Bornean clouded leopard.
While there is work being done to protect areas of Borneo, logging and land-clearing are considered to be the greatest threats to the nation’s habitats and its wildlife.
Mount Kinabalu, Borneo
Orangutans can only be found in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.
Horned frogs are native to Borneo. They’ve got amazing horn-type things sticking out over their ears. Basically, they look like the devil but are harmless enough.
Borneo is also home to the famous Bornean pygmy elephant and the Bornean sun bear, which are both the smallest elephant and bear species in the world respectively.
The Proboscis monkey is one primate that’s sure to leave an impression. Found only in Borneo, this monkey is famously known for its exceptionally unique nose that can grow as long as 18cm in length.
Borneo is home to ninja slugs. This species, discovered in 2012, fire ‘love darts’ at its mate, hence it was named “ninja slug”.
Half of the world’s timber comes from Borneo. Forty years ago 73.7% of the country was covered by rainforest, tragically today only 50.5% is covered.
The Proboscis monkey
The Kinabatangan River is the longest river in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, and the second-longest in all of Malaysia.
The Kinabatangan River in Sabah offers the chance for travellers to take a laidback cruise through dense rainforest and spy monkeys, crocodiles and pygmy elephants.
There are caves on the island where human habitation has been dated back to 40,000 years. Niah Caves in Sarawak are a particular hotspot, with archaeologists uncovering human remains and tools from the Pleistocene Era.
Borneo is home to one of the largest underground cave chambers in the world. The Sarawak Chamber sits quietly in its immensity. Just picture eight jumbo jets lined-up perfectly within the span of the chamber, that’s how immense the cave is!
The tallest tropical tree in the world can be found in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo and it was recently discovered by scientists in early 2019 at Danum Valley.
Nothing makes you stop and stare in awe like a scene of the Sun setting below the horizon! In Borneo, there are various locations where the sunsets (and sunrises) are out of this world.
Tun Sakaron Marine Park, Semporna, Borneo, Malaysia
The island of Borneo itself generally isn’t that beachy, but that’s not to say you won’t find your perfect slice of paradise there.
Sabah state has the best beaches, with white sands, snorkelling, and islands such as Kapalai, Sipadan, and Lankayan.
Borneo is one of the few places in the world where there are only 50 miles between a mountain and a beach, from the base of Mount Kinabalu to the exotic Gaya Island.
Sharks, dugong, turtles, and barracuda are just some of the marine life you’ll find cruising the depths around Borneo.
There are several turtle-hatching beaches along the Bornean coastline, including those of Selingan (Turtle) Island.
Some of the best islands for scuba diving in Borneo are in the Celebes Sea.
Sipadan is the most famous and popular, with a 120-per-day diver limit helping protect its precious underwater assets.
Borneo’s peat marsh swamps contribute to its rich biodiversity, providing a home for freshwater fish, birds, and monkeys. They cover the coastlines of Borneo, with some up to 11,000 years old.
Borneo is, in fact, one of the region’s largest producers of oil and gas. It also produces rubber, cacao, and timber.
Borneo is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, being home to an estimated 15,000 different plant species.
Borneo is home to the largest flower in the world – Rafflesia Arnoldii flower. The flower is also known as the corpse flower as it is said to smell like rotting corpses.
With such bountiful nature, it’s no surprise that Borneo attracts travellers with an interest in preserving its fragile ecology.
Do you have any fun or interesting facts about Borneo that we’ve missed? Share them here in the comments section below!