Imagine being surrounded by ancient trees and the calls of extraordinary animals – that’s the enchanting experience the Borneo Rainforest offers.
Borneo Rainforest is actually one of the oldest and most diverse rainforests globally; a place where nature is in charge.
In this travel guide, we’ll take you on a journey through this rainforest. Read on to know how you can experience its amazing wildlife and indigenous people, and how you can explore while being kind to nature!
The Borneo Rainforest: An Overview
The Borneo Rainforest represents a significant and expansive woodland ecosystem situated on the island of Borneo.
Home to a wide array of plant and animal species, this dense ecosystem is characterized by its towering trees and lush undergrowth.
Because of this, its complex web of life continuously contributes to the island’s ecological diversity and significance.
Recognized for its ecological value, the Borneo Rainforest plays a pivotal role in sustaining a multitude of species and warrants attentive conservation efforts to preserve its intricate biodiversity and ecological balance.
Malaysian Standard Time (UTC+8)
Things to Know
Currency: Malaysian Ringgit
(check the current exchange rate)
Language: Malay, English, Mandarin
Calling Code: +60
Best Time to Go
The best time to visit is during the dry season, which typically spans from March to October.
During these months, the weather is more predictable, with less rainfall and more sunshine, making it easier to explore the lush trails and spot the diverse wildlife.
However, if you don’t mind a bit of rain, the wet season from November to February has its own allure. The rainforest comes alive with vibrant vegetation, and the occasional downpour only enhances the mystical atmosphere.
Keep in mind that the wet season might bring along some challenges like muddy trails and limited wildlife sightings.
How to Get to Borneo Rainforest
By Flights: Flights from Kuala Lumpur to Malaysian Borneo are the most cost-effective way to get to Borneo Rainforest. Consider these starting points:
- Kuching (KCH): The best starting point for going to Sarawak. Fly to Miri (MYY) if you want to head to Mulu National Park first.
- Kota Kinabalu (BKI): It is the busiest airport in Borneo where you’ll be transported right into the heart of Sabah. It’s the best choice for accessing Mount Kinabalu or other connecting points throughout Borneo.
- Sandakan (SDL): Travel to Sandakan in East Sabah to get to the Kinabatangan River faster.
- Bandar Seri Begwan (BWN): The capital of Brunei, it’s the best choice for exploring the Ulu Temburong National Park.
- Balikpapan (BPN): A city in Kalimantan and a hub for taking smaller planes to more remote areas.
- Tanjung Redeb (BEJ): The best route for traveling to the Derawan Islands.
What to Do in Borneo Rainforest
Explore the Danum Valley
Location: Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia
The Danum Valley is located 80 kilometers from Lahad Datu City and is one of the world’s most complex ecosystems. It’s classified as Class 1 (Protection) Forest Reserve under the Sabah Forestry Enactment 1968.
When exploring the Danum Valley, there’s a good chance you’ll see wildlife in the primary rainforest, making it the ultimate rainforest experience. You can even swim in the Danum River and walk on the canopy!
This enchanting forest is home to a wide variety of plant and wildlife species such as banteng, clouded leopard, orangutan, slow loris, proboscis monkeys, and the endangered Bornean pygmy elephant.
You can also find the Yellow Meranti tree – the world’s tallest tropical tree. It stands at over 330 feet, which is a true sight to behold!
Get up close and personal with orangutans at Sepilok
Location: 90000, Jalan Sepilok, Sepilok, 90000 Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia
Sepilok is the world’s most famous place to see orangutans in their natural habitat. Around 80 of them are living in the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Reserve and 25 orphaned orangutans are housed in the nurseries.
It’s a delight to see the nursery area, which has a playground. Here, young orangutans are paired with an older orangutan who serves as their ‘buddy’ to teach them how to live in the wild.
The facility provides medical care for not just orphaned orangutans, but also to confiscated orangutans.
The centre is located within the Kabili Sepilok Forest Reserve. There, feeding platforms are set up where volunteers can drop fruit twice a day as a donation!
Other wildlife species that call Sepilok their home are sun bears, gibbons, and elephants.
Journey along the Kinabatangan River
The Kinabatangan River emerges as a majestic waterway, stretching an impressive 560 kilometers from the Crocker Range in Southwest Sabah to the Sulu Sea in Southeast Sandakan.
What makes the Kinabatangan truly remarkable is its ability to host an astounding array of habitats within its realm.
You’ll find yourself traversing dipterocarp forests, encountering oxbow lakes, and witnessing the quiet beauty of the nipah and mangrove ecosystems.
But it’s the Lower Kinabatangan River that will steal your heart! This stretch of the river boasts one of the world’s most richly diverse ecosystems, holding the esteemed title of Sabah’s first and Malaysia’s largest RAMSAR site.
The inhabitants of this ecosystem are equally captivating. The indigenous orangutans and playful proboscis monkeys have found their sanctuary here, living harmoniously amidst the river’s bounty.
The Kinabatangan extends beyond the primates, as you’ll discover that this lush forest is one of only two places globally where 10 species of primates coexist.
The diversity doesn’t stop there, as you’ll also find Bornean pygmy elephants, tarsiers, and riverside crocodiles!
- Borneo Adventure is one of the top options you may check out for this journey. They offer various packages (2D1N, 3D2N, and 4D3N) that include accommodation, giving you a wide range of options for your stay!
Go wildlife watching at Tabin Wildlife Reserve
Location: Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia
Tabin Wildlife Reserve spans an area of 122,500 hectares northeast of Lahad Datu in eastern Sabah and should definitely be on your Borneo rainforest bucket list.
It was declared as a protective area in 1984 because of the existence of the Borneo pygmy elephant, Sumatran rhinoceros and banteng in the area.
Meanwhile, nine species of primates can be found here, such as the orangutan, Bornean gibbon, red leaf monkey, silvered leaf monkey, tarsiers, and macaques!
Over 300 species of birds also call the Tabin Wildlife Reserve their home! But what makes the Tabin Wildlife Reserve unique is its active mud volcanoes that serve as salt licks for the wildlife, making it the perfect spot for observation.
If you’re up for trekking, there are nine trails in Tabin Wildlife Reserve, such as the Gibbon Trail (2.8 km), Raleigh Trail (2.5 km), Elephant Trail (2.2 km), Rhino Trail (1.8 km), Otters Loop (1.2 km), and more.
- There’s an observation tower in the Lipad mud volcano where you’ll be able to see some wildlife up close!
Spot the cats at Deramakot Forest Reserve Park
Location: Telupid, Beluran, Sabah, Malaysia
Deramakot Forest Reserve can be found 240 km from Kota Kinabalu and 190 km from Sandakan, and is arguably the best place to see a clouded leopard.
The rich wildlife here comprises 75% of Sabah’s mammal species which can be found within its 55,507 hectares of mixed dipterocarp forest.
All five species of Bornean cats are found in this reserve, such as the Sunda clouded leopard, Marbled cat, Bornean bay cat, flat headed cat, and leopard cat.
It’s also a vital sanctuary for orangutans since there are around an estimated 1,400 of them right here!
And if you’re a bird enthusiast, you’ll find that this place is a haven! Its rich avian diversity consists of 147 species, including all eight Bornean hornbill species.
You’ll best see the range of wildlife here via 4×4 vehicles where you can ‘spot light’ the different species of animals at night.
Visit the tribes and communities
Borneo’s rich cultural landscape is a reflection of its intricate history. Two primary groups stand out: the Dayak people, residing in the inner reaches of the island, and the coastal communities.
Among these, the Dayak, comprising around 50 distinct tribes, have forged a deep connection with the rainforest for their survival. Distinctive in their practices, these tribes have tattooing and dance as integral expressions of their identities.
Their cultures are a melting pot of uniqueness, painted with meaningful tattoos and captivating dances.
Yet, the preservation of their cultures faces an uphill battle. Sadly, the risk of language disappearance looms large, especially among tribes with only a few hundred remaining members.
Depending on where you go, you can visit these tribes for an even more immersive experience. You can enjoy a family homestay experience amidst the rainforest, stay in traditional homes built above water, or ride boat safaris.
EXO Travel offers a complete package complete with a two-week stay where you can not only go on tours of the beautiful Borneo rainforest, but you can also experience visiting the friendly tribes that live there.
Where to Stay in Borneo Rainforest
Borneo Rainforest Lodge
Location: Lot 20, Block 3, MDLD 3285, Ground Floor, Fajar Centre Fajar Lorong 9, 91120 Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia
Contact Details: +60 88-267 637
Nestled right within this natural haven, the Borneo Rainforest Lodge offers an enchanting rustic retreat that will immerse you in the heart of nature’s beauty.
The view from the lodge is nothing short of breathtaking – a sweeping panorama of the lush forest that felt like stepping into a living painting.
After days filled with exhilarating wildlife encounters, the veranda here will be your haven of relaxation. Be sure to spend some time in the hot tub or swimming pool that seamlessly blends with the natural surroundings!
Bungaraya Island Resort
Location: Polish Bay, Gaya Island, Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Contact Details: +60 88-380 390
Bungaraya Island Resort is a realm of tropical bliss just off the Sabah Coast in Malaysian Borneo. Imagine 48 timber villas, each reflecting traditional Bornean architecture, gazing out onto a pristine white-sand beach.
Here, you’ll spend dreamy hours lounging on the beach, where the gentle waves will serenade your senses. Its hilltop spa, a haven of relaxation, offers rejuvenating treatments amidst the lush surroundings, a truly unparalleled experience.
Aside from that, you can visit their underground wine cellar that offers a treasure trove of fine wines!
Gaya Island Resort
Location: Malohom Bay, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Marine Park, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Contact Details: +60 18-939 1100
Gaya Island Resort is a hidden gem tucked away in the mangroves and vibrant coral reefs – the ideal place when you’re traveling to the Borneo rainforest and you want a taste of the sea!
The setting is nothing short of magical as this haven rests on an island within the cocoon of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. You’ll feel like you stumbled on a secret sanctuary surrounded by a panoramic view of Mount Kinabalu on the horizon.
From the canopy of mangrove forests to the majestic silhouette of Mount Kinabalu, vistas from the villas here are truly captivating.
The interiors are not-to-miss, though! Here, you can enjoy contemporary elegance that speaks of eco-luxury that still pays homage to the distinctive Sabahan heritage.
Sepilok Forest Edge Resort
Location: Mile 14, Jalan Rambutan, Sepilok, 90009 Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia
Contact Details: +60 16-523 3190
Sepilok Forest Edge Resort is definitely a slice of heaven that perfectly complements your unforgettable Borneo experience. The resort boasts a collection of stylish Malay design chalets and a longhouse.
The chalets themselves are a testament to sustainable ingenuity. Crafted from recycled woods, they hold stories that date back to the 1940s, when the wood panels were part of Chinese houses.
The traditional Malay doors, adorned with a wooden block lock, greet you with a touch of authenticity. Inside, the ambiance is enriched by Bubuh Lights and Lanterns, a fusion of Malay and Chinese influences.
The rooms themselves are adorned with local drawings, handmade natural art pieces, and nostalgic pictures of old Sandakan, for a cultural experience you and your family will surely enjoy!
Sukau Rainforest Lodge
Location: C/O Borneo Eco Tours, Lot 1, Pusat Perindustrian, Kolombong Jaya, Mile 5.5, Jalan Kolombong,, 88450 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Contact Details: +60 88-438 300
Graciously located along the serene banks of the Kinabatangan River, one of Borneo’s vital lifelines, the Sukau Rainforest Lodge is like stepping into a world untouched by time.
The river itself plays host to a grand gathering of Borneo’s splendid wildlife, inviting you to witness their magnificence in their natural habitat. The lodge’s embrace of the rainforest’s tranquility is a soothing balm for the soul!
Every detail, from the luxurious accommodations to the guided excursions, is thoughtfully curated to ensure a journey you’ll cherish forever!
Where to Eat in Borneo Rainforest
Location: Taman awam, Bintulu – Miri Hwy, Taman Awam Miri, 98000 Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia
- Daily 4PM-9Pm
Contact Details: +60 17-809 9855
Situated within the inviting confines of Miri Public Park (Taman Awam Miri), this stall stands out as a seafood haven. Prices are reasonable, and the culinary offerings are nothing short of delightful.
You can relish in kam heong crabs, nestum prawns, and manicai (cangkuk manis), each dish satisfying both the palate and the wallet.
Notably, A1 Seafood maintains a pork-free menu, catering to a wider range of preferences.
Location: Jalan Temenggong Datuk Oyong Lawai, Miri 98000 Malaysia
- Daily 6AM-11PM
Contact Details: +60 85-421 121
Zest emerges as a haven for all-day dining, where culinary dreams are met with an array of freshly prepared international and local delicacies.
Don’t miss out on their superb breakfast buffet! It has a wonderful array of breakfast options such as smoked duck and laksa! Your dining experience is also made even better with their warm and friendly staff who are always around to serve your needs.
For vegetarians, it will surely be a pleasant experience as Zest Restaurant offers a lot of options such as fruits, salads, breads, vegetables, hash browns, tofu, fresh juices, and more!
Location: Lot No. F201 , Level 2 Menara Berkembar Petronas, Persiaran Petronas, Kuala Lumpur City Centre, 50088 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- Daily 10AM-9:30Pm
Contact Details: +60 3-2181 8148
Try their signature meal at Fuel Shack – their burgers! This heavenly meal consists of the perfect smoky patty paired with freshly baked bread that is cooked to perfection.
It’s definitely going to fill you up after a long, tiring day of walking around the Borneo rainforest.
Tanjong Seafood Restaurant
Location: Jalan Brighton, Miri 98000 Malaysia
Contact Details: +60 85-411 472
Tanjong Seafood Restaurant stands as a culinary gem in Malaysia’s lush landscape. With its inviting ambience and coastal charm, it offers a delectable journey through Malaysia’s rich seafood offerings.
Here you’ll be able to enjoy their fresh seafood infused with their local flavors for a delightful dining experience!
What to Expect in Borneo Rainforest Weather
Dry Season (March to October): During this period, you can anticipate relatively drier and more predictable weather. Days are often warm and humid, with occasional rain showers that are typically short-lived.
This season is considered the best time to visit the rainforest as the trails are more accessible, and there’s a higher chance of wildlife sightings. The temperatures usually range from 25°C to 32°C (77°F to 89.6°F).
Wet Season (November to February): The wet season brings more rainfall and occasional thunderstorms. The rainforest truly comes to life during this time, with vibrant vegetation and a sense of lushness.
While the rain can be heavier and trails may be muddier, this season offers a unique opportunity to witness the rainforest in its full splendor. Wildlife might be slightly harder to spot due to the denser foliage, but the atmosphere is captivating.
Temperatures during this period tend to be slightly cooler, ranging from 23°C to 30°C (73.4°F to 86°F).
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