Welcome to Borneo
It's a jungle out there! Borneo has some of the world's most wildlife-rich equatorial rainforests, incredible landscapes (above and below the waves) and rich indigenous culture.
If you've always longed to experience the humid fecundity of a real equatorial rainforest, Borneo will fulfil your wildest dreams. The island's jungles conjure up remoteness and adventure, with their impenetrable foliage and longboat trips into the 'heart of darkness'. But look a little closer and nuances emerge: the pitcher plants, lianas and orchids of the lowland forest give way to conifers and rhododendrons as you ascend the flanks of Mt Kinabalu. Deforestation makes for depressing headlines, but significant parts of the Bornean rainforest remain intact, protected by conservation projects whose viability depends in part on income from tourists.
For many visitors to Borneo, their most memorable moment is glimpsing a wild orangutan or proboscis monkey swinging through the jungle canopy, spotting an Irrawaddy dolphin in the shimmering waters of the South China Sea, or locking eyes with a pygmy elephant, clouded leopard or saltwater crocodile. Jungle animals are shy by nature, but a good guide can help you tell the difference between a vine and a vine snake, between a twig and a stick insect, and between the call of a gibbon and the cry of a hornbill.
Borneo brings together an astonishing array of cultures and languages, and age-old traditions of hospitality mean visitors are welcomed. Most cities have significant Chinese communities, the picturesque coastal kampung (villages) of Sabah and Sarawak are populated mainly by Malays, and you can interact with the Iban, Dusun, Murut, Penan and other indigenous groups in the interior, and with the Rungus and Bajau along the coast. Borneo's Dayak groups stopped headhunting long ago, but ancient customs and ceremonies live on in longhouse communities – overnight and multiday stays, accompanied by local guides, are possible and better than a fly-by day visit.
Culinary Melting Pot
The varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds of Borneo's people means the island's cuisines are as wide-ranging as they are delicious. Seafood from the South China Sea is served fresh at Chinese restaurants, smoky satay stalls beckon at Malay night markets and Indonesian eateries set your taste buds on fire with spicy sambal. Even tiny Brunei has its own culinary traditions, as do Borneo's numerous indigenous groups. From the sublime cooking of the Kelabit people – including Bario rice and pineapple curry – to Iban dishes such as bamboo chicken and midin jungle fern, Dayak cuisine is unlike anything you've ever tasted.