Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is the largest in the continent of Asia. Shared by the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, Indonesian Kalimantan and the small country of Brunei, Borneo is known for its sandy beaches and ancient rainforests, and is home to a wildly diverse ecosystem including orang-utans and clouded leopards!
There is more to Borneo than just jungles and wildlife though, as a trip around the island’s cultures, history and exciting cities make for plenty of adventure! Here are some top places to visit in Borneo in 2023!
1. Kuching (Sarawak)
When it comes to tourist attractions in Borneo, perhaps none is as popular as the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak. The capital of Sarawak is probably one of the best places to start. With its rich culture, history and biodiversity, Kuching calls for a more laid back adventure. Visit the world-class Borneo Cultures, have some local seafood at Top Spot Seafood and walk down the Kuching Waterfront to catch stunning views of the city and the most beautiful sunset you’ll ever see! In the mood for more nature? Check out the Bako National Park, Semenggoh Nature Reserve or Jong’s Crocodile Farm!
2. Lundu (Sarawak)
This coastal town is one of the best ways to experience nature! Lundu is home to beautiful beaches like Pandan Beach and Siar Beach as well as the best of what nature has to offer in Gunung Gading and Tanjung Datu National Park. Gunung Gading National Park is home to the largest flower in the world, the Rafflesia, as well as plenty of waterfalls and jungle streams, while Tanjung Datu National Park serves as an important conservation area for turtles and primates.
3. Miri (Sarawak)
Miri is the second largest city in the state and is also known as the northern gateway to Sarawak! Miri is probably most well known for the iconic Mulu Pinnacles, located in Mulu National Park. The journey up the Pinnacles is strenuous task, but well worth it for the view! Miri also has some underwater treasures, like the Miri-Sibuti Coral Reef National Park, where you can check any one of the 40 available dive sites. If you’re looking for a more laid back time in Miri, you can check out Coco Cabana or the Miri Crocodile Farm & Mini Zoo!
4. Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei)
The small country of Brunei isn’t as popular with tourists as other parts of Borneo, but makes for an interesting experience nevertheless. The capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan is the gilded epicentre of the nation, and is home to the gold-tipped Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque and the colossal Istana Nurul Iman. You can also check out the Royal Regalia Museum or ride on a mangrove river safari from Kampong Ayer!
5. Kota Kinabalu (Sabah)
The eastern side of Borneo is home to the Malaysian state of Sabah and its capital city, Kota Kinabalu. This coastal city is overwhelmingly beautiful and offers spectacular sights, friendly locals, exquisite seafood and more! Some of Kota Kinabalu’s best sights include Tanjung Aru Beach, the Gaya Street Sunday Market and Mari Mari Cultural Village. Conquer the highest peak of Malaysia, Mount Kinabalu or drop by one of KK’s many islands like Mamutik or Manukan!
6. Semporna (Sabah)
Located on the south-eastern coast of Sabah, Semporna is blessed with turquoise waters, sandy beaches and some of the best diving sites in the world! The most popular island for diving is Sipadan Island, the only oceanic island in Malaysia! Don’t miss out on the chance to swim alongside sea turtle, hammerhead sharks, rays and all sorts of fascinating marine life! If diving is not your thing, you can still try out snorkelling at Semporna’s other islands including Mataking Island, Mabul Island, Kapalai Island or Pom Pom Island. Prefer your feet on solid ground? Explore the picturesque Bohey Dulang Island and hike your way to the top for a stunning view of Semporna!
7. Derawan Island (East Kalimantan, Indonesia)
Let’s explore the southern part of Borneo, Indonesian Kalimantan! Located in East Kalimantan, the Derawan archipelago comprises 31 islands and is home to Indonesia’s largest nesting site of the rare and endangered giant green turtles and hawksbills turtles! The archipelago’s most well known islands are Derawan, Maratua, Sangalaki and Kakaban, which feature warm, isolated islands and soft white sandy beaches. However, Derawan’s most beautiful treasures are mostly underwater, with 460 different species of corals as well as sightings of dolphins, manta rays, dugongs, barracudas, jellyfish and even whales!
8. Banjarmasin (South Kalimantan, Indonesia)
Also known as the City of a Thousand Rivers, South Kalimantan’s Banjarmasin is the best place to absorb the nation’s urban culture, both on land and water! Banjarmasin’s many mighty rivers are a part of the local’s way of life, with daily floating markets and commercial canals like the Lok Baintan Floating Market or the Muara Kuin Floating Market! You can also learn more about Banjarmasin’s history at the Museum WASAKA!