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Borneo is part of the Greater Sunda Islands and the largest island in Asia; it is also considered the centre of South East Asia. The island is divided politically among three nations: Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. It is a wonderful place to visit and comes highly recommended among the world’s most experienced tourists who know there are lots of things to do in Borneo.
Researching Borneo reveals that tourism in that part of the world is centred heavily around the environment. Not only is Borneo home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world but it is also a hotbed for the emerging ecotourism sector. You should definitely consider a visit if you are looking for a holiday with a heavy focus on the natural world.
Before the Dutch and British arrived in Borneo in the mid-nineteenth century, the island was strictly controlled by various Asian dynasties. But with the introduction of Western trading influences, many regions of the island changed considerably. Borneo was opened to further Western influence as a result of Japan’s defeat in World War II and assistance provided by the British military to quell confrontations between Malaysia and Indonesia in the 1960s.
The Best Things to Do in Borneo
Despite the region’s troubled political past, its current stability and economy have made it the perfect environment for a burgeoning tourism industry. A number of coastal town and cities provide places you could make a base of operations for your holiday. You might want to consider Kota, Kuching, Miri, Samarinda, or Sandakan as your initial destination.
Below I have listed some great things to do in Borneo:
Underwater Observatory Aquarium
It is not often that you get to visit an expansive underwater aquarium teeming with local marine life. This is no oversized tank nicely contained in an air-conditioned building. When you visit the Underwater Observatory Aquarium near Gaya Island, you will definitely be in the thick of it all. You will be picked up from your hotel (if you are staying in Kota), taken by speedboat out to the site, and then taken 13 feet underwater for an adventure of a lifetime. The entire experience begins at 9am and lasts about six hours. Expect to pay roughly £110 per person.
Sandakan Orangutan Excursion
Another fantastic thing to do in Borneo is to go on a full-day orangutan excursion based out of Sandakan. Just ask your hotel operator about making reservations, and there are a number of providers offering them. For about £100 per person, you can enjoy a 10-hour excursion to the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and its surrounding area, where you will see the shy but majestic creatures in their natural surroundings. The entrance fee includes transportation and lunch.
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Explore the Fairy and Wind Caves
About an hour from Kuching are the amazing Fairy Cave and Wind Caves sites that are very popular with tourists. The Fairy Cave towers more than three stories in height and includes a main chamber that tends to flood with sunlight during the day. The Wind Caves are a series of three different caves featuring a patchwork of bat-filled tunnels. Excursions run about £80 per person and last roughly 4 hours.
Sarawak Cultural Village
If you are looking for more cultural things to do in Borneo, I suggest a visit to the Sarawak Cultural Village at Damai Beach. The village is Kuching’s version of a living museum, where people actually live and work full-time. At the village, you will encounter different kinds of local architecture that reflect the influences of the Chinese and Malay cultures. The village is also home to the annual Rain Forest World Music Festival each summer. The village receives guests daily; entry fee is approximately £60 per person.
Kuching Heritage Bike Tour
See Kuching as the locals do by taking a half-day heritage bike tour. For less than £30 per person, you can get a guided 4-hour tour of the most important buildings to Borneo heritage and culture. Children are welcome as long as they are accompanied by an adult.
Kuching Main Bazaar
Tourists who love to shop may discover their favourite thing to do in Borneo is to visit the main bazaar in Kuching. The bazaar consists of rows of old shop houses right on the waterfront, each one filled with hand-crafted items including artwork, textiles, drums, headdresses, and painted shields. It is truly a unique place. The bazaar is open daily and entry is free.
Grab a Beer at Soho Bar & Bistro
Not all of the best things to do in Borneo involve culture or nature. If you love experiencing international nightlife, pay a visit to the Soho Bar & Bistro in Miri. The bar is comparable to a Western sports bar, featuring huge flat-screen TVs and large wooden tables for plenty of guests. They serve typical bar fare including chicken wings, nachos and snacks, but they also serve full meals as well. You can even get the local speciality: Soho Shrimp Cocktail served in a martini glass.
There is no shortage of things to do in Borneo – whether you are visiting for the first time or the hundredth. I have only scratched the surface in this brief review. Borneo comes highly recommended as a destination for first-time visitors to South East Asia.
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- Golden Beach: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thinkofacolour/
- Underwater Observatory: https://www.getyourguide.com
- Orangutan Centre: By Photo by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31516520
- Caves: http://borneoexperiences.com
- Cultural Village: By The original uploader was Raydeness at English Wikipedia [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Bazaar: http://sarawakorigin.blogspot.co.uk