Borneo, Malaysia: where is it, when to go and what to see

Rest in style “bounty” on the island of Borneo

Lush tropical nature, white sand, crystal clear turquoise water, from which slowly appears young girl with stunning forms. Who hasn’t dreamed of being in her shoes or being next to her while watching one of the most travel seductive commercials in the world? Yes, yes, I mean the Bounty. The chocolate itself is, let’s face it, so-so, but it evokes a longing for paradise islands and paradise vacations.

The famous “Bounty” commercials were filmed in different parts of the world, from Crete and the Dominican Republic to Mauritius and Thailand. It turns out that there are many places on earth that can give “heavenly delight.

And what a blessing that we were able to visit one of these places kissed by God. We found it not far from Kota Kinabalu, which is on the island of Borneo, where the very first season of the reality show “The Last Hero” was filmed.

You know, travel broadens the mind. Before I had to explore different beach vacation options in Malaysia, I knew next to nothing about Kota Kinabalu. Of course, the island of Borneo was already on my ears thanks to my geography classes.

So what is unique about Borneo and why did I choose it over other Malaysian resorts?

1) Borneo (or Indonesian Kalimantan) is a unique island, it is the third largest island in the world and the only sea island, which is shared by three states – Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei

2) Diverse flora and fauna, tropical rain forests, a large number of endemics. For example, funny to the point of colic in the stomach oboznan nosach and the largest flower in the world Rafflesia

3) A large number of nature reserves and national parks, where you can literally immerse yourself in wildlife

4) Coral reefs which means a rich underwater world.

5) There are no earthquakes, typhoons, volcanic eruptions or tsunamis in Borneo, which, for example, affects neighboring countries and islands.

To see everything Borneo is rich in, we only had 5 full days. That’s a hell of a lot, you might say, nothing. Still, we saw some things.

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Orangutans are a Borneo treasure. The name comes from the Malay Orang Hutan, which means “forest man” (orang for “man” , hutan for “forest”)

Even before the thought of going to Malaysia, I had an idea of a holiday on the island of Borneo thanks to the wonderful review of yran

Upon learning more, I discovered that Kota Kinabalu, or KK as it is called by the locals, is not some small town lost in the jungle, but quite a big city with a population of half a million people, the capital of the Malaysian state of Sabah. There are decent four and five-star hotels around QC, but they, a) are a bit far from the city, which would force us to spend money on cabs and excursions b) do not fit into our budget of 40,000 rubles per person. There are simpler hotels in KK itself, but again they are either too expensive or inconveniently located. A good option for a really large company is to rent a private cottage. I looked through the cottage offers, but it would be economical to rent a cottage if there were 8 or better 10 of us.

In the end, I found a compromise in the form of renting an apartment, which fit perfectly into both our budget and travel plans. Subsequent experience has proven that a budget holiday in Kota Kinabalu, not to the detriment of comfort, is quite possible.

Hong Kong Airport. AirAsia features

If you happen to live in Hong Kong’s Nathan Hotel district, the most convenient way to get to the airport is by taking the A21 bus. There are no transfers – you just board and ride the comfortable double-decker bus.

All avid Asian travelers are well aware of the AirAsia low-cost airline, offering the cheapest fares for flights within the region. But beware: any services, including baggage check-in, are subject to a surcharge.

Don’t make the same mistake I did on this flight. I bought my tickets for the Hong Kong – Kota Kinabalu flight on the Budget Air intermediary site. Not only did it turn out later when I checked that they were cheaper on the airline’s website, but what was written on the electronic ticket also misled me.

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And the ticket had the following written on it: maximum baggage weight. I, it seemed to me, logically concluded that our luggage was prepaid.

But at the check-in counter it turned out that we still had to pay for each suitcase, and the amount of the surcharge was calculated from the total weight. Well, it was only the beginning of the trip, and we had with us 4 relatively light suitcases for 6 people. The total amount of the surcharge was about 100 USD, and only Hong Kong dollars are accepted.

Had I known luggage was not included, we would have done what all AirAsia customers do – take the maximum with us in our carry-on luggage.

Another tip: get to the airport as early as possible. There is usually a long line at the AirAsia counters, as it takes a lot of time to check in and pay for extra baggage. All departures are from Terminal 1, so if you depart from Terminal 2 (and this applies to all AirAsia flights), it takes time to move between terminals.



As beach vacations in Borneo are getting more and more popular by the day, many are wondering where the island is and how to get to Borneo. The amazing nature of the island, its beaches and attractions attract tens of thousands of tourists each year.

Borneo is easy to find on the map of the world: it is located on the border of the South China Sea, Sulu Sea and Java Sea, east of the island of Sumatra and the Malacca Peninsula, north of the island of Java.

Borneo on the world map

General Information

Borneo is the third largest island in the world, second only to Greenland and New Guinea. Borneo has one more name, Kalimantan, which is used as often as the first name. This is due to the fact that Borneo has more than one state: it is the only island in the world whose territory is divided between three countries: Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.

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The northeastern part of the island belongs to Malaysia (in Malay it is called Borneo, as it was named by the Magellanic expedition, which anchored off the Sultanate of Brunei), the northwestern part is occupied by Brunei, and the southern part belongs to Indonesia, where it is called Kalimantan.

Malaysia owns only 26% of the island, but most tourists vacation here. The Malaysian part of Borneo has no capital as such: there are the states of Sabah and Sarawak, each of which has a main city – Kota Kinabalu and Kuching respectively.

In general, Borneo has a tropical climate, but the climate varies slightly from place to place. In Sarawak, the temperature during the year does not change too noticeably and is in the range of +27. +32 ° C, in Sabah the temperature is about the same. But the mountainous regions – the Kelabit Plateau in Sabah and Mount Kinabalu in Sarawak – are known for cooler weather. Those who want to make the ascent should pack warm clothes.

In Borneo, the rainy season begins in November. In Sarawak, it ends in February, and in Sabah it lasts until mid-spring. Rainfall here is from 2 to 3 thousand mm a year, and in the mountains – up to 5 thousand mm. It rains all year round, the rainy season differs only in length and abundance.


The pictures of Borneo Island most often show snow-white beaches and blue sea. However, the natural beauty of the island does not stop there. There are rain forests – some of the oldest in the world (their age is about 130 million years). Many endemic plants grow on the island.

The animals of Borneo also amaze with their variety. Here you can see the smallest bears on the planet – biruangs, pygmy elephants, Sumatran rhinos, smoky leopards, orangutans, nasal monkeys, and binturongs.

Sun Bear - the smallest in the world

Borneo Resorts

The beaches of Borneo are considered some of the best in Malaysia – a long, almost endless stretch of coastal sand. The sand is white and fine. There are almost no waves off the coast, as the island is reliably protected by coral islands. The ominous “red tide” (active water bloom) is rare here – usually the waves and current take everything away towards China and Thailand – but when something similar happens (it can happen in late April-May), you can go to any of the islands nearby: boats constantly run between them.

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The 4* and 5* hotels have their own beaches. The best ones are near Kota Kinabalu, and Tanjung Aru is probably the most popular on the island. Very good beaches in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, which is located on an island a few kilometers from Kota Kinabalu.

Tanjung Aru - the best beach on the island

Attractions in Borneo

Borneo is an island with plenty of attractions, so there’s plenty to do when a beach vacation gets boring. Tourists who are wondering: Borneo or Langkawi – which should I choose? – First of all, they should be guided by the type of recreation that attracts them.

If it’s only the beach + sea, you can ponder, because both the first and the second options have their advantages and disadvantages. But those who want to take a break from “doing nothing” and wants to get acquainted with the culture, art and traditions of Malaysia, should choose Borneo. Most of the attractions are located away from the cities, and to get acquainted with the beauties of the island of Borneo, you should book tours and visit:

What to see in Borneo in the cities? Very interesting in Kota Kinabalu:

  • Sabah State Museum;
  • Marine Aquarium and Museum.

In Kuching are:

  • Petroleum Museum;
  • Textile Museum; ; .

Those who come to Borneo with children should visit Lok Kawi wildlife park, 20 km from Kota Kinabalu.

Lok Kawi wildlife park

Where to Stay?

Borneo hotels are among the best in Malaysia. There are luxurious 5* hotels and very basic 1* and 2* hotels, about a thousand options in total. Good hotels can be found in the state capitals, and in other major cities, and all along the coast.

Some of the best lodging options on the island are:

  • 5* Luxury Condominium at Loft Imago in Kota Kinabalu;
  • Bike and Tours Bed and Breakfast in Lahad Datu;
  • Sunset Homestay in Kuching;
  • Cube Bed Station Hostel in Sempom;
  • 5* Mulu Marriott Resort in Mulu.
Piran bay with its salt history and Mediterranean romance

The cuisine of the Malaysian part of Borneo is a mix of Malay, Indonesian, Chinese, and Thai. Here you can have a hearty and tasty lunch in almost any café or restaurant. There are European and North American restaurants at some hotels, but they are generally few on the island.

Local cuisine includes many dishes from fish and seafood, they are always very tasty and fresh, because the population of the island lives mostly by fishing. Also a lot of different dishes from noodles and meat (mostly chicken).

Plenty of places to eat inexpensively and deliciously.

Shopping in Borneo

In major cities, especially in the state capitals, there are enough shopping centers where shoppers will find everything they want. The island has many markets where you can buy fresh fruit, fish, and local handicrafts. And there are souvenir stores at all resorts on the island.

Kota Kinabalu Market Kota Kinabalu Mall

How to reach Borneo?

How to reach Borneo from Kuala Lumpur? By plane. The state capitals of Kuching and Kota Kinabalu have airports that you can fly to from the capital in 1 hour. 25 minutes and 2 hours. 30 minutes. Borneo’s airports handle flights from the capital of Malaysia and other major cities, as well as international flights.

Kota Kinabalu Airport Kuching Airport

Transportation Network

There are flights from Kota Kinabalu to Kuching and back: these airports are served by Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia domestic flights. A rail line runs along the west coast of the island, linking Kota Kinabalu to Beaufort. The line is 134 kilometers long. There are also many buses running around the island. Express trains run between and from the state capitals to other major cities, which are quite comfortable and air-conditioned. There are also plenty of regular flights with stops in all localities.

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