Located above the island of Java, in the magnificent marine part of Southeast Asia, colorful, wild and mysterious nature of world’s third largest island known as Kalimantan or Borneo attracts people from all over the world.
Divided between Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei, Kalimantan (Borneo) is the home of one of the oldest rainforests in the world, but also the last refuge for many endemic and endangered species. For the a larger period of its history, this island was uninhabited and hidden under the natural green covering which was 130 million years old.
However, nowadays situation is completely changed. Kalimantan (Borneo) can offer you magnificent scenery – the jungle-covered mountains, from where warm and humid air evaporates; scattered villages in the hills, slow rivers, valleys, beaches and their white sand caressed by the clearest sea water.
Story of Kalimantan (Borneo)
It all started when Chinese traders came to look for rhinos’ horns that were used in medical purposes, but also for aromatic wood gaharu and bird nests, which are used for expensive soup. Afterwards, Muslim and Portuguese traders joined them, in order to export gold and pepper.
In the colonial epoch of the 19th and 20th century, British and Dutch were these who controlled the island. Their main reasons for island control were unique tropical tree species and workforce brought from China and India. These minorities are now numerous in Kalimantan (and entire Malaysia), but they are very well integrated into local population.
Taste of the journey
Kota Kinabalu, capital of Sabah province located on the southwest coast of the island is a recommended place to start your journey at. The interesting city which never sleeps will grab your attention with its sights.
One of them is the night market, which will give a unique flavor to your gastronomic journey, by leading you through the various tastes of Malaysian cuisine. Cuisine of Kalimantan (Borneo) reflects all of the most delicious aspects of the national cuisine, based on the usage of fresh ingredients enriched with the flavors of Indian and Tai spices. Inhabitants of the island are used to having dinners on this market, since the goods are really cheap and affordable, even for their financial conditions.
Under the sea
The best submarine adventure you will experience on the sandy islets of Manukan and Mamutik. This archipelago is one of the most attractive places in the world when it comes to diving and similar activities.
Surface of the island with its quiet, secluded and clean beaches may provide you a complete relaxation, but at the same time, under the surface, there is a sumptuous underwater world full of interesting shells, urchins with very long spines and vividly colored fish. These islands are a perfect vacation destination since they are a real oasis of peace.
Gentle giant and flower of corpses
Kota Kinabalu is named after the mighty Kinabalu, mountain 4,095 meters high, which is located 90 kilometers southeast of the city. In its base lies the National Park of Kinabalu. It was founded in 1964, which makes him one of the oldest national parks of Malaysia.
At the same time, it’s the first Malaysian park which found its place on the UNESCO list, with more than 4,500 plants and animal species. If you are really lucky, you may find Borneo Rafflesia, which is a parasite plant without stem and leaves and real roots. The only part you can see is its enormous red flower, which is the biggest flower known in the world of plants.
This flower lasts only for a couple of days, and therefore it s rarely seen. It produces an unpleasant smell of rotting flesh, which attracts insects and local people call it “the flower of corpses”.
Orangutans and story of Kinabatangan
Center for rehabilitation of orangutans is about 25 kilometers away from the city of Sandakan and it was opened in 1964. It was first of its kind in the world. This center is a shelter for young orangutans which were rescued from their endangered habitats. After they are trained to survive in the wildness of Kalimantan (Borneo), they are released from the shelter.
As the second longest river of Kalimantan (Borneo), Kinabatangan has both miraculous and tragic background. By cutting trees to expand plantation area, space surrounding the river was completely destroyed. Once you start going down the river, you’ll probably see some of the most amazing types of birds. Diversity of birds’ species in this area is really impressive.
Proboscis monkeys, endemic species of Kalimantan, will salute you hanging from the tall trees. They are especially interesting because of their orange faces with large noses and red furry on their backs. You may also see some of the endangered Borneo elephants, hidden in the woods of Kalimantan.
The biggest cat of Borneo
Another province of Malaysian Kalimantan, Sarawak, may offer you pretty relaxing and sophisticated atmosphere, especially if you decide to visit the city of Kuching. Kuching is located on the northwest coast, and it represents a charming combination of tall buildings and traditional wooden ships. The name of this city means “cat” in Malaysian, and in addition to that – it’s full of cats. One advantage of Kuching when compared to some other cities of Kalimantan is that its historical buildings remained intact during World War II. Many of them were even rebuilt. Once you visit Kuching, make sure not to forget to visit National Park of Bako, which is located about 30 kilometers away from the city.
Where to stay?
People who visited Kalimantan (Borneo) and stayed in the guest houses in villages usually recommend enjoying this type of accommodation. One of the nicest villages for this purpose is the Kundasang village, which is located near the national park.
Here you can buy vegetables every day, in the colorful and vivid open market ran by locals, Dusun people. Inhabitants of Borneo are really kind people ready to give you a hand whenever you need it. Even though their English skills are on a low level, they will be persistent and find a way of starting a conversation.
If days become rainy during your staying, don’t be disappointed. Use it as a perfect excuse to explore local cafes and enjoy their black tea with milk, known as Teh Tarik.