Backpacking Malaysia – Travel Tips for Borneo

Borneo is one of the biggest islands in the world!! Did you know that? I didn’t knew that before I started to write this piece.. I did know that the island was huge!! When I was backpacking Malaysia, Borneo after 4 months of travelling a large part of this world in 2017. I started with the camino in Spain, went on to Cuba and Colombia and then headed on to Asia to end with a short journey on the island of Borneo, Malaysia. Today I’ll share my Borneo Travel Tips with you! Also that trip I didn’t take but should’ve done!!

The largest part of the island of Borneo belongs to Indonesia, it is called Kalimantan. Then you have the small nation of Brunei, just below Kota Kinabalu. And KK is the place you most probably will fly to when starting your backpacking journey on Borneo!

I traveled here because I wanted to do a jungle tour or jungle trekking. If you look up Borneo Tips you’ll see on top of the list the jungle tours to see the Orangutan or the Proboscus monkey. That was part of the reason I came here. The other reason was that I wanted to go Mabul to go diving near Sipadan which promised to be one of the most beautiful spot in the world to dive!!

These two activities were on the top of my list for Backpacking Borneo!!

During my eveningwalk at Kota Kinabalu
Sunset along the coast at Kota Kinabalu

Things to do in Borneo on your Backpacking trip through Malaysia

How to get to Borneo?

I started my trip on the island of Borne from Kota Kinabalu. I had booked a flight from Kuala Lumpur to this capital. Yes, it is the capital of Sabah, Borneo. Most of the trips from other parts of Asia goes to KK. From this city are a lot of trips to be booked!

I think the Best Borneo Tour is the trip to go up mountain Kinabalu. The trip includes an early morning up Gunung Kinabalu to see the magic sunrise. It was quit expensive and after 4 months travelling I didn’t want to spend it… I really regret that! It is a reason for me to go back to Borneo again! I want that challenge, hiking up Gunung Kinabalu at night!

Travel Tips for Borneo: Do book that great hike up Gunung Kinabalu. I really regret not doing it… For me a reason to go back to this great island of Malaysia. And I don’t mind putting that back on the list again 🙂

I haven’t really visited the capital Kota Kinabalu, so no tips for that. I just came from Kuala Lumpur where I spend new years eve with friends and I didn’t feel like another cdity so I needed some adventure.

Travel Tips for Borneo

Backpacking around Kota Kinabalu

  • Daytrip Kota Kinabalu

Looking back on this daytrip I had some of the best views on the island and loved the flora and fauna that I saw. It was a great first sight on the island of Borneo. I made a great short hike in the jungle and I do love that!! Being Outdoor and Hiking is becoming my passion more and more…

We had to drive for a couple of hours from Kota Kinabalu. But having these views and a stop where you can buy the best fruit and a cup of coffee it’s not that bad, right?

Travel Tips for Borneo
Don’t you like these views?

We were heading towards the jungle where we would go hike and take that canopy walk. Always nice to walk up there. Getting some nice views over the area and feeling one with nature! Some people don’t like to be walking up high, in between the huge trees. If you have a fear of heights I can imagine it but still.. The canopy was really safe, good attached with thick cables and a good structure.

But… do keep in mind that if you drop something you lost it. Make sure that everything that you have with you is in your pocket or attached. Make sure not to leave anything in the jungle!

All we want to leave are footprints right?

Travel Tips for Borneo

After this hike we made a short hike of a couple of K in the jungle. When we went on we got to visit the Botanical Garden to spot some butterflies. And to top this relaxed day we went to the Poring Hot Springs and rested in the private small baths that you can fill up with hot water!

Travel Tips for Borneo

Travel Tips for Borneo

Borneo Wildlife Tours 

What to do @ Sepilok

  • 2 days Sepilok

After spending a day near Kota Kinabalu I booked a bus to go to Sepilok. There are a couple of places where you can see and visit the Orangutan. I had visited Sumatra and loved Bukit Lawang and the 2 day jungle trip to see the Orangutan. So I was curious about them here!

Orang Utan Rehabilition Centre

To really see the Orangutan in natural surroudings you should go to Sumatra because Sepilok has to feed them in order for them to survive. I’d rather see them in their natural habitat and that is not the case yet here. And also….

If you go see them in the Jungle you dont have that many people next to you watching the Orangutan also!!

Travel Tips for Borneo
Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Sepilok

Travel Tips for Borneo - Sepilok Rehabilitation centre

Later on my Kinabatangan tour I did see a mother with her young one  next to our camp! I was so happy and excited with that sighting!! She lived in the area and visited the camp that morning! I was the lucky one to see her!

Sun Bear Conservation Centre

Opposite the rehabilitation centre is the Sun Bear Conservation Centre. I had never seen these bears! They are, talking about bears, relatively small. They are dark brown and have a nice light coloured V shape on their chest. They call them honey bears too because they love honey!! They are omnivores and so live on insects, nuts and such.

Travel Tips for Borneo - Sun Bear

The bears love to sleep… They are way up high in the tree!!
They are good climbers!

Travel Tips for Borneo

Travel Tips for Borneo

Rainforest Discovery Centre

That first evening in Sepilok I booked an evening hike in the jungle. I really like to hike in the jungle and especially in the eveing time it has some special feeling to it. And then to have a guide with you showing you those spots where you can see some animals is just the greatest! Also during this walk we went on an elevated path through the jungle and were in between the treetops to get those best views!!

Travel Tips for Borneo

Highlight of this even was the flying squirel. The guide was the first to spot one ofcourse. He showed us how to see them and every now and then we saw one flying from one tree to the other! It was a spectacular sight!

I have some bad clips of them… It was dark and only filming with my phone wasn’t that good. I do need a better camera for these wonderful moments!!

The next day I did another hike in the park to explore more. I tried to walk one route but in the end my mind wandered of and I hiked several paths partially. When it was time to get out of the park I just followed the signs to the exit.

Travel Tips for Borneo

Minivets

Travel Tips for Borneo

The routes are really good signaled and if you do want to walk a specific route and distance you can. So…not walking more then so and so K is possible. I think I did around 10K and really loved everything that crossed my way.

Travel Tips for Borneo - Rainforest Discovery Centre
The Sepilok Giant!!

Also this giant has signs to be find. There are also signs to go to a stream of water where you can find the Kingfisher, if you take time to sit still. If you walk here for an afternoon you have all kinds of chances to spot some wildlife.

Travel Tips for Borneo: Take enough water with you for the hike, I didn’t see any water to fill your bottle along the way. And make sure to protect your skin against the sun and use suncream. It can be really hot in the rainforest.

Spider in the rainforest - Borneo

And.. you can see this huge spider also!!

Do stand still sometimes to look around you. Not everything is big enough to spot while walking pass it. Search the bushes and see the webs to search for a beautiful spider like this one!

Rainforest Borneo - Hornbill
On my way back to the resort I saw this hornbill way up high in a tree. So always keep an eye on your surroundings! Wildlife is all around you!

Travel Tips for Borneo

Kinabatangan Jungle Tour

  • 3 days Jungle Tour Kinabatangan

After these great days in Sepilok I went to my 3 day Jungle Tour. I was really looking forward to it, a jungle river tour on the Kinabatangan river. I would stay in the rainforest for 2 nights and do all kinds of river tours.

I would go and see the Proboscis Monkey! You probably know them from their huge noses! They are light brown and has long tail and a big belly…but most of all those huge noses!

Travel Tips for Borneo

But there is a lot more to see ofcourse. I was there for 3 days and made an evening jungle walk, had time on the elevated terrace next to the river and had a close encounter with a crocodile on one of our evening cruises on the river!!

Read more about that in 3 days in the Kota Kinabatangan Jungle

  • 4 days diving and relaxing on Mabul

As the best way to end this great journey my last Travel Tip for Borneo is to go for some dives at Sipadan. I heard about it and wanted to go but you need to reserve spots to dive there far upfront. As I backpack my way around I didn’t plan this upfront. But if you are lucky you can buy a permit from a hotel where a tourist didn’t show up.

Travel Tips for Borneo
Mabul Island

I did love my days on the island of Mabul. I enjoyed time with some fellowtravellers and walked around the island and did some dives around Mabul.

And I was so lucky to get a permit from a woman from Scandinavia that didn’t show up. Each day a couple of those are available you just have to ask around and have some luck 🙂 I have to say that the day diving in Sipadan was the most beautiful one ever!! It was like diving in an aquarium!!

Diving at Sipadan

Borneo Tips
On every inch you have something to spot, I loved Sipadan

I have to say that on previous dives I always came out of the water a bit disapointed but… here in Sipadan it was like diving in an aquarium.. These were the dives I had hoped for all those years! If I could have dived with my mouth open because I was amazed…that was the way I dived 🙂

It was the best ever!!

I do see why CNN travel says it is the #1 spot to dive #Sipadan

Travel Tips for Borneo

For your Backpack trip in Malaysia

  • Accommodation on Borneo

Where did I stay while I was on the great island of Borneo? I took some hostels, a hotel and even a resort with my own outdoor shower!! And if it was too cold..I had an indoor one too 🙂 I had all the luxury during my Borneo trip.

Masada Backpacker – Kota Kinabalu

I started with a hostel in Kota Kinabalu but it was a really nice one. I had the room, for 4 people, to myself. I could get a cup of coffee all through the day and it was really close to the restaurants and boulevard where it is always nice for a stroll.

  • Around €15 a night

Sepilok Forest Egde Resort – Sepilok

For a bit more luxury I choosed this resort. First night I stayed at the dorm but I couldn’t resist booking myself a cabin on the property. One with a balcony byt also with a bathroom indoor and outdoor!! I really loved that shower with a great view into the rainforest!!

Accommodation Borneo

They have a small swimmingpool to cool down after a great hike in the rainforest. You can walk of their property into the rainforest for a small trail. I did that on my first late afternoon. The resort itself is also big enough for a nice stroll along the pond and also spot some nice birds.

  • Costs can go from  €10 to €70 a night. Depending on your own cabin with an outdoor shower or a dorm bed.

Tanjung Bulat Jungle Camp – Kota Kinabatangan

My 3 day and 2 night jungle tour at Tanjung Bulat Jungle Camp was just the best!! I loved my days here and going back to basic was good in the rainforest. I had a shared toilet, a cold water shower but I did have my own room. No airco ofdcourse but I did have the best views onto Oxbow lake and an encounter with the wild orangutan.

  • Costs are in different depending on your group. I did the trip in collaboration with the owner and got a special price. I was the only one there at the moment 🙂

Tanjung Bulat Jungle camp - Borneo
Enjoying the rainforest to the fullest!

Wanderer’s Inn – Semporna

Before heading on to Mabul Island I stayed one night in Semporna. I chosed Wanderer’s Inn and like the hostel. There was a bit common room for anyone to use and the beds were kind of private. The whole wall were square spaces for your matrasses and so you coulnd’t see your neighbour. I do like this manner. You did have your own plug and light in there.

  • Costs a ngiht around €15

Wanderer's Inn - Semporna

Seahorse Sipadan Scuba Logde

My 4 days in paradise were just the best. The luxury is enough to enjoy the scenery to the fullest. The whole day is coffee or tea available and breakfast, lunch and dinner is included. They also serve the best bites in between! It was the best way to end my Borneo Trip!!

Seahorse Mabul - Travel Tips for Borneo
All the time to do some Yoga on their deck

Travel Tips for Borneo
The included dinner, it looks great right?
  • Costen a night around € 80

I looked back on a great and adventurous trip around the island of Borneo! Would you like to make such journey too? And…would you choose to do that trip up Gunung Kinabalu? Let me know !!

Mabul Eialand - Borneo

Travel Tips for Borneo

Did you know?

Did you know that most of Malaysia is muslim? Make sure to cover you shoulders in public areas. On the resorts or mayor touristic areas it is no problem but carry something with you to cover up.

Did you know that the Ringgit is the currency of Malaysia? MYR or RM.  1 Ringgit is around 20 eurocents.

Did you know that the language is Bahasa in Malaysia? But their second language is English? They were a British Colony and so that language is widely spread.

Sunset Mabul island

Did you know that the temperature in the whole of Malaysia rarely goes below 25 degrees? And also… it almost rains on a daily basis the whole year through! Don’t let that spoil your holiday because with a temperature above 25 a bit of rain cools you down…

Did you know that the Malayan people are really helpfull? They can seem stand-offish, in comparison to the neighbouring countries but if you ask for help they will always help you!

Did you know that Malaysia has everything a big, modern city should offer but also, going a couple of miles down the road, you can step back in time and see the Orang Asli (tribes) as if it was like 100 years ago?

Oxbow Lake, Kota Kinabatangan

Rainforest Sepilok

Did you like these Travel Tips for Borneo?
Do share them on your socials!!

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Or can I inspire you to go snorkling?

Snorkeling with the Blacktip Reef shark at Pulau Payar, Malaysia

I hope you love this world as much as I do!!

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