I can’t rave enough about this trip. I’ve been lucky enough to get to a lot of places: visiting other countries is my reason to work and save. But you know how you often have these high expectations? And sometimes they let you down a little (read my Sri Lanka post). Beautiful Borneo was already on a lofty pedestal for me. I’d heard great things; I wanted unspoiled; I wanted beach; I wanted nature; and there are ORANGUTANS! I’m happy to report it smashed all expectations.
3 THINGS YOU REALLY CAN NOT MISS:
SIPIDAN | the world-class diving is truly spectacular. Snorkelers in the group enjoyed it too, and don’t forget to get a permit. Mabul Island was paradise, and felt wonderfully unspoilt versus counterpart destinations in South East Asia.
ORANG-UTANS | these guys are great! Privileged enough to have seen them in a rehabilitation centre and the wild. Definitely make a point of visiting these gorgeous orange demi-humans and try a stay at this lovely Tropical Resort nearby.
TIP OF BORNEO | we debated this stop due to warnings of savage sand flies, but this was not an issue at all and the beaches are incredible. Stay at Howard’s – appears to have had some 2014 chalet upgrades; hire bikes if you can bear the sweat; go to the Tip for sunset.
3 THINGS WORTH A SNOOP:
KINABATAGAN RIVER | this place was enjoyable, largely due to a wild orang-utan spot and the night trip rather than the knowledge of our particular boat guide. Two half days and one night is definitely enough to join all the other boats ploughing up and down the muddy river.
LABUK BAY | if time permits then this is very accessible from your Semilok orang-utan base, but compared to the hairy-ones any number of cock-faced Proboscis monkeys and shy Sun Bears just isn’t quite as special!
ROTI ROTI ROTI | always a treat to get to eat lots of tasty Malaysian food. Roti Canai became a daily staple – dough discs that are flat, fluffy on the inside but crispy and flaky on the outside served with dhal or curry.
3 THINGS TO STEER CLEAR:
UNCLE CHANG’S | this accommodation on Mabul Island appears to still be living on a back-packers ‘bargain’ reputation of years ago but has been too arrogant to observe that much better value and quality alternatives are popping up around it. Don’t stay until they refurb.
SEMPORNA | it seems every paradise has it’s port town! Avoid time in this town if possible as there’s little going on and our accomm was depressing, however the aforementioned roti at Bismallah is moreish.
DURIAN | aka the world’s most divisive fruit, some love it some hate it. Try it and be prepared to vomit, as well as asked not to bring it in to nicer hotel establishments!
1 THING I WISH I’D DONE:
MOUNT KINABALU | due to time and limited urban interest, Kota Kinabalu wasn’t on the agenda however I was keen to tackle Mount Kinabalu, albeit other blogs report that it’s not cheap and physically pretty tough.
AND KNOW THIS: Borneo is the 3rd largest island in the world ranking behind Greenland and New Guinea, followed by Madagascar.