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Q & A: Visiting Borneo

Posted by Rachel Allen 20th November 2017
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Borneo has it all; pristine beaches, lush rain forest, abundant wildlife and a whole range of activities. Here's everything you need to know if you're planning a trip to the world's third largest island.

When is the best time to go?

Borneo’s dry season lasts from May until the end of December, and this is the best time to visit both for wildlife sightings and good weather. However, this is an island covered in rainforest, so whatever time you visit expect some rain! Towards the end of May fruiting season begins, and if seeing orangutans is on your bucket list, this is the best time for sightings. 

Do I need a visa?

UK passport holders require a visa for Borneo, which can be easily obtained on arrival into Malaysian Borneo and Brunei. If you are entering Indonesian Borneo you may need to arrange a visa in advance depending on your entry point. Non-UK passport holders or non-UK residents should contact the relevant embassies for individual requirements.

What kind of accommodation will we stay in?

Accommodation in Borneo is incredibly varied, from 5 star resorts in Kota Kinabula and Kuching to luxury lodges on the banks of the Kinabatangan River and traditional longhouses in Ulu Ai. No matter what your budget or the standard of luxury you are looking for is, there will be accommodation to suit your needs. The smaller islands have beach bungalows and over-water chalets perfect for couples, while families wanting to spend time on the beach without a long boat journey can stay at a family-friendly resort on the main island.  

Will alcohol be available?

Although Malaysia is a majority Muslim country, alcohol is readily available in hotels and many bars and restaurants, including in Malaysian Borneo. You will probably find that alcohol is more expensive here than other areas of South East Asia though.

What activities are on offer?

There is a huge range of activities on offer in Borneo, depending on how adventurous you want to be.  Climb Mount Kinabalu, Southeast Asia’s highest peak, or take to the water with some grade two white water rafting. There are plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities available, either while trekking through the Danum Valley or, for the less active, taking a cruise along the Menanggul River or visiting Semenggoh Wildlife Centre.Those who prefer to get active in the water can try diving or snorkelling on Lankayan Island where you may encounter whale sharks, while on Selingan Island you can learn about the turtle conservation programme, and if you’re lucky see these creatures on the beach.

What wildlife can I see?

Borneo’s wildlife is one of its big draws for tourists, and there is far more to see than the obvious orangutans. Borneo’s Big Five are the proboscis monkey, the pygmy elephant, the crocodile, the rhinoceros hornbill, and of course the famous red apes. More elusive are the western tarsier and the clouded leopard. In addition to these, there is extensive birdlife, and the chance to see turtles and whale sharks on the coast.

Is Borneo a good choice for families?

Borneo is a great choice for families, with a wide range of family-friendly accommodation, including five star resorts with kids’ clubs and water slides. Plenty of beaches are safe for the little ones, with warm, calm waters, and there are a range of activities on offer for big and little kids alike. 

Top tips for visiting Borneo?

Borneo has high humidity levels all year round, and it’s easy to get dehydrated. Ensure you drink adequate amounts of water, and pack rehydration solution just in case.

Don’t forget the mosquito spray, particularly in jungle areas where leech socks are also a good investment.

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