World’s Oldest Rain Forests
Borneo is to Indonesia and Malaysia as Hawaii is to the USA. A tropical island getaway. And the secret is nearly out: Borneo is one of the last remaining tropical paradises that won’t break the bank. the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, tiny but oil rich Brunei and Indonesian Kalimantan are home to the world’s oldest rain forests, the region’s third highest peak and some of the world’s best diving. The indigenous Dayak peoples add a layer of intriguing cultural complexity and, of course there is also that cutest of primates – the cheeky orang-utan. better still, your budget will go a long way here. A typical meal in a local coffee shop will only set you back USD 2 and tourist numbers are only 10% that of mainland Malaysia or Indonesia. Borneo is that rare place where the nexus of varied activities, exotic locales, excellent food and cultural diversity come together in a cocktail of very affordable fun.
Ascending the region’s highest peak, Sabah’s Mount Kinabalu, to catch the sun breaking over lofty clouds seems a world away from watching sea turtles and reef sharks drift by while you dive Sipadan’s vertical walls. The scenery changes again in Sarawak, where you can trek deep into 130 million year old tropical rain forest to stay in an indigenous longhouse. Of course, if you’re not into sweating, you could simply find your own white sand beach getaway at coral ringed Pulau Mantanani. And for a true step back in time, explore the dense jungles of Indonesia’s Kalimantan – and find your Southeast Asian equivalent of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
Borneo Festivals And Events
- Gawai Dawak is the annual harvest festival held in Sarawak (31 May to 2 June). Local tribes mark the end of rice season by donning colorful traditional dress and hosting war dances, cockfights and blowpipe events. Expect liberal dispensing of rice wine. To refuse is to be impolite. You’ve been warned
- The Sarawak Cultural Center is a living museum showcasing indigenous culture. For three days in July or August, it is also home to the Rainforest World Music Festival, a music and arts festival with an indigenous bent.
- Held in late September, the Erau Festival in Kalimantan sees thousands of Dayaks converging on Tenggarong in a whirlwind of tribal costumes and ritual dancing. It’s one big inter tribal party.
Other Interesting Things
Orang utans might be the most popular primates here, but the proboscis monkeys are stranger looking. Found only in the jungles of Borneo, the males have a long, almost bulbous nose that stretches up to 18 cm. Coupled with a huge, swollen belly, this monkey is a certainly a head turner. The rafflesia flower, a rare plant that emits a stench of rotting flesh when flowering, comes a close second.