The Malaysian part of Borneo is full of adventure. Taking river trips to see traditional headhunter’s villages, meeting Orang-utans in pristine rainforests, trekking the highest point in SE Asia, and scuba diving in one of the top spots on the planet. To have the best Malaysia adventure holidays read this guide to Borneo overlanding tours.
The island of Borneo is the third largest in the world. The Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak make up around a quarter of the island. The Indonesian state of Kalimantan and the the tiny country of Brunei make up the rest.
Much of Borneo is covered in pristine rainforest, and is hard to access by road. This means that overlanding in Borneo requires some creative interpretation of the term ‘overland’. To enjoy the best Malaysia adventure travel in Borneo you will probably need to include a few short flights as some national parks are rather remote.
Kota Kinabalu (KK), Sabah’s capital, sits in the heart of the Sabah province making it a great staging point for overland adventures. There are a few islands to explore just off the coast with sailing and boat tours. Plus some good snorkelling and diving locally plus other water sports suck as paddle boarding and jet ski.
From KK the UNESCO World Heritage site as Kinabalu National Park is within easy reach. The park contains Mount Kinabalu, which at 4,095 metres tall it is the highest mountain in South East Asia. The surrounding rainforest park is also home to an amazing array of wildlife and plants including the worlds largest flower and 800 species of orchid.
A Mount Kinabalu trekking adventure is well worth including in Borneo overlanding tours. The trek can be done in two or three days, it is not a walk in the park but not that difficult either.
A few sections require a bit of a scramble, there are ropes to hold onto and you need to have reasonable fitness (particularly for a two day sunrise trek). If you wish to extend your adventure there is Via Feratta and sport climbing to try.
From here travel east to Sandakan from where you can see Borneo endemic Proboscis Monkey at a sanctuary in Labuk Bay. Also visit the Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok where you can come face-to-face with the ‘old man of the forest’.
South of Sandakan is the town of Semporna which is the gateway to scuba diving in Sipadan. Renowned as one of the best dive locations in SE Asia, if not the world, unfortunately you can no longer stay on the Island but you can still dive there.
It’s the only oceanic island in Malaysia formed by corals growing on top of an extinct volcano rising 600m from the seabed. Schools or barracuda, hammer head sharks, more turtles then you can shake a fin at, and an immense amount of fauna make the diving here outstanding.
Next head to Mulu National Park in Sarawak which can only be reached by flying – the small planes are an adventure in themselves! Mulu is another UNESCO site and home to some of the world’s largest caves.
From the national park centre you can enjoy a scenic plank walk to the entrance of the colossal Deer cave to watch the bats exiting in a majestic display each evening. But be sure to hire a guide and do some caving to explore the world beneath Mulu.
Canoe or take a boat upstream through pristine jungle to the Pinnacles base camp. The following day you can trek/scramble to Gunung Api to discover the limestone Pinnacles, a mysterious rocky formation that rises from the forest canopy.
Fancy something more challenging? As part of your Borneo overlanding tour trek the Headhunters’ Trail. This 24km trail to the top of mount Mulu (2,377 m) takes three or four days. It is fairly challenging jungle trekking, expect everything from hot and humid to chilly conditions with rain, fog and slippery trails.
From Mulu catch a boat down river to Rumah Penghulu Sigah Iban longhouse and stay overnight in the traditional village. From here you can depart for Nanga Medamit and Limbang airport to catch a flight and carry on your Borneo overlanding tours from Miri by road.
Travel by vehicle from Miri all the way to Kuching, Sarawak’s capital. Along the way there are more national parks, beaches and waterfalls so visit. There is also plenty of wildlife to view along the way with colourful birds, noisy monkeys and scary looking insects to spot.
Experience the historic charm of Kuching and visit Bako National Park. Here you can kayak or hike to beautiful beaches and spot wildlife. Or if you want something more relaxing take a boat trip to secluded beaches just a short distance from Kuching. There is also some decent scuba diving in the area.
We hope you found this guide to Borneo overlanding tours and the best Malaysia adventure holidays in Sabah and Sarawak useful and inspiring. Find more Borneo adventure travel ideas here.