Orangutans, rainforests, beaches and a cat museum. East Malaysia is pretty much 20 vacations in one
Malaysian Borneo has long evoked visions of adventure in the West.
Many a kid has thumbed through their parents' National Geographic mags, dreaming that one day mom and dad might pass on yet another trip to Yosemite in the station wagon and instead take them to a land where headhunters lurk in ancient rainforests and wild orangutans play.
Today Malaysian Borneo (East Malaysia, aka Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan) isn't the unaccessible impossibility it once was -- it's now serviced by a range of airlines and filled with resorts to suit all budgets.
The challenge is pinning down an itinerary. The place is huge.
Malaysia shares the island of Borneo with Indonesia and Brunei. The Malaysian portion is home to two Malaysian states -- Sabah and Sarawak -- and the federal territory of Labuan.
And it's far from perfect.
Logging continues to eat away at Malaysian Borneo's natural resources. Some researchers estimate 80 percent of the rainforests in Malaysian Borneo have been heavily impacted by logging.
Meanwhile, officials there continue to battle the illegal wildlife trade.
But it's still an adventure.
These options give you a taste of what's out there.
Whether or not you climb to the summit, Kinabalu is worth a visit.
Part of the UNESCO-listed Kinabalu Park, it sits 4,095 meters above sea level.
Despite the altitude it's a relatively easy trek, though guides and permits are required. A variety of overnight trek options range from one- to three-night climbs.
More information on climbing the beautiful beast is available from the Mount Kinabalu Official Climb &Booking Information Centre.
The waters off Malaysian Borneo are legendary, with dozens of dive sites offering pristine views of some of the world's finest coral and sealife.
If you want the best of the best, it's Sipadan. A contender on any dive publication's list of the "world's best dives," Sipadan lies 35 kilometers off the coast of Sabah.
In order to protect Sipadan's fragile ecosystem, in 2004 the Malaysian government ordered all dive resorts off the island, banned night dives and set a limit of 120 divers per day.
The quintessential Malaysian Borneo experience -- playing with primates at the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary.
This rehabilitation center re-trains displaced animals for life in the jungle.
The sanctuary is reached by bus or taxi, a 23-kilometer ride from Sandakan town.
Rainforests and national parks
Famed naturalist and Darwin rival Alfred Wallace conceived his own theory of natural selection on Malaysian Borneo, following years of observation of the island's rainforests.
One of the best ways to experience the rainforests is to stay in an ecolodge.
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