Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Five Ways to Dig Deeper into Borneo


Borneo remains one of the world’s most treasured destinations of natural beauty, a landmass dominated by jungles and home to some of the most rare and incredible species on the planet. Split into two parts—western Sarawak and eastern Sabah—the vast lands of this stunning island retain their ancient traditions, attract those with a sense of adventure and lure those with an eagerness to get off the beaten path. Here are five highlights to get you started on your Borneo journey!

1. Visit an Orangutan Sanctuary

Getting up close to an Orangutan in Borneo is akin to seeing pandas in China—it has to be done. The opportunity to see these incredible creatures in their natural habitat should not be missed.

As Borneo tackles the issue of deforestation and the destruction surrounding the palm oil industry, the best way to see these endangered creatures is in a ‘Rehabilitation Centre’—set up to care for orangutans that have been displaced, or rescued from an inhumane environment. Here they have a vast section of jungle to roam in and are taught to fend for themselves.

Despite many visitors crossing the line when it comes to the rules of interaction, the Orangutans rule the land here—it is their space and you are in it. The most magical moments come as you quietly observe them coming into the main areas for feeding time, when they cross the pathways right in front of you and as they swing from the tress right above you.

There are two sanctuaries in Borneo—the most popular one in Sepilok, in the eastern state of Sabah and the other in Semenggoh, in the western state of Sarawak.

2. Stay Overnight at a Tribal Longhouse

While many Iban tribal longhouses in Sarawak are deliberately set up for tourist groups, many remote ones also welcome visitors to learn about this unique and traditional jungle lifestyle. A preserved way of life, untouched by the face of modernization, the tribal groups are eager to welcome you and share their culture.

The Iban are one of many groups of indigenous people still living in Borneo, who (unlike the Penan migrant hunters) settle in one place in a communal longhouse. This wooden, stilted structure has a row of family rooms on one side and an open social area on the other and is continually extended as more families arrive to join the tribal hold.

To get there you will journey through neighbouring towns (where now some indigenous people have integrated) and embark on a river journey towards the area of Batang Ai, where you will be greeted by the local people, tour the longhouse, dine with all the families and meet the Chief and the elders.

It’s an incredible experience, which can be arranged in advance with your favourite small group adventure company or after your arrival with local travel outlets. For the most authentic experience, your only hope is to wait for a personal invitation from a local.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Five Ways to Dig Deeper into Borneo
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