If we consider Australia as a continental mass, Borneo is the 3rd biggest island on the planet behind Greenland and New-Guiney. It also has many of the biggest caves in the world, one of the best diving spot on Earth and an unimaginable biodiversity. Still, somehow, Borneo is unkown to most people.
Three countries cohabit on the giant-sized island: Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia.
The first one is far from a prime touristic destination: a tiny petro-monarchy led by a sultan where selling/buying alcohol is prohibited, the cost of living is far higher than in the rest of Asia and being condemned for homosexuality might get you stoned to death. Charming, really.
The southern part of the island, Indonesian, is the opposite of Brunei. Covering most of Borneo, it’s also the poorest and the most populated part.
Finally, there is the Malaysian part, much more known and visited than the two others.
But I knew nothing of this when I landed a little bit (or a lot) randomly in March. The good side is that I had no expectation. The not-so-good side is that, obviously (and as usual), I hadn’t planned anything.
Fortunately for me, Borneo is gorgeous. Especially if one likes nature.
Because that’s what Borneo is all about: nature’s simplicity and magnificence, hand in hand.
First of all, there’s the impressive mount Kinabalu, highest summit on the island with its 4096m, standing above the clouds and looking over the jungle. Even though the climb is technically extremely simple for a high altitude trek, hikers are required to spend a night halfway and to book the accommodation a few weeks in advance (but there is a way to go around this obstacle: show up and ask for cancellations!).
In the end, you get two nice hiking days on a steep trail, walking from a hot jungle to a curious summit and its rocky peaks towering above Borneo.
According to my experience, countries with little tourists tend to be extremely welcoming toward those who dare to visit them. Borneo Island, not as frequented as Thailand, Bali and most of the other heavenly places in Southeast Asia, is not an exception.
I could say that hitchhiking all across the island made me discover its inhabitants hospitality and generosity, but the truth is that I noticed it well before that. Borneoans people come from all kinds of backgrounds, containing many native ethnic groups, Malays, Chinese, Indians, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and undecided. All of this in a remarkably peaceful cohabitation atmosphere.
Diving on the islands near Semporna, northeast of Borneo, has a worldwide reputation. Even though I only snorkeled around there, I have to point out how astonishing the fauna and flora are in this part of the world.
Seriously endangered by dynamite fishing, the life swarming around those islands is fascinating, peaceful and colorful. If you enjoy scuba diving, a quick search about Sipadan island will convince you!
Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Poet Without Borders: Seven reasons to visit Borneo.