Friday, March 10, 2017

Monkeys and Mountains: Wildlife Encounters in Malaysian Borneo

Our guide stopped in his tracks. He motioned us closer. We tiptoed through the soft sand and twisting mangroves of the Malaysian rainforest.

A wild bearded pig and half a dozen two week old striped piglets were trudging through the sand a few meters away.

The mother was oblivious to our presence, but her young babies were curious. We froze.

They pattered over on tiny hooves, sniffing the air with their pink snouts.

The wild piglets stood within touching distance for a moment. Then, the breeze changed direction and they scattered into the underbrush.

Our guide, who had lived his entire life in that jungle, said he had never seen anything like it.

Of all the places we have traveled around the world, Malaysian Borneo has given us some of the most unforgettable wildlife experiences.

These adorable wild piglets aren’t the only creatures we saw on our travels there – we also encountered orangutans, proboscis monkeys, enormous monitor lizards, bright green snakes and much more.

If you are looking for a Southeast Asia destination that is still relatively unspoiled by tourism and overflowing with natural beauty, I would highly recommend it.

It was also incredibly affordable and very easy to travel. Malaysian food was delicious too – a mixture of Indian, Chinese and ethnic Malay influences that I still crave to this day.

How to Get to Malaysian Borneo

Via Air

You can fly into Sabah via the Kota Kinabalu International Airport, which is located about 20 minutes from the city. Then, you’ll need to take a taxi into the city as this is the only mode of transport, although some hotels offer shuttle bus pick up which can be arranged in advance.

There are daily flights offered from Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia. It is also possible to fly into Sabah from China, Hong Kong, Brunei, Taipei, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.

You could also fly into Kuching International Airport and once you are in Malaysian Borneo you can take flights between many of the cities including Miri, Bintulu, Sibu and Sandakan. Buses also travel between all of the main points in Malaysian Borneo.

Via Sea

You can take a ferry to Sabah from the Philippines, Indonesia and Labuan. You’ll arrive at Kota Kinabalu and go through the immigration checkpoint there.
Passports and Visas

You’ll need to show a valid passport when entering Malaysian Borneo – even if you are travelling between Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak. Most nationalities can enter without a visa and will be given up to 90 days to stay, including Canadians, British, Americans, Argentinians, French, Germans, Dutch and many others. Click here for a more detailed explanation of visas in Malaysia.

The Best Places to See Wildlife in Malaysian Borneo

Once you have made your way here, where are your best spots for getting up close with the local wildlife? Here are some of the best national parks and outdoor experiences.

Bako National Park

Lee and I celebrated my 26th birthday by hiking around Bako National Park, which is where we had the unforgettable encounter with wild bearded piglets I wrote about in the introduction to this post.

We hiked around Bako National Park with a local guide who had grown up in the village of wooden huts near the river.

Having a local who knew the jungle was so incredibly valuable and it enhanced our experience greatly.