Borneo is the third largest island in the world. It’s home to three different nations – Malaysia, Indonesia and the Sultanate of Brunei – and a kaleidoscope of cultures. Yet it is best known for being a biodiversity hotspot and one of two homes to Asia’s only great ape, the orangutan.

Borneo has some of the world’s most wildlife-rich rainforests, with five hundred plant species and a similar number of animals unique to the island.

It has always conjured up the image of remote, steamy rainforests and jungle adventure. Its history of gruesome headhunters, seafaring invasions and marauding pirates, make it all the more intriguing to the modern-day adventurer, wanting to step back in time. The indigenous ethnic groups of Borneo – of which there are over two hundred – are yet another reason to visit the island, with their age-old traditions, inviting hospitality and rural way of life.

Experience an infusion of colourful cultures, a fascinating history and a host of exotic wildlife on our Borneo tours.

Top highlights on Borneo tours

  • Venture deep into the jungle in search of the pygmy elephant
  • Check out the world’s largest limestone cave at Mulu National Park
  • Spot orangutan on the pre-release islands of BOSF
  • Stay in a traditional Dayak longhouse
  • Enjoy a scenic cruise on the Kinabatangan River

Most visitors to Borneo concentrate on the Malaysian side, and the states of Sabah and Sarawak are home to some world-class sites. These include incredible caves, traditional longhouses and amazing wildlife reserves where you can seek out elephant, clouded leopard, proboscis monkey and much more.

The Indonesian side, Kalimantan, is for those who like their travel on the raw side. With far less tourism than the rest of the island, experiences here have a feeling of adventure and exploration that is hard to beat.

The national Malay language spoken in Sarawak and Sabah is Bahasa Melayu, often shortened to Bahasa. The language is very similar to Bahasa Indonesia which evolved from Malay and is the language spoken in Kalimantan. English is widely understood in most areas.

Kalimantan makes up two-thirds of the island of Borneo and is home to around ten million inhabitants with a variety of cultures. The indigenous Dayaks, also known as ‘Orang Gunung’ or ‘Mountain People’ traditionally live in longhouses that can house up to fifty people. The Dayaks, who were once headhunters, are categorised into many sub-tribes, including the Iban, Punan and Banuaq.

Kalimantan today, has a rich cultural mix of Dayak, Malay, Chinese and Javanese people, and in-turn, there are various religions, including Islam – the predominant religion. Christianity however has been adopted by the majority of Dayak people. Traditionally, Dayak men and women pierced and stretched their ears – displaying hoop earrings – and covered their bodies with intricate tattoos.

Today, Islam is also the official religion of Malaysia. In Malaysian Borneo however, Islam is less widespread than in other parts due to the greater influence of Christianity. Sabah and Sarawak are the only two Malaysian states that celebrate Easter. Large numbers of indigenous peoples including the Iban have converted to Christianity, although many still maintain their animistic beliefs.

When to go on holiday to Borneo

There is no perfect time to visit Borneo. It is a tropical destination and each season comes with its own set of positives and setbacks. The rainy season in Kalimantan is from December to June and in Sabah and Sarawak, from November to April. The rains in Malaysian Borneo can disrupt travel and make trekking more difficult, making May to October the best time to travel.  The rainy season in Kalimantan can be considered the best time to travel however, as during the dry months of July and August, river levels drop too low for most boats except for canoes.

Start planning your Borneo tour

Check out our small group tours to Borneo: Orangutans and Iban and Hidden Borneo. While many of our trips are small group adventures with set departures, as a bespoke operator, we can design and create trips to suit any traveller, from solos to larger groups. If you would like to find out more about tailor-made holidays or our Borneo group tours, call us on 01473 328546 or email us via our contact page. We’d love to hear from you.

Photo of proboscis monkey - Borneo Holidays and Tours


Good for:Local Culture, Wildlife and Trekking