From the beautiful hum of Kuala Lumpur to Borneo, home to the fascinating Gomantong Caves, home to Kinabalu National Park, the dreamy Manukan Island to the street food stalls of Penang, you will never lack something to look at, to do, or to eat. However, it can be hard to know where to start considering what is available for you to take in. We have, therefore, compiled a list of things to do in Malaysia and Borneo.
1. Cruise Over Kinabatangan River
River cruises over the longest river in Sabah should be the number one priority on your list of things to do when in Borneo. Sitting back and spotting wildlife such as crocodiles, hawks, eagles, hornbills, kingfishers and much more is the most relaxing, yet, the most exciting activity. The 560km river flows down into the Sulu Sea on the East coast of Sabah. Kinabatangan River is a rich ecosystem and home to a diverse wildlife. The wildlife here is also the most varied and easily accessible wildlife in all of Southeast Asia, experts say.
2. Visiting Manukan Island
Manukan is one of the larger islands in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine National Park and is located just 20 minutes off the coast of Kota Kinabalu. In Manukan, you can relax on the 1.5 km long beach or enjoy the best scuba diving experience in Malaysia or simply some snorkeling. The technicolored tropical fish available for you to spot are in plenty. If you are looking for a dictionary definition of the word ‘paradise’ you may well find an image of Manukan Island.
3. Hanging in Penang
Penang is an island of interest and an essential stop during your Malaysian adventure. The rich cultural diversity you will find in the country is quite evident here with Chinese architecture and Islamic mosques sitting alongside ornate Indian temples. The attractions for you to explore are many and so are the street food stalls where you can sample local flavors, which is highly recommended.
4. Climbing Mount Kinabalu
Mountain climbing might not be appealing to all, but Kinabalu should be an exception. It is relatively easy to climb since it is 4,095 meters high. Reaching the top will reward you with amazing views, a beautiful sunrise and starry sky at night that you could almost reach out and touch. Mt. Kinabalu is the tallest Malaysian mountain and the 20th tallest in the whole world. People love to climb the mountain to enjoy its exotic and unique species, especially the pitcher plants, orchids and miraculous biodiversity.
5. Visiting Kinabalu National Park
The centerpiece of the amazing Kinabalu National Park is the mountain. The Park is a World Heritage Site located about one hour’s drive from Kota Kinabalu. The most famous attraction in the Park is the Rafflesia, which grows the largest flowers in the world. The smelly, fleshy, bright red flowers sprout on the ground and last just for a few days before they wilt. The flowers smell worse than the rotting flesh scent, which is usually attributed to them. While they might sound hard to miss, they are in fact quite rare and you will be lucky to stumble across one.
6. Bird Spotting and Jungle Trekking at Danum Valley
If you have always dreamed about trekking through a tropical rainforest, it is impossible to miss the Danum Valley. The 4-Century-old trees grow to a ridiculous height of 60 meters, and you can readily spot wildlife. The Danum Valley Conservation Area contains Primary Dipterocarp forest covering an area of 44,000 hectares and forms a small portion of the over 1,000,000 hectares of protected forest in Borneo.
Knowledgeable leaders know the exact location where you can find the birds you want including the Bornean ground cuckoo, the blue-headed and blue-banded pitta and the magnificent Borneo Bristlehead. Night drives and walks contribute to the experience with potential sightings of owls, Sambar deer, palm civets, and maybe even a western tarsier.
7. Kota Kinabalu
Kota Kinabalu is the capital of Sabah and is borne between the South China Sea and the Bornean jungle. It is an authentic frontier town that offers much to explore. You will never lack good food to enjoy, which may be somewhat surprising considering how far deep in ‘the middle of nowhere’ you are. You can also enjoy museums, shops and the Monsopiad Cultural Village that was once home to an infamous headhunter. Kota Kinabalu is a major part of any Malaysian travel itinerary.
8. Exploring the Gomantong Caves
The Gomantong Caves are famous for their valued edible swiftlet nests that are usually harvested for bird’s nest soup and make for a fascinating visit. Collecting birds’ nests is an ancient tradition that is worth learning about. Exploration of the caves is easy thanks to the wooden walkways. The caves were discovered in 1930. The oft-spotted birdlife includes Asian fairy bluebirds, kingfishers, crested serpent eagles and much more.
9. Seeing Orangutans at SORC
The oldest and largest rehabilitation center in the world is SORC. It provides volunteers with the opportunity to help rehabilitate sick, injured and orphaned orangutans then release them back into the wild. Day visitors get to see animals in the day release program and visit for a meal. If you are unable to make a full-time commitment you are still able to meet and interact with these funny and intelligent creatures.