Borneo – Backpacking Trip Guide East Malaysia
Visiting the home of Orang Utans in Sarawak and Sabah
In this travel itinerary, we will share with you our experiences travelling through Malaysia and Brunei. You will read about the top travel highlights and best nature and wildlife spots you shouldn’t miss.
What to see in Borneo – East Malaysia
- Kuching – the city of cats and starting point for the nearby national parks
- Semenggoh Nature Reserve – getting close with the Orang-Utans
- The Bako National Park – explore one of Borneo’s most beautiful National Parks and visit the Nose monkeys
- Gunung Gading National Park – Jungle Trekking and the world biggest flower
- Exploring the fascinating Niah Caves
- Brunei – be amazed by the colorful mosque of Brunei
- Climb the top of the highest Mountain ins South East Asia the Mount Kinabalu with 4095 m
- Kinabatangan – river jungle trips and river cruises
After 2 exciting month of backpacking through Thailand and West Malaysia we decided to visit Borneo in East Malaysia. Borneo is absolutely famous for its wide range of National Parks and wildlife – so for us the perfect travel destination! We took a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching, where we stayed a few nights. This city with its tranquil riverside is not just lovely but it’s also a fantastic starting point from where you can do great excursions to the nearby National Parks. In Kuching you will also find the tourist National Parks Office – they are doing a great job and provided us with useful informations about National Park fees, accommodations and how to get there.
Gunung Gading National Park
Have you ever heard about the Rafflesia tuan-mudae flower? It’s the world biggest flower and we had been very lucky finding one of them blooming in the Gunung Gading National Park! This flower is the main attraction of this park – check at the National Park Service if one of them is blooming at the moment. The Park is easy to reach by public bus from Kuching – Inside the park are guided jungle hiking tours!
Bako National Park
This Park is situated ap. 40 km from Kuching and can be reached by boat from Kampong. We recommend to stay there for one or two nights – there are lots of adventurous hiking trails to explore!
We loved hiking through the tropical rain forest – there are various types of flora and fauna and lots of wildlife! It was amazing to see the proboscis monkeys (long nose monkeys) just a few meters next to us. Additionally we got in touch with long-tailed macaques, boars, flying fox and a few snakes. On top, we found some beautiful carnivorous plants and we explored amazing beaches. For us the Bako National Park is the MUST SEE in Sarawak!
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Semenggoh Nature Reserve – Orang Utans
The Semenggoh Nature Reserve is a wildlife center for Orang Utans, where you have the possibility to see this monkeys at their feeding times. Normally they are spending their time roaming around in the rain forest, but when it comes to a free meal they are returning to the center of the park. We had a lot of fun watching this guy’s 🙂 The best chance of seeing Orang Utans are between 9-10 and 3-4.
If you would like to see these amazing monkeys you should definitely visit this park!
Niah Caves National Park – Miri
We loved exploring this National Park! This National Park is beautiful, so calm and less touristy but it offers some interesting and impressive sights: There is the huge main cave which is home of thousands of swiftlets. It’s possible to pass the caves on a trail, but make sure you are taking a flashlight with you. The caves are unlit but you can go there by your own. After that trail you will find the Painted Cave, which is also interesting to see. The jungle walk is easy to manage and on the way to the caves you will also pass some Iban longhouses. Although all the main attractions of the Niah Park can be done in one day, we stayed inside the park for one night.
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Gunung Mulu National Park
If you are interested in visiting Caves you would also have the possibility to go to see the Gunung Mulu National Park. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and famous for its karst formations inside the rainforest and for its 200 km of caves passages.
This excursion will probably be more expensive than the Niah Caves because you have to take a flight to the park and inside the park are plenty of excursions offered.
We chose the Niah Caves because they can be reached easily with the bus going to Batu Niah. From there you can take a taxi (3km) to the park entrance. We really liked that the park is less touristy and you can explore the caves by your own. Additionally the main caves are very impressive too.
Brunei is located between Sarawak and Sabah, so why not visiting this small exotic named country? We took the land route from Miri to Bandar Seri Begawan with a private taxi bus that we luckily found at Miri bus station. Visiting Brunei was quite cool, above all it’s a country most travelers haven’t been before. A must see is the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque with its golden domes, for us one of the most beautiful mosques we have ever seen. You can also do excursions to see the proboscis monkeys.
Our next stop was Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah. It’s a good starting point for nearby excursions like the Mari Cultural Village, the Islands of the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park and the famous Mt. Kinabalu. Additionally, you will find there plenty of guest houses and affordable restaurants. We decided to climb up the Mount Kinabalu, which is just 50 km from Kota Kinabalu.
Mount Kinabalu 4.095 m
The Mount Kinabalu is a World Heritage Site and additionally with, 4.095 meters the tallest mountain in South East Asia. If you love hiking like us and you fancy high mountains you should definitely put Mt. Kinabalu on your bucket list. The climb up to the peak took us two days, and was a fantastic adventure. You are walking through different kind of flora and fauna and finally you will reach the peak at sunrise. Make sure that you are trained and fit for the long walk!
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Kinabatangan River – Rainforest
For our last stop in Borneo we visited the Kinabatangan River, which is popular for its unique wildlife and ecosystem. We took the bus from Kota Kinabalu to Kota Kinabatangan which was an adventure by itself 🙂 – the place is not easy to reach but that’s the price if you want to go deeper inside the rainforest.
On the road to Kinabatangan with the luxury bus 😉
All in all our stay was fantastic, we had a small lodge just next to the river. From there we did guided jungle walks and guided river cruises. We saw lots of wildlife including crocodiles, snakes, horn bill birds and we had been so lucky to see wild Orang Utans. Also, with some luck, you will see the Pygmy Elephant.