Borneo travel guide: Rainforests, beaches, waterfalls and monkeys

Malaysia is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, boasting incredible rainforests full of wildlife, sparkling white beaches and world-class snorkeling. You can find all of these on the island of Borneo, with many top spots situated in the state of Sarawak. Make the capital city of Kuching your base, then head out on a day trip to these fantastic attractions.

Bako National Park

Love monkeys? You’ve come to the right place. Borneo’s lush rainforests are a haven for the little critters, with nearly a dozen different species scattered throughout the country.

The most exciting way to catch a glimpse of them is by hitting up a national park and seeing them in their natural habitat. Bako National Park is a short drive from Kuching, and you can get there by public bus for about RM 2 each way. The bus will drop you off at Bako Village where you’ll be asked to fill out a visitor form, then hop on a speedboat to take you into the park. After paying the RM 10 entrance fee, you’re free to walk through the numerous trails.

It turns out that you can see the most wildlife if you stick close to the village, as the hilarious looking Proboscis monkeys like to hang out there.

If you’ve never heard of them, well, let’s just say they’re one of the most ridiculous looking mammals alive! These guys are the size of a teenager, with the belly of a man who’s drank a few too many beers in his day, and a honkin’ nose!

borneo travel

You’re also likely to see a few of the fearless macaques, who have been known to steal food right out of visitors’ hands—so hold on tight to that muffin! The park is also great for hiking, but keep in mind that it can be extremely hot so you’ll want to dress accordingly and bring lots of water. One popular trail is towards the Tajor waterfall which takes about four hours round trip—though sadly when I went the ‘waterfall’ was more of a stream leading into a puddle. Hmmm! Click here for more information about the different trails.

borneo travel guide

Semenggoh Wildlife Centre

If you haven’t got your fill of wildlife in Bako, there’s an easy way to ensure you spot some—just head to the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre. Located about 24 kilometres from Kuching, it’s home to those loveable orangutans that Malaysia is famous for, as well as a number of wild animals who were orphaned or injured. The centre has been so successful at rehabilitating orangutans that it is now a place to study their biology and behavior.

borneo travel guide

During a visit, you can expect to see the primates hanging out in the tall trees, as you walk through one of the many trails. There are also a number of gardens, including a botanical research centre. To see the orangutans up close, try to time your arrival with feeding time which takes place from 9-10 a.m. and 3-3:30 p.m.

To get to Semenggoh, you can hop on Bus #6 from Kuching, then walk 20 minutes to the centre. Taxis will also take you straight there, or you could arrange a tour through your hotel or a local travel agent. The park is open Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and entrance costs RM3. Guided tours will set you back another RM40 for up to five people.

borneo travel guide

Damai Beach

How does spending an afternoon on a deserted stretch of golden sand sound? That’s what you’ll find if you make the trek out to Damai Beach. Situated on the South China Sea, Damai is actually part of a beach resort but is still open to visitors who aren’t staying at the hotel. The warm water is surrounded by a lush rainforest, and you can expect to be some of the only people there!

The drive to the beach is only about 40 minutes from Kuching, and you can also get there by bus. Alternatively, book a room at the resort, which has more than 250 rooms including suites with stunning views of the sea. Prices start around RM 165 per night and there are also restaurants and a golf course on site. If you choose to stay, you can also spend a day at the Sarawak Cultural Centre, which just so happens to be next door.

Where to stay

Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Danum Valley Conservation Area– Treat yourself to a stay in this unforgettable, award-winning lodge in the middle of the rainforest in Sabah. The gorgeous, huge suites (hello, outdoor showers!) are perched high above the conservation area, making this the next best thing to a treehouse. When you’re not indulging in a massage or lounging by the infinity pool, you can join a challenging trek for amazing wildlife viewing. Click here to book

The Ranee Boutique Suites, Kuching– There’s nothing like a boutique hotel to capture the essence of where you are, and the Ranee has done it perfectly by stylishly rebuilding the property from two traditional 19th century shophouses. It’s wonderfully situated in the old town of Kuching and near the waterfront, and guests love the spacious rooms and delicious breakfast. Click here to book

The Kebun– If you want a more authentic and local experience, then The Kebun ticks all the right boxes. More than just accommodation, this is more of a homestay where guests enjoy home cooked meals and even have their laundry done. There’s an abundance of surrounding national parks to explore in the area, as well as easy access to water activities like kayaking. Click here to book


What to do in and around Kuching, Malaysia

Climbing Borneo’s majestic Mount Kinabalu

Exploring Kota Kinabalu and beautiful Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park

Top 10 tips for travelling in Asia

A monitor lizard.

A monitor lizard.

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12 Responses

  1. The Guy says:

    It sounds like a great experience. I love watching monkeys playing around but I’m not so keen on them stealing things from me!

  2. Awesome! The more we read different blogs, the more it reminds us that we left another place off our wish list accidentally!

  3. I visited Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre in Borneo and it was amazing – one of my favourite experiences ever. I wish i’d had more time in Borneo though, it looks like there’s so much more to see and do. Oh well, next time.

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