Up until a few months ago, the only thing I could describe about Borneo was head hunters. It was the ultimate example of somewhere totally remote and exotic. Then I overheard someone describing their recent trip to Borneo, and I gasped. Wait, people can actually GO to Borneo?! It was in that very moment that I decided where I was going for my summer holiday.
I google searched a few images of Borneo and instantly booked a flight. I didn’t consult any of my friends about going with me because I wanted it to be a grand solo adventure. I had a few specific itinerary ideas in mind and I didn’t want to have to compromise with anyone on plans; I also thought it would be a good practice run for solo travel before my big solo round-the-world trip next year.
Later, though, a friend and I discovered we had each booked to go to the exact same place in Borneo to scuba dive! I realized it would be nice to have company for at least part of the time, so we rearranged a few of our dates to make our trips overlap, and then we convinced another friend (during a wine-fueled rooftop night) to join us. So there will be three of us together for the first few days, then two of us will go diving and island hopping, and after a week I’ll be on my own for the remaining 10 days of my trip. I can’t even believe that I’m going to be SOLO TRAVELING IN BORNEO!!!
Borneo (in case you’re wondering where the heck this place even is) is the world’s third largest island, located in Southeast Asia just across from the Malaysian peninsula. It is divided into the three countries of Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. I’ll be visiting the Malaysian section, which runs along the northwest coast of the island.
A large part of Borneo’s economy is tourism based, but the tourist industry there is still considered fairly undeveloped. The main draws are observing wildlife (endangered orangutans, in particular) and world class scuba diving, both of which I’ll be doing! So, barring disaster (I don’t want to hear another word about crashing and disappearing planes), this is a rough overview of my itinerary:
Uncle Tan’s Kinabatangan River Wildlife Tour: We’ll spend 2N/3D cruising up the river to spot wildlife, camping in the tropical rainforest, and taking night hikes into the jungle. I’m going to pretend I work for Nat Geo the WHOLE TIME.
Dive Sipadan Island: Sipadan is a tiny island so biologically diverse that it was made an environmentally protected area: no one is allowed to live on the island and only 120 permits per day are released for divers. It is regularly featured as one of the top diving destinations in the world!
Island Hopping and Seeing Sea Gypsies: The plan is to rent a boat for the day and explore the tiny islands along the archipelago. There are also communities of “Sea Gypsies” that have both a fascinating and tragic lifestyle that we’re hoping to respectfully observe.
Kota Kinabalu and neighboring islands: Kota Kinabalu, while not the greatest of cities, is supposed to have a great night market and some awesome island beaches just a short boat ride away.
Bako National Park: A small island that was featured as the final pit stop on a season of The Amazing Race, Bako is a place to hike in the jungle to see proboscis monkeys, lounge on the beach, and photograph interesting rock formations.
After Borneo, I’ll hop on a flight to Singapore for a quick two nights of exploring the city. I’m especially excited to see the “super trees” at the Gardens by the Bay!
Then I’ll take a 7 hour train ride up to Kuala Lumpur and spend a day checking out temples and cultural areas of the city.
Needless to say, I CAN’T FRIGGIN WAIT. Have you been to these places? Any travel suggestions?