At an estimated 140 million years old, Borneo boasts one of the oldest rainforests in the world. As a result, its been vital in the evolution of most of the endemic (unique to the island) species of plant and animal. So when you visit the Bornean jungle, you’ll be surrounded by around 3,000 species of tree, 15,000 species of flowering plant, 221 species of mammal and 420 species of bird. That’s an awful lot of spotting to do, so it’s no wonder that a jungle adventure is top of the list for many visitors to the island.
What is a Jungle anyway? | Borneo jungle adventures
Within this hotbed of biodiversity, there is no such thing as a straight jungle on Borneo. In fact, the island has been divided and classified by the WWF into specific ecoregions. These are:
- Lowland rainforests
- Peat swamp forests
- Sunderland heath forests
- Freshwater swamp forests
- Sunda shelf mangroves
- Montane rainforests
- Subtropical grasslands
Borneo continues to be the centre of conservation efforts. Most notably through the high profile programmes to protect the Bornean orangutan and the 2007 ‘Heart of Borneo’ agreement. This was initiated by the WWF and signed by the governments of the three ruling nations on Borneo, pledging to protect 220,000 square kilometres of rainforest. So when you explore the jungles of Borneo, do so with a conscientious spirit.
Where to go?
So, where are the top locations to have on your travelling list? From mountains to rivers, we cover the best of the terrain where you can experience a variety of jungle adventures.
1. Mount Kinabalu
This is the highest peak in South East Asia. So depending on the tour that you choose, you can experience various different habitats and ecoregions. At its base, the surrounding lowland rainforests of the national park give way to the montane areas further up the mountain. Go even higher with excursions employing the “via Ferrata” – routes ascending the mountain which are equipped with walkways, cables and other fixed anchors. In addition, should you reach the higher elevations of the Kinabalu mountain you’ll find alpine shrubland with numerous endemic plant life, including orchids? The species across the areas of the jungle here are vast, so it’s a real top of the list destination!
2. Kiulu Valley
Not far from Kota Kinabalu lies the Kiulu Valley. This area of secondary rainforest offers accessible trekking terrain. Established trails through the jungle offers a great view of many species of tree and fruiting plant. Its accessibility makes this the ideal location for adventures which include an element of bushcraft, survival skills, or local craft activities. The lush banks of the Kiulu river are home to several relaxation destinations too.
3. Sepilok Forest Reserve
This area of Sabah lowland rainforest is entirely protected. This means that the ecosystem supports a huge number of wildlife and vegetation which are allowed to thrive in the habitat. This area of jungle is the top spot for travellers looking for a wildlife spotting jungle adventure! You can see orangutans, macaques and red leaf monkeys while trekking through this part of the rainforest. If birdlife is more your thing, look out for hornbills, kingfishers and cuckoos.
4. Pulau Gaya
The largest island within the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park in Sabah, Gaya island is home to 20km of hiking trails. The island elevates to around 300 metres so offers more of a challenge to ambitious adventurers! As well as the jungle terrain, the island is surrounded by coral reefs which mean that you can mix jungle and underwater experiences very easily.
The Maliau basin is a conservation area which has only recently been accessible to tourists. Beginning with the teaching centre for naturalists and biologists, accessibility has grown but this uplifted plateau is still thought of as the “Lost World”. Adventures to this part of Borneo are more arduous than other areas, but you’ll be rewarded by experiencing an environment that few others have seen.
6. Klias Wetlands
Away from the city, the Klias Wetlands contains lush mangrove forests full of unique wildlife. By day you can spot proboscis monkeys and hornbills and by night spectacular fireflies. For a great and easy way to get a glimpse of the amazing wildlife of Sabah, the Klias River Cruise is highly recommended.
7. Danum Valley
Anyone who values wildlife spotting will be awestruck by the sights offered by the Danum Valley. This conservation area of lowland rainforest didn’t have any human settlements prior to it becoming a protected reserve. Because of this, the endemic wildlife has enjoyed the lack of human interference. It’s home to the East Sumatran rhinoceros, Bornean orangutan, gibbon, mousedeer, clouded leopard, sun bear, pygmy elephant and tarsier. So a jungle trek here can become rather a safari like!
8. Tabin Wildlife Reserve
Located within the eastern part of Sabah, this wildlife reserve is considered to be the biggest in Malaysia. It can be reached from Lahad Datu in about 40 minutes. The Tabin Wildlife Reserve is home to a large number of animals some of which are highly endangered. Within the reserve, the three largest mammals of Sabah, the Borneo Pygmy Elephant, the Sumatran Rhinoceros and Tembadau can all be found. As well as the rich bio-diversity of nature to observe, visitors of the reserve can part-take in many nature-based activities including; jungle-trekking, night safari, night walk, wildlife-spotting, birdwatching and rainforest education.
9. Kinabatangan River
Experiencing the Bornean jungle need not only be by foot. The Kinabatangan River is the longest river in Sabah. Its source is high in the Crocker mountain range and it travels 560km to the mangrove swamp estuary on the East coast of Sabah. Wildlife congregates around water, so from this vantage point, you are more likely to catch a glimpse of some of the vast array of endemic species in Borneo. Pygmy elephants, orangutans, the proboscis monkeys, macaques, maroon langur, gibbons, hornbills, crocodiles and kingfishers are just a few jungle species you may see.
10. Mount Alab
This peak sits amongst the Crocker mountain range. Jungle trekking in this area will offer close contact with subtropical foliage and dramatic waterfalls. The different forest areas are vast, so if plantlife is your interest, Mount Alab and its surrounds are a great destination.