About Borneo

Where is Borneo? What’s there? Why choose Borneo?

Some of these facts will help to clear similar questions you might have!

Let’s start with a world map, so you know exactly where is the exotic island of Borneo.


Borneo is surrounded by dozens of tropical islands in the South China Sea, but it is the largest island in Asia, and the third largest in the world!


Expedition Borneo takes place in the northernmost Malaysian state of Sabah.


Places in the world are not without history, and Sabah is rich with ethnic diversity and natural beauty!

Sabah received independence from British rule in 1963. Prior to the British North Borneo Company however, was a time of territorial disputes, tribal warfare and the influence of traders and pirates from neighbouring Indonesia and Phillipines.

Fortunately, modern day Sabah exists with 32 officially recognized ethnic groups living together in harmony, and each ethnic community preserves their own culture, traditions, festivals and custom.

The People

The population count of Sabah is more than 3 million and the people are as diverse as the ecology.

Kadazandusun are one of the larger and main indigenous groups of Sabah. The West Coast and interior of Sabah is densely populated with Kadazandusun, so in former times, harvesting rice was their means of living. Before the arrival of missionaries they practiced animism, a belief system that observes souls and spirits. Rituals must be performed to appease the entities for a blessed harvest, but nowadays the tradition is not so common and only for important festivals.

Another group called Bajau, began their history in Sabah around 200 years ago, as did ethnic groups such as Suluks, Irranuns, Binadans and Obian.

The Bajau were once regarded as sea gypsies and Bajau communities in the east coast of Sabah retain their seaborne lifestyle to this day. Resulting from migration to the west coast, others live a sedentary life of farming and cattle breeding. The west coast Bajau are famous for their expert equestrian skills, which is remarkable as horse riding isn’t widespread elsewhere in Malaysia!

Murut inhabit Sabah’s southeastern borders with Sarawak and the Indonesian state of Kalimantan, and many still live in traditional Longhouses. Murut, literally translated as ‘hill people’, were highly skilled in hunting with blowpipes and an ethnic group formerly known as headhunters. Over time their headhunting tradition was abandoned.

Another large group is the Chinese, whose mass migration due to the North Borneo Chartered Company needing labourers, making one of the largest non-indigenous groups in Sabah. Engaging in commercial sectors of the economy, Chinese groups predominantly live in urban areas. Their vibrant culture is celebrated during many annual festivals.

It is estimated, unofficially, that Sabah is home to 700,000 Filipinos who enter via the Malaysia-Phillipines border because the maritime boundary makes immigration control very difficult.

Because of its multicultural society, Sabah is fortunate to celebrate a variety of traditional festivals and ceremonies throughout the calendar year!


The island of Borneo is shared between Indonesia and Malaysia. Malaysia’s second largest state, Sabah, covers the northern part of Borneo. Its sister State Sarawak is the largest and shares the western border of Sabah. Both Sabah and Sarawak share their southern borders with Indonesia’s Kalimantan, the largest part of Borneo. There is also, in between Sabah and Sarawak, the tiny Sultanate of Brunei.

Sabah’s state capital is Kota Kinabalu, but known by a variety of names. These include Yapi by the Chinese, Api Api and, its former name, Jesselton.

The terrain is typically mountainous, with Malaysia’s highest mountain peaks found in Sabah. Heights range from 1,000m to the Crocker Range mountains peak: Mount Kinabalu at 4,095m altitude. Mount Trusmadi, nearby Mount Kinabalu is, at 2,643m, is Malaysia’s 2nd highest peak. And the 3rd highest is Mount Tambuyukon, which rises to 2,579m.

Getting Around

Sabah has much to offer with its natural biodiversity! The tropical rainforest offers a diverse array of flora and fauna and its many islands and surrounding beaches are a paradise location for world-class scuba diving, with rare macro life and schooling pelagics.

Tunku Abdul Rahman Park is a 49km² protected National Marine Park, on the doorstep of Kota Kinabalu City. Within its parameters are 5 tropical islands with dozens of reefs for marine lovers to discover and where our premier PADI 5 Star IDC Dive, Snorkel & Adventure Center is located.

Kinabatangan River is located in the east coast of Sabah, and the lower Kinabatangan River is famous for wildlife spotting, with experts acknowledging the area as the most varied in Southeast Asia.

Nearby, the Orang Utan Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre is a sanctuary for orphaned orang utan to be integrated into their natural jungle habitat. It’s worth visiting for an education on the ‘jungle man’ and seeing the benefits of their conservation work.
Also situated in the east coast of Sabah is Gomantong Caves. The resident swiftlets of the limestone cave system create their edible bird nests, which are a highly valuable delicacy due to its dangerous harvesting process.

Sipadan Island, the world famous underwater mountain, is subject to limited visitors permitted to scuba dive. Dive permits are granted by Sipadan – Kapalai Resort & SMART.

Lankayan Resort & Turtle Island offer snorkeling and diving too, as well as turtle nesting and hatching if you’re lucky!

Quick Facts

Weather – Tropical Rainforest Climate.
2 seasons: Dry and Wet (Monsoon), but neither hinders our
program activities.

Food – Reflects Borneo’s multicultural society: Indian, Chinese, Malay, Indonesian cuisines (rice, noodles, soups, curries, barbeques, and more).

Public Transportation – Transfers are included for the program activities.
During ‘rest days’ in Kota Kinabalu City Centre, taxis are cheap. Buses and vans are even cheaper.

Accommodation – Camping: 8 nights
Dormitory-style: 29 nights

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