Just the name Borneo conjures images of the exotic. The “Wild Man Of Borneo” was a standard feature of traveling carnivals and made Borneo seem to be a place of mystery and danger. The reality of Borneo is exotic but not so mysterious or dangerous. Modern day Malaysia is typical of much of Southeast Asia and the cities of Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan and Kuching are exotic indeed. With the typical hustle and bustle of modern day Asia theses cities sit along the shores of a mountainous island covered in steamy tropical jungle. These jungles are the home of the real “Wild Man From Borneo”, the orangutan and around the island are places and people working to save these wonderful endangered animals. A visit to an orangutan rehabilitation facility is a must. A word of caution here though, those jungles that look so exotic, really are. There are poisonous snakes, horned spiders and leeches that rain down on you from the foliage as you brush by. A hike in the woods is not for the timid in Borneo. The jungles of Borneo are also home to the worlds largest flower, the three foot wide Raffelesia. They are a beautiful color mixture of red and white, but since they are carnivorous and feed on insects they smell like rotting flesh to attract their prey. Long tailed macaques, red and silver leaf monkeys and strange monkeys with huge swollen noses aptly named proboscis monkeys swing and leap from tree to tree and travel through the forest canopy.
The scuba diving in Borneo is on either side of the island. To the east of Borneo in the Sulu Sea is the island of Sipadan. This tiny island is the peak of a needle like pinnacle that rises steeply from the sea floor. Surrounded by dramatic walls Sipadan is justly famous for the hundreds of sea turtles that come to the island to breed and lay eggs. To the west of Borneo is the South China Sea and the islands of the Spratley group. The walls of the island of Layang Layang are frequented by large schools of hammerhead sharks. Materializing like wraiths out of the blue, they will often swim by or even surround a diver and then disappear so fast they leave you wondering if they were really there at all. The Spratley Islands claimed by Malaysia, China, Brunei, and others are wild and rarely visited by anyone. Divers need special permission to visit these disputed islands, and visiting yachts have been shot at by military installations that are little more than barges dragged onto the reefs and anchored. Marine life is plentiful and the biodiversity is impressive. You cannot visit this area during the winter because the weather will not allow safe travel. However Borneo means “The Land Below the Winds” and is not troubled by hurricanes and dangerous summer weather.