The island of Borneo is located in South East Asia which covers an area spanning across about 740,000 kilometers square. It is home to states belonging to 2 countries here as well as the country of Brunei. There are in total almost 20 million people residing in the entire Borneo island made up of different ethnic and background in the rural and urban areas.
Despite being the third-largest island in the world, a large portion of the land remains uninhibited. In Asia however, Borneo is the largest island which is collectively made up of Brunei, states belonging to Malaysia and the Kalimantan region which is part of Indonesia.
Sabah and Sarawak are the 2 East Malaysian states here while the Federal Territory of Labuan is sandwiched in between. At the border of both the states is Brunei Darulsallam while Kalimantan covers a major land area that spans across the entire island.
As home to the oldest rainforests in the world, Borneo is known for its natural flora and fauna including its highest peak which is Mount Kinabalu located in Sabah. Before it was known as Borneo, the island was named ‘Po-Ni’ by the Chinese as well as Nusa Tanjungnagara by a Majapahit poet.
Borneo Geographical Landscape
As an island, Borneo is surrounded by sea. The northern region is covered through the South China Sea while the eastern parts are covered by the Celebes Sea and the Makassar Strait. Over in the southern region is the Java Sea and the Karimata Strait with Sulu Sea covering the northeastern parts of the island.
One of the major attractions in Borneo is its caves. The world’s longest underground rivers are found at the Clearwater Cave. The Dear Cave here houses more than 3 million bats while Mulu Caves, which is located in Sarawak is one of the top World Heritage Sites.
In general, food in Borneo is influenced by the communities of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia. This means that depending on which country you are in, you are bound to find a lot of a certain type of food. However, you would find that there are halal dishes in Indonesia and Brunei as a large portion of the population there are Muslims.
Indian Food – There are in general 2 major types of Indian food namely Northern and Southern influences. The former usually involved more meat and taken with bread of pastry of some kind. This includes the very popular Chapatti and the tandoori chicken, among others. Meanwhile, southern Indian dishes are spicier and consists of more vegetable choices usually taken with rice.
Kadazan Food – If you are in Sabah, you will notice a lot of Kadazan food which comes from the largest ethnic group in the state. This cuisine is usually sour in its own aromatic ways where you will be served with a lot of mango-influenced dishes.
Chinese Food – In around Sabah and Sarawak, Chinese food can be found at major towns and cities. Sabah’s Chinese cuisine includes its beef noodle while Sarawak has its Kolo Mee which are renowned across the country. Other types of Chinese food like Wantan Mee and Chicken Rice are popular as well.
Malay Food – You will find a lot of Malay food in Sabah, Sarawak, Kalimantan and in Brunei as they are usually halal dishes. Primarily, this type of food involves using coconut milk for preparation and several types of herbs and spices.
Seafood – One of the very popular dishes you can try when visiting Borneo is the seafood. As the countries here are all housed within an island, most of them have coastal towns with daily, fresh seafood available. The South China Sea is known to be home to a variety of seafood where you can enjoy a lot of these dishes in Sabah, Sarawak and in Brunei. As such, you can find fresh prawns, crabs, lobsters and many other fishes that can be cooked by the weight.
Oyster Omelet – This is a distinct dish where oyster is cooked together with omelet and very popular in Kuching in Sarawak.
Brief Guide to Brunei
Brunei Darulssalam is a country sandwiched between Sabah and Sarawak in Borneo island. Its capital is Bandar Seri Begawan which is the main administrative and commercial city here. Brunei is the smallest among all the regions in Borneo island where it occupies a land area of only about 5,700 kilometer square. The total population is only about 400,000, way lower than most of the other states here.
Background – Brunei is known for being rich in natural gas and petroleum resources. It is located on the South China Sea with a strong economic fish zone. Due to its size and oil-rich resources, Brunei has an extremely stable economy of which most of its people are predominantly Muslim.
Culture – As an Islamic state, you will find a lot of large mosques located around the country. As such, the people here practice a strict Islamic code of conduct where alcoholic drinks are generally not allowed. Food here would mostly be halal while there is a small group of non-halal outlets around.
Weather – Brunei experiences the tropical climate all year round. Its rainfall is heaviest around the year end which is when the country experiences its lowest temperature as well.
Major Districts – Generally, Brunei is divided into 4 regions. The central part is called Brunei and Muara which is where Bandar Seri Begawan and the major transportation hubs are situated. Tutong is around the southern part of the state in which it is made up mainly by virgin forests while Belait covers the western region. This is where the petroleum industry is most prominent while over in the east is Temburong which is separated by Limbang which is part of Sarawak.
Transportation – Getting into Brunei is most ideal using air where you will stop at the Brunei International Airport in Bandar Seri Begawan which is connected with major cities around the world. Meanwhile, you can come in through road by driving in from Sarawak via Miri and Limbang at their respective checkpoints. Ferry services are available through Muara’s Serasa Ferry Terminal.
Attractions – Visiting Brunei involves a lot of sightseeing. You can come to the Istana Nurul Iman which is the largest residential palace in occupation in the worlds and the official residence of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. Meanwhile, you can take boat rides to visit the eco-tourism attractions in Temburung while the Jerudong Park is a popular theme park here. Besides that, you can go scuba diving at the Blue Water Wreck or enjoy shopping Kiulap or head out to the ‘Venice of the East’ here at Kampong Ayer.
Brief Guide to Kalimantan
Kalimantan is a the part of Borneo island which belongs to Indonesia. It covers more than half of Borneo and houses about 12 million people here. A large portion of Kalimantan is made up of dense rainforests where it is divided into 5 regions, namely North Kalimantan, West Kalimantan, East Kalimantan, South and Central Kalimantan respectively.
Major Cities – The most prominent city in Kalimantan is Balikpapan, often called the Oil City of Indonesia in which there are many oil and gas companies operating here. The largest city here is Banjarmasin which is known for its floating market while Pontianak, Palangkaraya, Tarakan, Tanjung Selor and Samarinda are all main towns here as well.
Nature – Kalimantan has one of the oldest rainforests in the world which dates back to 130 million years old. Its natural attractions here are very popular where there are more than 3,000 species of trees and more than 15,000 species of plants. In terms of animals, it has been recorded that there are more than 400 bird species and 200 mammal species here.
Weather – Like other parts of the region, Kalimantan experiences a tropical climate with rain coming in mostly during the year end.
Communication – In Balikpapan, the Sepinggan International Airport connects flight with Kuala Lumpur and Singapore while the Syamsudin Noor Airport provides air services for the southern region.
Attractions – Kalimantan is popular for being a diving spot at the Berau Archipelago in the Celebs Sea particularly in East Kalimantan around Derawan, Manatua and Sangaliki islands.
Besides that, a visit to Derawan Island is a great place for those who like marine tourism where you can spot various types of turtle like the star fruit turtle, scarlet turtle and green turtle which are all very rare. In Bontang, you will see various types of beautiful flora and fauna at the Kutai National Park while the Equator Monument and the State Museum are located in Pontianak town.
The Gunning Palung National Park and Nature Reserve is a great natural attraction here and you can spot the Rafflesia if you are lucky at the Raya Pasi Mountain. Another attraction in Kalimantan is at its central region in Palangkaraya where you can visit the Regional Museum of Palangkaraya as well as the Nature Reserve of Tangkiling which is about half an hour drive from here. For those who like to shop for souvenirs, you can find a lot of local goods like hand-woven silks, rattan furniture, bamboo handcraft as well as ceramic items.