Stories

Borneo Wildlife

Borneo is one of the largest islands on earth. Weighing in at 748,168 square kilometres, it is the third largest island after Greenland and New Guinea (Australia doesn’t count—it is a Continental landmass—not technically an island). 

And as any wildlife enthusiast knows, islands of this size are a treasure-trove of exotic wildlife that often can’t be found anywhere else on the planet.

Borneo and its rainforest are no exception to the amazing island animal clause. With jungles that date to over 140 million years, you can bet that the variety of life here is very unique indeed. And it is.

The first and most instantly recognizable species that calls Borneo home is also one most enigmatic and fascinating: Pongo pygmaeu, better known as the Bornean orangutan. The Bornean orangutan not only captivates the imagination with its human like characteristics, but also is closely related to humans. If you have ever glimpsed at a photo of an orangutan you likely have noticed the profoundly human characteristics of their eyes, felt the primordial bond between yourself and this fascinating species almost instantly. But can you imagine what it must be like to experience them in the wild? Borneo is your best bet as it is one of the last remaining natural habitats for orangutans on earth.

But there’s more to Borneo than the orangutan, and while Pongo pygmaeu certainly has the highest profile, the island is rich with diversity.

With 15,000 types of flowering plants, over 3,000 tree species, 221 terrestrial mammal varieties and 420 bird types, the island has an experience for almost every variety of wildlife enthusiast. Borneo is also an important refuge for many endemic forest species, including the Asian elephant, the Sumatran rhinoceros, the Bornean clouded leopard, the Hose's civet and the dayak fruit bat.

For more information on exploring all the incredible dimensions of Borneo check out the Malaysia Tourism site.

Photo by Colin O' Connor

June 2, 2014, 4:38 p.m.

Sarawak Cultural Village

You’ve climbed the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, got up close and personal with Orangutans in Borneo, trekked through lush Maliau Basin and explored the epic Gua Nasib Bagus cave system—now what?

Well, it’s time to experience Malaysian culture first hand, in the best way possible: total immersion.

Nestled among the foothills of Mount Santubong, only 35 km away the region’s capital city of Kuching, is the Sarawak Cultural Village, a self proclaimed living museum that showcases the multi-ethnic cultures and traditions of Sarawak region amidst 14 acres of tropical vegetation.

From exploring the traditional longhouse homes, bamboo instruments and carvings of the Bidayuh people, to the traditional tall houses, mystical legends and intriguing food traditions of the Melanau people, each culture on display (over 8 different Malaysian cultures!) will imbue you with a sense of awe and appreciation at Malaysia’s diversity.

And everywhere around the Sarawak Cultural Village are the unique arts and crafts of each culture: Kain Songket (Malay cloth with gold inlay), Pua Kumbu (Iban textiles), Melanau Terendak (sunhat), Bidayuh tambok (basket), Iban parang (swords), Orang Ulu wood carving and Chinese ceramics, for example are all on display.

There are also daily cultural performance of songs, dances and entertainment that you will not want to miss.

For more information on this incredible cultural experience head over to the Sarawak Cultural Village website.

Photo by Ben Sutherland

May 12, 2014, 2:52 p.m.

What’s a Genting Sky Way?

Have you ever had one of those dreams where you are slowly floating along, high above the world and looking down on the pretty landscape below? Well, that’s not quite a Sky Way, but the experience is similar nevertheless.

Located just 51 kilometres north west of Kuala Lumpur, in the Genting Highlands, is Malaysia’s Genting Skyway, a suspended gondola lift that elevates riders 900 metres into the clouds above a lush, picturesque jungle canopy and sprawling hillside etched with man made animal carvings.

Even if you’ve never dreamt of floating above the jungle canopy there is no reason to not give it a try.

The Genting Skyway carries riders across a 3.38-kilometre cable section that runs at a smooth elevation along Southeast Asia’s longest, and the world’s fastest mono cable car system. Travelling at around 22km an hour the Genting Skyway gently lifts you away from your starting point in Gohtong Jaya, a small town in the Genting Highlands towards Resorts World Genting, an enormous resort that contains hotels, restaurants, temples, a casino and theme parks.

Tickets for a two-way ride on the skyway cost approx 12 Malasyain Ringgit’s or 4 Canadian Dollars and the trip and takes approximately 15 minutes, depending on weather.

Total length of the memory you will have of this experience will likely be much longer.

Photo by Prateek Bahadur

April 28, 2014, 4:31 p.m.

Melaka City

Melaka is a city steeped in history, from its varied colonial legacies, to its vibrant and renowned antique markets; this city offers visitors something a little different and some heavy historics.

Melaka is located to the south east of Kuala Lumpur and is accessible by almost any means of transportation. Whether you prefer to travel by plane, bus, car, boat, train—each are available means of transit to Melaka —its extreme accessibility and proximity to Kuala Lumpur make it a choice starting point for any Malaysian adventure.

Melaka’s history begins around 1400 when Parameswara, the last Raja of Singapuria was supposed to have been resting near a Melaka tree when a mouse deer kicked his hunting dog into the river. Parameswara was impressed and took the event as a sign of the weak overcoming the powerful and decided this land would become the capital of his new kingdom. He chose to name the kingdom after the tree he was standing under when he observed the deer kicking his dog. Turns out it was a pretty good place to start a kingdom as Melaka is supplied with an ample quantity of fresh water, positioned in a prime location relative to the shifting monsoon winds, and had a central location in regional trade patterns, all of which soon made it a prosperous trading town.

Over the years Melaka has shifted from Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and British colonial rule and so exists today as an incredible fusion of the architecture and cultural influences of each one of these colonial powers. One example of the interesting diversity of Melaka is Harmony Street which contains prayer houses of each one of Malaysia’s three main faiths:  the Cheng Hoon Teng Chinese temple, the Sri Poyatha Vinayagar Moorthi Hindu Temple, and the Kampung Kling Mosque. And of course, there is Jonker street, which has developed a reputation for some interesting antique shopping opportunities—but be careful about the authenticity of some of these antiques.

So, if you are a fan of history and have a penchant for some unique shopping experiences Melaka should be somewhere near the top of your list for travel experiences in Malaysia. Oh, and I also recommend a quick Google Image Search for Jonker street.

Photo by Riza Nugraha

April 21, 2014, 3:54 p.m.

Maliau Basin

Exploring the Lost World of the Maliau Basin

In 1947 a chance discovery by a British Pilot unlocked a secluded and biologically diverse area roughly the size of Singapore that remains to this day mostly untouched by humans: Malaysia’s Maliau Basin.

Located on the north eastern portion of the Malaysian island of Borneo, the Maliau Basin is an enormous bowl shaped pocket of pristine old growth jungle that stretches across 390 km until it reaches a natural boundary of cliffs that rise 915 metres above the jungle floor. Imagine the wonder that British pilot might have felt when swooping across the vast Malaysian jungle only to discover an almost perfect circle of land isolated by enormous cliffs.

Because of its unique geography, the Maliau Basin has been virtually untouched and unexplored since the beginning of time. In fact, even today much of the Maliau Basin is unexplored and little more than 2000 people have ever set foot in the Maliau Basin.

However, in an effort to help protect the area, generate revenue and  educate people about the importance of the Maliau Basin, it is now possible to explore a specific portion of the Maliau Basin via the Maliau Basin Conservation Area.

The Maliau Basin Conservation Area is composed of various scientific facilities, visitor accommodation areas and jungle trails. Access to the Maliau Basin Conservation Area only possible through the towns of Tawau or Keningau, both a 4 to 5 hour drive away from Maliau Basin Conservation Area.

If you are interested in seeing the Maliau Basin check out our opXpeditions video of team opX Malaysia trekking through the Maliau Basin.

April 14, 2014, 3:33 p.m.

Jungle Railway

One of the best ways to experience the rural culture and jungle landscape of Malaysia is aboard the world famous Malaysia Jungle Railway.

The Jungle Railway stretches across 500-kilometres from the Gemas near the country’s capital city of Kuala Lumpur all the way to Tumpat on the north east coast and takes passengers through small rural communities, sprawling farms and forests and allows you an opportunity to meet and mingle with locals who rely on the Jungle Railways for daily transportation.

There are no large cities along the route of Malaysia’s Jungle Railway, and most stations are in remote, jungle-surrounded villages and many stops are nothing more than a platform in the middle of the jungle. 

No doubt this is an incredible experience, and for more information on Malaysia’s Jungle Railways check out this Wiki Travel Article on Malaysia’s Jungle Railway.

April 7, 2014, 2:39 p.m.

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

Located on the northeastern tip of Bornean Malaysia, on the edge of the Sulu Sea, is one of the last bastions of Malaysia’s Northeast Bornean orangutan population, the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

 

Founded in 1964 with the initial objective of rehabilitating Northeast Bornean orangutans, the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, a 43-square kilometer area of protected land, is one of the few remaining places on earth where you can see the Northeast Bornean orangutan in the wild.

As one of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, sharing a total of 97 percent DNA, orangutans have always had a special way of captivating the human imagination. From their ability to use tools to solve complex tasks, to their quiet, gentle and inquisitive nature—there is undoubtedly something profoundly special about experiencing these animals in the wild.

Unfortunately, as the population of Bornean orangutans have declined by more than 50% over the past 60 years, the opportunity to experience these mystical animals in the wild is becoming increasingly rare. 

Fortunately, the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre exists to help make sure Bornean orangutans remain for generations to come, and now provides care and rehabilitation to around 25 young orphaned orangutans. The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre also sits on the borders of the nearby Kabili Sepilok Forest reserve, which is home to about 60-80 wild Orangutans, and provides the perfect means to reintroduce the orphaned orangutans into the wild.

If you are interested in seeing the majestic Northeast Bornean orangutan in the wild, check out the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre website for more information on how you can experience these amazing creatures in the wild and help to keep the population viable for future generations.

March 31, 2014, 11:39 a.m.

Mount Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu is perhaps the most famous mountain in all of Malaysia, and while mountains may not be the first thing that you think of when you contemplate the infinite beauty of Malaysia, you might be surprised to learn that Mount Kinabalu is not only spectacularly beautiful to look at and climb, but also that it is also an environmentally fascinating part of Malaysia.

Located in the state of Saba, on the Eastern portion of Malaysia, Mount Kinabalu is not only the highest peak in the Malay Archipelago, but it also is the 20th most prominent mountain in the world—and there’s more to this mountain than its height. 

Mount Kinabalu, and the areas surrounding it, are often considered some of the most interesting biological sites on earth, and surveys of the area suggest that it is loaded with an incredible variety of animal and plant species with some reports suggesting there are up to 6000 species of plants, over 300 species of birds and over 100 species of mammals inhabiting Mount Kinabalu and the surrounding area.

Mount Kinabalu is also pretty straightforward to summit, and Mount Kinabalu’s Low’s Peak (the summit of the mountain) can be climbed by almost anyone in moderate to good physical condition. You don’t even need mountaineering equipment.

For more information on Mount Kinabalu and all the experiences available in the region check out the Malaysia Tourism page on Mount Kinabalu.

March 24, 2014, 3:40 p.m.

Redang Island

The largest island off Malaysia’s east coast, Redang Island is one part marine park, one part beach, and all parts beautiful. 

The largest island off Malaysia’s east coast, Redang Island is one part marine park, one part beach, and all parts beautiful.

Located about 45 km off the coast of Terengganu state in the northeastern portion of mainland Malaysia near the border of Myanmar, this island paradise, while traditionally accessible only by boat, is now also open to aircraft by virtue of the brand new Redang airstrip (RDN).

Snorkeling is by far the number one activity on Redang island, and there is no shortage of aquatic features to explore: from stunning coral reefs to a majestic sea turtles and primordial sharks any underwater enthusiast is sure to find something incredible to experience on Redang Island

For more information on Redang Island check out the Tourism Malaysia page on Palau Redang.

March 17, 2014, 4:20 p.m.

Gunung Mulu National Park

Gunung Mulu National Park is home to one of the longest network of caves on earth. From these enormous and sprawling cave systems comes the opportunity to experience one of the most fascinating displays of subterranean majesty on earth.

Located on the eastern part of Malaysia, just south of Brunei, is Gunung Mulu National Park. The park holds one of the largest known natural chambers, Sarawak Chamber, that sprawls an enormous 700 meters in length, and which is open to exploration by anyone up for a unique caving experience. Also within Gunung Mulu National Park is the extensive Deer Cave passage, one of the largest single cave passages in the world—some would even say that it is the largest cave passages in the world, and of course, it is open to travellers.

Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, Gunung Mulu National Park has had countless expeditions explore the surrounding rainforests and extensive cave networks. To date over 20 expeditions have attempted to explore Gunung Mulu National Park and their collective work is cited as the Mulu Caves Project, a collaboration between UK speleologists and the Sarawak Authorities hoping to show Mulu’s importance as an extraordinary and vast underground landscape. Other notable caves in this area are Benarat Cavern, Wind Cave, and Clearwater Cave; which has parts one of the world's largest underground river systems and is believed to be the largest cave in the world.

There are tough but rewarding multi-day hikes available across Gunung Mulu National Park. For more information on exploring this fascinating area of Malaysia check out the Tourism Malaysia page on Gunung Mulu National Park.

 

March 10, 2014, 2:08 p.m.
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