The island of Borneo is still one of the lesser travelled parts of Asia. The island is split between Indonesia and Malaysia; whilst the Indonesian Borneo remains largely isolated and undeveloped, the Malaysian Borneo has, in recent years, become a hub for tourists in search of the elusive Orangutan. There are plenty of nature reserves, animal conservation centres, hiking trails and hot springs to entice a multitude of visitors, all hoping for an action packed holiday.
You can access the Sabah region of Malaysian Borneo by flying into Kota Kinabalu. From there, it’s easy to arrange excursions to surrounding parks and reserves.
Let’s have a look at some of the highlights and natural sights of Sabah:
This is one of the most famous places in the world to see Orangutans in their natural habitat. This park is an Orangutan rehabilitation centre, providing a safe refuge to approximately 70 Orangutan. It covers 40 square km and is located just 25km north of the city of Sandakan, which is just a short flight from Kota Kinabalu. You can watch the Orangutan at feeding time twice a day (10am and 3pm). There is a nursery where you can observe youngsters at play, swinging through the trees and generally getting up to mischief.
Sepilok has the only Sun Bear conservation centre in the world and is home to around 40 bears. Sun Bears are also known as ‘Honey’ Bears because of their distinct love of honey. They are the smallest of bear species and seldom seen, so it’s worth paying the extra fee to observe these mysterious animals. Don’t be fooled by their cute appearance, they can be feisty and dangerous when they want to be!
(source: Wikimedia Commons)
The highlight of Kinabalu Park is the infamous Mount Kinabalu. Standing at 4095 metres tall, it is one of the highest mountains in South East Asia and it can be climbed in 2 days. The newest trail, the Ranau Trail, is more challenging than other trails but is more scenic and offers impressive views of the surrounding rain forest. There are plenty of extreme sports to participate in such as paragliding, rock climbing and there is the world’s highest Via Ferrata (vertical iron path) located between 3200m and 3800m high. If you get tired from a day of adventurous activities, head to Poring Hot Springs where you can relax and soak aching muscles in the natural thermal waters.
Health in Malaysian Borneo
While there has been plenty of development in Malaysian Borneo, there are still plenty of health risks to be aware of. All visitors should ensure that their Tetanus, Diphtheria and Polio vaccination, as well as their Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccines are up to date. These should all be taken at least 2 weeks before travel.
Anyone planning on visiting animal sanctuaries should consider the Rabies vaccination course, as there is high risk throughout Borneo and it is transmitted via the bite of an infected animal. The Rabies course takes a month to complete so it is best to visit any of our travel clinics early to ensure you have time. This course DOES NOT make you immune to Rabies, but it gives you more time to access medical attention should you get bitten (particularly good if you are travelling anywhere remote), and it minimises the hospital treatment you receive. It is one of the most effective vaccinations; to this day, no one who has received the full Rabies vaccination course is known to have died from the disease.
Travellers participating in adventure sports should consider the Hepatitis B vaccination course. Again, this course takes a full month to complete so it is vital to visit us at least 4 weeks before your trip. You contract Hepatitis B through blood and bodily fluids. Sports enthusiasts are at greater risk as they are more likely to injure themselves and subsequently require medical attention. Not all medical facilities in Borneo use sterile equipment so it is possible to catch Hepatitis B from such facilities.
There is a risk of Japanese Encephalitis in swamps and paddy field areas, which is contracted via mosquito bites. Long term travellers should consider the vaccination course which takes between 7-28 days to complete.
There is a low to no risk of Malaria throughout Malaysian Borneo, so the majority of travellers do not need to take anti-malarial medication. Higher risk travellers, such as pregnant women or those with immuno-suppressive disorders, may be advised to take it so it is essential to visit a clinic well in advance to discuss your personal requirements.
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