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Ultimate Borneo Holidays: A Journey Through Sarawak, Brunei Darussalam, Labuan and Sabah

Borneo Travel Destination Map -Areas of Sarawak, Brunei, Labuan and Sabah

This is a blog on an exploration of the best of Sarawak, Brunei Darussalam, Labuan and Sabah. The information covers two out of the three countries that make up this island. It focuses on unique culture, nature, adventure, and wildlife experiences. At the same time, this article includes the islands and beaches of course. UK travellers may find this to plan their Borneo multicenter holidays from. And, so will travellers from US, Europe and Australia with their holidays in Borneo.

But first a little something about us. Over the years Paradesa Borneo have earned the trust and confidence from our clients. Testament to this have been our positive reviews as well as awards. The most recent one has been the Trip Advisor’s 2923 Travellers’ Choice Awards. We strive to bring choices to our customers. Often the tour experiences are off-the-beaten path.

Borneo is the world’s third-largest island. It is home to an incredible diversity of cultures, landscapes, and wildlife. While there’s much to do, you need ample time for sure.

So, let’s dive into these destinations.

Discovering Sarawak: Where Tradition Meets Adventure

There is always more to discover in Sarawak. This Malaysian state’s shoreline stretches 1,035km in a northeast direction towards Sabah. Brunei Darussalam wedges between Sarawak and Sabah. Travellers can delve into its rich cultural tapestry while exploring breathtaking natural wonders. It offers an enchanting blend of tradition and adventure.

Borneo Holidays-sun rising over Kuching Waterfront and the Darul Hana Bridge with Paradesa Borneo
Sun rising over the Darul Hana Pedestrian Bridge and the Kuching Waterfront

In the state capital of Kuching, start with the Kuching Waterfront. Along this stretch, soak in the rivernine activities of the Sarawak river. Take a walk across the iconic Darul Hana pedestrian bridge. Up here, the sweeping view of old Kuching evokes nostalgia. And with good timing, catch the beautiful sunset as it sets over Mt. Serapi in the horizon. Stroll through the charming streets and immerse yourself in the vibrant local markets. You sample unique street food and shop for indigenous Bornean crafts. 

But the city’s charm extends beyond its bustling markets. Kuching’s historic landmarks provide a fascinating glimpse into Sarawak’s past with the British. This was during the rule of the Brooke family and later the British government. In this regard, a visit to the Borneo Cultures Museum gives you a deep insight of Sarawak and its people.

Sarawak’s culture is a testament to the harmonious coexistence of various ethnic groups. There are 42 such groups, each contributing their own distinctive customs and heritage.

Cultural Traditions and National Parks

Venture deeper into the hinterlands, you’ll discover the Iban longhouses of Batang Ai and Banting. Here, you can engage with the Iban people, learning about their customs and unique way of life. It’s an immersive experience that’s both educational and enriching. Where tradition and modernity intersect if you will.

Borneo Holidays-Donning Iban costume at Lemanak Longhouse with Paradesa Borneo
Donning an Iban maiden costume at an Iban Longhouse, Lemanak River

Sarawak boasts some of Borneo’s most stunning national parks. All told, there are 47 of them. But only 13 national parks are open to the public. The oldest one, the Bako National Park at Kuching is a paradise for nature enthusiasts and hikers. Its rugged coastline, many hiking trails and diverse wildlife beckon the nature lovers. The Niah Cave National Park at Miri unravels the mysteries of ancient civilizations. Here, archaeologists have unearthed a carbon dated 40,000 year-old skull. (displayed at the Borneo Cultures Museum.) Not surprising this national park has made onto the World Heritage tentative list. The outstanding Gunung Mulu National Park is a World UNESCO Heritage Site. The gigantic caves are as awe-striking as the limestone formations are.

Borneo Holidays-Aman Orangutan Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus with Paradesa Borneo
A mature adult male orangutan (pongo pymaeus pygmaeus sub-species)

A visit to Sarawak is never complete without seeing semi-wild orangutans up close. (no, you can’t cuddle.). While it is a must-to-have experience, we are dealing with… semi-wild animals. So it comes with a caveat. When food is plentiful in the forest, they are less likely to show up for their twice-a-day feeding sessions. The Semenggoh Nature Reserve is a sanctuary for the pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus subspecies. Whereas those at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Sabah are pongo pygmaeus morio sub-species. They have different facial features. 🙂

Exploring the Hidden Gem – Brunei: A Glimpse into Royalty and Serenity

Brunei Darussalam – the Abode of Peace – beckons travellers with a unique blend of royalty and serenity. This small rich kingdom offers a rare glimpse into a world of opulence and tranquillity. Unlike anywhere else in Southeast Asia!

Borneo Holidays-Omar-Ali-Saifuddien-Mosque Brunei Darussalam with Paradesa Borneo
The iconic Omar-Ali-Saifuddien-Mosque Brunei Darussalam

Its capital city, Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB) is compact enough to visit and see its attractions in a short time.

At the heart of Brunei’s allure is its royal heritage. A visit to the Brunei National Museum and the Royal Regalia Centre connect you with it. The magnificent Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque stands as an oasis of peace amidst the bustling capital city. The 1,788-room Sultan’s palace is a display of power and wealth only to behold in one’s imagination.

Borneo Holidays-The-Royal-Regalia-Museum with Paradesa Borneo
The Royal Regalia Museum, Bandar Seri Begawan

Another architectural wonder that defines Brunei’s uniqueness is her modern water village. Kampung Ayer gives you a fascinating glimpse of Brunei’s water-based communities. The residents live in this labyrinthine network of stilted houses and boardwalks. While citizens in the other half of the country (Temburong district) use the 26-km Temburong bridge, the longest in SEA, to commute. In the past, her citizens had to undergo two border crossings to travel in their own country. Travellers can now travel uninterrupted from BSB to Ulu Temburong National Park. This pristine rainforest sanctuary offers an intimate connection with Brunei’s unspoiled natural beauty.

The Tranquil Oasis of Labuan Island

The journey is the adventure as they say. And Labuan adds a new aspect to your multicenter travel via the South China Sea. From Bandar Seri Begawan, take the regular boat service to the island.

Labuan Island’s allure lies in its laid-back charm and pristine beaches. It provides the perfect contrast to the bustling cities and adventurous expeditions done thus far. The beaches of Pantai Batu Manikar and Pantai Pancur Hitam are great places to unwind.

Labuan’s underwater world is a hidden treasure waiting for dive enthusiasts. The water has a few shipwreck sites from the Second World War. At Labuan Marine Park, there are reefs and wall sites to choose from.

Borneo Holidays-Commonwealth Memorial Park Labuan with Paradesa Borneo
The Commonwealth WW2 Memorial Park

The sprawling Commonwealth Memorial Park is a poignant reminder of Labuan’s history. Then, the island was a World War II military base. Every year hundreds of army veterans come to pay respect to their fallen comrades. There are 3,908 graves in total. The Labuan Museum offers further insights into the island’s history and cultural heritage.

Labuan’s duty-free status is a great opportunity to stretch your currency further. Shops offer a range of goods from chocolates and perfumes to electronic gadgets and alcohol.

Labuan Island completes a well-rounded Borneo experience. It is the stepping stone to re-enter Borneo proper in the northern part.

Thrills and Wonders in Sabah: Where Adventure Meets Wildlife

For the longest time, the name ‘Sabah’ has been synonymous with Borneo. Their tourism industry has benefited from their first mover advantage. But they have since taken upon themselves to create a new identity in the travel marketplace. To capture its essence in the context of Borneo. Hence their new tagline, ‘Feel Sabah, North Borneo’ is apt. But the destination is still a traveller’s drawcard regardless.


Borneo is the third largest island in the world made up of three nations. This is our Tip of Borneo – A North South East West Look to illustrate them.


Some of Borneo’s most captivating landscapes and wildlife surround this state of Malaysia. From the white sandy beaches of Tanjung Aru to the west coast to the World Heritage Site of Kinabalu Park in the centre. On the east coast, Sipandan and Mabul islands offer world-class scuba diving experiences. And Borneo’s Big 5 in the Kinabatangan river at Sandakan.

For thrill-seekers, she offers the ultimate challenge. To conquer Mount Kinabalu, Southeast Asia’s highest peak, to catch its memorable sunrise view. Or navigate the highest Mountain Torg via ferrata in the world near this mountain top.

Borneo Holidays-Floating against the backdrop of Mt.KInabalu with Paradesa Borneo
Mt. Kinabalu, the highest peak in South East Asia

Near Kinabalu Park, the Sabah Tea Garden is a serene escape into nature. This picturesque tea plantation offers guided tours on the art of tea cultivation. For a soothing and therapeutic experience, the nearby Poring Hot Spring beckons. Unwind and soak in rejuvenating waters. Imagine doing this immersed in the sights and sounds of the jungle at 400m ASL.

Sabah Big 5 Wildlife

Sabah’s rich biodiversity comes to the forefront with awe-inspiring wildlife encounters. At the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, one can observe these primates up close. Visitors learn how wardens rehabilitate orphaned and injured orangutans. And then reintroduce them back into their natural habitat.

Sabah’s wilderness is best experienced at the Danum Valley Conservation Area. This pristine rainforest is a haven for a diverse range of rare and endangered species.

During the night safaris, the jungle presents its other side. This is when the nocturnal wonders of this biodiverse sanctuary reveal themselves.

Borneo Holidays-Harem of Proboscis monkeys and pygmy elephants Kinabatangan River with Paradesa Borneo
A combo picture of Proboscis monkeys and pygmy elepants along the banks of the Kinabatangan River

Then, there is the Borneo Big 5 at the Kinabatangan river. Dubbed “The Corridor ofLife”, the Kinabatangan River promises thrilling wildlife encounters. During this river safari, you will have the chance to spot:

  • Pygmy Elephants
  • Wild Orangutans
  • Proboscis Monkeys
  • Estuarine Crocodiles
  • Great Rhinocerous Hornbill
Borneo Holidays-Sabah-Beach-Resort with Paradesa Borneo
Sunset over a luxury beach resort at Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

Crafting Your Multicentre Borneo Holidays

And here’s how you can make the most of your multicenter tour. Weather with a family or small group.

For the best route, consider starting in Sarawak at the capital city of Kuching. A duration of 10 to 14 days allows for a well-paced exploration of each destination.

Weave your way up the hinterland of Sarawak before making your way to Brunei. From here, take a boat trip to Labuan and then over to Sabah to conclude your holiday.

For the most part of a multicenter tour, travel will be overland. Exceptions will be boat trips to longhouses, river safaris and island shuttle. When time is of an essence, we recommend air travel. For example when one wants to visit the World Heritage Site of Gunung Mulu National Park. Suffice to say, this is a classic Borneo holiday.

There are ample domestic flights serving these two capital cities of Malaysian Borneo. Kuching has direct flights to Singapore and so does Kota Kinabalu. Similarly, Brunei Darussalam has direct flights to a few cities in the UK, Australia and the Middle East.

But in the context of this article, the ideal route is a Point A to Point B one. Take a flight into Kuching and your onward journey via Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

There are a wide range of hotels to choose from. From 5-star city accommodation to rustic longhouse stay. From luxury beach resorts to decent jungle lodges.

It isn’t practical to do a multicenter tour of the whole Borne island for most travellers. Therefore, we have left the Indonesian side of Borneo – Kalimantan – out of this article. Our Borneo FAQ article should give you an appreciation of what to expect if you wish to do a whole island tour.

How We Come In:

The ultimate Borneo holidays weave together the cultural tapestry of Sarawak and the royal charm of Brunei. It combines the tranquil oasis of Labuan Island and the wild wonders of Sabah. Online information and a good transportation network can serve an intrepid traveller well.

On the other hand, we provide the local knowledge to streamline your holiday adventure. Especially in terms of seamless connectivity between points. Thus leaving you free to savour every moment of your journey from the best of Borneo.

Depending on your holiday types and duration, we offer the 13-day Borneo Overland to the 19-day Epic version. of the ultimate Borneo Holidays.

Alternatively, you may also want to craft your own tours after going through our tour itineraries. That is to mix and match from our product line. We will be glad to do that for you. Here is our contact page. Tell us your main preferences in each destination and we’ll customise one for you. 


Written by Team Paradesa Borneo

Published: 27 September 2023

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