Malaysia is almost two countries in one, the peninsula offering a varied mix of cultures from Malay to India, colonial influences, a modern and cosmopolitan capital and fine beaches such as Lagkawi. Borneo is renowned for its rich and often unique wildlife, tropical rainforests and remote tribes, and it also offers fine beaches around Kota Kinabalu. Also on the island of Borneo to the south is the region of Sarawak, home to the Iban tribe with their famous longhouses.
What to do:
Pandaw Borneo Cruises
Malaysia’s longest river, the mighty Rajang, flows across Borneo from Sarawak into Indonesian Kalimantan. Though well known to many due to Redmon O’Hanlon’s classic, Into the Heart of Borneo, the river attracts few tourists due to its remoteness and lack of facilities. There is an abundance of wildlife, amazing scenery, and opportunities to visit traditional as well as modern longhouses. Downriver, the prosperous Chinese town of Sibu is a reflection of old China, with its old shop houses, markets and friendly inhabitants. Take an “Into the Heart of Borneo” cruise on the new RV Orient Pandaw to explore this fascinating region. Built in 2008 in the same style as its sister ships on the Mekong and Irrawaddy rivers, the RV Orient Pandaw accommodates up to 60 passengers in comfortable air-conditioned cabins. The 8 night journey discovers the diverse life, nature and wildlife of the Rajang and its tributaries.
Mulu National Park
Mulu National Park is Sarawak’s largest national park, centred around the peak of Gunung (Mount) Mulu and noted for its landscape of soaring peaks, dense jungle and underground cave system. The network of huge limestone caves is one of the largest in the world, at more than 50 kilometres long. Highlights include Deer Cave, home to a million bats and best observed at dusk Lang Cave, regarded as the most beautiful cave formation in Mulu, and Clearwater Cave, where you can swim in the warm water. The park is home to an amazing diversity of wildlife and 8,000 species of plant and trees as well as the Penan people, a tribe of hunter-gatherers and one of the few remaining nomads of the rainforest. It is possible to visit Penan Settlement by longboat to see the community and its lifestyle. Mulu can be reached by air from Kuching, via Miri, or from Kota Kinabalu in Sabah.
Taman Negara Rainforest
Taman Negara, thought to be the oldest rainforest in the world, was first declared a conservation area in 1937 and is the most extensive protected area of pristine lowland evergreen rainforest in the country. Malaysia’s premier national park extends over 4,343 square kilometres of primary forest and spans three states: Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang in the centre of Peninsular Malaysia. It is a haven for endangered species such as the Asian elephant, rhinoceros, leopard, and tiger, although sightings are rare. More common sights are snakes, lizards, monkeys and dozens of bird species. The jungle at Taman Negara is so dense that you could pass within metres of an animal without realising it. It is highly recommended that sufficient time is spent here to get the most out of a visit. One of the best ways to explore Taman Negara is by a long boat trip up one of the park’s rivers. The best time to visit the park is during the dry season, from February to September.