For the final part of our tour through Borneo and Brunei we spent our time on the northern coastline of the island taking in the superb beaches, dramatic highland vistas and vibrant cities. First stop was Mt Kinabalu which is most impressive on a clear day and I only wished we’d had time to reach the top, I’m sure the views out over the surrounding peaks of the Crocker Range would have been incredible. At 4101 meters it’s the highest mountain in the Malay archipelago, but it’s also unique because the flora and fauna found surrounding the various levels are rich in biodiversity and the changing levels of oxygen at any given height really influence the species that can be found. In total there have been 5000 and 6000 species of plants, 326 species of birds, and more than 100 mammalian species identified, much of the reason why Mt Kinabalu was recently declared a World Heritage Site. The beaches around northern Borneo are also stunning, we spent our evenings on the powder white sands that lay in front of the Shangri La Rasa Ria Hotel listening to the drumming and evening entertainment offered by the locals.
Our last 3 nights were spent in Brunei and hosted by the tourism board which is looking to invite more tourists and travelers through it’s doors over the coming years. I expect Brunei isn’t normally a place which springs to mind when it comes to the imagination of people looking for an escape to Asia but I was pleasantly surprised by what’s on offer here. Firstly Brunei is an incredibly rich country, largely because Shell bought the exclusive contract to be the only company able to extract natural resources, and with over 100 years of oil and gas left there’s plenty of wealth to go around, largely it seems to super rich Sultan is willing to share it with tax free income, free housing for those that need it and 1$ healthcare for any emergency or requirement. If they can’t do the surgery you’ll even be shipped off to another country which can free of charge. But the offset of this is that Brunei don’t need to dabble in Palm Oil, unlike many other Asian countries a large amount of Brunei remains as it has done for generations, there’s amazing wild life and pristine jungle to be found here. We spend the day cruising up the river with stunning scenery enroute, walking the dizzingly high canopy walk and cooling off in fantastic waterfalls – it was close to being the highlight of the tour and came as a surprise as to what Brunei has to offer as a destination.
Brunei also has some great diving, we joined Poni Divers for a day of exploring some of the wrecks scuppered around the island of Labuan, 30 minutes from Brunei’s coastline. Most wrecks lie in around 30 -40 meters of water are are largely made up of cargo carriers or world world II ships, there’s 20 in total some of which are beyond recreational limits. We spent time on the American and Australian Wrecks and both were great dives, marine life was plentiful and there’s some easy points of penetration for the more adventurously minded.
All in all I had a great 10 days in Borneo, for a more relaxed itinerary this could be done in around 20 days giving you time for more day of diving and exploring in each of the regions. Royal Brunei offer daily departures to Kota Kinabalu with a stopover in Bandar Seri Begawan (the capital of Brunei). 3 to 4 days of diving and land travel in Brunei comes highly recommended. Flight prices start at £520 per person with travel package starting at £1350 for 7 nights. For more details contact Ben on 0800 955 0180 or email firstname.lastname@example.org