Sustainable travel in Borneo

Sustainable Travel in Borneo – Our Top Picks

September 7, 2022

Despite being the third largest island in the world, Borneo all too often falls under the radar. Collectively shared by Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, we sell this rugged destination as an extension of the former. We want to highlight the responsible adventure, natural beauty and serenity your travellers can find in the island’s unspoilt mountains and dense forests.

Bring your travellers back to nature with a few of our down-to-earth, environment and people loving activities and tours in Borneo. The experiences we have sourced here are owned and/or managed by local people, all sharing the common goals of wildlife and nature conservation or cultural heritage preservation, or a combination of the two. We’ve selected a few of our favourite, sustainable options in the island’s less visited regions to get you inspired. Our Product Design Executive for Malaysia, Wayne Lau, provided us with insight on what makes these experiences so remarkable.

Two Days at Kiao Taburi Homestay 


Unique selling points for you: social support, local life immersion and culture

When your travellers stay at Kiau Taburi Homestay, they directly support the local community and cultural preservation in the region. The homestay is part of the Sabah Ministry of Tourism’s homestay programme, which utilizes village resources (accommodation, activities [culture & nature] and people) to help maintain unique cultural practices and develop village tourism through a selection policy, training hosts and linking homestays with surrounding products or activities.

Discova product designers in Borneo
Tu Anh Le (right), our Product Designer for SE Asia TH, SG, MY, ID, MM, and the owner of a local gym took a short hike from Kiao Homestay to admire the surrounding scenery

During their two-night stay, guests are welcomed into the village and home of former guide, Lily. Here they learn about the culture and traditions of the fascinating Dusun tribe, and participate in a two-hour jungle trek, foraging for herbs and vegetables which will form part of an evening meal. Small group travellers can also take part in and learn the traditional Sumazau folk dance.

Lily prepares ground, fresh coffee for her guests

Wayne Lau: “Lily’s family was serving us during our time in Kiau Homestay. She is a retired nature guide that used to bring visitors to the top of Mount Kinabalu, which is 4095 metres high (just next to the village). As she is no longer that active, she decided to use her hospitality skills to open her house to serve visitors around the world. We heard many untold stories from her, including the earthquake tragedy in 2015 and about the last Shaman in North Borneo.

A Morning of Body Training and Traditional Cuisine


Unique selling points for you: local life immersion, active option, introduction to local cuisines

Borneo, boasting spectacular terrain that hasn’t succumbed to mass leisure tourism, is a destination that is likely to attract active travellers. If your clients fit the bill, this morning activity in Sabah’s capital, Kota Kinabalu, is sure to meet their interests. Guests attend a local gym for a private lesson of their choice in either MMA, Muay Thai or functional fitness training. And it doesn’t matter what fitness level your clients are at – the trainer will adjust the session accordingly to meet their abilities and needs.

Body training and Muay Thai in Borneo, Malaysia
The gym’s owners demonstrate some techniques during one of Wayne’s inspection trips

 After the one-and-a-half-hour training session, guests will have time to cool down and chat with the trainer about life and travel in Borneo over refreshments. To refuel, they then head to a local restaurant for a traditional Dusun meal. The Dusun ethnic tribe is the largest in the Malaysian state of Sabah in North Borneo. 

Wayne: “The gym is run by a local couple that actively participates in various fitness events and competitions. It’s the perfect activity to fuel your body before starting the adventure in wild Borneo. Travellers then get to fill up their stomachs with local Dusun cuisine, which is so different from other Malaysian food. 

Three Days of Ecotourism at Orou Sapulot


Unique selling points for you: unique cultural immersion, for nature lovers, sustainable accommodation, supporting local business

This is one of our favourite short tours in Borneo, as it combines the best of local culture and getting close to secluded nature. Over the course of three adventurous days, your travellers will truly go off the beaten track in the little-visited Sapulot region. Here they will learn about the humble lifestyle and traditions of the local Murut people and enjoy a mix of outdoor activities, including caving, jungle trekking, waterfall swims and boat trips.

Photography and nature hikes Orou Sapulot, Borneo, Malaysia
Visitors can observe the area's incredible natural vegetation and wildlife during nature hikes


The activities that take place here are all initiated by the Orou Community-based Ecotourism Project, founded by Dr Richard Sakian Gunting, a Murut tribe descendant. The project’s vision is to bring the Murut people of Sapulot together to support flora and fauna conservation and Murut cultural preservation.

Accommodation in Orou Sapulot
Bedding is simple but comfortable, and wonderfully set within Sapulot's serene forest

During their stay, guests will overnight in the organisation’s eco-friendly camp and village, in the middle of the woodland. The camp only provides very basic facilities to ensure the lowest possible impact on the environment. In this almost time forgotten eco-destination, your travellers can truly escape, refresh and find adventure.

Two Days with the Turtles of Turtle Island


Unique selling points for you: conservation programme, eco-friendly, snorkelling, beach relax

This special excursion takes visitors to the tiny but stunning island of Selingan, or “Turtle Island”. The important island has been designated as a national park and is purely dedicated to the protection and conservation of the critically endangered green and hawksbill turtles. Here, guests will visit one of the oldest turtle hatcheries in the world and witness turtle egg collection, egg hatching and baby turtle releases. Their visit will fund and support the continued preservation of these gentle sea creatures.

Baby turtles on Turtle Island, or Selingan Island, in Borneo
Guests can observe as the island's baby turtles are tagged and released back into the ocean

Although turtle landings take place throughout the whole year, the best time to visit the island is between July and October, when the weather is at its best and calmest. During their leisure time, your travellers can stretch out on white sandy shores or go for a snorkel amongst the incredible, diverse marine life that surrounds the small island.

Beach relaxation and snorkeling on Selingan Island, Borneo
Quiet leisure time awaits visitors to Borneo's secluded Turtle Island

Wayne: “It’s a really memorable trip to an isolated island in the middle of the sea, completely away from human civilization. The modest island is dedicated to the turtle conservation project and has simple accommodation. No other infrastructure can be found here. The most exciting moment is when you get the call from the ranger and run in the direction of where a mother turtle is laying her eggs at night.

Three-day Kinabatangan Wildlife Safari by Boat


Unique selling points for you: wildlife learning, ecotourism, best-selling product

This one is for true animal lovers. Guests spend three days cruising along the famous Kinabatangan River, one of the world’s top wildlife safari destinations. As they explore the area, your clients will get the chance to spot beautiful – but also sadly endangered and not often seen – animals like the orangutan, pygmy elephant, tarsier and the famous proboscis monkey. Here they will learn about Borneo’s wildlife conservation and rehabilitation efforts in an incredibly biodiverse, lush setting.

Award-winning Sukau Rainforest Lodge, Borneo, Malaysia
Guests can relax at their eco-accommodation, award-winning Sukau Rainforest Lodge, with spa treatments, guided nature walks with the in-house naturalist, and candlelit dinners

Wayne: “I managed to see the famous orangutan, proboscis monkey, hornbill birds and the Borneo crocodile during my inspection trip there. We needed to keep our eyes very sharp to find them, but luckily the guide always spotted the animals ahead of us anyway. It’s a very relaxing trip that is suitable for all kinds of travellers.

Borneo's famous proboscis monkey
Borneo's famous proboscis monkey and its even more famous nose


Interested in selling these sustainable, locally-managed Borneo experiences to your FIT or small group travellers? Talk to us today!

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