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Top 5 Borneo Wildlife Experiences

Orangutans, Semenggoh Nature Reserve (Sarawak)

The star of the show has to be this enigmatic red ape. There are thought to be only around 27,000 orangutans left in the wild, so the best way to see them is to visit one of Borneo’s excellent reserves. The Semenggoh Nature Reserve, just an hour’s drive from the capital Kuching, is home to a community of semi-wild orang-utans, originally brought here for rehabilitation after suffering in captivity or finding themselves orphaned in the wild. Though the rehabilitation centre has relocated in recent years, the surrounding forest is still home to past graduates of the programme and you can see them return to the centre at 9am and 3pm for a free meal. Viewing platforms give visitors an excellent vantage point from which to see these gentle apes descend from the forest.

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What else? Orangutan means “person of the forest” in Malay.

Proboscis Monkeys, Kinabatangan River (Sabah)

The wildlife rich area of the Kinabatangan River in southwest Sabah is home to one of Borneo’s endemic apes, and perhaps its most unusual. With a very large nose and somewhat bizarre appearance, the appropriately named proboscis monkey isn’t quite as pretty as some, but watching it leap through the forest canopy is a real treat. Troops usually number around 12 individuals, with one male and several females, but it is also common to see many come together in bands of up to 60 individuals, so the chances of spotting one are very good. They often feed in the trees along the riverside and their calls can be heard far and wide.

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What else? Take a magical night time cruise down the river and watch the forest come alive with thousands of twinkling fireflies.

Gomantong Caves (Sabah)

Somewhere that David Attenborough has called one of the most remarkable places he has ever visited, the Gomantong Caves is a place where you can see a closed ecosystem at work. The caves are home to a community of thousands of bats and swiftlets and watching them fly to and from the caves at dusk and dawn is an impressive sight. There is a plethora of insects to be seen including cockroaches, cave centipedes, beetles and spiders preforming the important task of breaking down the enormous mound of guano, or dung, produced by the bats and birds that rises up from the cave floor. If you can stand the smell, a walk here on the (well raised) boardwalk will reward you with an insight into a world rarely seen.

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What else? Take an old pair of shoes, you may find yourself discarding them after a walk through here.

Turtles, Sipidan Island (Sabah)

One of the world’s premier diving destinations and Malaysia’s only volcanic island, Sipidan Island off the east coast of Sabah is rich in marine life. The island is home to over 3,000 species of fish and coral, as well as both green and hawksbill turtles that come here to breed and lay their eggs. Alongside the turtles you may also be lucky enough to see one of the many sharks that live in the area including the largest fish in the world, the whale shark. The island is easily accessed via a 2 hour boat journey from the port town of Sempora.

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What else? Dive “Turtle Tomb” while you’re here – a limestone cave containing the skeletal remains of unfortunate turtles that got lost, and drowned here, before being able to surface.

Clouded Leopard, Danum Valley Conservation Area (Sabah)

Covering a vast 438 sq km, this verdant paradise of protected lowland rainforest is home to a huge amount of wildlife, including the elusive clouded leopard. The Danum Valley comprises one of the last strongholds of the clouded leopard, with many other habitats having been destroyed to make way for the numerous oil palm plantations in the state. Much smaller than its African cousins, this beautiful big cat lives a solitary existence, hunting on the forest floor and climbing trees to escape danger. Another rare forest dweller that you may be lucky enough to see is the Bornean pygmy elephant.

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What else? Take advantage of the excellent facilities offered in the Danum Valley including well-marked trails, canopy walkways, tours and night safaris.

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