What’s Borneo like?

Borneo, located in Southeast Asia, it’s the world’s third largest island, with a land area of 743,330 sq km (287,000 sq mi). Borneo is divided up between three countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei, with Indonesia administering the largest portion. Borneo is completely covered with jungle, like much of Southeast Asia. The rainforest of Borneo is acknowledged to be among the world’s most distinct and species-rich, topped in biodiversity. This has made Borneo a very popular destination for eco-tourism.

The population of Borneo is 18,590,000 as of 2009, making for a relatively low population density of 57/sq mi, or 22/sq km. The largest city on Borneo is Kuching, Malaysia, with a population of about 681,901. There are about ten other major cities on the island, ranging in population from 300,000 to 700,000. Of particular historical interest is the small country of Brunei, the remnant of a sultanate that controlled almost all shipping in the area between the 14th and 16th centuries, during the Islamic seafaring. Today, the Sultan of Brunei, who holds absolute power, is the world’s fourth richest monarch, behind only the monarchies of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Thailand. His palace, with 1,788 rooms, 257 bathrooms, and a floor area of 2,152,782 square feet (200,000 sq m), is the world’s largest by a huge margin.

Borneo is a diverse island. There are more than 40 ethnic groups on Borneo, speaking 65 languages or dialects. Malay being the majority, there are many Chinese communities, and 30 Dayak sub-ethnic groups. The island is predominately Muslim, as the next majority would be Christians in Sabah and Sarawak.

Ultimately, the highlight of Borneo is its nature, not its (mostly small) cities. Borneo has 15,000 species of flowering plants with 3,000 species of trees, 221 species of terrestrial mammals, and 420 species of birds, many of which are endemic. Borneo is west of the Wallace Line, meaning its flora and fauna are derived from Asia rather than Australia. The Bornean Orangutan makes its home here, the 45,000 individuals making up the world’s largest orangutan population. Other unique or endangered species found here include the Pygmy Elephant, Clouded Leopard, Sumatran Rhinoceros, Sun Bears, and the Dayak Fruit Bat. The Sumatran Rhinoceros is among the world’s most endangered animals, with only a few hundred living individuals.

The island of Borneo is the location of many beautiful cloud forests, often nestled in the mountains of the island, where moisture is so thick that moss grows on practically everything. Some of the best known cloud forests are found around Mt. Kinabalu, located at the northern tip of the island. In the Malaysian state, Sabah. Mt. Kinabalu’s altitude of 4,095 meters (13,435 ft) makes it the tallest mountain on Borneo, also making Borneo the world’s third tallest island, behind Hawaii and New Guinea. In Sarawak (also located in Malaysia) has the former largest cave in the world, Gunung Mulu, however the 1st largest cave opening in the world.