Borneo is a combination of discreet, beautiful resorts around the coast, & a jaw-dropping, mega-diverse rainforest interior.
A great mix and the venue of some of the most spectacular wildlife on Earth as follows.
This reddish brown feline, tinted with black markings & golden brown fur on its underside, lives exclusively on Borneo. The same size as a large domestic cat, the Bay Cat may seem unremarkable from a distance – but once you take in its long tail, small rounded ears, & beautifully feral face, you instinctively understand that you’re witnessing something extraordinary. The rarest & most elusive feline in the world, a living Bay Cat wasn’t photographed until 1998, despite being discovered in 1855.
The smallest elephant species in the world (males rarely exceed 2.5m in height) resides only in Borneo’s North East. Its small size evolved – scientists theorise – to let the elephant flourish in dense forest habitat. The elephants also have unusually long tails, & the males have perfectly straight tusks, but perhaps their strangest feature is their tameness. Pygmy Elephants show a remarkable tolerance of humans, even in fairly close quarters. You can regularly observe them from boats in the bays of the Lower Kinabatangan River.
You’ve every chance of spotting one or all of the eight Hornbill bird species anywhere along the Kinabatangan River. Wrinkled, Wreathed, Rhinoceros, Black, White-Crowned, Helmeted, Oriental Pied, & Bushy-Crested Hornbills each have unique features & colouring, but – as the name suggests – they all possess a pronounced curved beak. Its evolution led to a distinctive feeding habit; the Hornbill’s tongue didn’t grow with its long bill, so the bird must toss back its head to swallow any food.
At 4 feet tall, the Sun Bear is the world’s smallest bear. Severely threatened by loss of habitat, capture, enslavement & poaching, this little known bear is primarily nocturnal, spending its nights feasting on plants & animals. In 2008, the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre was established in Sabah (Eastern Borneo), giving the creatures a chance to grow their dwindling population of 10,000. The centre has undertaken excellent work since its inception & is your best chance to see the Sun Bears for yourself.
The Sumatran Rhinoceros is the smallest rhino, although, weighing up to 1000kg, it should not be considered a featherweight by any measure. Sadly, its horn highly valued in traditional medicine, the Sumatran Rhino has been pushed onto the critically endangered list by poachers, with some experts estimating as few as 40 animals remaining in the wild. The Lok Kawi Wildlife Park is a good place to seek them – feel immensely privileged if you spot one.
Exemplifying Borneo’s obscurely beautiful & tragically endangered wildlife, the island’s Orangutan population has suffered greatly, due to the loss of its habitat to palm oil & timber plantations. Thanks to many successful projects that publicised the species’ plight, Orangutans are now fighting extinction, but they’re still threatened. Witness them in conservation projects that protect their habitat & supplement their diet with offerings of fruit & water.