Borneo is the third largest island on the planet. The island is politically divided among three countries: Malaysia and Brunei in the north and Indonesia to the south, full with bio diversity and natural wonders. Three quarters of the island is administrated by Indonesia. It is less developed than Malaysian part, and it is difficult to get any information about it.
Our visit to Sarawak
We visited the state of Sarawak, which is under the Malaysian jurisdiction. Borneo has 19.8 million inhabitants (in mid 2010), a population density of 26 inhabitants per square km. Most of the population live in coastal cities, although the hinterland has small towns and villages along the rivers. The population mainly consists of Dayak ethnic groups, Malay, Chinese and Kadazan-Dusun.
Initially our plan was to work in an Eco-resort for two weeks. It was located in a remote place in a National Park, only accessible by boat. They were using solar panels as their only source of electricity and the whole complex was built according to local tribal design. However, during our first days we found out that the owners were just trying to take advantage of us. So we decided to leave the place and explore the Island on our own.
A cats life in Kuching, Sarawak
We went to Kuching, which is a capital of Sarawak and from there we were moving to other locations. First we visited a cat museum which is a “must see” if you are in Kuching (Kuching means cat in Malay).
In Kuching we learned how rich Borneo is. Many religions, nationalities and languages living together in harmony. One of the tribes that we talked to was the Ibans, who are famous for their traditional way of life and tattoos. We learned some of their customs and believes. It is still possible to be a part of community and live in a ¨longhouse¨ just as it was a few hundred years ago. In these communities people are engaged in the same things as their ancestors. Fishing, hunting, farming, local art, food preparation and handcraft are the main signatures of local tribes. At the end of our stay, we even participated in the making of a tattoo.
Borneo is an island blessed with nature. In Sarawak alone there are 17 national parks. We visited two of them. Unprotected rain forest was unfortunately common place. Palm oil farmers had cut down huge areas for their plantations. We could clearly see these enormous plantations when we were flying over Borneo. Because of this process, many endemic species, like orangutans, loose their natural habitat and many of them die.
The Orangutans of Borneo
We made a visit to an orangutan sanctuary. The Orangutans living here come from horrible conditions, many from animal trafficking. In this sanctuary they were living freely in a natural rain forest without fences, however at this time the sanctuary had too many animals in its area. That’s why at that time the care takers were providing food to the animals. It was only when the fruit season finished that people could see the animals during their feeding time. All of the orangutans have names. The locals knew the animals by name and we came to understand that they have a lot of respect to inhabitants of the sanctuary.
Borneo is a home to the most amazing natural wonders on Earth. Protected and preserved wonders. It is important to preserve this amazing nature for future generations. Sadly we also saw the other side. Destroyed jungle, hundreds of. This trend is continuing each year, or making place to new palm oil plantations.
Considering a trip to a South-Asian country? Why not The Philippines?