“East Malaysia (Malaysia Timur), also known as Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan (Sabah, Sarawak dan Labuan) or Malaysian Borneo, is the part of Malaysia located on the island of Borneo.” (Wikipedia)
In 2008, after successfully completing my PhD qualifying exam, my friend Amber was wrapping up her two years as a JET. The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program meant she had been living in Japan, which of course included frequent, affordable forays into the rest of East and Southeast Asia. So to kick things off properly, she planned a proper (almost backpacking!) trip from Japan to Malaysia. I would join up her “entourage” via Kuala Lumpur, and then finish off with a week in Bali, Indonesia with our mutual friend, Bing. Something like this, borrowed from Seat 61, but starting in Kōchi and going all the way down to Singapore:
The appeal to me was the environment, of course, Borneo being mostly lowland rain forests with areas of mountain rain forest. But, really, the wildlife! Hello, Tropics.
Most important of all? Conservation in Borneo.
“Borneo is the third-largest island in the world and the largest in Asia… The Borneo rainforest is estimated to be around 140 million years old, making it one of the oldest rainforests in the world. It is the centre of the evolution and distribution of many endemic species of plants and animals, and the rainforest is one of the few remaining natural habitats for the endangered Bornean orangutan. It is an important refuge for many endemic forest species, including the Borneo elephant, the eastern Sumatran rhinoceros, the Bornean clouded leopard, the hose’s palm civet and the dayak fruit bat.
Peat swamp forests occupy the entire coastline of Borneo. The soil of the peat swamp are comparatively infertile, while it is known to be the home of various bird species such as the hook-billed bulbul, helmeted hornbill and rhinoceros hornbill. There are about 15,000 species of flowering plants with 3,000 species of trees (267 species are dipterocarps), 221 species of terrestrial mammals and 420 species of resident birds in Borneo. There are about 440 freshwater fish species in Borneo (about the same as Sumatra and Java combined). In 2010, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) stated that 123 species have been discovered in Borneo since the “Heart of Borneo” agreement was signed in 2007.” (Wikipedia)
Unfortunately, as in much of Asia, logging and agricultural interests threaten this natural biodiversity. Palm oil plantations are the main reason why I attempt to avoid palm products (found in everything, you know). Imagine seeing a real life rhinoceros hornbill in the wild… Sigh!
Tropical adventures are the best.