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Prepare to meet the king of the fruits…

With its untamed beauty and colonial charm, Borneo entices those with adventure in their hearts.

 

Culture and history

Thought to have been inhabited for more than 20,000 years, Sabah was largely made up of tribal societies until the 1900s, although traders from China, Indonesia, Malaya – as was – and the Philippines jostled for power and settled to contribute to this tribal diversity. Consequently, you’re likely to encounter many dialects, languages, customs and traditions.

The official religion in Sabah is Islam, and it’s important to conform to local customs. When you are out and about, especially in towns, dress should therefore be modest, so no shorts or strappy tops. If you visit a mosque you will be expected to remove your shoes, and women must cover their heads. Shoes should also be removed if you visit someone’s home.

Food in this culturally-rich state is a glorious fusion of Asian, Indian and Chinese. There is a dizzying selection of vegetarian and fish dishes, as well as plenty of meat options, though pork is used infrequently, this being a predominantly Muslim country. The adventurous may like to taste a startlingly pungent tuhau – a pickled and fermented ginger, onion and chilli concoction, or the custardy durian, which according to your palate is either the king of fruits or the world’s smelliest! Food should only be passed and taken with the right hand.

Experiences

Discover a world of tropical rainforest, mangrove swampland and soaring mountain peaks. Meet the islands orangutans. See the largest flower iin the world and butterflies the size of saucers. Head into the rainforest canopy and look for orchids in Kinabalu Park. Go downriver to be dazzled by the gaudy flashes of native birds and overwhelmed by the cacophony of jungle sounds.

Flight time

The approximate flight time from London to Kota Kinabalu is 14 hours and 30 minutes, so you’ll need a couple of books in your hand luggage.

Currency

MYR -

The currency unit is the Ringgit (RM), which is divided into 100 sen. The Ringgit is often referred to as the Malaysian dollar.

Passports and visas

British nationals do not need a visa to visit Borneo.

Visit GOV.UK for more advice on passports and visas.

Phrases

A few Malay phrases to get your tongue around…

Good morning - Selamat pagi

Goodnight - Selamat malam

How are you? - Apa khabar?

Excuse me - Maafkan saya

Thank you - Terima kasih

Timezone

Borneo is eight hours ahead of GMT.

Electricity

Most mains sockets are British-style (13-amp with three square holes), so you shouldn’t need an adaptor. Mains voltage is 220 volts, 50 cycles.

Language

Bahasa Malayu -

Bahasa Malay is the official national language but English is widely spoken: it’s taught as the second language in schools and is also the means of communication between over 30 different racial groups, which together account for over 80 dialects. Manglish (Malaysian English) is commonly spoken in cities and tourist establishments.

Tipping

Tipping is not customary in Borneo, but spare change is appreciated by restaurant and service staff.

Climate

The climate is tropical, with warm weather all year round, ranging from 21°C-32°C.

In the Sabah area the northeast monsoon brings heavy rain showers from November to March, but it rarely rains all day and the weather remains warm. Sabah is known as ‘the land below the wind’ as it’s not in the path of the annual typhoon season that sweeps towards the Philippines.

Health

We’d advise you to drink only bottled water during your stay and also warn you about the pesky insects: mosquitoes, sand flies and lots of other flying insects can be a nuisance in this part of the world so it’s certainly worth using mosquito repellent on exposed areas of skin and keeping your arms and legs covered.

As health information can change at any time, we’d advise you to consult your GP at least 12 weeks before departure.

Country-specific information and advice on possible health risks is also published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre, and The British Foreign and Commonwealth Travel Advice Unit provides important health and safety information for British nationals travelling abroad.

Population and size

The state of Sabah has a population of over three million, that’s a little larger than that of Greater Manchester.

Borneo, with an area of 287,000 square miles, this is Asia's largest island and the third largest in the world after Greenland and New Guinea. It is actually shared by three countries; the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, the Sovereign State of Brunei, and the Indonesian state of Kalimantan, which accounts for three quarters of the island's area, but large parts of its interior are almost impenetrable.

Sabah, the second-largest Malaysian state and home to south-east Asia’s highest peak, is some 73,361 square kilometres, which makes it a little smaller than the Czech Republic.

Smoking

Smoking is banned on public transport and in bars, restaurants and hotels.



Climate