My Malaysia bucket list
As much as I would love to spend an evening sipping a cosmopolitan in MARINI’s on 57 with the Petronas Twin Tower looming right in front of me and a 360 degree view of the entire city of Kuala Lumpur, I must admit that nothing tops Malaysian Borneo on my bucket list. Formed by the two states of Sabah and Sarawak in the eastern part of the country, Malaysian Borneo is a nature lover’s paradise with its rainforests, wildlife and beautiful mountains. It’s no surprise that almost all my bucket-list Malaysia experiences are to do with it.
1. Stay in an Iban Longhouse and learn about the indigenous community
According to me, travel to any region is incomplete if one hasn’t spent some time learning about the locals inhabiting it. Malaysian Borneo is home to a number of indigenous communities including that of Iban, known for their headhunting practices during ancient time. Though headhunting isn’t practiced anymore, the community still holds on to its cultures and traditions and lives in the outskirts of Keching, the capital of Sarawak, among other regions. I would love to stay in a traditional Iban Longhouse and spend some time with the community, perhaps listening to their legends while sipping the local alcohol, tuak.
2. Pay a visit to the orangutans
What I would give to be able to go on long jungle treks and stumble upon orangutans on my way! I have always wanted to visit both the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in East Sabah and Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre just outside of Kuching. Started for the protection of injured and orphaned orangutans, it is possible to observe these endangered species in their feeding stations in the rainforest and also learn about them and the rehabilitation program. I am sure this makes for a very touching experience.
3. Summit Mt Kinabalu and witness sunrise
Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah offers many breathtaking experiences – a swim in Poring Hot Spring, exploring the forest through a 100 feet high canopy walkway and of course, trekking Mt Kinabalu. At 13,435 feet, Mount Kinabalu is the third-highest peak in Southeast Asia and one that can be reached without any technical assistance. The well-marked two day trail takes one through a rich variety of fauna before one reaches the top to witness a sunrise like no other. I definitely want to make the ascent someday.
4. Explore the caves in Gunung Mulu National Park
A world heritage site, the Gunung Mulu National Park is known for its karst features. Dominated by Gunung Mulu, a 2,377 m-high sandstone pinnacle, and offering almost 295 kilometers of explored cave area, the park offers a unique experience. A scenic 3 km plank walk through the rainforest takes one to the enchanting Deer Cave, known to have the world’s largest cave entrance. I think it would also be interesting to explore Wind Cave and Clearwater Cave in Mulu on a longboat.
5. Scuba-diving and beach bumming in Lankayan Island
After all the rugged adventure is done with, I’d love to spend the last few days of my stay in Malaysian Borneo by retiring to the sandy beaches of Lankayan Island. Less touristy and with only one diving resort, it will probably be the best place to shake off the weariness. Other than boasting regular company of white sharks during dives, it is also a nesting and foraging ground for sea turtles – two sights I wouldn’t want to miss!