Borneo Island is one of the places that I was looking most forward to visiting during our Southeast Asia travels. Home to around 222 mammals, 420 birds, 100 amphibians and 394 fish, Borneo is a haven for wildlife and nature lovers. I fell in love with this island and cannot wait to go back. If you’re planning a trip here (which you should) you may be wondering when is the best time to visit Borneo?
From tropical rainforests, filled with some of the world’s most unique wildlife species to indigenous communities found deep in the jungle, and the enchanting cultural riches, your senses are sure to be intrigued by this diverse island. But you need to make sure that you visit at the right time.
When you decide to visit Borneo will have an impact on the things you get to see and do, as well as how much you will be paying for accommodation.
Borneo lies within the tropics, which is why you should expect high humidity and rain at any time of the year. Typically, the wettest months are between December and February. This is when the Northeast Monsoon hits. Between March and October is when the island is hot, humid, and at its driest.
So when is the best time to visit Borneo?
About Borneo Island
First off, I want to tell you a little bit about this intriguing island.
Borneo is the third largest island in the world and the largest in Asia. It’s surpassed in size only by Greenland and New Guinea. Found in the extreme southwestern part of the Pacific Ocean, the island forms part of the Malay archipelago.
Located near the equator and dominated by luxuriant rainforests, the islands territory is unevenly proportioned by three countries; Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. In the North you will find the two Malaysian states, Sabah and Sarawak – which surround Brunei. The Indonesian state of Kalimantan occupies most of central and southern Borneo.
With over 15,000 species of plant, 1,400 species of amphibian, 222 species of mammal and 10 species of primate, the island of Borneo is one of the most biodiverse. If you visit here you will be venturing through one of the richest biomes in the world.
What To Expect In Borneo
Borneo is a wildlife wonderland. The tropical rainforests and climate make it the ideal location for an array of species to thrive. The island is home to some of the world’s rarest and most endangered wildlife. Many of the colourful animals that inhabit the rainforests are endemic to the island, like the hornbills and pygmy elephants.
It’s also one of the few places that you can see orangutans in the wild. Other wildlife species include; the Sumatran rhino, the enormous-eyed western tarsier, and the large-nosed proboscis monkey.
The island is also home to thousands of plants, fungi, and lichens, which form the base of a food chain that nurtures a wide range of species.
Borneo’s finest asset is most certainly its incredible variety of flora and fauna. From the Rafflesia arnoldii, which is the world’s largest flower (with metre-long diameter) to the stretches of lush national parks and the endangered orangutans, Borneo is a nature lovers dream.
Throw in some idyllic beaches, crystal clear waters, and delicious street food, Borneo is truly unforgettable.
Best Time To Visit Borneo Island: March to October
The tropical climate of the island means that it’s hot and humid throughout the year. The season’s don’t vary as dramatically as they do in other parts of the world, which is why many think of Borneo as a year round destination.
However, between March and October is considered to be the dry season and therefore many travel guides advice that this is the best time to visit Borneo.
In reality, it all depends on what you plan on doing. You should be prepared for rain at any time of the year since you will be exploring rainforests. Also keep in mind that the peak tourism season is between May and September, which means that prices may be inflated and accommodation may be booked out well in advance during these periods.
Here’s a month to month guide on when is the best time to visit Borneo, depending on what you are looking for.
March: Budget Travel
March is a great time to visit Borneo since there is little chance of rainfall and still relatively low visitor numbers. Because crowds are still minimal, it’s usually easier to find accommodation – and stay in the more popular areas. There’s generally a wider choice of accommodation available at a fraction of the price so it’s perfect for budget travellers.
April is the start of the dry season in Borneo, making it perfect for beach days and trekking with less chance of rain storms. Trekking conditions are ideal at this time of year, and there’s a greater chance of seeing wild orangutans along the trails. During April you can expect warm and dry days, light winds, and minimal rains.
May: Start of turtle season
May is the start of the peak season, and is also a great time to visit Borneo thanks to sunny days and minimal rainfall. But, it’s also the start of the turtle season. The best beach to visit during this time and to see turtles is Lankayan island.
The beaches are incredible in May, with the coast of Gaya Island, Sipidan, and Kota Kinabalu beaming in sunshine and covered in powder-white sands.
June: Orangutans Spotting
This is one of the best times to visit because trees are fruiting, which means that orangutans become braver and start venturing closer to pick up tasty treats. June falls right in the middle of the dry season, which is why it’s one of the most popular times to travel to Borneo. You can expect the full 10 hours of sunshine on average, just about every day in June.
July: Jungles & Wildlife
July is possibly the most popular time to travel to Borneo since weather conditions are near perfect throughout. It’s a great time to visit the jungles and wildlife rich areas. The trees are still fruiting, which brings the wildlife, especially orangutans closer.
On the downside, you should expect greater crowds and high season prices during July. Be sure to book your trip well in advance to secure your accommodation at the lowest possible price.
August: Baby Turtles
With weather conditions similar to July, August is also a very popular month to visit Borneo. Baby turtles start to hatch on the shores of Lankayan Island and fruit is still abundant in the forests, making this the perfect time for animal lovers and wildlife enthusiasts.
September: End of Turtle season
This is the end of the turtle season on Lankayan Island, and you can expect hotel prices to return to normal. Since the weather remains warm and dry, September is also one of the best times to visit Borneo. If like the idea of relaxing on the beach, snorkeling, and wildlife watching on the Kinabatangan River, this is a good month to visit.
October: Last of the good weather
October is the last month of the dry season in Borneo. By this time visitor numbers are down, which means quieter beaches and wildlife safaris. Rain showers will become more frequent, but the weather is still good, and it’s a prime time for diving at Sipadan. Similar to months like March, October is a shoulder month and enjoys great weather with lower visitor numbers.
Best Time To Visit Borneo Island: When To Avoid
You shouldn’t let the monsoon season deter you from visiting Borneo. It offers respite from the tropical heat and can be perfect if you’re looking for complete peace and quiet. However, heavy rains may cause cancellations to flights and riverboat trips.
Also, keep in mind that the wet season may very well be hindering for adventure and active holidays, and therefore best to avoid.
December and January can see higher rainfalls and rougher waters, which is why most tourists avoid these months. While it is still possible to travel during this time, conditions are not favourable for wildlife.
While January is not a great time to visit in terms of weather, the Chinese New Year is celebrated all across Borneo. So if you happen to be on the island during this time make the most of it by getting involved in the new year festivities.
Read Next: How to spend two weeks in Sri Lanka
Borneo Travel Tips
When you’re putting together your travel plan and deciding when is the best time to visit Borneo, there are some valuable tips that you can use.
Whether you want to experience rainforest animals in their natural habitats at Bako National Park, hike mount Kinabalu – one of the highest mountains in Southeast Asia, discover the unique wildlife in Danum Valley, or make friends with some orangutans, here are some tips that you can use when visiting Borneo.
- Pack lightweight and loose-fitting clothing. Due to the heat and humidity, you want to make sure that your clothing is as comfortable as possible. Your clothes are likely to get wet when you visit the rainforests, so also make sure you pack quick-drying clothes.
- The national and official language is Bahasa Malaysia, but English is widely spoken. Other languages are Hindi, Mandarin, Iban, and other tribal dialects.
- Tipping: 10% service charge and 5% government tax are usually included in bills, so tipping is not necessary. However, if service is exceptional, tipping is always very much appreciated.
- Health and safety: Consult your local health clinic or GP before travelling to Borneo to get on inoculations and anti-malaria medication. Various leeches, biting bugs, and venomous snakes are found in Borneo, so it’s important to be aware.
Leave a comment below if you have any questions about or anything to add about Borneo Island
If you’re thinking of visiting other places in Malaysia, check out my other posts:
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