Borneo is well known for many things – its rich wildlife and biodiverse rainforest, the majestic Mount Kinabalu, and the world famous dive site Sipadan Island being just a few of them. Nature lovers might have heard about the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, which is famous for its work with orphaned and injured orangutans, but all this only scratches the tip of the proverbial iceberg as far as we are concerned. Interested? Here are 7 interesting things you may not have known about Borneo:
Borneo is the third largest island in the world, and is actually shared between three countries: the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, Indonesia’s Kalimantan, and the tiny nation of Brunei. In terms of size, it is over three times bigger than the UK.
Mount Kinabalu actually derives its name from the Kadazan word “Aki Nabalu”, which means “the revered place of the dead”. Standing at 4,095m tall (13,435 feet above sea level), it is one of the safest and most conquerable peaks in the world – provided that you’re reasonably healthy and physically fit of course. Kinabalu Park, the main point for summit trekking Mount Kinabalu, is also considered one of the world’s most significant natural environments.
Straddling the equator and dominated by luxuriant rainforests, Borneo is the third largest island in the world, its territory has been unevenly apportioned between the countries of Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. Malaysia and Brunei in the north, and Indonesia to the south, approximately 73% of the island is Indonesian territory. In the north, the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak make up about 26% of the island.
Speaking of Kinabalu Park, which is in the Malaysian state of Sabah, have you heard about the Rafflesia? This is the world’s largest flower, a parasitic plant that can grow up to one metre in diameter and weigh up to a whopping 10kg! It might be the biggest flower in the world, but it certainly won’t win any prizes for best smelling. In fact, the flower gives off such a horrible smell that it is sometimes called the “corpse flower”.
The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is the first official orangutan sanctuary and rehabilitation centre in the world. It was set up way back in 1964 and the team continues to do amazing work with orphaned and injured orangutans, caring for them and working to return them to their natural wild habitat. There’s a reason why the rehabilitation centre was set up here – orangutans are endemic to Borneo, and Borneo is one of only two places in the world where you can still see orangutans in the wild. The other place is Sumatra in Indonesia.
Borneo’s rainforest is one of the world’s most important biological sites, home to an astounding number of wildlife and plant species and a birdwatcher’s paradise, but here’s an impressive fact: at an estimated 130 million years old, Borneo’s rainforest is believed to be two times as old as that other famous rainforest, the Amazon rainforest in South America. Borneo also has more than 100 animal species that are endemic to the island, which means you will not see these animals in the wild anywhere else in the world. The list includes Proboscis monkeys, Bornean clouded leopards and Bornean rhinos.
Over in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, there are amazing caves to be explored. The Sarawak Chamber is the world’s largest cave chamber, capable of accommodating 40 Boeing 757 airplanes! The iconic Deer Cave is the world’s largest cave passage, and if you are lucky enough to visit, don’t forget to look for the famous Abraham Lincoln silhouette near its entrance.
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