The Borneo Island

Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located north of Java, Indonesia, at the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia. Borneo island is divided among three countries: Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia. Approximately 73% of the island is Indonesian territory. The Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak in the north occupy about 26% of the island. The sovereign state of Brunei, located on the north coast, comprises about 1% of Borneo’s land area.

Borneo is surrounded by the South China Sea to the north and northwest, the Sulu Sea to the northeast, the Celebes Sea and the Makassar Strait to the east, and the Java Sea and Karimata Strait to the south. To the west of Borneo are the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra. To the south is Java. To the east is Sulawesi, and to the northeast, the Philippines.

With an area of 743,330 square kilometres (287,000 sq mi), it is the third-largest island in the world. Its highest point is Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia, with an elevation of 4,095 m (13,435 ft).

The largest river system is the Kapuas in West Kalimantan with a length of 1,143 km (710 mi). Other major rivers include the Mahakam in East Kalimantan (980 km long (610 mi)), the Barito in South Kalimantan (880 km long (550 mi)), and Rajang in Sarawak (562.5 km (349.5 mi)).

Borneo has significant cave systems. Clearwater Cave, for example, has one of the world’s longest underground rivers. Deer Cave is home to over three million bats, with guano accumulated to over 100 metres (330 ft) deep.


Sabah, the second largest state in Malaysia, is located on the northwestern tip of Borneo and shares a border with the Indonesian province of Kalimantan. Agriculture is the most important sector in Sabah’s economy, contributing about 24.2% to the state’s GDP.

Sabah is best known for its adventure and ecotourism attractions, such as Mount Kinabalu, South East Asia’s highest peak at 4,101 meters, pristine rainforests in the Danum valley, proboscis monkeys along the Kinabatangan River, the world’s largest orangutan sanctuary at Sepilok, and many beautiful islands and beaches with excellent diving sites offshore.


Sarawak, the largest Malaysian state, shares borders with the province of Kalimantan on its south side and with the sultanate of Brunei Darussalam on its northeastern side. Sarawak’s economy is largely driven by its abundant natural resources such as oil, gas and timber, but since the 1980’s, Sarawak began diversifying and transforming its economy. The manufacturing sector is now the focus and catalyst for future economic growth and development of the State.

One of the most attractive features of Sarawak is its cultural diversity, which has helped establish the state as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region. Sarawak is also known for its adventure and eco-tourism. Among the popular sites are the Mulu Caves (one of the largest limestone cave systems in the world), Niah Caves, inland rivers, and several excellent national parks.


The Federal Territory of Labuan is an island situated off the west coast of Sabah. Labuan is Malaysia’s International Offshore Financial Centre, which in 1991 was also declared a duty-free port. The tiny island is strategically located along the international shipping and air routes between the Indian and the Pacific oceans. Business and investment opportunities abound in Labuan, particularly in oil and gas, manufacturing, trading, tourism, cargo handling and bunkering, deep-sea fishing, offshore finance, insurance and education.


Brunei Darussalam The sultanate of Brunei Darussalam is a young nation-state, having gained independence from the British only in 1984. The country lies at the northwestern corner of Borneo Island. Bandar Seri Begawan is its capital.  Brunei Darussalam’s economy is dominated by the oil and liquefied natural gas industries. The country is the third largest producer of oil in Southeast Asia and the fourth largest producer of natural gas in the world. Brunei Darussalam gives priority to sustainable management of the natural environment. All its development sites are free from pollution and are ecologically balanced. Brunei Darussalam has a rich culture and royal heritage dating back some 500 years. Local attractions include the world’s largest water village, Istana Nurul Imam, and the Ulu Temburong National Park.


Kalimantan comprises roughly the southern three-quarters of Borneo, the third largest island in the world. The territory covers approximately 28% of Indonesia’s total land area, but has only 5.4% of its population. Kalimantan is divided into four provinces: East, West, South and Central.

East Kalimantan is the second largest province of Indonesia. It is a major producer of oil and timber and is at present the most industrially advanced of the Kalimantan provinces. The main attractions of East Kalimantan are found along the Mahakam River. From the Bayur Estuary, the Mahakam reaches more than 350 kilometers northwest into the province with its 920 kilometers of running water.

West Kalimantan’s capital, Pontianak, lies directly across the equator and is the main gateway to the province. The city is a bustling economic hub. Canals crisscross the city and one of Indonesia’s longest rivers, the Kapuas (1,143 kilometers long), divides the town into two, providing an essential and historical communications link. Like Java and Sumatra, West Kalimantan was once an important cultural crossroad. West Kalimantan is rich in a variety of minerals and precious stones that is largely still unexplored. Coastal areas are mainly swamplands with more than 100 rivers sculpting the flat plains. Riverboats are still the most important means of transport here, even if transport by road becomes more and more common. West Kalimantan is easily accessible from Jakarta or Singapore by air and boat and overland journeys provide a rare opportunity to see the interior of one of the world’s largest and richest islands. Places of interest in West Kalimantan are Pontianak; Betong (Long House); Pasir Panjang beach resort and the Gunung Palung National Park.

South Kalimantan is divided into two distinct regions. The eastern part of the province is mountainous and lush with dense tropical rain forests, and is home to the “Orang Gunung” or mountain peoples. The southern section of the province is much flatter, with large rivers meandering through lowlands to vast mangrove swamps along the coast, helping to make South Kalimantan an exceptionally fertile land. South Kalimantan is full of colorful and distinctive traditional arts and cultures which can be seen in its people’s ways of life, art, dance, music, ancestral dress, games and ceremonies. Exquisite traditional and commercial handicrafts are all made from local raw materials that include a variety of precious stones, gold, silver, brass, iron, and wood species including bamboo and rattan. South Kalimantan is one of the largest wood producers in Indonesia. Extensive forests with a vast array of trees such as ironwood, meranti, pinus and rubber have helped to make the province unique and rich in natural resources. The provincial capital of Banjarmasin lies a short distance from the mouth of the Barito River. The rivers are the life-blood of the city and everything revolves around them.

Central Kalimantan is the biggest province in the island. Approximately 80% of the province’s area is jungle. The northern area is mountainous and difficult to reach. Transportation facilities are limited due to the rough terrain and the central area is dense. Fertile tropical forests produce valuable commodities such as rattan, resin and the best woods. The southern area is swampy and has many rivers. Palangkaraya is the center of government, trade and education of the province.