Sabah, what a wonderful and amazing place and having a brother-in-law managing one of Asia’s top eco resorts in Sabah has some benefits.
The trouble is, Borneo’s northernmost state of Sabah is so rich in treasures that it’s hard to know where to start, and once you get stuck in there’s always just that one more thing you want to see. Although our recent visit was our third family holiday, I feel the surface has still only been scratched.
Borneo is the third largest non continental island in the world and is located east of peninsula Malaysia and Singapore. The island is divided among three countries: Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia. The Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak in the north occupy about 26% of the island. The oil rich sovereign state of Brunei, located on the north coast, comprises about 1% and the rest belongs to Kalimantan.
Home to the oldest rainforests in the world, 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.
The Borneo rainforest is 130 million years old, making it the oldest rainforest in the world. There are about 15,000 species of flowering plants with 3,000 species of trees, 221 species of terrestrial mammals and 420 species of resident birds in Borneo, with further observations of more than another 210 been sighted in Borneo.
The island historically had extensive rainforest cover, but the area has shrunk due to heavy logging. Unbelievably, half of the annual global tropical timber acquisition comes from Borneo. Furthermore, Palm oil plantations are rapidly encroaching on the last remnants of primary rainforest, and as you can imagine thus puts a strain on the remaining endangered and non-endangered wildlife species.
The Borneo rainforest is one of the only remaining natural habitats for the endangered Bornean Orangutan, it is also refuge for a number of endemic forest mammal species, including the Asian Elephant, the Sumatran Rhinoceros and the Bornean Clouded Leopard, although I have not managed to see any of these on our three visits. Maybe on the fourth visit, possibly Danum Valley and Tabin?
Highly intelligent, displaying advanced tool use and distinct cultural patterns in the wild, Orangutans share approximately 97% of their DNA with humans! The Bornean orangutan is endangered, and according to the IUCN Red List of mammals. The total number of Bornean orangutans is estimated to be less than 14% of what it was in the recent past, with the sharpest decline occuring mostly over the past few decades.
Although the “ship has steadied” over the past few years, the vast global thirst for palm oil products continues and this risk will always hang over the Bornean Orangutan.