The Borneo Expedition 2006

Morning on Kinabalu and Rafflesia

The main reason why we went to Borneo was to try to find the nomadic Punan hunters in Kalimantan, as I described in the Punan tribe.

We started our trip to Borneo in the Malaysian state of Sabah, where we climbed Mt Kinabalu and visited various forest reserves in which several species of Rafflesia (the world's largest flower) can be found. Then we crossed whole Sabah to the east coast. It was a shocking experience: hundreds of miles of palm oil plantations and nothing else; no nature, no forest.

From the remote town of Tawau in the southeast of Sabah there were no roads leading to the south, so we travelled to the Indonesian province of Kalimantan in a rather complicated way by small motor boats, stopping for Immigration at the tiny Nunukan island. There, after a long (and mostly unsuccessful) search for any information about the Punan, we gathered at least a little knowledge and headed into the interior ...

Human skulls

When we came back, we continued along the Kalimantan coast, through a devastated landscape and big dirty cities like Samarinda and Benjarmasin, all the way to Tanjung Puting NP, which still harbours some orangutans. They used to roam almost the entire forests of Borneo, but today they only have a few isolated pockets of habitat left. Popular Tanjung Puting is beautiful, but only a few visitors realise that it is completely surrounded by plantations, and that while scientists and volunteers care for orangutans and keep reintroducing them on one side, farmers are killing them on the other side and continue destroying the already tiny forest.

Mosque in Bandar Seri Begawan

Then we carried on via Pontianak to Malaysian Sarawak. There we visited several Iban clans - one of the original Dayak tribes of Borneo, formerly infamous and feared head-hunters. They still live in their longhouses and are trying to keep at least part of their tradition.

We also could not resist visiting Gunung Mulu NP in the interior of Sarawak, which is basically ’behind’ Brunei. It was only accessible by plane, which proved to be very instructive in itself because we could see all too well the destruction of the forest from above. The forest on the Sarawak side was intersected by spider webs of logging roads and the Brunei border was clearly visible: marked by the sharp change from the heavily logged, mainly secondary forest of Sarawak to the untouched primary rain-forest of Brunei as far as we could see. It is a pity that the Brunei sultanate is so tiny and does not cover at least whole Borneo .....

After Gunung Mulu, we crossed Brunei and returned to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, where we had started our round-Borneo trip three months earlier.

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The Iban Photogallery


Children in the river


Porch of a long house


Iban long house




Long ears


Iban woman




Human skulls



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Thanks to

Our huge thanks belong to all the indigenous people of Borneo for kindly letting us into their cultures. We always felt incredibly welcomed in the Iban long house as well as deep in the rainforest with
the Punan and Kenyah.


Interesting link

Living Planet - WWF Report 2012 & 2014

WWF panda-logo

An excellent book recommendation

Although heartbreaking, it's about the plight of Indonesian orangutans

Thinkers of the jungle