An analysis of Borneo

Borneo is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the world. Borneo has a well-deserved reputation as one of the most natural and fascinating locations on earth. There is fifty percent of plant species on the planet, of the largest known cave system in the world, the highest peak in South East Asia, the biggest water village, and the home of some of the rarest wildlife in the world.

This essay provides an analysis of Borneo mainly as a nature-based tourism destination and explores the impact of tourism on the natural environment. It identifies attractions pulling people to Borneo and considers the motives urging people to respond to the pull of its attractions. It also discusses the hospitality industries which meet tourists` travel needs.

Nature Based Tourism

Nature-based tourism, sometimes called eco-tourism, is responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of local people while providing a quality experience that connects the visitor to nature (Report of the Ecotourism/Heritage Tourism Advisory Committee, 1997). According to the definition above, nature-based tourism should include nature-based tours, such as wildlife viewing, nature-based attractions; visitation to natural areas such as beaches, forests, lakes and greenways; outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, canoeing, snorkeling, horseback riding, boating, diving, kayaking, biking, and fishing.

Natural environment in Borneo


Borneo occupies 287,000 square miles. It is the largest state of the Malay Archipelago and third largest island in the world. Borneo is located southeast of the Malay Peninsula and southwest of the Philippines. It is divided into four political regions: Kalimantan belongs to Indonesia; Sabah and Sarawak are part of Malaysia; a small remaining region comprises the sultanate of Brunei.

Malaysian Borneo occupies the larger portion of Malaysia’s total area. It is primarily comprised of undeveloped land and jungles. Over two thirds of the land area is forested (Travel in Borneo with Arc Journeys, 2004). Malaysian Borneo has mountainous interiors and coastal plains. The highest point is Mt. Kinabalu in Sabah. The longest of the country’s many rivers are the Rajang in Sarawak, the Kinabatangan in Sabah.


The climate is tropical. It is typical tropical equatorial climate. With a generally hot, wet climate, rain is common. Rainfall is spread throughout the year, the wettest months being from November to February. The driest months being from May to September, and days are generally warm and sunny in this period. Malaysian Borneo is also affected by the monsoon from November to February, when diving and snorkeling activities may be affected due to the choppy sea conditions and clarity of the water.


Being once numerous, however, rhinoceroses are almost extinct now due to being extensively hunted ( The fauna roughly includes elephant, deer, orangutan, gibbon, Malay bear, crocodile, flying lemurs, flying lizards, and other reptiles such as varieties of snakes. Fiddler crab with an enlarged claw is another special animal in Borneo.


Malaysian Borneo is coved by large area of tropical rain forests. The flora of varied Bako grows in a compact area. There is a special kind of organism can only be appreciated at night when luminous fungi can be seen glowing in the forest. Moreover, there are some tiny phosphorescent algae grow in the sea. When the waves or a boat disturbed these tiny phosphorescent algae, the sea is glowing.

Borneo’s History

The following story of Borneo is adapted from ‘Introduction to Malaysia-World Fact Book’. Around three thousand years ago, traders from Borneo increasingly frequented went to other lands. Locals collected exotic products when they traded with other regions. The larger trading network extended to China, India, and beyond.

About 500 years ago, outside influences started to increase along the island’s coasts. Islam arrived in Borneo. A number of Muslim kingdoms were established at the edges of the island. The first Westerners arrived at this time as well. The following few centuries’, ‘Westerners slowly wrested control away from local rulers’ (General information about east Borneo, 2004). Borneo was visited by the Portuguese in 1521, and followed by the Spanish, who established trade relations with the island. The Dutch arrived in the early 1600s, and the English in 1665. Dutch influence was established on the west coast in the early 1800s and was gradually extended to the south and east.

During the late 18th and 19th centuries, Great Britain established colonies in the area of current Malaysia. Sabah was declared a British protectorate in 1882,and Sarawak in 1888. North Borneo, because of the Chinese policy to prevent further emigration and because of a sluggish world economy after World War I, saw a rather quiet development compared to the prewar decades.

In 1942, Sabah was occupied by the Japanese. British soldiers were interned and badly treated; in 1943 a group of them revolted. They managed to occupy Jesselton and hold it for a day against the Japanese forces. Late in World War II, both Sandakan and Jesselton were bombed by the US Airforce. The capital Sandakan was liberated by Australian forces on October 19th 1945. In 1948, the British-ruled territories on the Malay Peninsula formed the Federation of Malaya, which became independent in 1957. Malaysia was formed in 1963. Sabah and Sarawak on the northern coast of Borneo joined the Federation of Malaysia. The first several years after the country formed, Indonesian tried to control Malaysia. The Philippines made claims to Sabah.


Malaysian Borneo is a multicultural and multiracial population region. There are 2 million populations in this land. They speak over 55 languages and 100 dialects. In Borneo, there are also 140 traditional dances and a host of traditions, beliefs, religions and cultures.

According to the Sabah Tourism Board (2004) before contact was made with the West, Borneo’s tribes often engaged in wars with each others. Malaysia has traditionally been a meeting point for traders and travelers from both the East and West. As a result, immigration from the southern Philippines, Indonesia and China has added to this cultural over the last two centuries. They brought their own culture, language and arts when they came here. In Borneo Malaysia, people speak Malay, Chinese dialects, Mandarin, Hakka dialects, Cantonese, Tamil and numerous tribal languages. English is also widely used in business and legal system.

With such a varying ethnic composition, there is no surprise that a great diversity of religions in Malaysia Borneo. The official religion is Islam. Almost all of the Malays are Muslims ( However, people still have freedom of worship. The majority of Chinese are Buddhists, and the majority of Indians are Hindu. As a result, it is common to see temples, mosques and churches in Malaysian Borneo. In recent decades, conflict between the ethnic groups has happened, particularly between Malays and Chinese.

Logging and petroleum production are the main industries in Sabah. People in Sarawak are mainly engaged in agriculture processing, petroleum production, refining and logging. The local customs in Borneo are quite different from western customs. For example, shoes must be removed when entering a Malaysian home. It is also customary to do so when entering a mosque or an Indian temple. There are many celebrated festivals. For example, Chinese New Year is widely celebrated as Chinese immigrations influenced.

Pull factors

Pull factors are forces that help stimulate a tourism product by pulling consumers towards particular destinations. These forces include attractions, proximity, accessibility, services, stability, affordability, and image.

Scenic grandeur is the main attraction in Borneo. Borneo is one of exotic and fascinating tourism destinations in the world. Sarawak has the world’s richest and most diverse rainforests. Tourists can view tropical rainforest from a canopy walkway. Mt Kinabalu is the highest peak in South East Asia, which is outside the capital of Sabah. In Sarawak, Gunung Mulu National Park has a number of spectacular caves, including the 51km long Clearwater Cave, one of the longest in the world (Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, 2004). Moveover, in Borneo, tourists also can relax and tan on the beautiful white beaches or swim and snorkelin the clear water (

Another an attraction is Borneo’s biological diversity. Borneo has fifty percent of the planet’s plant species. Tourists can see Borneo’s nature and wildlife which includes seeing Orang Utans being fed in the forest, unique proboscis monkeys, and green turtles in many places between July and October, when they come ashore to lay their eggs (

Adventure and sports is one of the pull factors as well. In Sabah, Pulau Tiga National Park off Kuala Penyuh has good walking trails across the volcanic island and also several snorkeling spots. One of the islands of Pulau Tiga is the site of the first reality TV series ‘Survivor’ ( The adrenalin-pumping expeditions also attract many young people to visit Borneo. Borneo offer tourists white water rafting along the rivers of Borneo or scuba diving around Sipadan Island. For sport, the Park also has good trekking, especially the hike to the peak of Gunung Mulu. Mountain biking trails passing through local villages are also available in Borneo.

Sarawak offers tourists the chance to visit longhouses which are the dwelling of Dayak tribes. The area around Kuching also has remote coastal villages. ‘To visit a longhouse is likely visiting an art gallery with exhibits of antique brass work, exquisite woven fabrics, carving of tropical hardwoods, beadwork, ceramics, rattan weaving and basketry’ (explorationborneo).

Motivation factors

Travel motivation indicates the intrinsic reasons why the individual is embarking on a particular trip (Weaver & Lawton,2002). The motivation to travel may be different from person to person.

For those people who are stressed and for couples on their honeymoon, Borneo is the place to be restored physically and emotionally. Those people need recreational trips which move away from the centre, and having relaxed, they can be satisfied to return to everyday life after enjoying the beautiful nature environment (Cohen, 1979).

Playing may be the main reason for young tourists to visit Borneo. The need to play may be linked with the need for recreation and relaxation. Anthropologist James Lett (1983) identified the human need to play as an explanation of the kinds of activities in which tourists engage. These tourists mainly do some adventures activities, such as diving, hike and so on.

People are also motivated by their curiosity about the unfamiliar and the extraordinary. Ryab (1977:28) referred to an intellectual theme in motivation literature that involves learning, exploring, discovery, thought and imaging. The motivations for these tourists traveling to Borneo are experiencing the different cultures, and learning the knowledge about the nature environment and biology

History of tourism industry in Borneo

Borneo has changed into a world-class tourism destination from British colony in recent 3 decades. On 20 May 1987, the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Tourism was incepted and the Corporation was moved from the Ministry of Trade and Industry and placed under this new ministry (

As the tourism developing, many tourism facilities were built up, such as golf courses, hotels, travel agents, and so on. By 1990, the tourism sector became the third largest income industry in Malysia. Since 1990, Malaysia Government started some welcome tourists programs, such as ‘Visit Malaysia Year’ (Basiron, 1994). Tourism is a growing sector and gaining importance in the Malaysian economy. The majority of the revenue is generated from Sabah. The majority of the foreign tourists were from neighboring Asian and Pacific countries.

Impact of tourism industry in Borneo

In a recent article, the secretary general of the Malaysian Commonwealth has referred to the impact of tourism on tourist destination in developing countries.


The interactions between visitors and locals alike are very important. Two generations ago, local people might not understand the differences between local and other part of the world. They had little knowledge about how other people lived. Today, locals influenced by the diffused and cross-pollinated ideas, resulting in increasing the knowledge about the world, and become confidence to be open to the world. As Malaysia open to the world, Malaysian people are influenced by foreign fashion. Western music, Japanese cartoons and many modernity products become popular in the practical world.

Travel is one of the key to welfare and prosperity. Tourism is an important sector in the Malaysian economy. In 1999, tourism generated RM13.4 billion income for Malaysia. In Borneo, tourism brings lots of work opportunities for local people. For example, a number of longhouses and Iban villages are visited by tourists each day. Thus, tourism is an essential role of lifting themselves out of poverty.

Tourism induces local government to make infrastructure improvements, which can improve the quality of life for residents as well as facilitate tourism. In Sabah, many things have been changed, due to tourism influences. In the early days most of towns in Sabah were seaports. As the development of tourism in Sabah, hotels, resorts and restaurants have been built. The social balance of towns in Sabah has change from seaport towns to a tourist’s seaside resorts.


Mass tourism makes Borneo loss of the natural landscape. Mt Kinabalu, Pulau Tiga Island and many national parks have been paved with asphalt, and a number of cars travel through each day. Also, four-wheel-vehicles threaten life even off the beaten track.

Development of tourism industry requires the construction of housing, facilities. These infrastructures for tourists inevitably encroach on previously open spaces (Nelson, 1993). These landscapes are lost forever, for hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions have taken the place.

In Borneo, it has had aversive effects on the traditional ways of life, and the distinctiveness of local cultures. Tourists disturb the quiet Iban villages. Many people benefit of the tourist trade, thus they lost their traditional skills instead by simply work (Croall, 1995), such as beadwork and ceramics.

Hospitality in Borneo


In Borneo, tourists can find a variety of styles of accommodation for them to enjoy luxury, meet the requirements of their budget or experience the local ambience. As the same as other tourism destination, there are many five star hotels and resorts built by investors provide tourists with luxury accommodation experience in Borneo.

In Sabah, the government responded to the demand for infrastructure, has built the Borneo Rainforest Lodge which currently accommodates up to 20 people (Travel in Borneo with Arc Journeys, 2004). There are also some rainforest lodges in other towns in Borneo. Many of them are built by local material. It is suitable for the purpose of seeing nature and relaxing. Cook facilities are available for some of them.

There are some family-run longhouse and village huts available in Borneo as well. Those accommodations are usually great value, but basic. It provide opportunities for tourists to interact with local people. It is customary to be greeted by the longhouse maidens and young men by performing traditional dances and playing ceremonial gongs as tourists arrive at the longhouse (Asia travel Guide, 2004).


Besides needing food and drink for nutrition and survival, tourists in Borneo can also engage in cultural tourism through their gastronomic experiences on the island. The food of Malaysia is varied. In Borneo, seafood is very fresh, and chefs can cook them in many cooking styles. Exotic foods of Borneo are influence by Indian cuisine, Borneo’s tribes’ cuisines and modern “fusion” cuisines (Malaysia travel guide, 2004). Also, Borneo has restaurants that provide a variety of international food styles. However, toasting is not a common practice in Malaysia Borneo. The Muslim population does not drink alcoholic beverages.