insights from the ultimate cruising team

The weird, wild and wonderful sights of a Borneo rainforest

The weird, wild and wonderful sights of a Borneo rainforest

Deep in the rainforest, the damp undergrowth crackling beneath your feet, the infinite buzz of cicadas and other insects in your ears punctuated with the squawks and barks of monkeys and the rustle of small animals in the bushes … you can’t quite believe you’re in the depths of the Borneo forest! Eyes peeled for a glimpse of the orange fur of an orangutan, senses on high alert for sightings of snakes or unique birds, you step stealthily between the trees when …. What the heck is that smell?!

It’s like nothing you’re ever smelt before – pungent and reminiscent of decaying flesh. Your guide starts laughing and points out a large, innocent looking flower and announces that its name is the “stinking corpse lily.” Its official name is Rafflesia arnoldii, is endemic to Sumatra and Borneo and looks almost like a cross between a flower and a big toadstool! It can grow as big as one metre in diameter and is becoming more and more rare.

So, what other weird and wonderful sights might you come across in the Borneo rainforest?


The Borneo rainforest is probably most known for the orangutans and they are perhaps the biggest drawcard for visitors to Borneo each year. We share 97% of the same DNA with orangutans and the similarities are easy to see. They display similar characteristics as humans – parents disciplining mischievous youngsters, using tools to find food and facial expressions that mirror our own.

Proboscis Monkey

This is the monkey with the unusually large nose. It’s one of the largest species of monkeys and can swim up to a remarkable 66 feet underwater!

Flying squirrel

Although called a flying squirrel, parachuting squirrel might be more accurate. They don’t “fly” exactly – well, not in the birdlike sense anyway – but glide between trees by a furry, parachute-like membrane that stretches from wrist to ankle, called a patagium.

Pygmy elephant

These baby-faced elephants are the smallest in size of Asian elephant subspecies. Very cute with oversized ears, rounded bellies and long tails that sometimes trail on the ground behind them, these elephants are adorable.

Bornean Bay Cat

This rarely seen cat is bright chestnut in colour, with a lighter belly and a long tapered tail that has white streak along the middle, under side toward the end. It has two dark stripes from the outer corner of the eye, faint brown stripes on its cheeks and an “M” shaped marking on the back of its head. Being nocturnal and very secretive, it’s a hard animal to study so there are still many question marks around it regarding feeding, ecology and reproduction.

Bornean slow loris

This curious looking creature is arboreal and nocturnal, with two large, centrally placed eyes and a toxic bite!


The Asian two-horned rhinoceros is critically endangered with just 80 individuals remaining in Sumatra and Borneo after extensive poaching. The horn has been used in traditional Chinese medicines – hence the excessive hunting.

Clouded Leopard

These elusive creatures lead a lonely existence, preferring to live a solitary, secretive life. They’re very hard to find and scientists still have much to learn about their habits.

Pitcher plant

These carnivorous plants are deceptively innocent-looking. Not only do they appear visually attractive to insects, they have liquid-filled receptacle that lures insects in, where they drown and dissolve in the liquid.


If you’re an orchid-fan, Borneo is the place to be! With around 3,000 species of orchid, Borneo boasts the most extensive and diverse collection in the world.

Medicinal plants

Borneo’s inhabitants have been using plants as food and medicine for centuries. New research is taking place on several these plants for medicinal value including a shrub that produces a substance that appears effective in fighting 57 out of 60 kinds of cancer cells, HIV strains and anti-malaria.

Unfortunately, extensive de-forestation is contributing to serious decline for numerous animal and plant species and most of the list above now feature on the endangered or critically endangered lists.

Although some of these endemic species are very rarely seen, a visit to Borneo is an extraordinary experience and you’re sure to see plenty of flora and fauna that you’ve never seen before. There are rehabilitation centres dedicated to preserving animal populations and stopping the illegal hunting and trade of various animals and global awareness of the plight of these creatures is aiding in the conservation.

When cruising in Borneo, you’ll often get the opportunity to speak with scientists, park rangers and staff working directly with the animals and their insights, knowledge and experiences are simply awe-inspiring.

For more information on travel to this part of the world, give our Ultimate Cruising experts a call or have a look through our current offers for cruises going to Borneo.


image credits: elephant and orchid