Posts Tagged ‘Malaysia’

5 Incredible Creatures You Might Find in Borneo

Limestone pinnacles, Mulu National Park
The opportunity to travel to faraway exotic destinations gives us unparalleled personal access to cultures, plants, animals and ecosystems we can’t experience at home. On this Earth Day, we wanted to take a moment to celebrate one of the most exotic, wild and scenic locations on our planet, Malaysian Borneo—a destination we’ve grown to know and love over the many years we’ve visited.

Borneo villagers © Tourism MalaysiaThe deep and mysterious jungles of Borneo have played host to headhunting tribes and giant man-like apes—and they are rumored to be the true setting for Mogli, Baloo and Sheer Khan in The Jungle Book. But for the modern-day explorer, Borneo is a unique treasure trove of biodiversity where the opportunities for discovery are limitless.

You can travel through scenic countryside lush with verdant rice paddies and tropical orchids. You can explore quaint tribal villages where entire communities live in a single longhouse and some still hunt by blow dart. You can discover birds with plumage that defy imagination, flowers with colors you’ve never conceived, and one special, orange primate that will hold a place in your heart forever. We are incredibly lucky to still have a place like Borneo—a place that maintains its unexplored, off-the-beaten-path feel while still being accessible to travelers like us.

And because of the untamed nature of the island, many species of rare, indigenous animals call Borneo home. So in honor of Earth Day 2016, we’ve compiled a list of five incredible creatures you might only find in Borneo.



Orangutans
1 The Bornean Orangutan

Every traveler to Borneo undoubtedly seeks profound encounters with orangutan, the most well known of the island’s inhabitants, with Borneo and Sumatra being the only places to view them in the wild.

The name itself is telling: orang meaning “person” and utan meaning “forest” in Malay and Indonesian. These “people of the forest” reside primarily in trees, building elaborate nests constructed of foliage and branches night after night. Noted by scientists for their intelligence, compared to other great ape species, orangutan use and make tools for different tasks, such as scratching their backs with a stick, or protecting themselves from the sun with giant leaves forming a canopy over their heads. An estimated 54,000 Bornean orangutan survive in the wild, offering plenty of opportunities for you to have your own chance encounter with these extraordinary animals.



Pygmy Elephants
2 The Borneo Pygmy Elephant

You can’t get much cuter than a pygmy elephant, also unique to Borneo. Even the fully matured pygmy elephant has a baby face with giant ears and a long tail that sweeps the ground. Partly because of their docile and passive nature, people long believed these miniature elephants were descended from a domesticated herd belonging to the Sultan of Sulu. Thanks to modern genetics, we know for sure that the pygmy elephant is a bona fide indigenous Borneo islander, which somehow got isolated some 300,000 years ago from its slightly larger cousins in other parts of Asia.



Sumatran Rhinos  Photo by Charles W. Hardin
3 The Sumatran Rhino

Even rarer than the pygmy elephant is the Sumatran rhino, the smallest living rhinoceros and the only Asian rhino with two horns. Also known as “hairy rhinos,” these endangered animals live in isolated pockets in the dense mountain forests of Borneo. There are so few left that they have only been spotted on infrared cameras. Until recently, that is, when the World Wildlife Federation was able to capture a young female Sumatran rhino—the first physical contact with humans in 40 years—with the intention of moving her to a protective sanctuary. Unfortunately, the young rhino died of a leg infection caused by a snare from an earlier poaching attempt. However, as a very thin silver lining, her successful capture and attempt at rehabilitation served as a crucial first step in an eventual long-term program to bring this species back to life.



Sunda Clouded Leopard
4 The Sunda Clouded Leopard

Another rarity of Borneo is the clouded leopard, a medium-sized wild cat found in the lowland rainforest areas, named for its stunning coat of large, cloud-like spots. Genetically unrelated to leopards as we know them, the clouded leopard of Borneo and Sumatra was reclassified in the last 10 years as a species distinct even from its mainland Malaysian clouded leopard cousins. On Borneo, the Sunda Clouded Leopard ranks as the largest predator on the island yet its hunting strategies, as well as breeding behaviors in the wild, are little known.



Spectacled Flower Pecker  Photo by R.E. Webster, Oriental Bird Club5 The Spectacled Flower Pecker

In 2009 biologists discovered a bird species previously unknown to science in Sabah, located in “the heart of Borneo,” a vast, biologically diverse rainforest area in the center of the island. The spectacled flower pecker flaunts white rings around the eyes and a white tuft resembling a stripe down its chest. It rarely flies beneath the canopy, preferring instead to feast on fruit high in the trees, and has yet to be seen again since the first sighting (This image is the only one we could find!). The Spectacled Flower Pecker highlights an amazing and encouraging fact about Borneo: scientists discover an estimated three new species of wildlife every month.

Unfortunately, as with many tropical areas around the world, the rare and exquisite flora and fauna of Malaysian Borneo are losing their habitats due to deforestation for commercial timber and the planting of palm oil plantations. And the increase in these activities has also enhanced the illegal wildlife trade, as cleared forests offer easier access to remote areas. We hope after reading this you’ll consider the absolutely incredible array of animals on Borneo, and everywhere on earth, and think about our responsibility as humans and world travelers to preserve them—on Earth Day and beyond.



Interested in traveling to Borneo? While we can’t guarantee sightings of the spectacled flower pecker or Sunda clouded leopard, we do offer two tours to Malaysian Borneo, with itineraries designed to immerse you in the incredible flora, fauna and human cultures of this exotic island. Check out those tours here.

How many of the most-pinned travel destinations have you visited?

I recently stumbled across a Mashable article highlighting the most-pinned places on Earth. As I scrolled through the list, I noticed that many of these Pinterest favorites are also destinations that we offer to our travelers!

I’m not surprised. Our Friendly Planet Travel team lives to craft once-in-a-lifetime tours to some of the world’s most popular destinations. Places like Italy, Greece, and Spain are not only beautiful in photographs, but engaging and authentic destinations that can change the way we look at the world.

While Pinterest is a great place to fantasize about exotic destinations — Friendly Planet’s Pinterest page in particular will make you drool — nothing beats the real experience of discovering the world.

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Announcing the winner of our Exotic Malaysia & Thailand Sweepstakes

Can you believe it? It’s time to announce yet another winner of a free Friendly Planet tour! This one has to be one of my favorites: our Win Exotic Malaysia & Thailand Sweepstakes will award one lucky traveler a free trip for two on our Exotic Borneo & Bangkok tour.

Our winner will get to explore the fascinating culture, natural beauty, and unique history of these Southeast Asian destinations. Whether it’s walking the streets of Bangkok in Thailand, a bustling metropolis with to-die-for cuisine, or exploring Borneo in Malaysia, where a mosaic of indigenous tribes, intriguing history, ancient rainforests, and diverse wildlife await — trust me, this winner is lucky indeed.

Are you ready to find out who this winner is? Here it comes! The winner of our Exotic Malaysia & Thailand Sweepstakes is …

Sara Morgan from Oregon — Congratulations!

We called Sara to let her know about her prize, and she was so sweet. She loves traveling to explore different cultures and experience new things, but doesn’t get the opportunity to do so often. She’s never been to Asia, and works with some Asian species of bears in her role at a zoo, so she’s looking forward to getting to see them in person! She’ll be taking her husband on her exciting adventure to Southeast Asia!

Congratulations again, Sara. I know you’re just going to love your vacation.

Thanks to everyone who entered our sweepstakes. Although you couldn’t all win, we have some great news for you about our super Cyber Monday sale, which will make it possible for you to save BIG on every Friendly Planet tour, so stay tuned. More details coming soon.

The top phrases you need to know before traveling to Thailand and Malaysia

If you haven’t already heard, we’re giving away yet another free trip! This one is for our Exotic Borneo & Bangkok tour to Malaysia and Thailand — a true treat for any traveler who wants to experience everything Southeast Asia has to offer.

If you’ve never visited this part of the word, it’s a juxtaposition of new and old, modern and traditional, exotic and familiar. The languages of Malaysia and Thailand, however, are usually difficult for travelers from the West to navigate.

Consider, for example, that there are virtually no similarities between English and Thai or Malay. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn a few key words and phrases that will help you get around and earn you lots of smiles and big-time approval from the locals when you test your skills.

We’ve put together a chart of some of these common words and phrases. Click on them for an easy-to-print version and keep them in your wallet for easy access on your trip! (more…)

How you can win a FREE trip for two to Malaysia and Thailand!

If you didn’t come out on top of our Win Wild South Africa Sweepstakes, don’t fret. We had so much fun putting that sweepstakes together that we’ve got another surprise in store — we’re giving away ANOTHER free trip for two!

This one is a real treat — an 11-day adventure to Malaysia and Thailand on our Exotic Borneo & Bangkok tour. And since we’re conducting this sweepstakes in partnership with Tourism Malaysia and Tourism Authority of Thailand, you know you’ll see the best these countries have to offer. If you don’t need to hear more and want to enter now, simply visit our Facebook page, Like us, and enter your information in the Win Exotic Malaysia and Thailand tab for your chance to win this prize, worth up to $4,900! Since this is a brand-new contest, you’ll have to enter your information (whether or not you participated in our Win Wild South Africa Sweepstakes) to be eligible to win this prize.

Thailand is a beautiful country that’s flush with exotic wildlife, spectacular islands, and rich history. In fact, it’s one of the most visited destinations we offer. On the other hand, Malaysia is an up-and-coming hot spot that offers visitors a fusion of cultures, cuisine, beauty, and adventure that travelers need to see to believe. The lucky traveler that wins this tour won’t be disappointed with all there is to see and do in these countries.

Our grand prize package includes:

  • Round-trip airfare from Los Angeles or New York including fuel surcharges, taxes, and fees
  • All intra-Asia flights and ground transportation
  • Accommodations in deluxe and superior first-class hotels
  • Buffet breakfast daily and five lunches
  • Comprehensive sightseeing tours
  • Professional English-speaking tour guides

So read the full itinerary and then be sure to visit our Facebook page to put your name in the hat! Don’t forget to invite your friends to enter! You’ll earn an extra entry for every friend that enters through your invite, increasing your chances of winning.

The sweepstakes will close at 11:59 p.m. on November 15, and we’ll announce the winner soon after. To all of our travelers, good luck!

 

Hop on board the Borneo Adventure

FP_Borneo_Petronas.jpgThere aren’t many places in the world that can compare to the island of Borneo, Malaysia, where a mosaic of indigenous tribes, intriguing history, ancient rain forests, winding rivers, and diversified wildlife await.

Imagine a day spent exploring an electric city, making your way through bustling exotic markets in the shadow of looming skyscrapers. Stroll down lantern-lit streets, haggle with street vendors, and visit temples and other ancient remnants of Malaysia’s unique and colorful heritage, tucked among the sky scrapers, shopping malls, restaurants, nightlife, and other icons of modern life.

 FP_Borneo_Canopy Walk.jpg

Then, spend the next day knee-deep in local umbrage as you follow your guide past shrieking monkeys and luminescent birds on a tour of one of Borneo’s national parks. Take a guided canopy walk hundreds of feet above the forest floor. Explore incredible cave formations, and take a dip in the ocean at one of the country’s beautiful white sand beaches.

Our 15-day Borneo Adventure for $2,899 offers the chance to see and do all this, and so much more. This trip is truly a fantastic journey of discovery for a price that is as amazing as the destination itself.

Travelers explore Kuching, Batang Ai, Mulu, Kota Kinabalu, and Kuala Lumpur, with an optional Penang Island extension. As always, the $2,899 price includes airfare, fuel surcharges, great hotels, transfers, many meals, touring, and more.

The remaining 2009 departure is already sold out, but we still have spots available on all three of our spring 2010 departures: March 24 – April 7, April 14 - April 28, and May 12 – May 26. For more information on the Borneo Adventure, have a look at our Web site. And if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

Photo credits: imagine.asia and Wikipedia