It is not possible to train or prepare for heat and humidity in the UK, but it will be important to train in advance of any trip to the mountains with regular hill walking and a rucksack on your back. Mt Kinabalu has a large number of steps which put a lot of strain on the thigh and calf muscles. Take care with not over-training and allow time before the trip to scale down any training, in case of last minute injuries.
None of our trips to Borneo require any specific training programmes, but clearly a good level of fitness will ensure that you enjoy the experience more. The Three Peaks trip and the Roof of Borneo trip are physically harder than the others and we would suggest a structured approach to training as one would for any physical challenge.
Put simply the more training and preparation you can do before you arrive, the quicker you will start to enjoy your trip. The Adventure Alternative Borneo trips vary in terms of physical rating but they all share some common facts: whilst out trekking it is generally very hot and sweaty and most hills are steep – up or down. The more practice you can get of these beforehand the easier you will find it. Increase your strength by training using the backpack you will be bringing with you and gradually increase the weight inside. Make sure you break in those new walking boots!
Borneo is a rapidly changing place, especially in the cities, but it is without doubt most definitely Asian. A good expression to learn and appreciate is that of 'Jam Karat’ - literally translated this means rubber time - in the rural areas where we spend most of the time this is very much the case. This is to say do not expect the timings within each day to run to exact minutes and seconds - try removing your watch when you step off the plane and slow down.
Borneo street food compares favourably with the likes of Vietnam and Thailand – too oily and bland. However, anyone who has tasted a longhouse or village feast cooked with jungle produce and washed down with some Tuak (rice wine) will rank it as some of the most memorable of the region.
Vegetarians will find the food generally bland and repetitive but we will help balance this out as best we can. Seafood lovers will be in heaven.
You will be unlucky to get ill by the food in Borneo. Compared to other areas in the region, standards of cleanliness are high. Minor upsets can be expected due to a change of diet. Bottled water is always safe as is boiled water provided in hotel rooms and villages. Ice cubes are also ok as they are factory made. Avoid 'shaved' street ice.
Malaysian Borneo has some of the best value resort style hotels in the region and they are a fantastic way to celebrate the end of an unforgettable trip. However, city accommodation is average by regional standards and poor value for money. Where possible we seek to use locally owned accommodation that provides a true Borneo welcome. Whilst in the field village and longhouse stays will utilise roll mats, expedition hammocks or tents.
Under the Gloss
As Malaysia heads towards its 20/20 vision of being a first class nation by 2020, its toilets remain a curious oversight. Expect the worst unless you are fortunate enough to be able to step into the comfort of a mid range hotel. Village and many city toilets are often the 'squat' variety – usually navigable unless you have just descended the summit of Mt Kinabalu!
Unless you are fortunate enough to be in the highlands then the heat and particularly humidity can be stifling and downright debilitating. You simply cannot drink too much water on your trip and rehydration sachets are recommended at least once a day as course.
In the last 30 years Borneo has suffered some of the highest rates of deforestation in the world and despite some best efforts of a few it does look like this process will end soon. Fortunately its size and remoteness has so far spared some fantastic areas and Adventure Alternative is actively supporting some grassroots community tourism and education programs, some of which the trips visit en-route.
Due perhaps to having been so far spared the 'tourism hordes' that now visit other areas in the region, the locals of Borneo are some of the most trustworthy and welcoming you will meet in the world. It is unlikely anyone will give you the hard sell nor rip you off, though of course if buying at street stalls then a little bargaining is part of the experience. If you are stopped by a local, more often than not it will be a chance to pass the time and have a chat - most locals have at least a basic level of spoken English or want to simply practice -dont miss this opportunity to engage yourselves. Unlike some other countries in the region, Borneo is generally very 'moderate' and there is little that cannot be discussed 'off the record', be it religion, politics or sex.
Street crime and begging is practically non-existent but be wary when leaving cash machines and normal levels of awareness should be upheld . Be mindful of any shows of wealth. Some of the places you will visit although not on or below the poverty line strictly speaking have little access to hard cash or consumer goods. The wealth gap in Malaysia is growing as fast as anywhere in the world!
Beware of the length of time it takes to acclimatise to the jetlag and the climate, for most people it takes the first few days to get used to being on the other side of the world and being so hot.