Risks, Opportunities and Adventures in Borneo

Recently my colleagues and I traveled to Sarawak, Malaysia, on the island of Borneo. Shared with Indonesia and Brunei, Borneo is a huge island encompassing more than 740,000 square kilometers. Like the rest of Borneo, the state of Sarawak has an incredible amount of natural mineral and wood resources along with rainforests containing a wide variety of wildlife, including the Bornean orangutans and many other flora and fauna species. Sarawak’s human population is also quite diverse, with more than 20 ethnic groups represented.

Sarawak is unique insofar as the Malaysian Constitution has provisions that protect Sarawak’s semi-independence; the local government has been granted power to regulate entry and residence, employment in public services, etc. Some political observers have said that when general elections are held in Malaysia, Sarawak is often the swing state that decides the results.

My colleagues and I arrived in Bintulu, a small town northeast of Kuching, Sarawak’s capital. It is located in the coastal region of the central coast of Sarawak, which in recent times has seen a boom in industrial activity. I decided to go for a swim before dinner, but someone warned me that a crocodile was spotted living off the coast near the hotel where we were staying. Always aware of the risk-reward of any situation, I decided not to go for a nighttime swim since crocodiles are known for their good nocturnal vision, and I didn’t want to risk becoming a meal! However, the next morning, I surveyed the situation and decided to take the swim, happy to see no crocodile in sight. On a prior visit to Borneo, I made the trek up the island’s tallest mountain, Mount Kinabalu, located at the other state of Malaysia within the island, Sabah. It was quite an experience! Climbing before dawn—and in pouring rain— our group struggled to climb the slippery vines and rocks to reach the top (which is over 4,000 meters above sea level) just in time to witness the sunrise. In this case, I was glad it was dark while we were climbing, because if I were able to see the rock face we had climbed in broad daylight, I would never have attempted it!

Borneo is the world’s third-largest island, and its equatorial rainforest is home to many species of plants and animals, which attracts tourists from around the world. Borneo also boasts significant power resources, including hydroelectric power, coal and natural gas deposits; liquefied natural gas is a key export.