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Borneo Overview

Borneo is the 3rd largest island in the world.  It is home to some of the richest natural resources in the world, including plants and animals, fish and birds, minerals and metals, and oil and gas.  

The seas around Borneo are home to some of the most diverse marine life found on the planet and divers love the enormous and fascinating sea life in the Sulawesi Sea.  The jungles of Borneo are South East Asia’s last and one of the world’s largest and most diverse first growth rain forests.  Towering 200 year old teak forests are home to one of the largest orangutan populations in the world and to other endangered species such as the pygmy elephant, the clouded leopard and the Sumatran rhino.  In addition, scientists are discovering on average more than 10 new species per year in Borneo.  And below its surface lie enormous reserves of energy and mineral resources including oil and gas, gold, copper, nickel, iron ore and coal, all of which are already significantly exploited on commercial scale.

Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei share political control of Borneo.  Indonesia controls approximately 75% of the island’s 750,000 square kilometers, with Malaysia controlling around 24% and Brunei 1%.  The Indonesian part of Borneo is known locally as Kalimantan, divided into four provinces (Timor or East, Barat or West, Selatan or South and Tengah or Central).  Malaysian Borneo lies to the north of the island and is divided into the states of Sabah and Sarawak.  Brunei is the smallest of the political entities on Borneo, occupying an area in the northern central coast line of Borneo.

Borneo is home to approximately 18 million people.  The population consists primarily of people from three ethnicities: the indigenous Dayak tribes people, the predominantly Muslim Malay people from peninsular Malaysia and Java, and the Chinese immigrants.  Needless to say, many of the customs in Borneo are still quite foreign to westerners, and belief in local spirits inhabiting animate and inanimate objects is common.  Any westerner coming into the area must be extremely sensitive to these cultural differences. 

The majority of the population resides in urban centers in the coastal areas.  The inland areas are mostly still to be developed, and it is in these often unexplored areas that some of the best natural resources can be discovered.