Best Time to Visit Borneo
The equatorial-tropical climate which exists in Borneo provides us with a fairly clear guide to the Borneo climate and therefore the best time to visit for wildlife. The north-eat monsoon creates a wet season from approximately November to March and the south-west monsoon creates a dry season from May to October. May of our visitors to Borneo have enjoyed superior mammal viewing (especially primates) in the months of June to September; this coincides with the tree fruiting season, which brings the Orangutans down from the canopy. Obviously, some locations like Mount Kinabalu create their own micro-climates and the temperature drops considerably as you gain altitude. There is still the chance of cloudy weather and the odd heavy down pour during the dry season, but in general the drier conditions provide superior, open wildlife viewing. Give us a call and let us pick the best season for your Borneo tour based on your personal objectives.
January – This is one of the wettest months of the year in Borneo and rainfall will be particularly heavy in Sarawak. This is the season for adventurous travellers with good levels of fitness and the understanding that there may be last minute changes to their itinerary due to sudden heavy downpours during the day or night. Short jungle treks in Sarawak are still possible with far fewer visitors and the south of Borneo receives relatively less rainfall than the north. Temperatures remain around 30C and as you would expect, humidity levels are high. Probably best to stick to a two centre approach to your Borneo safari and avoid excessive travel by road.
February – So, we see a significant improvement in the overall weather and a reduction in the intensity of the monsoon rains. Gaya Island, Lankayan Island and the beaches close to Kota Kinabalu are enjoying the best weather conditions and that opens up great opportunities for beach stays and quality snorkelling. For adventurous clients who can accept some rain during their wildlife activities, you can start looking at Deramakot, Danum Valley and the Kinabatangan river as potential wildlife destinations.
March – The weather for wildlife viewing in Sabah and Sarawak continues to improve and there is definitely a clear window to visit the region for great trekking and wildlife viewing, while still avoiding the high season when many more international visitors arrive to see Borneo’s diverse wildlife. As with any country which experiences a good monsoon season, the landscapes and scenery after the rains are lush and clear and this is an excellent time to spot whale sharks, especially around Lankayan Island, which is one of our client’s favourite resorts.
April – Now we have hit that sweet spot for the climate, when temperatures are relatively comfortable under the influence of the light winds and the chance of heavy rain showers has significantly diminished. All the wilderness locations and national parks in Sabah and Sarawak are accessible, but visitor numbers are still relatively low. The weather around Mount Kinabalu will be fair for ascent attempts, or quality birding. Some of the island destinations, like Lankayan, will have good sea conditions for snorkelling.
May – Many visitors look at travelling in May as wildlife viewing and visibility of species like the Orangutans increases in the Danum valley and on the Kinabatangan river; but the increase in visitor numbers which coincides with the fruiting season, has not yet sprung into action. The whole island is accessible and apart from the occasional heavy shower in the rainforest, you will encounter mainly sunny days and clear views across the tree canopy. Sea conditions for diving and snorkelling remain good for the islands just off Sandakan.
June – Expect slightly warmer days and dry weather; apart from the odd thunderstorm late in the afternoon due to the build-up of eat. This is the start of the main fruiting season in Borneo and the reason why if you are a wildlife lover you should come at this time. As the fruit falls primates like the Orangutan come down from the canopy and are much more visible as they forage on the forest floor – sometimes with a baby close to their side. It is also an ideal month to spot turtles laying their eggs on the beaches of Selingan Island. If you are after adventure with trekking in Sarawak, then the start of the ‘drier’ season will encourage you to look that jungle adventure and get off the beaten track.
July – Another classic month for wildlife viewing, but we the start of the main holiday season make sure you are quick off the mark with your Borneo rainforest lodge reservations to ensure you are not disappointed. Great opportunities for close encounters with Orangutans at both Danum Valley and Kinabatangan river and the drier weather makes it easier for night drives at Deramakot and Tabin, for the chance to see clouded leopard and other smaller wild cats. The turtle egg laying season continues and the visibility at island like Lankayan peaks at around 30M. Expect the trekking routes at Mount Kinabalu to be a lot busier at this time of year.
August – The holiday season continues with lovely dry weather and a noticeable increase in visitors to the wildlife sanctuaries and national park; so, once again, early booking of your Borneo wildlife lodges is critical and a private naturalist will make all the difference to flexible hours and tailoring your wildlife viewing experience. Turtles are hatching on the islands and you have a great chance to see their ‘first steps’ into the big world. We recommend the Big 3 of Danum, Kinabatangan and Tabin, with plenty of night safaris looking for the nocturnal wildlife.
September – The dry summer weather will extend into September, with a chance of the rainy season starting towards the end of the month. International fares often come down after July and August, so for people with flexible travel windows, this is a great time to book your flight to Sandakan and enjoy the very best of Wild Sabah. The wildlife viewing continues to be great in the main wildlife sanctuaries and we recommend combining Deramakot and Imbak Canyon, for stunning scenery and superb primate and wild cat viewing.
October – It’s official, the wet season starts this month, but that does not mean you have to avoid coming to Borneo. There are still many dry days for wildlife viewing and both jungle trekking and visiting Mount Kinabalu are still recommended. If you are lucky enough to be visiting Sidapan, you will have some of the best diving and snorkelling conditions of the year. Less human visitors can mean enjoying wildlife like Orangutans, Pygmy Elephants and Proboscis monkeys only in the company of your expert guide. We recommend a two base Borneo safari, visiting Deramakot for the chance to see clouded leopard and Kinabatangan for flat-headed cat.
November – The trekking season is definitely over now for Mount Kinabalu, as mountain trails become wet and slippy and the chances of accidents increase. However, wherever the rain lands new life begins and the tropical forests of Sabah and Sarawak stand out like green jewels in a magnificent crown. If you don’t mind the rain and the odd heavy shower and thunderstorm – remember that activities can always be changed with your private naturalist to suit the daily weather conditions – then forest walks during November can focus on the amazing tree and plant diversity and any wildlife encounters will be private and all the more rewarding.
December – Well Christmas in Borneo sounds pretty exotic, but rather than a white Christmas you have a great chance of a wet one! Generally, less rain than in November and the north of Sabah will be drier than the south. Again, this is a travel period for the more adventurous, who can cope with the regular rain showers, as a price worth paying for empty wildlife sanctuaries and potentially some great deals on the many stunning wildlife lodges to be found in Borneo.
Best Borneo Rainforest Lodges To Stay In
Many clients when planning their Borneo Tour want to build an itinerary around the best Borneo Rainforest Lodges; which because of their locations and reputation for good guides attract wildlife enthusiasts and photographers alike.
How to See the Komodo Dragons in an Ethical Fashion
Komodo Dragons have fascinated visitors to the beautiful islands of Komodo and Rinca for hundreds of years, but now for the first time, we are faced with a 'tourism threat' to the largest lizards on the planet and any ethical tour operator needs to be careful in how they both promote and organise Komodo and Rinca tours.
Do We Act Back Home, On What We See on Holiday?
When we first sent James on his Borneo Safari back in 2003 our whole focus was on maximising the wildlife potential of his time in this beautiful country. However, despite the amazing pictures he took in the Danum Valley and along the Kinabatangan River of Probosis Monkeys and Wild Orangutans, what I remember most is the stories of clear cut or burnt rainforest and huge monospecific plantations appearing in once prime forest.