Diving and Wildlife Adventure in Borneo (Interview)

I’m so excited to introduce a new interview series called Travel Chats, where I invite female friends, bloggers and IGers to share their latest adventures.

The goal is to inspire you to discover new destinations and get to know some amazing fellow travellers and their stories. The best part? They share their practical tips & advice (the good stuff you won’t find on a guidebook) to help you plan your trip.

On this first interview, my friend Vania shares with us her incredible trip to Borneo, where she got her PADI Diving Certification and got to hang out with cutest orangutans, monkeys and bears!


TRAVEL CHATS: VANIA’S 4-DAY ADVENTURE IN BORNEO

Tell us a bit about yourself

I am Vania. I am 29 years old. I was born and raised in Germany but both of my parents are Portuguese. I left home for the first time when I was 19 to study abroad for 7 months in Miami. I think this really changed everything for me. It opened my spectrum to the big world that I wanted to discover from then on.

I returned to Germany for Uni. After that I decided to do a backpack trip for 7 months in Central and South America and I have been living abroad ever since (this was 5 years ago).

Since then I visited 33 countries so far and there is nothing that makes me happier than planning a trip and arriving in an unknown location.

How would you describe your travel style? 

I always like to have a combination of everything. My perfect trip contains 2-3 days of adventure and then 2 days culture or relaxing. I always do my research before arriving in a new place but also like to ask locals for recommendations. I love eating local food and getting a local experience.

A while ago I decided that for each trip I would pick one thing I had to do that would bring me out of my comfort zone. We all limit ourselves so often out of fear of the unknown. I didn’t want this to happen that’s why I created this rule for me and I can say I grew a lot from it.

Most of the times are travel on a lower budget just because I don’t mind a local experience. Since I travel a lot it would also add up if I would always stay in nice resorts/hotels.

Normally I stay in guesthouses when I travel with friends or in hostels when I am by myself (nowadays I get a private room :))

Tell us about your Borneo trip and why you wanted to visit

I went to Kota Kinabalu, Borneo (Malaysia side). My main target was to do my Padi Open Watersomething that was on my bucket list for a while.

PADI-Diving-Borneo

What was the most memorable moment of the trip? 

We decided to take an inland flight to Sandakan and visit the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok. It’s a 45 min flight from Kota Kinabalu and I am so glad we did it. We were on a tight schedule of 4 days whereas 2 were blocked for the Padi and on the last day I couldn’t fly out due to the diving.

With only 4 hours of sleep we took the first flight out to Sandakan and went straight to the Orangutan Centre. The park itself is quite big and it was amazing to watch the animals while feeding time. Next to it is the Sunbear Conservation Centre. We were lucky because on special occasions they feed them Coconuts which they can’t get enough of. But our absolute highlight was an Orangutan that stopped by at the Sunbear Centre and sat down right next to us. Such an amazing moment to have such an animal so close to us.

Orangutan-Rehabilitation-Centre-Sepilok-Borneo-2

Wildlife-Bears-Borneo-2

How did you plan your trip? What resources proved most helpful?

Before I go on a trip I always do a Google search on the top attractions and then I check out some travel itineraries from travel bloggers and match them. For city trips I like to use VisitACity first to give me a rough indications of things to do and then I manually add things that interest me. I then cross check on Tripadvisor my itinerary with the latest feedback from people that visited.

What did you struggle the most with when planning the trip?

Everyone has a different opinion on things. Have you ever read comments on Tripadvisor where people were raving about an attraction and then you got there yourself and you thought: “what were all this people thinking?!” I have that feeling all the time. Especially due to age difference, the experience can be very different. That’s why I tend to rely more on bloggers that are my age and have similar interests than on Tripadvisor comments.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of visiting Borneo?

Take more time than I had to visit Borneo. The island is huge and has some amazing things to do (I will definitely be back with more time soon).

  • Spend one night in Sandakan. Apart from the two Conservation/Rehabilitation Centres, there is a Monkey Park (Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary) that has the Proboscis Monkey that can only be found in Borneo. Check the feeding times to maximize the experience. Additionally, there is a Turtle Island that is supposed to be beautiful but it requires a minimum stay of one night on the island
  • Sipadan has one of the best diving spots in the world.
  • Do a river cruise on the Kinabatangan River.
  • Uber works everywhere and it’s very convenient.
  • Get a Sim Card at the airport.
  • I did my Padi with Scuba Junkies and I do recommend them.
  • We stayed in this 2 bedroom Airbnb in Kota Kinabalu that was lovely. The coffee shop also belongs to the owner of the Airbnb.

Orangutan-Rehabilitation-Centre-Sepilok-Borneo-1

What’s your next adventure?

I am flying to Thailand for a festival called Wonderfruit in 2 weeks 🙂

Follow along on Vania’s adventures

Blog | Instagram

Hope you enjoyed this interview (who doesn’t want to visit Borneo now?!) and if you have any feedback, comments or questions, please leave them down below.

Special thanks to Vania for sharing her experience!


Borneo Facts

– Borneo is the third largest island in the world.

– It is not a country. It is in fact an island that is administered by 3 different countries: Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia.

– The word orangutan translates to ‘person of the forest’ and they can only be found in the jungles of Borneo and Sumatra. These are the only two places you can see them in their natural environment.

– Borneo has the highest peak in Southeast Asia: Mount Kinabalu (13,438ft or 4,096 metres above sea level)

– Borneo is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, being home to an estimated 15,000 different plant species.


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