East Malaysia is in North Borneo, 500km east of Peninsula Malaysia and is home to ancient rainforests, rare wildlife, rugged mountains and some of the world’s best scuba diving. Sabah and Sarawak are the most popular states for visitors and are made up of diverse indigenous tribes and many other cultures.
Sabah occupies the northern part of the island of Borneo. It’s famed for its 4,095m-tall Mount Kinabalu, the country’s highest peak, crowned with distinctive granite spires. Sabah is also known for its beaches, rainforest, coral reefs and abundant wildlife including orangutans. Offshore, the Sipadan and Mabul islands are noted diving destinations.
Sarawak stretches along Borneo’s northwest coast with many beaches on the South China Sea. It’s known for the rugged, dense rainforest of its interior, much of it protected parkland. The capital, Kuching, is a bustling city set on the Sarawak River. Its 19th-century landmarks include the Astana, former palace of the White Rajahs, and Fort Margherita, built to thwart pirates.
The Islamic Sultanate of Brunei is one of the worlds smallest countries and richest. Although located on the northwest coast of Borneo, it is no longer part of Malaysia. The capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, has retained its fringe of traditional, river-dwelling stilt villages as an enduring vision of the past. Away from the coast the landscape is largely pristine tropical forest. Some essential experiences are taking a long boat ride through the cities waterways, getting lost in the maze of plank-walks linking the water villages or indulging in the local delicacies at a local food market.