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Borneo – Where Is Borneo Located?

Borneo Penans

Borneo tribeBorneo is an Island that is one of the third largest Island on earth. Borneo is surrounded by the Java Sea to its south, the Celebes Sea on its east, and the South China Sea to its north. It has an area of 288,869 square miles (748,168 square kilometers) with an estimate total population of over 20 million.

Politically the island is divided into four major states and belong to and govern by non Borneo government except one.

The four states are the Indonesian Kalimantan, Brunei Sultanate, Sabah and Sarawak states of Malaysia. I has been like these since the 18th century and no government can unite these states. If there is, it should be possibly done by the Dutch and British in those era.

The tribes on the Island are different than those in Australia and Madagascar.

The Island was one of the popular destination during the spice trade from the Arab , Indian and Chinese in the 18th century.

Those were the times  when head hunting were the major activities of the rural tribes. These head hunters were mainly fearless Iban, Kayan and Kenyah who dominate their area of control.

Remains of skull can be seen hanging is some of the Iban longhouse today and some of the communities still idolize them. They offer them with some fruits.

Most of these tribe have removed them when they became Christian. Its not a gorilla or an orang utan skull. You see the skull hanging somewhere in the longhouse or access road to the longhouse.

There is no more head hunting. These tribes are some of the most friendliest and gorgeous people in Borneo.

Tribes uncontacted in Borneo

I still don’t bPenan Shadeelieve that there are still primitive tribes in the interior rain forest of the island. In reality is a yes there are.

In Baram deep forest there is a Penan tribe locally called “Penan Toi”. They are still roaming secretly in the jungle avoiding other tribes. This tribe is almost like the wild man or those untamed tribes of the amazon forest.

Its difficult to get in contact  with them. Only knowledgeable guide can lead you to them. They have special instinct that can detect any movement towards them and they hide before you see them.

Tribes of the Island

I believe that there are over hundreds of tribes that lives on the Island. Chinese, Indian and Malay  are not considered as a tribe in Borneo. They came to Borneo to trade and established themselves. The Major are the

  1. Ibans
  2. Bidayuh
  3. Kayan
  4. Kenyah
  5. Murut
  6. Kedazan
  7. Dusun
  8. Sungei
  9. Miriek
  10. Melanau


Under these major tribes are various sub ethnic group. The Iban for example have

  1. Iban Merotai dialect in Sabah (language code: IBA)
  2. Bugau Iban dialects in Sarawak and West Kalimantan (language code: IBA)
  3. Iban Dau dialect in Sarawak (language code: IBA)
  4. Lemanak Iban dialect in Sarawak (language code: IBA)
  5. Skrang Iban dialect in Sarawak (language code: IBA)
  6. Ulu Ai Iban dialect in Sarawak (language code: IBA)

Reference :

The Kayan tribes are the Bahau, Leken, Uma Poo, Uma Peliau, Merep,kanihing, beluvuh and many more

The Kenyah are the lepo Tau, Lepo Ga’, Badeng, Bakong , kulit and many more

The rest of the tribes are the same having many more sub tribes or ethnic.

Tribes with long ears.

Long earsYou seldom see the long ears anymore in this generation of the 20th century. This used to be a tradition of the Kayan and Kenyah tribes who are the two most related in customs and tradition.

The tradition of having long ears was not only practiced by the ladies in those times. Men also have long ears.

Both genders did this to make them look gorgeous so that they can get their life partner and settle soon. Traditionally the longer the ear lobes drop down the more the feeling of being gorgeous and beautiful.

Type of Earing for Ear Piercings.

Traditionally, earing for the men were crafted from animal bones, wild bear laws, leopard claws, and hornbill horn. While the women earing were mainly made of raw iron ( besi Kayan or tetai keluh), selected stones, brass, copper, silver rings. In the old days, you can witness that almost all resident wore earing made from many materials. Some with more earing than the others.

There used to be different type of ear piercing at the ear lobe, top ear and middle ear. Ear piercings places for men are usually at the top ear and ear lobes while the women do it at the ear lobes.

How to make long Ear lobes

To make a long ear lobe is painful and time consuming. Initially the ear lobe is poke with small sharp bamboo blade and rub it with charcoal to dry the wound.

Borneo tribeWhen the wound dry up, slight weight brass or silver ring is inserted and let hang days and night. When the lobes look loose, another ring is put in and this upgrade will make a long drop of ear lobes. The user normally shines the ear gadget with some kind of organic polish.

In this modern era this tradition is dead unless it is made just for publicity.

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