5 Animals to Look for in Brunei

Brunei is one of Southeast Asia’s better-kept tourism secrets, steeped in a rich history and tropical beauty. The wildlife isn't easy to find, but it is more than worthy of the search.

Indonesia and Malaysia get all the press, but those traveling to the nation of Brunei, tucked into a corner of Borneo, will be pleased to learn that the country is covered in rainforest. Brunei’s must-see animals are not easy to find, but they are more than worthy of the search.

When it comes to tourism, Brunei is one of Southeast Asia’s better-kept secrets, steeped in a rich and fascinating history as well as tropical and natural beauty. The majestic mosques and pristine city centers draw most visitors, and the diversity of Brunei’s wildlife is, in many ways, an afterthought. Brunei’s tiny landscape is diverse, and the amazing animals of Borneo have made a quiet home in the “Abode of Peace.”

Slide PROBOSCIS MONKEY: One of Asia’s largest species of monkey, the proboscis monkey is perhaps the most sought after primate in the wilds of Brunei. Known for its oddly bulbous nose, this animal is easily a traveler favorite. Found along rivers or the coast, the proboscis prefers the tidal lowlands, and is found throughout Brunei’s famous mangroves and swamp forests. Tourism-wise, the best place to start in your search for these creatures would be the highly-rated Brunei Proboscis Monkey River Tour, which offers an opportunity to spot these extraordinary monkeys in their natural habitat with relative ease. Slide SALTWATER CROCODILE: In Brunei, they call it the buaya katak, the mighty, fearsome saltwater crocodile. There is much debate about how big the saltwater crocodiles of Brunei can get, but last year local villagers in Kg Birau, Tutong pulled in a 15-foot croc while fishing. Although this crocodile has been extirpated in many other Asian countries, the rare buaya katak can still be found in the Brunei Bay, where it is protected under law from any kind of hunting or capture. Dangerous and terrifying as they may be, the buaya katak is one of the most impressive reptilian marvels in Asia. Slide SUNDA CLOUDED LEOPARD: The Sunda clouded leopard isn’t so much a “must-see” as a “try-to-see.” Your chances of catching a glimpse of the Sunda clouded leopard in the wild are pretty slim. As a nocturnal and notoriously elusive animal, little is known about this species, and it was only recognized as its own species back in 2006. Belait district is a good place to look for these leopards, mainly in the hilly rainforests in the district’s interior and the Sungai Ingei Forest. Mighty and beautiful, the Sunda clouded leopard is Borneo’s largest wild cat. Slide HORNBILLS: For bird-watching enthusiasts, hornbill birds are a delight. They’re tropical, diverse, and, frankly, a little silly looking. A total of eight different hornbill species reign in Brunei alone – from the tiny oriental pied hornbill to the curiously ugly wrinkled hornbill. Most hornbill watchers want to spot the surprisingly common rhinoceros hornbill, the largest of the species and a curious sight indeed. A great place to find the rhinoceros hornbill is along the Belait River, or much further inland in the Labi Forest. Be warned, however, that you’ll likely hear this bird before you see it. Slide FLYING LIZARDS: Much of the wildlife in Brunei – the dugongs and the Sunda cloud leopard – is hard to spot because it’s endangered and dispersed; you might miss the flying lizards, however, even if they’re in your hotel room. These tiny, adorable creatures, best found in Brunei’s Ulu Temburong National Park, are unforgettable when they open their “wings” and take to the air. Ulu Temburong is a great place to test your talent for spotting these covert lizards. It should be noted that Brunei is also home to the Chrysopelea paradise, or paradise flying snake, a mildly venomous snake that can glide down from the trees. 1 / 4

These animals are only a small sampling of the natural Bornean wonders that dot Brunei. There are macaques, sun bears, and perhaps even dugongs in the Bay of Brunei. The color-changing green crested lizard can be found in your local gardens. From the lowland swamps to the mountain forests, birdwatchers can find the black and yellow broadbill – a remarkable bird that covers its nests with lichen and spider webs. The magical wonders of Borneo may seem difficult to find in Brunei, but they’re never far away.

Brunei works hard to protect its endemic wildlife, and wildlife lovers need to be wary of how they interact with that delicate balance. The tiny, adorable, endangered slow loris can be found in the wilds of Borneo, but they’re also found in Brunei markets being sold as pets. As long as travelers educate themselves on the importance of non-interference and sustainable tourism, the wild wonders of Brunei will be around for a long time to come.