We have all heard of Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand as great places for diving and Asian culture immersion, but have you consider a less known but hidden gem destination in Borneo called – Brunei?
Well, if you enjoy some great outdoor adventures like forest hiking or wreck diving, it brings me to introduce to you this great South East Asian destination called Brunei Darussalam, especially known for Wreck Diving!
This small island nation offers some incredible diving, along with beautiful natural and architectural landmarks. Read on to find out why its a lovely destination in South East Asia not to miss out!
Where is Brunei Darussalam and is it part of Borneo
Brunei, a Southeast Asian island nation, is located on the north coast of Borneo. Though it is located on the island of Borneo, it is a sovereign nation. What perhaps not everyone knows is that Borneo diving is world-class, and, more specifically, Brunei is a diver’s paradise! Surrounded by Malaysia and on the South China Sea, Brunei offers a unique escape, offering beautiful and lush rainforests and beaches.
1 Week Itinerary in Brunei
So now that you are well acquainted with Brunei, here’s sharing with you a great 1 week itinerary of the best of Brunei both on land and below in the ocean.
Diving in Brunei and Borneo
The Borneo peninsular has always been famous for their rainforest, but diving in Borneo..really? Well, yes indeed! Brunei is a great place to get some great dives, especially wreck dives!
It is possible to do diving in Brunei all year round, with temperatures ranging from 22 °C to 30 °C. Waters can be a bit choppy in certain seasons, so be prepared with seasick pills if you get seasick often like me.
In this trip, Cez and I did a couple of dives with Diving School and Centre Poni Divers, who are also our host for our 5 Days Homestay. I went on 2 separate 1 Day dive trips and managed to see 1 wreck, 1 oil rig and a beautiful reef called Abana Reef.
Top Dive sites in Brunei
Diving in Brunei is quite impressive for such a small country compared to its neighbours. With over 60 sites to choose from, there’s a type of dive for everyone, including wreck diving.
Wreck Diving in Brunei
There are three notable wreck dive sites: the Australian wreck, the American wreck, and the oil rig wreck. All are located about a half-hour by boat from Maura harbor. The Australian and American wrecks are more suitable for advanced divers, as they are found much deeper, but the oil rig wreck is a better option for beginners.
Whichever you did, prepare your underwater camera, coz these sights will blow your mind.
Top Wreck dive spot for advance divers – Bolkiah Wreck
Another incredible wreck dive is the Bolkiah wreck, a mid-sized wreck that is fun for divers of all experience.
Located about a 40-minute boat ride from Serasa Beach, this dive offers barracuda, lionfish, and even the occasional frogfish sighting!
I was lucky to have a photographer with me on the trip, who managed to capture some incredible shots for me. Perhaps it’s time for me to learn some underwater photography tips so that I can take some of my own photos in the future.
TIP: Doing wreck dives need an advanced open water certification. Make sure you have some experience before you attempt it. Also, having a fit body and strong lungs are helpful to make your diving experience more enjoyable. You can always prepare in advance of your dive by doing some cardio improvement exercises.
Coral and Marine Life in Brunei waters
Aside from wreck dives, Brunei offers some incredible coral and marine life. Abana Reef, one of the most popular dive sites in Brunei, is a gorgeous reef where you can find colorful coral, diverse fish species, and even seahorses. The spot is good for both beginner and advanced divers, making it an ideal option for anyone visiting Brunei on a diving trip.
What to do in Brunei city
Aside from being a country rich in nature, Brunei has some incredible architecture and history, as it houses some of Asia’s most beautiful religious and cultural sights.
1 Day Cultural Tour in Brunei
One of the things to do in Brunei would be to take time out to do a cultural tour, which is a great way to see the country’s best historical sights and landmarks. We did ours with Poni Divers and managed to check out the grand and majestic Omar Ali Saifuddien and Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosques are one of the highlights and great visits, offering a culturally enriching visit break from the incredible nature that Brunei has to offer.
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
Perhaps the most breathtaking mosque that we visited was the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. Located in the island’s capital of Bandar Seri Begawan, it is often considered as one of the most beautiful mosques in the Asia Pacific. We hopped on a boat to get the best views of this breathtaking monument, and the views certainly exceeded our expectations.
Take a day trip tour of Kampung Ayer
Visit the world’s biggest floating village here in Brunei – Kampung Ayer. Put on some good walking shoes, sun screen and plenty of water to explore this large settlement on Stilts.
You can rent a little boat to bring you across to Kampung Ayer start the walk, and be amazed at some of these houses and how people live over the water in these wooden structures. And yes, these are strong structures that will not topple easily as unstable as it looks.
Mind you, this place is now a protected area and Brunei and if you ever get to walk into one of these houses, some of the families here are well to do and have decorated their place beautifully with ornaments, chandeliers and carpets. And there are some houses with fully air-conditioned and a sound system so good you can start a club.
Let me remind you again, this is wooden houses on stilts over the water.
Along your walk, be mindful not to fall into the water by mistake, and look out for interesting things along the way like house pets, birds, bicycles, min flower and vegetable gardens and more.
Enjoy Brunei Local Food at Gadong Night Market
If you’re looking to spend a night in the city, check out the Gadong Night Market. Open every evening, this is a great place to grab a bite to eat, whether it be fresh fish or chicken that is cooked right in front of your eyes!
Private Mangrove Tour and Boat Ride
But let’s not forget about the mangroves and wildlife here you can see here in Brunei. Consider taking a mangrove boat tour at sunset!
For most of us who will be rather lucky if you do it at the right timing, you may even get a peek of the rare proboscis monkeys native to the island. A boat tour only cost a few dollars per person and is a great (and affordable) way to get out onto the river and explore the beautiful mangrove rainforest.
Other Unique Brunei Attractions and Sights
Enjoy a Meal at Eco Ponies Garden
For locally sourced cuisine, consider visiting the Eco Ponies Garden. It is a beautiful farm stay located south of the Muara harbor where you can have a meal created exclusively from local ingredients. It is also possible to spend the night, offering you an opportunity to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city.
Peaceful picnic at Tasek Merimbun Heritage Park
And if you’re on the search for beautiful birds, head even farther south to Tasek Merimbun Heritage Park, Brunei’s largest lake. Here you can see gorgeous views and catch a glimpse at the varied wildlife that the island has to offer.
It’s so peaceful here and hardly any tourists here, so its just amazingly tranquil.
These impressive Brunei attractions range from natural sights to architectural landmarks, so you’re sure to find a wide variety of activities if you ever want a quick break from diving.
Check out Asia’s only Stingless Bee Farm In Brunei
Stingless bees are a rarity in this world. And yet you can find them here in Brunei at Tasbee – Stingless Bee Farm.
Where to stay in Brunei
When diving in Brunei, Poni Homestay is an excellent option for accommodation. They offer various room size options, free airport transfer, and you can even organize diving excursions with them! They offer complimentary breakfast, air conditioning, a full kitchen, and even a washing machine!
Aside from their accommodations and amenities, Poni Homestay offers a variety of dive packages, both single and multiple days, which is a great option for people who aren’t so keen on planning. You are also able to use their bicycles and rent kayaks, hobie cat sailboat, windsurfing board, snorkeling gear for free!
Poni Homestay is located close to the beach and if you book both their dive and accommodation, it minimises all the hassle of arranging the transportation in between.
Transportation Options to Brunei
Brunei is accessible by plane and can be easily reached from both Singapore and Malaysia conveniently. Flights from Kuala Lumpur to Brunei International airport in Bandar Seri Begawan is about 2 hours 30 minutes, with flights from Singapore being a little bit shorter. A helpful note: flights in the afternoon tend to be cheaper!
By Sea or Water
Many people exploring Southeast Asia swing by Brunei via Malaysia borders. One can go by ferry(s) from Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia out to Labuan and then to Serasa ferry terminal near Muara in Brunei.
By Land or Road
A lot of travellers I met when I was in Brunei came from the town Miri over in Sarawak Malaysia and took a coach/ bus over to get to the city of Brunei. However, it is a much longer way and get a bit tiring too with all the checkpoints and the crampiness of a minibus.
So now that I have shared all the best sights and attractions not to be missed here in Brunei, are you ready to visit this country for some incredible wreck diving or outdoor sights and feasting?
What do you prefer –
city exploration or wreck exploration down under?