Approximately 16 million people live on the island of Borneo, which is shared by Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam.
This, combined with rugged terrain, unnavigable rivers and the fierce head-hunter reputation of its inhabitants, ensured that the island remained underdeveloped for many years, giving Borneo a legendary mystique as one of the most mysterious and exotic places on Earth.
For thousands of years, this image was fairly close to the truth. Borneo has been inhabited for at least 35,000 years, and life for many Borneans has changed little over the centuries.
Most people lived in harmony with nature, leading nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyles, travelling over vast areas in search of wild boar and other products of the forest.
Around three thousand years ago, traders from other lands began to frequent Borneo, connecting the island to a larger trading network extending to China, India, and beyond.
Locals collected exotic products like bird's nests and sandalwood for trade abroad but otherwise, life went on as before.
Approximately 500 years ago, Islam arrived to the island, and a number of Muslim kingdoms were established, the largest of which was Brunei, which once controlled most of the northern coast.
The name Borneo is in fact derived from the name Brunei.
Today, Borneo is still home to thousands of indigenous ethnic minorities which add to the island’s diversity and local colour.
While Borneo is rapidly modernising, indigenous culture still thrives, evident in the many traditional longhouse communities that dot the landscape of Brunei and in the native handiworks and crafts they continue to produce.
Headhunting, however, is a pastime which thankfully has retreated into legend!