Meet the owner –

Barbara Katsifolis

I often get asked: Why did I pick Borneo as my area of expertise and what sparked this passion that made me change my path as a travel professional?

The foundation for Borneo & Beyond was laid back in 2012 when I decided it was time to finally visit the home of the orangutan. Borneo was a place I knew very little about even though by then it made the news due to the excessive deforestation taking place to clear forests for palm oil plantations. It was the single most eye-opening travel experience of my life. I recognised what a sheltered life we live in the Western world and how travel gives us an opportunity to learn a lot about the world we live in and appreciate many of the things we take for granted.

Borneo was still a niche market then and I knew that I wanted to explore it in depth and share my knowledge with other travellers to help them have meaningful holiday experiences and connect them with the locals where possible. I would have greatly benefited from specialist advice back in Australia when I planned my first Borneo adventure and so the idea quickly formed that it was exactly what I wanted to become, a Borneo specialist.

From there, I continued my research into Ecotourism and volunteer holidays both of which have become a trend in today’s travel environment. My first real jungle adventure was not actually in Borneo but in North Sumatra which after Borneo is the only other place where you can still find wild orangutans. That was the first time I really stepped outside my comfort zone and connected with nature and pushed myself to let go of many things deemed necessary in our Western world. That was in 2014 and up until today it remains a trip with the most memorable experiences. As I was learning what Eco tourism was all about, I consulted for a small travel business selling tour programs in North Sumatra. Due to the nature of this business I was also very fortunate to gain an insight into wildlife conservation and a behind the scenes experience at the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Project further strengthened my desire to be more involved and hopefully educate others.

After two trips to Sumatra, I finally made my long-planned return to Borneo in early 2016 and have continued to explore this fascinating destination every 3 to 4 months ever since. I started in Sabah by visiting the top tourist areas as well as travelling the roads less travelled. Then I ventured across to Sarawak and also spent time in Brunei. I met wonderful locals who welcomed me everywhere I went, showed me everything that there is to show and helped me to accomplish my mission to become a Borneo specialist and put it on the map by founding Borneo & Beyond.

Borneo is an incredibly diverse destination and coming from a travel background I knew early on that Borneo would become a more sought-after holiday destination and one that travellers as well as travel agents know very little about. My involvement as a volunteer further strengthens my local network and has given me the edge when it comes to providing clients with advice on the right itinerary for them whether that be a luxury custom tour, a volunteer experience or often a combination of both. I have it all covered and my more recent visits have shown that hard work, a genuine commitment to local tourism, trust in my local networks of suppliers and guides and well-prepared travellers make Borneo & Beyond a well-regarded small business.

Giving back

My exposure to wildlife conservation programs and responsible travel options  has inspired and motivated me to find a way to promote my experiences as part of my travel business and give back to local communities by supporting accommodation and initiatives that are owned and run by locals.

Fundraising, volunteering and embracing the local way of life in the places I visit have given me the most memorable and rewarding travel experiences. They continuously inspire me to share my knowledge with as many people as I can to raise awareness and create holiday itineraries with a difference.