Geography and Landscape


Brunei is located in Southeast Asia and borders the South China Sea and Malaysia. Brunei's area is nearly 5,770 square kilometers. The sultanate is divided into four districts. Three districts (Belait, Tutong and Muara-Bandar) are located in the western part of Brunei. The eastern part in its entirety forms the fourth district: Temburong. Temburong is rarely visited but is very interesting for jungle enthusiasts.

Brunei Satellite photoPhoto:Publlic domain


Brunei sunrise over Bukit PagonPhoto:Accassidy Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported no changes made

There are oil fields off the coast. The most important settlements can be found here, including the capital Bandar Seri Begawan. Other important cities are the port city of Muara and the oil cities of Seria and Kuala Belait in the far west. Mangrove forests and lowland jungle cover the swampy flat land surrounding the cities. In eastern Brunei, coastal plains turn into hills and mountainous terrain. The highest point, the Bukit Pagon, is 1,841 meters. The large areas of untouched tropical rainforest are striking.

Climate and Weather

Brunei Sunlit Brunei RiverPhoto:kulimpapat Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Brunei has a tropical climate. The temperature and humidity are high all year round. The average daytime temperature fluctuates around 28 degrees. Rain falls all year round; from an average of 250 cm on the coast to 500 cm per year inland. The months of September to December are the wettest months; January to April the driest. That is also the best travel time. There are also tropical rain showers, but significantly less and shorter than in the previous months.

Plants and Animals


Sago Palm BruneiPhoto:fabooj Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

The untouched tropical rainforests provide an enormous variety of vegetation. Brunei jungle reserves are home to thousands of plant and tree species. Common varieties are: banana, ebony, coconut palm, mahogany, rubber plant, teak and sago palm.


Monkey Brunei

Many bird species occur in the jungles of Brunei. Also occur: monkey, buffalo, lizard, deer, goat, chicken, lion, cow, tiger and boar.


Brunei has been a sultanate for more than 600 years. Initially, the sultanate covered the entire island of Borneo as well as a number of islands that are now part of the Philippines. This changed at the beginning of the 19th century with the region being reduced to the northwestern coastal strip. In 1841, the Sultan gave up Sarawak to a British colonial adventurer as a reward for his help in quelling a rebellion. In 1846, the coal-rich island of Labuan passed into British hands. A year later the first treaty ties were established between the sultanate and Great Britain. The result was the takeover of present-day Sabah by the then British North Borneo Company in 1877. Brunei was recognized as an Independent Protected State in 1888, after which the Sultan accepted the supervision of a British resident in 1906.

Brunei MapPhoto:Public domain

Japan occupied Brunei from December 1941 to August 1945. From 1959, British control was in the hands of a High Commissioner. The 1962 uprising, carried by the Malays, was brought to an end by British interference. The uprising was actually against Brunei's plans to join the Malaysian Federation, which it abandoned in 1963. In 1978 it was decided that the protectorate treaty between Brunei and Great Britain would end in 1983. Brunei gained independence on January 1, 1984.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah BruneiPhoto:Public domain

Sultan Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah reinstates parliament 20 years after it was banned. In May 2005 there will be a change within the cabinet in favor of young people and people from the public sector. In November 2007, the former Finance Minister and brother of the Sultan Prince Jefri Bolkiah loses the appeal to the Brunei High Court. There is large-scale fraud. In June 2008 a British judge issued an arrest warrant against Jefri Bolkiah for failing to show up at a hearing on the missing state funds. In December 2010, Brunei and Malaysia resolve a border dispute and jointly operate two oil fields. In October, the Sultan announced that punishments would be imposed on an Islamic basis. In April 2014, the Sultan introduced Islamic criminal law. Brunei signs the Paris climate agreements in September 2016.


Brunei Population Photo:Zul Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Brunei is home to just over 443,593 people (2017) and has a population density of approximately 70 inhabitants per square kilometer.

The population consists of Malays (66%) and Chinese (10%). In the capital are also Europeans, Asians and Indians. Indigenous peoples such as the Ibans, Dayaks and Muruts live outside the city.


Brunei Malaysian Road SignPhoto:Public domain

Brunei's official language is standard Malay, which is defined in the constitution. A local variant is spoken by the majority of the population, Brunei Malay, which largely corresponds to standard Malay. Furthermore, Chinese, English and some indigenous languages are spoken.


Brunei Great MosquePhoto:audie Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Islam is the state religion (79%) of Brunei. Freedom of religion is included in the law, but in practice Islam is the guiding principle and only Islamic material is used in educational institutions. Besides Muslims, there are mainly Buddhists (8%) and Christians (9%) in Brunei. Some smaller schools of thought such as Daoism and Confucianism are also represented.


State structure

Brunei Parliament BuildingPhoto:Lord Mountbatten CCAttribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

The 1962 constitution of the Brunei Sultanate provides for an executive council chaired by the Sultan and a legislative body consisting of 22 members. Brunei is administratively divided into four districts headed by a district official and a district council. The highest judicial body is the Supreme Court, consisting of a Supreme Court and a Court of Appeal whose members are appointed by the Sultan.

However, some state reforms have been implemented by the Sultan as part of his "reform course". In July 2004, the Sultan revived the Legislative Council, which was disbanded after Brunei's independence in 1984 and previously served as a de facto parliament. A constitutional amendment introduced in September 2004 makes elections possible. However, the number of eligible seats is one third of the 45 parliament seats and the Sultan remains the head of the selection committee.

Finally, a cabinet change took place in May 2005 (the first in 17 years), whereby the first non-Muslim minister was appointed and education minister Abdul Aziz - responsible for strongly Islam-oriented education policy - left the cabinet.


Regions in BruneiPhoto:Golbez Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The internal political situation is calm. The tensions in society as a result of the Amedeo affair have since subsided. The Amedeo Development Corporation, the national development company led by the Sultan's youngest brother, Prince Jefri Bolkiah, went bankrupt in 1997 due to financial mismanagement of the leadership. The company's large financial losses had to be made up from national resources, which put a heavy burden on the state's finances. The affair sparked sharp contradictions within the royal family and its supporters. Prince Jefri was removed from office and has lived abroad ever since. Lawsuits are pending against his co-directors. Legal and financial settlement of the case began in 2000. The cause for conflicts has therefore decreased significantly.

In addition, a lawsuit is pending against the former Minister for Development Affairs Haji Ismail, because of alleged corruption.

For the current political situation see chapter history.


Brunei Export Photo:Ricardo Haussmann, Cesar Hidalgo, et. al. Cc-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The economy is mainly based on production of petroleum and natural gas. From 1975, the government has a majority stake in the Brunei Shell Petroleum Company, the largest oil company in the country. About 30% of the population is economically active; about half of them work for the government. The main agricultural and forestry products are rice, pepper, rubber, wood and cork. The main trading partners are Japan, the United States, Malaysia and Singapore.

Brunei International AirportPhoto:Public domain

Since 1998, the government has begun to diversify the economy. A high advisory council has indicated the general areas in which renewal and broadening seemed possible. A significant portion of the advisory board's recommendations focus on the oil and gas industry, for which a master plan has been drawn up. In addition to issuing new offshore concessions for exploration, work is being done on the development of "down stream" activities such as setting up a petrochemical industry, refining facilities and bunker options for ships.

Holidays and Sightseeing

Brunei Ulu Temburong National Park

Photo:SomeBal Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

The mini-state of Brunei, located on Borneo, is a must for nature lovers. Three quarters of the sultanate is covered with rainforest, home to an exuberant plant and animal world, and the white sandy beaches are also a crowd puller for snorkelling and diving. The remote Ulu Temburong National Park is made up of rainforest and is best explored by boat, and Tasek Merimbun Heritage Park has a black water lake.

Bandar Seri Begawan Brunei Photo:sam garza Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

In the capital Bandar Seri Begawan you can find one of the most beautiful mosques in Southeast Asia, the Sultan Omar Ali Daifuddin Mosque (1958), built in classical Islamic style, named after the 28th sultan of Brunei and including a Venetian mosaic of more over 3.5 million pieces, a gold-covered 52-meter-high main dome, Italian marble and crystal chandeliers. Behind the mosque is a stone ship in the water, a replica of a 16th century royal barque; a little further on are the Kota Batu Mausoleum, final resting place of Brunei's greatest sultan, Bolkiah, and the Royal Mausoleum, where several sultans lie. The Jame Asr Hassanil Bokaih Mosque (1992), Brunei's largest mosque, is also well worth a visit with its 29 golden domes.

Brunei Museum Photo:JERRYE AND ROY KLOTZ MD CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The Brunei Museum has exhibitions on Islamic art and on oil and gas extraction, on which Brunei mainly depends economically, but also the culture, people and history of Brunei. The Royal Regalia Museum is entirely dedicated to the current sultan of Brunei, but also to previous sultans; exhibited include gifts from foreign dignitaries. The Malay Technology Museum is dedicated to indigenous technologies and local culture.

The Royal Ceremonial Hall, where many royal ceremonies are held, can only be visited with special permission. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah's palace, Istana Nurul Iman, the largest residential palace worldwide (including 1,788 rooms and 257 toilets), is open to the population and tourists at the end of Ramadan. In the Tamu Tutong Kampong Serambagun market, indigenous tribes sell their products.

Kampong Ayer Brunei Photo:Balou46 Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

One of the highlights of a Brunei vacation is a visit to the Kampong Ayer water district, Brunei's first settlement, half of which stands on stilt houses in the waters of the Brunei River. And not just homes, but also shops, schools, mosques, fire brigade and a hospital (approx. 30,000 inhabitants). The district consists of 28 villages that are connected to each other by kilometers of walkways.

Various sights

-Bangar: accessible via a spectacular speedboat ride; overnight in Iban-longhouse

-Jalan Labi: Forestry Museum (museum, walking routes, insect collection)

-Kuala Balai: oldest place region

-Muara: Pantai Muara, Pantai Serasa, Pantai Meragang (beaches)

-Pekan Tutong: Istana Pantai (palace); Pantai Tutong (beach)

-Peradayan Forest Reserve: beautiful views of the rainforests

-Pulau Ranggu: island in river with colony of proboscis monkeys

-Sekoloh: Malay / Murut village, where one can stay among the traditional Bruneians

-Seria: Billionth Barrel Monument (in honor of the trillionth oil barrel)

-Taman Persiaran Damuan: small park with a good view of the palace of the Sultan, Istana Nurul Iman

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Dijck, Robert van den / Maleisiƫ, Singapore en Brunei

Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei
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Last updated October 2021
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