If you’re considering options to combine two destinations in the same trip, a Borneo and Hong Kong multicentre holiday works really well. From the UK, you can fly direct to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific for a 3 or 4 night stopover exploring this energetic and exciting city then hop on the short, 3 hour flight to Kota Kinabalu to start your Borneo adventure – city and wildlife all in one trip!
The first time I visited Hong Kong, it was at the tail-end of 5 months’ backpacking; this time I had the time and money to fully appreciate everything on offer and Hong Kong definitely deserves a repeat visit.
One of the best things we did was to take a pre-dinner harbour cruise; an opportunity to get a real sense of the size and density of the city landscape and skyscrapers. I'm a bit of a ‘country bumpkin’, so skyscrapers aren’t something I come across often, so this was a contrast.
Getting up to the famous Victoria Peak is an absolute must but because everyone goes, it is a bit of a tourist trap. Here are a few tips to help you avoid the massive queues and disappointments from my good friend who has lived in Hong Kong for the past 8 years (you can’t beat a bit of insider info);
Firstly, ask your hotel concierge to book you a table at ‘The Peak Lookout’ in advance. The Peak Lookout is an extremely popular restaurant and is always busy, mainly because of the views, but the food is also very good. There are a few restaurants on Victoria Peak, but this is THE place to go.
Secondly; most people travel to and from the peak using the Peak Tramway, a funicular railway that travels up and down all day which is really fun. However, you're best taking a taxi up the peak, and using the tram for the journey back down; the tram queues are always far longer to go up, so you'll save some time and still get to take the classic tram ride down.
I highly recommend heading to one of the 5* hotels and visiting the bar or restaurant. Not everyone can afford to stay in a 5* hotel but dropping in for a cocktail or treating yourself to dinner is more affordable and in most cases you'll get fantastic views over the city as well.
Borneo is a perfect holiday destination; you can achieve quite a lot in a short amount of time and come away without feeling you’ve missed out on anything. Have a look at our Top 10 things to do in Borneo and see my suggestion for a 10-day itinerary in Borneo after your city break:
My Borneo holiday started with couple of nights in Kota Kinabalu so we could visit Kinabalu Park and Poring Hot Springs.
We had a private guide who took us to his favourite market where we got to try loads of fruits and vegetables that I didn’t recognise (and certainly couldn't pronounce) before showing us a great spot with stunning views of Mount Kinabalu. I recommend using a local guide as they’ll show you so many interesting things you would overlook on your own.
Leaving Kota Kinabalu early in the morning, you can take a short flight to Sandakan, the gateway to Sepilok, home to the Sepilok Orang-utan sanctuary about an hour’s drive away.
This was one of my trip highlights! I got to see the baby orang-utans at breakfast time – I could have spent hours watching them play and interact with each other. The great thing about the sanctuary is that the fully grown orang-utans are free to come and go and the young ones are looked after until they can fend for themselves.
It’s a really interesting place to visit and a lot of fun walking through the jungle watching out for orang-utans. There are some lovely lodges to stay in Sepilok, which really add to the jungle feel so staying a night in Sepilok is a great idea.
From Sepilok, we headed out further away from civilisation and to the Kinabatangan River. This is where it starts to feel like a real wildlife adventure. The Kinabatangan River is vast and I was taken aback at my first glimpse. It peacefully winds its way through the immense jungle, flat and calm.
This are is where you go to find wildlife of all sorts. I spent two days taking river cruises and night treks through the jungle and the list of animals I saw (and heard) is long! Birds, especially hornbills are a big thing here, and you’ll see plenty of them. I wasn’t really interested in birds before I arrived, but the more I learnt and saw, the more interested I became.
The other big draws are of course the monkeys, specifically the Proboscis monkey. Famous for its long, slightly odd-looking nose, they are found all along the banks of the river. I saw a whole family swinging around and play fighting – they really are quite a sight.
It’s also possible to see orang-utans in the wild if you’re very lucky, and, believe it or not - pigmy elephants! Unfortunately I didn’t see either, but it was a lot of fun scouring the riverbank in hope, whilst gliding down the river.
I really appreciated being on a tailor-made holiday at this point; our travel today included a boat along the river, a car ride through the jungle, a flight to Kota Kinabalu, a car ride to the jetty and finally a boat to Gaya Island Resort. Every detail of the journey ran perfectly smoothly and it’s reassuring to have someone meet you at every point and to ensure that a complicated day of travelling works out flawlessly.
Leaving Sandakan airport, we headed off for the ‘R&R’ part of our trip at Gaya Island and I’d recommend this as a next stop.
Arriving at Gaya Island Resort is absolutely amazing. After a few days in the jungle I was starting to feel a bit frayed at the edges so walking into the air-conditioned lobby of the resort and being handed a cold towel and a fruity drink was an absolute blessing.
Borneo holidays aren’t complete without a bit of pampering and after a busy week of travel and adventure, I think it’s deserved! It also rounds off the perfect two week holiday; city life in Hong Kong, national park in Kota Kinabalu, jungle and wildlife in Sepilok and Kinabatangan, and then top it all off with beach and relaxation at Gaya Island.
If this kind of combination interets you, contact one of our experienced travel consultants who can arrange your flights, hotels, tours, and transport. We can tailor-make your entire itinerary to suit your style and budget, so have a look at our Borneo tailor-made holidays for some ideas. If you'd prefer a city break in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, these can also be easily arranged.
For more information or to book a trip, call us on +44 1273320580 or request a quote by email.