So why visit Borneo for a family holiday? Best known for its abundant wildlife and mountain scenery, Borneo is also blessed with fabulous resorts, unspoiled beaches and amazing coral reefs. We were all looking forward to the Easter school holidays and our 16 night luxury holiday to Borneo!

“What are you looking forward to most?” I asked my 7 year old daughter…

“Sleeping on the plane and the curly wurly slide at the hotel.” “And you?” I asked my 9 year old son…

”Seeing Orangutans in the wild!” he answered.

Breaking the journey in Kuala Lumpur

Grainne broke up the journey with a stop in Kuala Lumpur

We flew with Malaysia Airlines and decided to spend 2 nights in Kuala Lumpur to break the outbound journey, having booked seats on the upper deck which is a lot roomier and quieter.

We stayed at the Aloft hotel because of it great location and easy transport links from the airport and around the city. It is part of KL central shopping centre and it is only about 30 minutes from the airport using the KLIA express train, so it’s a quick reach and very convenient. The rooms are big and it is rumored to have the best breakfast in the city, which my son would agree with! Aloft also has a nice rooftop pool which is always welcome after a day of sightseeing.

Kota Kinabalu, Borneo

After our two nights in KL, we took a 2.5 hour flight over to Kota Kinabalu on Borneo, where we stayed at the Shangri La Rasa Ria Resort for 6 nights.

The Shangri La Rasa Ria – perfect for families

Grainne stayed in the Ocean Wing of the Shangri-La Rasa Ria

I have to say, I could not fault this hotel - it just has everything for a perfect family holiday. We stayed in the Ocean Wing, where the rooms are a hugely spacious 105m2, have a large bathroom, a dressing room, living area and an enormous balcony with a double day bed, table and chairs and an outside double bath! The Ocean Wing also provides a complimentary mini bar, a separate private pool area for Ocean Wing guests, a separate a la carte breakfast, and daily drinks and canapes at sundown. It is well worth the upgrade and certainly made our stay all the more special.

The hotel has a wide variety of restaurants which are all of excellent standard; there are a couple of buffet options as well as an Italian, an Indian and a Japanese Teppanyaki restaurant. The hotel is a 45 minute drive in to Kota Kinabalu, or K.K. as it is known, so we ate within the resort all nights and really appreciated the variety and quality of the food options.

Many of the hotel’s activities are complimentary and there are morning and afternoon activities for both children and adults including water polo, hobi cat sailing, archery, horse riding and even croquet. There is also an 18 hole golf course adjacent to the resort. We were therefore kept suitably entertained throughout and I managed to read a couple of books. The kids loved all the activities on offer and made lots of friends!

Next stop: Sabah

Our next adventure was our 4 day trip to Sabah, flying from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan. We decided to book a private 4-day tour so that we could fit in as much as possible, yet make our travels easy with 2 children.

Meeting our driver and guide

We were met at the airport by our guide Faizar, who drove us to our hotel for the night. He was very welcoming and a very knowledgeable guide, and was able to offer a few recommendations as to where to eat that night in Sandakan.

Orangutan observation

The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre was a highlight for the kids

The following day we visited Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, a highlight for the kids as we learned all about the ongoing rehabilitation of these amazing creatures.

We spent a good half an hour on the viewing platform watching them play and eat. We also spent time in the nursery watching the young Orangutans playing on their gym trails and mucking around with each other. When we were leaving, we came close to one of them trying to escape, which my kids loved!

Bornean Sun Bears

Malayan sun bears are the smallest bears in the world and threatened by illegal hunting

Next we visited the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, whose aim is to increase awareness of the plight of these wonderful animals (the bear that Winnie the Pooh was based on). Malayan sun bears are the smallest bears in the world and threatened by illegal hunting, poaching and forest degradation. We learnt about the rehabilitation and amazing work going on at the centre, before driving up to the Kinabatangan River, which was to be our home for the next two nights.

Boat trip along the Kinabatangan River to our next hotel

Our boat twisted through a narrow corridor of lush greenery along the Kinabatangan River, Sabah's longest river which boasts one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in the region. A small number of wild orang-utans still inhabit the tree-lined banks and boat safaris like the one we were on are a fantastic way to get close to this amazing native wildlife of primates and birdlife with minimal impact.

A stay in the rainforest

The Kinabatangan River boasts one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in the region

After we checked into Bilit Rainforest Lodge we relaxed for a while and had dinner. That evening we were treated to a late evening cruise in search of wildlife – and were lucky enough to see crocodiles, gibbons and lots of brilliantly coloured birds. The kids in particular liked being on a boat at night watching the stars and looking for the Milky Way!

The following morning we got to experience the sights and sounds of the rainforest coming to life. We were very lucky to see orangutans in the wild, lots of proboscis monkeys, macaques and many other creatures as they came to drink at the water's edge.

You might be lucky to spot pygmy elephants on the river bank

We also took an afternoon cruise and saw lots more wildlife, but sadly we could not find the pygmy elephants that had been seen bathing in the water the day before! To be honest we were very happy to have seen the orangutans in the wild and it was magical for the kids to have this opportunity.

We well and truly fell in love with the oldest rainforest in the world. I would highly recommend a visit here as soon as possible, as sadly the rainforest here is reducing every year due to the deforestation and ever increasing palm oil plantations.

Back to Kota Kinabalu and the Gaya Island Resort

Take advantage of the sandy beach

Our time in the Kinabatangan was over, so we took the boat and transfer back Sandakan and flew back up to Kota Kinabalu where we spent our last 5 nights at Gaya Island resort.

Gaya Island is set on the island of Pulau Gaya; a wonderful resort and rainforest retreat just 15 minutes by speedboat from Kota Kinabalu. As the largest island in a marine conservation area, it is the perfect spot to enjoy the stunning view of Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia’s highest peak. You can go snorkelling on the house reef, try paddle boarding or kayaking or just take advantage of the main beach. You could even take the boat around the bay to the private beach which is home to the Turtle rehabilitation centre.

This lovely private resort is the perfect place for a bit of R&R. The rooms are amazing; set up in the canopy with views of Mount Kinabalu. I got up on our last morning to watch the sunrise over Mount Kinabalu and I was not disappointed!

Want to visit Borneo or plan a luxury Borneo family holiday?

Borneo makes a perfect destination for a family holiday or a luxury holiday of any kind. I could not recommend it enough! If you’d like to plan a trip here, whether it’s for a family, a honeymoon or simply for a break – I can arrange every aspect. I can organise flights, stopovers and transfers, find the best accommodation to suit your budget and arrange for private our group tours to help you include all the beaches, wildlife and jungle experiences available in Borneo. To start planning your tip, contact Grainne.

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