Malaysian Borneo might not be the first destination that pops to mind when you think "family holiday destination." Nevertheless, it's a trip well worth considering for adventurous families, and it's one that can easily be organised with the utmost in safety and comfort. Borneo is served by a wealth of convenient internal travel routes, and the sheer variety of different options - domestic air flights, driving, sailing, and 4x4 excursions - can be exhilarating on its own. You will find no shortage of basic amenities or luxuries in Borneo's many fine hotels. Borneo is a terrific destination for families that crave constant excitement; there is always another trip to take or adventure to go on. From educational opportunities in the some of the world's finest wildlife sanctuaries to exciting runs through jungle ropeways, Borneo has plenty to offer even the youngest visitors.

Wildlife Sanctuaries in Sepilok

Though the nation's profuse rainforests put a sharp limit on the number and refinement of long-distance roads available, smart travellers can make do with affordable, no-hassle domestic air travel. To reach the state of Sabah at the eastern end of Borneo, for example, simply hop a flight to Sandakan Airport. Both Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu offer direct flights on a frequent schedule. Sepilok is just 30 minutes away from Sandakan by car. This is the perfect place to introduce your family to Borneo's wildlife in a well-ordered sanctuary setting. The biggest attraction in Sepilok is the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, typically home to about 70 orangutans being prepared to return to the wild. The orangutan inhabitants of the rehabilitation centre are memorable and enjoyable nursery dwellers. Separated from human visitors by glass in order to keep them healthy, the young orangutans swing from ropes, play on tires, and more. The number of visitors coming to see the orangutan has led to the construction of other fine wildlife attractions, including a sun bear reserve and a rain-forest discovery centre. For convenient accommodations in the area, consider the sizeable chalet of the Sepilok Nature Resort. It puts you within easy walking distance of the sanctuaries.

Wildlife Spotting on the Kinabatangan River

Sepilok is also an excellent starting point for a wilder jungle adventure following the path of the Kinabatangan River. There is an outstanding selection of lodges offering riverside accommodations, and many of them include full slates of family-friendly activities. In most cases, lodge packages include two nights and a full course of meals. Lodges house single families in their own spacious wooden chalets. Study the attractions carefully; you'll often find that lodges like to combine families into small groups (eight to ten people, on average) for many of their activities. The best way to reach a Kinabatangan lodge is by taking a boat from Sandakan. Scheduling a boat safari at dusk is an excellent way to drive right into the wilderness after you arrive. The guides on these safaris are thoroughly experienced naturalists, keeping a sharp eye out at all times for noteworthy wildlife. Hornbills are sometimes visible in the distance, and probosci's monkeys in the trees are an omnipresent sight. The safaris offered at the Abai Jungle Lodge are particularly noteworthy; the dusk trips give you a peek at the impressive firefly displays that start up after dark. Popular Mares diving equipment can be sourced locally from experts who will take you on the most adventurous trips under the sea, the expense should not be spared in this once in a lifetime opportunity. Another day on the Kinabatangan and its tributaries give you opportunities for at least two more boat safaris. Dawn and dusk are the best times to go, as the local animals are most active then. The boats used for these trips are low-lying, giving your family a close-up look at the banks while you keep binoculars nearby for observing animals that are more distant. Boat safaris are an ideal way to give younger children an authentic but hassle-free look at the jungle.

The Classic Borneo Beach Jaunt

The coast is traditional - and enjoyable! - The place to end any Borneo excursion. A quick domestic flight is the easiest way to reach the prime spots. A quick hop from Kota Kinabalu will take you to a gorgeous seaside destination like Lahad Datu. The Shangri-La's Rasa RIA Resort is a convenient and satisfying example of an iconic beach hotel, in this case just 20 minutes' drive from the airport. The Rasa Ria enjoys more than three kilometres of private beach, and there are ample attractions tailored for children. These include a horse-riding school, a dedicated pool with slides, a putting green, and a children's club. There are guided hikes through the forested ridge behind the resort every day. If you're travelling with older children, though, taking a boat from Kota Kinabalu to the Gaya Island Resort is a good idea. Part of the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park, the resort hotel has an entire bay to itself, and the jungle creeps right up to the wooden villas. The Gaya resort is an especially good destination for swimmers, as there are biologist guides available to conduct guided snorkelling trips in the bay's coral gardens.


Published by Mohsin Ahsan