In May 2015 Emmie and I took our first really adventurous trip - to Malaysian Borneo - and we had the most incredible time. It’s a fabulous destination for family holidays, offering amazing experiences with ancient jungles and underground river and cave systems, dazzling exotic wildlife, pristine beaches and world-renowned diving, gorgeous cities, ancient traditions and tribes, beautiful, caring people and delicious food.
We spent most of this trip in Sarawak but in March this year we are returning to discover amazing Sabah.
Here’s our top things to do with kids in Borneo [so far]:
Semmangoh Rehabilitation Centre
This is a fabulous adventure for kids and adults alike is just a 30 minute drive from Kuching and an opportunity to see semi-wild orangutans up close - from babies in their mothers arms, playful juveniles and one infamous, dominant male called Richie. These organutans have been rescued from poachers or markets where they were for sale as illegal pets, or have been found injured and treated.
The best time to see them is at the twice daily feeding sessions [9.00am - 10.00am and 3.00pm to 3.30pm]. Viewing areas put you only metres from mothers and babies, young playful organutans and if you’re lucky, Richie. It’s an incredible experience to watch the organutans swing down from the jungle to eat bananas, milk and other snacks on wooden platforms, play and swing on ropes.
The centre is well-managed, and the rangers knowledgable and helpful. There’s also an orangutan education centrewhere you can learn more about these amazing creatures and the rehabilitation process, and around 1000 other animals on the property - you can see crocodiles, gibbons and porcupines.
Bako National Park
Another highlight of our visit, Bako is a stunning national park only accessible by boat. Walk steamy jungle trails searching for the fascinating proboscis monkey and spot vipers, wild boar, lemurs and other incredible wildlife, gaze over the wild shoreline and jagged cliff-faces. Look out for the cheeky macaques who will pull your shoelaces and try to steal your food.
We took a group tour for this adventure as a guide is better fro finding and spotting the amazing wildlife, but you can do it independently.
Sarawak Cultural Village
The Sarawak Culture Village is a great day out learning about the nine ethnicities that make up the Sarawak culture from descendants of each tribe who live at the Village. See dart blowing and traditional performances, visit longhouses, learn historical dance and try traditional food. Set in beautiful grounds, the Sarawak Cultural Village is a lovely family activity that is so much fun the kids won’t even realise they are learning so much about this wonderful Bornean culture.
Kids are kept engaged by all the activities and the different tribal houses, there is even a special map for kids, with stamp stations at each tribal home to mark off as you travel through the village . Emily loved this!
Spend a day wandering the city - check out the Chinese History Museum, the Sarawak State Museum and the Cat Museum - literally thousands of pieces of cat memorabilia under one roof - take an evening sunset boat cruise along the river and see the city as it lights up, walk along waterfront and enjoy riverside food and performances. Make sure you visit the rooftop hawker market Top Spot [under the big lobster] for a fresh seafood dinner and coconut and bamboo water.
Unfortunately these giant flowers were not blooming while we were there but do check in with tour operators/hotel reception in case one flowers while you’re there. The rafflesia in Sarawak are found at Gunung Gunung National Park, a 90 minute trip by car/bus from the city. In Sabah you can find them at Poring Hot Springs in Kinabalu National Park.
Gunung Mulu National Park
Yet another incredible experience to share with your children. You can read all about our visit to Mulu National Park here, it’s a magical jungle world of adventures- visit tribal villages up-river, explore some of the biggest cave systems in the world, enormous majestic chambers and the world’s biggest underground river system, steamy jungle walks and tree top canopy adventures spotting wildlife - including the elusive hornbill - and learning about the local tribes traditions, as well as insects that look like they came straight out of pre-historic times. It’s truly incredible. Unfortunately we didn't see the evening bat exodus - when millions of bats fly out of the caves, however we will be returning to see it. A must-do!
A place to rest and relax- spend some time relaxing by the pool, on the water exploring the Abdul Rahman Marine Park, and if you’re staying at a resort, and there are many here - we recommend the Shangri-La Tanjung Aru for its fabulous kids waterpark, slides and kids club and general wonderfulness - pop the kids into Kids Club and enjoy afternoon refreshments at the sunset bar. Kota Kinabalu is a fabulous base for exploring Sabah - and we’re about to do just that in March. We can’t wait.