Borneo customer reviews
We are very proud of the feedback that we get from our trips and are pleased to share reviews from past travellers. These are kept as up to date as possible. Please have a read through to get a real sense of the kind of experience that you might have on a family holiday travelling to Borneo with us. And please do ring if you’d like to talk with someone who has been there and travelled with the kids.
Holder Family (with children aged 18 x 2, 16, 13 and 10)
Travelled Summer 2019
Hi Helene – We had a fabulous time in Borneo and the guides were brilliant, and perfect for our group. We had the most amazing holiday ever, and it exceeded expectations in so many ways, especially the surprise of seeing my brother and his family! It was well co-ordinated and I had no idea they were coming, so it was amazing surprise for me and my two daughters.
We are all happy for you to use the photos on social media if necessary, and thank you for your input into our amazing holiday. I’m still feeling a bit jaded and have some post-holiday blues, not wanting to get back to normality and work. It was a great holiday and seems to have inspired one of my daughters to want to travel. Her favourite part was the homestay, which was probably the most challenging part on paper, yet she loved it.
Thanks, once again!
Mistry Family (with children aged 9 & 10)
Travelled Easter 2019
Dear Kelly – We had a truly amazing time in Borneo. Turtle island was fantastic a really great experience and we had a great guide who was very knowledgeable and talkative.
Sepilok – was not our favourite place on the trip it is nice to visit the sanctuary maybe for two hours on route to somewhere else. The sun bear place is ok for 20 minutes. The rainforest discovery centre we didn’t really see anything, I think it’s better to visit here at sunrise or sunset but if you are visiting other jungle parts of Borneo it’s probably not necessary. The lodge had really fantastic food and lovely staff. The accommodation was huge if not a little strange bathrooms very basic with limited hot water. Service was a bit slow but they were very willing to tailor food for our diet and allergies and English level was great.
Sakau Rainforest Lodge – we really loved this place. The two villas side by side were perfect for our family and of a lovely standard and the children loved the pool. The guides here were very good, but waiting staff English was less than great. We did the additional trip to see the elephants, which was well worth it could have stayed an extra day longer here.
KK there really wasn’t much to see actually within KK we took a wonder around and to be honest at night it didn’t feel that safe. The hotel room was not ready until quite a while after check in time, which seemed to be a reoccurring theme in the whole of Borneo.
Mulu we really loved, hotel and rooms were lovely. We had the best guide for the whole trip. Food was very limited. The national park was amazing and we could have enjoyed many days there hiking some of the longer hikes if only the weather was a bit cooler.
Shangri La – again a very long delay in checking in since the rooms were not ready. Our initial impression was not great. This hotel is not really our kind of hotel and we were wishing we had longer in Mulu instead. The room is very old-fashioned and small and the whole hotel is very chaotic and doesn’t feel luxurious at all. But I have to say it grew on us we upgraded to the ocean wing which is so much better and we only ate in the Indian and Italian restaurants both of which were happy to tailor dishes for gluten free and dairy free and vegan. My daughter loved the horses and went for a ride galloping along the beach every day, my son enjoyed the slide and pool and football on the lawn. And my husband played golf a couple of times and therefore I got some peace. And by the end of it we said we might actually come back mainly because our daughter was so in love with the horses.
The trip was overall fantastic despite the few criticisms above and it is by far our second favourite family holiday closely behind South Africa and safari. Our children are certainly ‘templed out’ but can never grow tired of animal spotting…. Many thanks again we really did enjoy our trip. Cannot wait to decide where our next one might be
Walker Family (with children aged 6, 9 & 11)
Travelled Christmas/New Year 2018-19
Hello Helene. We had a fabulous holiday. It was so, so good. So many memories. In brief Mulu was my favourite bit and so amazing – we all loved it. Turtle island snorkelling and saving hatchlings was a real treat and most unexpectedly great part of the holiday. Our guides were awesome, truly brilliant. We have got some really special family memories. Thank you for all your help organising.
Davenport Family (2 adults)
Travelled October 2018
Hi Liddy – We thoroughly enjoyed the trip and have told our friends and family they should visit. The guides were fantastic and made it all the more memorable and we were lucky enough to see elephants, crocodiles, orang-utans and proboscis monkey. Accommodation was good and comfortable.
My only slight negative would be the food in the first of the lodges we stayed where the meat was fairly poor quality compared to the food we had across the rest of our trip. The Pacific Sutera and Shangri La were both lovely hotels and were lucky enough to be upgraded at the Sutera to a suite.
Although we booked the Shangri-La and enjoyed it I think the 3 days were enough and would possibly offer other options closer to KK as the only issue with it if staying for any length of time is that it is a little isolated and doesn’t lend itself to being able to explore local area (although there is a shuffle bus).
Would certainly look at doing a similar trip in the future.
Family S (with children aged 7 & 10)
Travelled Summer 2018
When we asked our 7 year old daughter to describe in three words our trip to Borneo she said ” Awesome, adventurous and magical” our son aged 10 replied ” all positive words!”. The whole trip was well organised with excellent guides who were very knowledgeable and passionate about the environment and animals within it. We were fortunate enough to see wild orangutans and that along with “turtle time” on Selingan Island made for very special lifelong family memories. We had issues with an internal flight and one of the accommodation options but the support both in the UK and Borneo ensured this did not affect our itinerary and issues were resolved. An amazingly diverse country, which we thoroughly enjoyed travelling through.
Frank Family (with children aged 8, 11 & 13)
Travelled Summer 2018
Hi Kelly – Our trip to Borneo was great thanks, we really enjoyed it and the kids also got a lot out of it… we have many happy memories, particularly our time in the rainforest lodge. We had a fantastic guide called Bonbon and we saw a lot of wildlife including several wild orangutan sightings. We also enjoyed the trip to the sanctuary and the rainforest experience with the canopy walkway.
Greig Family (with children aged 12 & 14)
Travelled Summer 2018
Hi Kelly – everything worked out great with the trip. We got the connecting room in KL that we requested. The boys really enjoyed themselves. They seemed to particularly enjoy getting caught in a thunder storm racing along the river on a boat in Billit! We saw loads of wildlife including orangutans, pygmy elephants, crocodiles and flying squirrels. I rather liked the Sepilok Jungle Resort. The staff were really good and it was nice walking through the jungle to breakfast. The boys also had the experience of an old style TV which only had one channel and just seemed to show Malaysia’s Got Talent!
Mackechnie Family (with children aged 10 & 14)
Travelled Summer 2018
Hi Kelly – we had a great time. I think we all had our different favourite bits. For me it was definitely seeing a herd of wild elephants in Kinabatangan, including seeing some of them swim across the river, right in front of us. M loved the sunbears, and says that when she is old enough, she will go back there as a volunteer. E really enjoyed the rafting and seeing the elephants. C’s favourite was the orang utan rehabilitation centre at Sepilok and also the tea plantation.
All in all, we had a great time. People were friendly, food was good and we were amazingly lucky with the selection of wildlife we saw. I think other families would also really enjoy the rafting trip and the snorkelling day. We have a great collection of photos and some wonderful memories.
Thank you so much for putting it all together for us.
Lee Family (with child aged 8)
Travelled Summer 2018
Hi Helene – Oh my goodness what an experience and a half! Amazing place with so much to see, do and experience! Highlights include the homestay, orangutan sanctuary, seeing an orangutan in the wild sitting in her nest, spending my birthday watching a turtle lay her eggs and the ranger release that evening’s hatchlings into the sea, managing the fixed canopy walk at the rainforest discovery centre and A completing the bubble-maker diving course complete with a shore dive 300m out to sea and 2.5-2.75m depth.
The local guides were all brilliant, a special mention to Chris who A really like – so much so he cried when we said goodbye to him just before we got on the boat for Mannuken Island.
We survived the first night at the homestay with no luggage as the airline had ‘kindly’ taken it off the plane at Mulu – huge thank you to Shawn and Vicky Hall for lending us some clothes. Chris was brilliant as keeping us up to date about our luggage which arrived the second afternoon at the homestay – hoorah.
A was ill on the last night of the holiday and the staff at Mannuken Island were fantastic, going above and beyond – anther special mention for Ben the duty manager who gave me his room phone number in case we needed him in the night.
I think we did as much as we could in two weeks and four days at Mannuken Island was much needed to relax and not feel rushed – although we were out of the villa (which was amazing with a view hard to be beaten) from 8am until after 5pm each day.
A coped incredibly well will all of the holiday, he got a lot of attention with his blonde hair, freckles and perfect manners (which come out for anyone who isn’t a parent).
As the plane taxed down the runway at Heathrow A discovered that The Greatest Showman was available to watch and declared “this is the best holiday ever”, pretty much the theme continued for the next two weeks.
We have both said that for our next adventure we’ll probably base ourselves at two locations then do trips from there, it’d be good to see some of the culture and local life – all three of us like people watching…
Thanks so much for arranging our amazing holiday!
Wilson-Smith Family (with child aged 9)
Travelled Summer 2018
Hi Liddy – the trip was fabulous for the most part. Our stay in Mulu was great. The Marriott hotel and the surrounding rainforest and caves were amazing. I am considering another visit as I love the idea of walking and swimming through from one side of the cave to the other. But that would be for me alone. The homestay was wonderful. The family fun and friendly. It really was very interesting to see how they lived and how simple life can be.
It was so peaceful (when the cockerels weren’t crowing) and the food was delicious. It was amusing teaching the children all the bad card games we know (Irish snap – snap with a difference, Cheat – I think it went against their nature). They were such fun and we laughed a lot.
I was a bit disappointed at the lodge on the Kinabatangan river. The rooms were nice but it was just a bit crowded and simplistic for my liking. The food was served and left in the open throughout the service….
…Our visit to the orang-utan and sun bear sanctuaries were fabulous. It was great to see the work being carried out. But we had a magical experience in the discovery centre. While sat on a bench looking at plant life, an orang-utan came down from a tree to collect a jack fruit from the floor. It stopped to look at us. We were only about three feet away. It just sat there looking at us for a while then collected its fruit and hung around eating it.
The jungle lodge near the sanctuaries was very nice but I think we might have preferred to finish without unpacking in another hotel for 1 night. I’m a traveller and I’d had enough of the busman’s holiday by this time.
The Shangri-La at Rasa Ria was as it should be. A perfect way to end a holiday. 5 star comfort, a bath on the balcony at sunset, sunrise with a horse ride on the beach, a round of golf for me while the girls enjoyed the spa. It is definitely somewhere we will return to. We didn’t have time to explore the 65 acres of rainforest on a bike!!!!!
So overall, it was a great holiday with a blip in the middle.
May Family (with children aged 7 & 10)
Travelled Summer 2018 – including Mt Kinabalu climb
Hi Helene – I just wanted to send you an email to say what a great time we all had in Borneo. It was very full on but so sleekly organised which took the stress right out of it. Our first guide Mason who we had for 5 days (from Asia Green) was absolutely brilliant. He was so attentive, generous, sat with us at meal times, lovely sense of humour and generally went above and beyond.
We were jet lagged to begin with and he was so understanding. The guides who got us up Mount Kinabalu were also very good (Joe and Segal). J and F made it to the summit but [my daughter] and I didn’t. The wind was horrendous and peaking that night… J said he would have stopped her going on anyway due to the danger of her being blown away. It was touch and go whether he would have let our son carry on and was constantly re-assessing. I therefore stayed back with my daughter at Laban Ratan. A local 6-year old girl was also not allowed to carry on. The boys said it was horrendous… clouds, mist, wind… but they did it!! No sunrise to be seen though! The team spirit at Laban Ratan was fantastic.
We unfortunately did not get to Poring Springs. The driver took us straight from Mount K to Sabah Tea Planation, not sure what happened there! Sabah tea plantation was lovely, relaxing and our guide Hamid was very accommodating….
The beach resort was perfect for the kids but busy….
Overall we had a fantastic time and saw everything we went to see. I wished we had had a few more days there to ease the initial jet lag and relax a bit more but that was my constraint. It is a great country with lovely people. Thank you for your help and assistance in arranging a very memorable holiday. Need to start planning the next one now!!
Cocca Family (with children aged 5 & 9)
Travelled Easter 2018
Hi Lee – Here is our review of our Borneo trip as promised. We had been longing to get back to adventurous travel after having our kids, so once our youngest turned 5 we decided we would be ready to go. And there’s no better company than Stubborn Mule! Everything was taken care of from when we landed to our departure and our guides throughout were superb. Our destination: Borneo and our first stop Mulu National park. We stayed right in the middle of the rainforest.
We had a couple of days to orient ourselves so we went on walks in the rainforest, swam in waterfalls, walked across one of the longest canopy walks in the world and climbed a tree top tower. We saw snakes, lizards, stick insects, scorpions and so much more. Noah our excellent guide took us to the Deer Cave, the largest cave in the world. We saw so many bats. In the evening we waited for the bat exodus and saw bats being chased by bat hawks.
On our way back to our lodge, the bats attracted by the insects near our head torches swooped down up close and personal so we could see them clearly too. Then we had a river-boat ride to Clearwater / Wind show caves. The caves were fascinating with stalactites and stalagmites and a thounderous underground river. The kids absolutely loved swimming in the clearwater river mouth.
Then we were off to the homestay. We weren’t sure how this was going to pan out but we stayed with the most friendly of families with children similar in age to ours. The kids had a whale of time playing and finding out about each-others cultures. Some of the similarities – all kids play with iPhones and like Peppa Pig and some of the differences – boiling water with a large kettle and then using a jug to poor water over ourselves to shower! We saw pineapples growing and helped to make spring rolls. The highlight was the walk to the local river and picnic. The kids loved swinging from tree vines like Tarzan and playing in the river. Even a leech on my son’s toe couldn’t stop him. My 9-year old didn’t want to leave.
Next we were off to a tea plantation. On the way we stopped at a fish farm to have our toes tickled by the fish and we visited a spa and local market and learnt about the Japanese death marches. Next came the moment we had been waiting for, the Orang-utans. We visited the Sepilok Orang-utan sanctuary where we were able to get very close to adolescent Orang-utans and to see previously released Orang-utans feed. To our surprise, the Orang-utans were then chased away by macaques who had arrived to have their share of the food. It was amazing to see the orang-utans swing above our heads as they made their escape into the forest.
Our night walk was just as amazing. We saw flying squirrels glide from tree to tree, poisonous snakes waiting for prey, scorpions, frogs and more stick insects. The next day we visited the sun bear sanctuary. There were so many to see, another brilliant experience for the kids. Next it was time to see the Proboscis monkeys. Again another fascinating experience to be in among the mangroves watching these monkeys swing from tree to tree in large family groups and of course we saw more snakes.
Then it was on to another jungle lodge, accessible only by boat on the banks of the Kinabatangan River. This was the highlight of our trip and where we saw the value in booking with Stubborn Mule. We went on three river-boat trips in small groups of 7 or so. Our guides really stood out as knowing their stuff. There were quite a few boats sailing the river but our guides seem to find animals first and were really knowledgeable compared to the other guides on boats filled with 20 or so passengers. We saw pygmy elephants, crocodiles, wild orang-utans nesting, kingfishers, hornbills, and every type of monkey and so much more. It was a real experience for the kids to see animals in their natural habitat.
Next another highlight that my 5-year old had been looking forward to for so long – seeing sea turtles and snorkelling. Again our guide J was excellent! He ensured that we had a heads up before anyone else as to when we would be able to see the sea turtle laying eggs. He ensured that our kids were able to sit right at the front and get an excellent view. He also ensured that the kids had the opportunity to release some of the baby sea turtles into the sea. The kids loved it.
We ended the trip at a seaside resort with more snorkelling, some sea kayaking and some rest before making our way home but not till we had seen some wild boars, more macaques and even a sea snake! A brilliant adventure for all the family that we will never forget. Thanks again Stubborn Mule for helping us have the trip of a lifetime and for helping our kids understand a little bit about another part of the world.
Weir Family (with children aged 8, 10 and 11)
Travelled Easter 2018 – including Mt Kinabalu climb
We had a fantastic holiday and as you rightly say Borneo is an amazing country… The climb was fantastic and the children loved every minute. We were incredibly lucky with the weather… no rain… and we got to the summit at about 5.30am… still dark but we watched the sun rise on our way down. The children literally ran down the mountain… I felt like I was doing a trail run trying to catch up and we were back at Timpohon Gate at 11.20am.
Travelled Summer 2017
Hi Helene. Thanks for the email, we had a wonderful time, my kids and I loved every minute. One of the highlights had to be the homestead, the family we stay with where lovely. When we arrived at Mulu you had booked us two rooms when we only need one, apart from that what an amazing place. Has to be the best holiday the kids have ever done (their words) even better than Disney!!!
Base Family (with children aged 7 and 9)
Travelled Easter 2017
Thanks for helping us explore Borneo. It was amazing. Accommodation was basic, even compared to our previous 2 months in Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Thailand, but it was a world wind of activity that followed lazy Thailand perfectly. Caves amazing, river cruises amazing, orangutans and proboscis monkeys amazing, fireflies really amazing as they came with a really clear night and a shooting star, turtle island too amazing. Boys loved it all. Happy to give more feedback when home in a few months if you want it, but for now, thanks a million.
Liddy – We have now been back in the UK for a couple weeks following our 6-month trip. I think I may have briefly written to you thanking you for arranging our Borneo adventure… but anyway I thought I’d write again to say…. A MASSIVE THANK YOU.
By the time we got to Borneo, we had already spent three weeks in Sri Lanka exploring, just a long week in Cambodia at Angkor Wat and a month in Thailand island hopping and chilling out.
Borneo was a great next step. Lovely to be looked after by the local guides (and local people) and such a great itinerary. When asked it still gets the top vote (always close with Namibia) from the boys as well as us.
It was a truly inspiring, energising and nourishing for the soul.
It’s impossible to tell friends how cool it was because there was just so many highlights – from bats and caves to tracking with locals at the homestay, so fireflies, shooting stars, orang-utans, turtles etc.
Thanks again and if there is ever an opportunity to work for you in any capacity I’d love to get into helping families do what we did.
Cailloteau Family (with three children aged 4, 7 and 9)
Travelled October 2016
The trip to Borneo was a total blast. It was a fabulous mix of human experiences, jungle and beaches. Everybody was delighted – the kids really liked the home stay (all were disappointed to leave so fast after having made so many friends), the turtle experience, the snorkelling (from Turtle Island) was absolutely amazing and the monkeys in the lodge were a bit scary but really cool.
The grown ups enjoyed all of the above, as well as the canope and all the other bits… at Sabah Tea we went to a real fish spa ( fishes are massive) and it was really fun. This was because we couldn’t do the hike and they ran out of many ‘dry’ activities materials… it was definitely the right choices to upgrade for the last few days and definitely worth the wait of knowing if we could stay all 5. We absolutely adored the end.
If we had to do it again, would do the exact same but with 2 nights at the home stay.
Floyd Family (with four children aged 11, 9, 7 and 7)
Travelled Summer 2016
Hi Kelly – We had an absolutely amazing time! Taking 4 young children to Asia was always going to be a big change from our customary camping or gite in France option, but Borneo offered the perfect introduction to a vastly different climate, culture, food and noise – plus the opportunity to see for ourselves all that rainforests have to offer in terms of wildlife.
Booking our holiday through you ensured that we fitted in all of the places of most interest to the family and also that there was no additional hassle in terms of finding our way there or sorting out accommodation etc – which made for a really relaxing time for us adults. More than this though, most of the guides allocated to us were fun, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and great with the children – and really brought to life all aspects of the areas we visited.
Special mention on this score must go to Jum (not sure how it’s spelt) who met us at Sandakan airport and took us to Sepilok and to Bilit. She grew up in the area and clearly loved it and knew a lot about it. She answered loads of our questions about the history, culture and environment of the region, and on our boat trips on the Kinabatangan River helped the children to spot loads of amazing birds, animals and reptiles around us. She made us feel like guests of honour in the lodge at Bilit – with our own private boat, and special food for the children etc. She was great!
The only thing to mention on the other side of the balance would perhaps be the standard of some of the accommodation offered. We entered into it in the spirit of an “adventure” – however the lack of running water at times in the accommodation at Mulu was difficult when it was so hot and humid. Also the fact that our longhouse had not properly been completed meant a dangerous 8-foot drop at one end of the building. In addition, we moved the last part of our stay to Pulau Tiga rather than Pulau Mantanani on the advice of the tour company. It was fine, and we enjoyed it, but was pretty basic in terms of the accommodation and the facilities offered….
Two weeks in Borneo felt a lot longer than that and I think it was largely because we managed to cram in so many different sights and experiences. It’s going to take us a few weeks to fully digest what we saw – and to print out the photos! – but I know already that the holiday exceeded all of our expectations.
Family W (with two children aged 8 and 11)
Travelled Easter 2016 (to Borneo and Burma)
We’re just over a week back and l want to email to thank you for such a fabulous trip! As we spent the last few days on the beach (perfect location!) we tried to capture the highlights as a family. As l asked my son (11) how would he describe it to our friends he said “mummy you just couldn’t in words!”. We had so many highlights that the list just kept going!
The expertise and friendliness of the guides as though they were a ‘safe covering’ over our family, was fabulous. …the homestay….Saba tea plantation, night rainforest treks, the overnight train (18 hrs!) watching rural life go by, ( my husband thought his wife was returning to her teenage backpacking days!) the character of Mandalay, horse and cart ‘taxis’ around the pagodas of Bagan, we loved lnle Lake and life on stilts… cycling round the paddy fields watching 16 of the fastest rice planters in Myanmar!… and as for the elephant camp, that was such a wonderful family experience… it was right up there on the ‘best experiences ever’ list!
Our guide had asked us to write to you especially with feedback about the homestay in Borneo… what a truly authentic experience and a top of the list for our daughter, playing and swimming with the village children. The family were just lovely and brought a local picnic to the river. We could have stayed for days! Want to complement the guide Chris too. He was very family-focused and his outlook on tourism in the homestay was so sensitive.
So Liddy without having you to read on and on…we had a stunning time and really hope that the experience matters long term in our children’s lives as an exposure to culture and a celebration of the diversity of our world. It was a poignant time in the history of Myanmar with the presidential elections taking place and Aung San Suu Kyi’s long struggle for a democratic government finally being recognised while we were there. So what an education the trip was for our children and helps instil so many values we want for our family life.
Thank you too for ‘stepping in there’ to help David with accessing the care he needed with his dog bite. It was a tense time for us as we anticipated him having to leave the country. You were an answer to prayer!
When the bank balance recovers, the culture experience needs a major top up and my children’s mummy needs another reminder of her backpacking days, we will be back to you!
Family S (with two children aged 13 and 17)
Travelled summer 2015
The best part of the holiday was probably the homestay in a village in Kinabalu National Park Facilitated by a fantastically knowledgeable guide. We had the opportunity to stay in a small village with stunning views of Mount Kinabalu. We were able to stay with a family who had four generations under one roof, the youngest being one week and the oldest 93 years and to experience a very different way of life, eat locally produced food and with excellent interpretation learn about our hosts’ lifestyles and all enjoy the company of our hosts.
We were greeted by many of the villagers who added to our incredible time, the kids played together, language was not an issue.
We walked in the jungle in the rain, swim in the river, attempted to catch fish and picnic with our hosts and the villagers beside the river. Did I mention my son cooking with the host family and we were shown how to collect rubber and forage for fruit and vegetables as well as fish with a net and bare hands. Memories for us all to treasure. We got invited back for Christmas!
Seeing the orangutans in the wild near the sanctuary made us appreciate the success of the work. The stay at river kinabantan was incredible so could equally be my favourite. We had excellent guides really knowledgeable, helpful and flexible. I don’t think we could have seen or learnt so much without them
Advice for other travellers?
Be prepared for the unexpected! River trekking in the river rather than besides. Amazing fun.
Be ready to question your own views and values.
Be prepared to get wet, you will soon be dry again. Perhaps get your rain macs etc in Borneo and rubber shoes rather than walking boots.
Be ready to try a variety of food and particularly some unusual fruits!
Have plenty of strong sun cream and insect repellent.
Have a waterproof camera.
Be ready for seeing and absorbing.
Don’t be put off by having a guide, we thought we would feel less intrepid but we learnt and laughed so much.
To summarise, the best holiday we have ever been on!
Family H (with three children aged 8, 12 and 13)
Travelled summer 2015
Dear Liddy – Yes, thank you we had a lovely holiday. Sorry it has taken a while to get back to you, children finally back at school. Working backwards – we all really enjoyed the latter part of the holiday and felt we had earnt the rest! The Rasa Ria was lovely – we upgraded to one of the ocean wing rooms when we arrived as they had a ‘deal’ on and the kids particularly enjoyed the outdoor bath. What was also lovely was having one of the ground floor rooms, which meant we had direct access through our own back gate to the beach/pool/garden.
We had too much packed into our itinerary for Sandakan before flying to KK and a lot of it not really of interest to the kids. Our guide was happy to adjust the itinerary for us.
The highlight for W and the children was Selingan Island, so really glad we fitted this into the itinerary and were able to go. The children snorkelled the whole afternoon, which was a new thing for them, and I suspect something they will look for on future holidays!
W’s highlight was the turtles themselves, including wild baby turtles hatching and finding their way down the beach in the afternoon whilst we were just sitting there! The night viewing was all very well organised (and not too hectic, only 36 people staying there the night we were there. If the full 80 were in residence I think the turtle viewing would be a nightmare!). Accommodation/food basic but fine.
The hotel in Sandakan was a business-like/characterless as we expected, but the pool lovely and the kids wanted to spend longer in it, but the itinerary didn’t really allow it. Actually we didn’t need to the village/fire flies/restaurant tour. It felt too much, being as we had spent time on the river at Sandakan and were going on to the island the next day. We had tried to suggest not doing this whole trip and just seeing the village/going for dinner, but they said it was all one trip and couldn’t split it out.
Actually it was just us in the boat and could easily have been adjusted/reduced to accommodate the kids. The tour people insisted on picking us up at 4:00 and we spent far too long cruising about upriver – it felt like they were wasting time/waiting for it to get dark to see the fire flies. Stopping into the village for tea was fun. But by the time it got dark enough for fire flies we had all had enough of sitting in the boat and we just asked to head back to the restaurant. The seafood restaurant was nice, but it was quite late by the time we got there and had out meal, given we were up early the next day for Selingan.
Prior to this Sepilok was fab – the highlight for me was the night walk in the sanctuary with a guide (which we stumbled on ourselves and hadn’t been mentioned by our guide). We were asked to come back to the rehabilitation centre at 6pm and a guide met us and showed us back into the actualy orang-utan nursery area, in order to see the flying squirrels – we did. But what was more amazing was that one of the orang-utans actually turned up and sat a couple of metres away from us feeding. That was amazing. The Sepilok hotel was lovely, full of character, great food, lovely smoothies and such for the kids. The best food on the trip and lovely accommodation in the individual chalets – kids even had a hammock outside their room!)
Loved Sukao, although it was really hot and humid there. All very friendly, well organised, other than there was never anyone in the bar when you wanted a drink before dinner! The trips out of the river were amazing – the guides have such sharp eyes. Saw wild monkeys of every description including orang-utans. Also pygmy elephants.
Prior to this as you had warned the Celyn hotel wasn’t great, not helped by the torrential rain we were having and it was really cold in the room. I am sure if we had every seen the view it would have made a difference, but the clouds didn’t lift from the moment we landed in KK til we got to Sukao. The hotel was deserted we were the only guests.
The village itself was an experience. A beautiful setting, but enjoyment hampered by the torrential rain and power cut in the village (and again no view of the mountain at all during the time we were there!). Coming from expat life it was a bit of a shock to the system, but good for the kids to realise that not everyone lives the life of privilege that they do. The village children were wonderfully welcoming and L was everyone’s favourite! The rubber tapping was interesting, but we should have left the village after our morning walk not sat about for hours in a dark house in the rain when there was no need to hang around!
So sorry for working backwards, but overall a very wonderful holiday. The tour company in Borneo were extremely efficient and the second guide (June) was particularly good at adjusting the schedule for us to fit in extra things at Sepilok, possibly would have been nice to spend a second night there as the rainforest discovery centre looked a good place to spend a bit longer and we were rushing about a bit to fit in everything we wanted to do.
Sorry this may be a little more detail than you really wanted, but thank you for all your help in getting the trip organised. You really offered a personalised service and were very knowledgeable about everywhere we were going which was fantastic.
Family J (with three children aged 14, 16 and 16)
Travelled summer 2015
Return journey was long but smooth, jet lag not too bad at all. Holiday was a great success and overall J and I felt it exceeded our expectations. Particular highlights were orangutans at Sepilok, hornbills and monkeys on the Kinabatangan, turtles large and small on Lankayan, bat caves and the pinnacles in Mulu (wow, the pinnacles trail is tough), monkeys and monitor lizards sharing the resort on Pulau Tiga and a lot of excellent diving and snorkelling.
We had two rounds of lost baggage, which was a little frustrating, but the bags caught us up within 24 hours both times so not a big deal in the end. Overall we felt the itinerary flowed very well and we had about the right time in each location. Of course there was a fair bit of travel but it did no feel too much and of course a lot of it was quite interesting in its own right.
Keeping three teenage kids entertained is never easy but they were happy throughout and genuinely impressed with many of the sights and wildlife.
Organisation and guides were all great, particularly Julius on Pulau Tiga and Maria in Mulu. Julius enthusiastically organised the twins to complete their Padi advanced open water diving qualification while we were there, which was a bonus.
Accommodation was fine, some of it is a little tired and rough around the edges (Celyn, Sepilok, Pulau Tiga) and you feel that with just a little effort it could be so much better, but it was all perfectly OK. Celyn was particularly weird as we were the only guests, but what a location and view!
I think the one day that was a slight anti climax was the day at the Kinabalu Park HQ, the trekking around the HQ was very limited and either we missed something or there really wasn’t much else to do there. Of course had the mountain been open it would have been a different story. Our second day at Kinabalu was much better, the trek from Porring to the waterfall was great and the waterfall has a real wow factor – it is a tough trek, maybe 50% of the pinnacles, I think you said you’d not done it – we would thoroughly recommend it!
I would also say we did not make the most of the Rainforest Discovery Centre at Sepilok. We had a walk through the botanical gardens and did the tree top walk way, which were great, but when we looked at the brochure later we realised we could have done more walking and we missed the Sepilok Giant.
Food was fine, although I shall be happy not to have sticky rice and bony chicken for a week or two. Best food was probably Lankayan and Pulau Tiga and the very authentic italian restaurant we found in Sepilok.
Would we go back? My usual answer is that however much I enjoy somewhere I would always go somewhere else next time. But Mount Kinabalu now feels like unfinished business and we heard stories of some other spectacular dive sites around the coast, so it is certainly a possibility, with or without the kids.
We’d be happy to talk through and expand on any of our comments if you’d like to, let us know. Meanwhile thanks very much for all your help and advice.
Family W (with two children aged 7 and 10)
Travelled summer 2015.
We are back safe and sound. As the jet lag wears off we have been reflecting on what a great trip we had. Every day was different and interesting with loads to see, do and learn. The girls both had a fantastic time and particularly enjoyed the home stay with our host family. Thank you for arranging everything and for being so helpful with suggestions and ideas. There were no real hitches and the guides were all really friendly, knowledgeable and took great care of us.
As far as feedback goes the trek to camp 5 is quite tough. On a good source i.e. GPS it is more like 11k rather than 8. We were glad we did it but I would advise others that it is not for the faint hearted. We were by far the youngest and oldest at camp 5. The guide Vino was great and really helped when the girls were flagging.
The weather was really kind to us and we were rained on only once. Thanks for everything – we had a fantastic time. We’re already thinking about our next adventure (when we can afford it)!
Family P (with two children aged 8 and 11)
Travelled summer 2015.
The trip was fantastic, very different to Thailand in terms of what we experienced. The guides were great, particularly Chris and Wati in KK. Would recommend their services to anyone.
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Borneo in pictures
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