It might not be one of the more obvious choices, but for the families that enjoy an adventure, Malaysian Borneo provides safety and comfort alongside largest national park in the US its remote waterways, tribal villages, and rainforests, that are waiting to be explored. It is also easy to travel around Borneo, while the combination of 4X4, boat journeys, and quick domestic flights offer an extensive variety. You can get Borneo Tours quite easily and cheaply, too.
You will also discover that most of the hotels provide every practical facility that you may need, along with space and opportunity to explore. The best part is that not much is standing around. Borneo is an area that will always tempt you into the next active adventure. This includes your little ones keenly spotting animals like the Proboscis monkey, or your older kids traversing through the jungle ropeways.
Visit The Wildlife Sanctuaries In Sepilok
The rainforests in Borneo include thick covers which do not make road travel very easy, yet a great value-for-money network of domestic flights offers an alternative and a hassle-free method to travel around. Fly into the Sandakan Airport (there are flights which are direct from Kuala Lumpur or Kota Kinabalu), and you are all set for your adventures of the Eastern State of Sabah.
If you spend 3 to 4 days in Sepilok, which is a 30-minute drive from Sandakan, you can enjoy a very gentle introduction to the wildlife in Borneo before you set off into wilder territory. Sepilok is well-known for its famous orangutan sanctuary. The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center shelters approximately 70 orangutans which are undergoing gradual rehabilitation before releasing them back into their own environment.
The success of the sanctuary has resulted in the development of the Sun Bear Reserve and a Rainforest Discovery Centre.
There is a big nursery which takes care of all the new arrivals, which are usually the babies who are abandoned or their mothers have died, along with confiscated pets. Separated by a glass barrier to protect the animals from any human diseases, you are able to watch these orangutans swinging and playing on tyres and ropes.
If you stay in one of the well-sized chalets on offer at the Sepilok Nature Reserve, you will be in walking distance from these amazing sanctuaries.
Spot Wildlife Along the Kinabatangan River
From Sepilok, you are able to travel through the jungle which is close to the Kinabatangan River, if you stay at one of the riverside lodges. Many of these lodges are basic yet still very comfortable along with individual chalets that provide enough space for your little ones to run around. The activities on offer usually involve small groups of 8 to 10 people, which may mean you will join up with one or more families.
Your journey to these lodges is by boat from Sandakan. After you have settled in, you can take one of the boat safaris at dusk. When you float down the quieter tributaries of the Kinabatangan river, the naturalist guide will be looking for wildlife to show you. You will probably see Proboscis monkeys that dangle from trees and on occasion distinctive silhouettes of hornbills over the horizon. If you book your stay at the Abai Jungle Lodge, your boat safari will continue until it gets dark where you can watch the fireflies that light up the surrounding foliage like Christmas lights.
The next day, you can enjoy another 2 boat safaris, one at dusk and one at dawn. This is when all the animals are more active. For families with small children, this is one of the safest and easiest ways to marvel at the wildlife. The boats lie low so it is easy to spot creep-crawlies and monitor lizards that frequent the river bank. You should also bring binoculars along to spot monkeys and the birdlife.
End Your Trip on One of Borneo’s Beaches
After you have explored the inland, it is time to head out to one of the coasts. Lahad Datu has its own airstrip which runs the flights to Kota Kinabalu on Borneo’s north coast.
If you would like to stay in one of the classic beach hotels, the Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort and Spa are only 20 minutes away from the airstrip. This resort spans over 1.8 miles (3km) of a private beach. It also includes a putting green, children’s club, horse-riding school, along with kiddies pools and slides. The forest behind this resort is one of the protected reserves that offer a variety of different walking trails. There are also daily run guided walks on offer.
For the families that have older children, the Gaya Island Resort is one of the better options. Take a short trip by boat from Kota Kinabula to Gaya which is one of the islands which makes up Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. This hotel is situated on a bay backed by a lush and thick jungle. When stepping onto the tiny jetty of this property, you will see the tips of the wooden-villas which poke out from the vegetation. There are trips to visit the coral gardens which run daily, along with an experienced biologist who will help with identifying the different creatures.