We travelled to Borneo in July 2017 in the hope of getting some unforgettable wildlife experiences before heading back to our China megacity life where air pollution is a major issue and seeing a wild squirrel in one of the parks is about as close as you get to nature and wildlife here.
Lets just say that Borneo didn’t let us down.
We saw wild orangutangs, crocodiles, heaps of monkeys, snakes, amazing fireflies colonies, birds, night owls and much more on our river cruises in Kinabatangan Wetlands.
At Lankayan Island we snorkelled with turtles, reef sharks and so many fishes. During our 5 day stay we released babyturtles out to the ocean three times and one night we got up to watch a huge babyturtle laying eggs in the sand.
What an adventure!
Before we went I was a bit worried about the security situation. Since Lankayan Island in the Sulu Sea is very close to the Phillippine border and the Mindanao area from where terrorist groups have succeeded in kidnapping tourists there is a permanent military base at Lankayan Island with at least 30 soldiers stationed at all times.
They also have a radar station that is overlooking all incoming traffic to the island …not only because of the terrorist threat but also to make sure that no one is violating nature in this little paradise on earth.
When we got there I felt totally safe and the presence of the soldiers was actually quite nice. They had a lot of fun on the island. Playing beachvolley every afternoon and jumping from the boat pier to the water. Considering all the resent attacks in European cities and the general terrorist threat all over the world I don’t think our visit to Lankayan Island was putting the family more at risk than it would be if we went to London, Barcelona or Nice.
We decided to go and I am so grateful that we had the possibility to visit these beautiful places in Borneo, Malaysia.
Here is a list of where we stayed and how I organised the trip:
Kota Kinabalu: We started our trip here and stayed to nights in a very nice appartment in a residential area next to the citys biggeest shopping mall. In that way we could also stock up on mosquito spray etc., before we went on to Sandakan. The appartment was very cheap and we had access to a huge area with gardens, playground, basketball field and a beautiful pool area. The place is called Mushroom Residence Suite and can be booked via booking.com. They also provided cheap airport transfer which we usually always arrange beforehand. It makes everything so much easier when you travel with kids. At night we walked to the promenade by the sea where there are lots of restaurants. We found a very nice Italian Restaurant with delicious food and beautiful views of the sunset. The mall next to our appartment complex was excellent with lots of restaurants, a nice supermarket and many nice bargains on summerclothes. Everything in Malaysia is great value compared to Denmark and China.
Sandakan: We booked flight tickets from Kota Kinabalu with Air Asia. A 45 minute flight. Very effective and very cheap and their webpage is so easy to navigate. When we arrived in Sandakan we were picked up by the hotel driver and taken to Sheraton Sandakan Hotel. Very nice hotel in an area that looked a little warned out. Not a lot of tourists around but plenty of military to protect the area. Sheraton has a nice infinity pool with amazing views of the sea where we spent the afternoon before we were picked up for our first wildlife tour.
Kinabatangan Wetlands Resort
We were picked up at the hotel in the morning for a 5 minute transfer to Sandakan yacht Club. A remainder of the time when Sandakan was a prosperous city – called little Hongkong- with lots of foreign inhabitants. From there we went for a 1,5 hour beatiful boat ride to the resort in the middle of the wetlands. Everything about this 3D/2N trip was perfect and amazing. Knowledgeable guide, good standard and safety on the boats, great food and a beautifully decorated jungle houses built on stilts connected by wooden bridges. Huge window towards the jungle with plenty of wildlife around. I think the pictures below speak for themselves. I booked the stay through their webpage where you can find more information.
After our adventure in Kinabatangan we went back to Sheraton Sandakan Hotel for one night. The number of visits to these pristine resorts are so small that there is one boat transfer a day at the most and they dont do transfers directly between Kinabatangan and Lankayan. It was no problem at all because we all enjoyed an afternoon by the pool at the hotel after a couple of days without swimming.
I also booked our stay here via their private webpage Very helpful and quick assistance. The boat transfer to Lankayan can be a bit rough and they are sailing at a very high speed, so prepare yourself to maybe get a little wet. The transfer to the island was pretty calm while the transfer early in the morning when the sea is at its roughest was a bit challenging to my daughter. We all agreed though that the boat trip was well worth it. Lankayan is …PARADISE. We released turtles, swam with turtles, watched a turtle hastling and the kids got their first real dive i the ocean here. It will only take you 15 minutes to walk around the whole island and there are no shops. Only a beautiful restaurant on the water where all your meals are served. They are included in the package you buy and we were pleasantly surprised by the quality and variation of the dishes. I noticed the resort beforehand that I am allergic to Gluten, so they either prepared special dishes for me or marked all the dishes at the buffet that was glutenfree. Great service. During our stay we adopted two turtle nests and just got the first email from the resort saying that our turtles was released to the sea and with beautiful pictures for us. What a nice reminder of our stay at Lankayan Island. When I look back at the photos now I still cant believe that we were actually there in this paradise on earth for 5 days. 5 days that felt like so much longer because we were so isolated from the rest of the world. It was like our own little pocket of time.
Shangrila Rasa Ria – back to civilisation
We finished our Borneo Trip off with a couple of days relaxing at the 5 star Shangrila Rasa Ria in Kota Kinabalu before flying back to Tianjin. It was really hard to compete with what we had just experienced, but I must say it is a beautiful resort with extremely high standards. Delicious food and drinks, beautiful pool areas and a huge beach. We stayed in the Ocean Wing which is the newest part of the hotel with bigger rooms and big balconies overlooking the sea with a huge outdoor bathtub. The children loved them and we had room service served at the balcony while the kids were in the bathtub and the parents sipped white wine and listened to the sound of the waves.
What a perfect holiday. Feel free to copy our tour anytime!