My hubby and I decided to visit Borneo, as we hadn’t been to Asia for over 5 years since the arrivals of our two children (now aged 2 & 5) and were craving a Rickshaw adventure! Neither of us had ever travelled to Borneo, we were told that it was great for young families as there was plenty of wildlife, beaches and fun things to do, the travelling distances were short and health care should any of us fall ill was top notch. I was still a little nervous, but shouldn’t have been as Borneo felt so safe, the people are super friendly, it’s so easy to travel around, the kids loved the food and the wildlife and we even survived the ultra long flights!
So if you’re looking to go to Borneo with your family, these were our top 5 highlights:
1 – Visit Semenggoh Orangutan Sanctuary
Here, you’ll learn about how Orangutans were on the brink of extinction until sanctuaries like this one were created, to give Orangutans a safe place to breed and become confident enough to start venturing back into the wild and fending for themselves again. Sightings are not always guaranteed, which makes the locals happy as it means the Orangutans are becoming less dependent on the feeding times at the sanctuary. From our perspective, we felt so lucky to see 6 semi-wild orangutans including the boss of the jungle and two babies from a safe distance. Incredibly moving and it felt so positive that there were no walls or cages, they were free to leave if they felt able to and many other Orangutans were now doing so.
2 – Stay in a rainforest treehouse
Take your family on a nature adventure! Our treehouse was right in the canopy of the jungle, as tall as the trees! We had incredible sea views, breath-taking sunsets, no tv or wifi – so all we could do was focus on the sounds of the jungle, the sea and appreciate the simple things in life like spending time together. We took a walk through the jungle spotting wildlife (we saw squirrels and snakes) and found a deserted beach to play at and swim in the sea. We also spent time chatting to some families in the jungle café and had a game of snakes and ladders (very apt in the jungle)! The resort is hot on recycling, only using sustainable furniture and avoiding plastic wherever possible – the straws were the first aluminium straws I have ever used and it made me feel all warm and fuzzy that they were taking the lead on this.
3 – Head to Damai
Whilst staying at the beach resort in Damai, we took a walk to Damai town which is filled with food courts, small shops, arcades, play areas and live bands giving us a much more local experience to the bubble of a beach resort and giving us a chance to escape the heat. We spent ages chatting to the locals (who also had children obsessed with ‘Baby Shark’ – google it if you don’t have small children), eating cheap delicious food and soaking up Borneo life.
4 – Sunset River Cruise
Take a sunset river cruise in Kuching, you’ll get to see real local life along the river banks. All the beautiful colourful houses, kids playing by the river, riverboat races, and a breathtaking sunset over the famous Darul Hana Bridge whilst drinking orange squash and coffee cake! If you’re lucky enough like we were, you might also experience a local dance performance onboard the boat. Our kids love any kind of boat trip, especially one with cake and dancing and it was fantastic to see Kuching from another perspective.
5 – Wildlife spotting
One of our highlights was a wildlife spotting cruise along the Santubong river, with amazing views of the Santubong mountain, spotting indigenous proboscis and long-tailed monkeys, Irrawaddy dolphins, crocodiles and fireflies were very special. It didn’t feel very touristy, it felt like we were the only boat on the whole stretch of water, the local guide and pilot had the most incredible insight for spotting animals from a distance and giving us the best view. They also took us to a local stilted village towards the end of the trip where we visited a local school, such a great experience for the kids to see how there is more than one way to live and go to school. They were also pretty happy to encounter wild dolphins jumping in pairs, right next to the boat! Nothing like they would ever see at SeaWorld (not that I would ever take them!).
The trips all gave us an insight into the real Borneo, create our own experiences and memories and I would highly recommend to any family seeking adventure with meaning!