Last summer, Hazel and her family embarked on their first big adventure outside of Europe, to Singapore and Borneo. With her husband and two kids in tow, they journeyed across cosmopolitan cities to wildlife-rich rainforests and dreamy beaches. Read all about their holiday and find out why Borneo is the perfect match for adventure-seeking families.
Our first long-haul family holiday
My husband and I had been massive travellers years ago, but with the arrival of our children, we were a little daunted by the prospect of a 14-hour flight to South East Asia (my son once had an epic meltdown on a 45 min flight to Amsterdam). Naturally, we were anxious about being so far from the familiarity of home and unsure about whether an adventure on this scale would ruin our fond memories of travelling in an adventurous way.
Luckily, travelling with Rickshaw Travel enabled us to feel confident in booking a family holiday that felt exciting, adventurous and off the beaten track, whilst also being packed with lots of boredom-busting experiences. Let’s face it, how many kids get to see semi-wild orangutans up close in their lifetime? Rickshaw’s bite-sized trips gave us the flexibility to pick and choose the places that grabbed us, meaning we weren’t stuck with a rigid itinerary. Once we’d booked it, all we had to do was let the countdown begin!
Settling into Singapore
Our trip began with a direct flight to Singapore, where we had a stopover for a few days and stayed in the beautiful Tanglin district, right next to the Botanical Gardens. Singapore is the perfect place to ease your way into Asian culture; it’s super modern, clean, welcoming and child- friendly with plenty of parks, arcades, theme parks, water fountains and bright lights.
Culture and cuisine of Kuching
Next, we took a 1-hour flight with Air Asia to Kuching in Sarawak, Borneo. Here, the real adventure began! On arrival, our private taxi transfer from the airport whisked us into the centre of Kuching in just 20 minutes. We stayed in a beautiful boutique hotel on the waterfront, complete with infinity swimming pool and stunning views. The location of this hotel couldn’t have been more perfect; opposite the gate of China Town with some incredible eateries and beautiful sites within walking distance. I really enjoyed exploring Kuching by foot and the kids loved counting the thousands of cat statues littered around the city!). As part of this bite-sized trip, we also opted for the River Sunset Cruise and a day trip to Semenggoh Orangutan Centre.
Orangutans and river cruising
The sunset river cruise took us along the historic River Sarawak, with local delicacies to try and stunning views of the city from another angle. During our day trip to Semenggoh Orangutan Sanctuary, we were lucky to see 6 semi-wild orangutans, including the oldest king of the jungle who was just as curious about us as we were him. The kids were transfixed watching the apes gather on the feeding platform and swinging through the canopy. It was a special moment for us all, especially as the orangutans here are getting prepared for life in the wild again.
Kayaks and beaches of Damai
From Kuching, we travelled to the tropical beaches of Damai; just 45 minutes by private transfer. The Damai area is popular with the locals and tourists alike, with white crescent sand beaches, bath-like sea, and dense jungle. Rickshaw offers various family room options here, depending on how close to the action you’d like to be. We chose to stay in the main part of the resort so we could spend our
days relaxing on the beach and easily pop to the local town for lunch. We also escaped to the cliff top part of the resort, to enjoy the infinity pool and panoramic views of the jungle-fringed coast.
Mangroves, monkeys and fireflies
The final part of our adventure was spent right in the middle of the jungle, where we stayed in our first ever treehouse. Just a 5-minute drive from Damai beach, this place is perfect for kids like mine who don’t enjoy car journeys! A leader in conservation and sustainable tourism, the resort has just a handful of stilted treehouses and cabins dotted about the jungle, a swimming pool, restaurant and a couple of hidden castaway white-sand beaches. If you’re in need of more activities, you can also opt to go trekking, wildlife-spotting or simply sip a cocktail while the sun goes down. This piece of untouched paradise is cleverly designed to give you the feeling of utmost privacy during your stay and an emphasis on getting back to nature and spending time together. We’ll never forget falling asleep to the distant whoops of monkeys and birds in the trees.
A surprise highlight
As our holiday drew to a close, little did we know that the best was yet to come; the Santubong Wildlife Cruise. We hopped onto a tiny speedboat which seated about 12 people and included both adult and children’s life jackets. As we set off, I loved watching the kids’ faces as we glided past crocodiles, proboscis monkeys, fireflies and wild dolphins. It was a once in a lifetime experience!