Borneo Adventure - Sabah Malaysia

The trip started with the flights on Royal Brunei Airlines, a great way to get to Kota Kinabalu..

Melbourne to Brunei – Bandar Seri Begawan and then onto Kota Kinabalu.

Royal Brunei Airlines was very good in a flat bed business class seat from Melbourne to Brunei and then a standard Business Class seat on the 40 minute flight.  Total flying time of 7 hours and 50 minutes, over the traditional route of 11 Hours and 15 minutes…quite a saving.  Royal Brunei is a “dry” airline – so no alcohol is carried or served on board.

Upon arrival, a transfer was pre organized as the arrival time was at night and the transfer to Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort north on the coast is an approximate one and a half hours drive.

A very warm greeting was received and a quick and efficient check-in.

The Deluxe Sea View room,  which was to be home for the next six nights, had a great balcony and a view over the ocean. The main bedroom area, separated by a small step down to a lounge area  (coverts into a decent size bed- perhaps King Single sizing), just enough to break the room up from a traditional hotel room.

Breakfast included in the room rate, meant that a full buffet breakfast was consumed ready for the days events.  The Shangri-La Rasa Ria is home to the Nature Interpretation centre – Rehabilitation for young Orang-utans and nature reserve.  
Being guests of the hotel you have first opportunity per day to book in for the tour. I would recommend that you book for the morning session – as the afternoons become quite hot and humid in the reserve/jungle.  After an information briefing you are then escorted into the jungle to the viewing platforms for the feeding of the babies/young ones.  A moment to remember ………

The hotel offers quite a number of activities in house or you can just relax by the pool or beach.  The food quality at the hotel was outstanding and a variety of cuisines available.  Overall not expensive either.  The staff extremely friendly and always trying to please – excellent service.

A new shopping complex and hotel has just opened near the Rasa Ria – about a 30 minute drive. This turned out to be the best value for money and variety in the way of the really discounted shopping available, from shoes, clothing to watches and DVDs.

A full day sightseeing tour of Mt Kinabalu and  Poring Hot Springs was also taken whilst staying the Shangri-La Rasa Ria…as this is a closer point to Mt Kinabalu than Kota Kinabalu township.  This is really a full day of winding roads with spectacular vistas…….up to the National Park where a Discovery centre has been built – showing the history of the region, various description of the flora and fauna and the Botanical Gardens.  You can also over night here – pre booking a must. Climbing Mt Kinabalu also can be done – but the numbers have now been limited so you must apply well in advance.  Poring Hot Springs is in the humid lowlands….series of bathing pool plus a canopy walk across the jungle tops……where you can view the rainforest at tree top level.  A truly amazing experience. 

After six nights, a transfer back to Kota Kinabalu Township for a further three nights at the Shangri-La  Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa.  A different  feel to this hotel – still warm welcomes, but a more family oriented property , particularly in the Tanjung Aru wing.  The Kinabalu Wing seemed to be more geared toward the Asian Clientele. 

This hotel is more of a city resort, with pool activities, water playgrounds, waterslides, water games, tennis, gym, and a nine hole putting course.  The Hotel offers a  regular shuttle to town – where you can wander the many shops and markets.

Here one of the four restaurants is an area - a “hawkers market” where you can pick and choose from each of the “stall holders” (actually located in a building) for dinner.  New Years Eve was a great treat….Dinner at the Japanese restaurant, followed by a Beach Party with drinks and live entertainment and an amazing Fireworks show to bring in the New Year.  A night to remember!

Of course, if you have more time – the East Coast with the Sepilok Orang-utan Rehabilitation centre would be on the top of your list – to see the mature Orang-utans and stay at Sandakan, visit the Australian War Memorial…   followed by Turtle Island………Kinabatangan Wildlife Safari to see the Proboscis monkeys and the bird life.

Sabah, truly a great experience, holiday, adventure or just relaxation, this destination has it all, singles, couples and families alike.

Royal Brunei fly daily from Melbourne to London via Brunei and Dubai, with connecting flight from Brunei to Kota Kinabalu.

Janene Rubens, January 2013.