Matthew Casey Gaunt review 25 Feb 2020
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?
Our experience in Borneo was great. The people were friendly and everywhere we looked was beautiful rain forest.
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?
Research carefully the time of year that you are going. If seeing orang-utans is a priority, make sure to go after fruiting season so that they will be more likely
to come to sanctuaries for food. Thoroughly investigate your accommodations. We were not provided with accurate details regarding the places we were
staying and found ourselves in places with no power or hot water, which was a surprise. It would be another thing entirely if we had been prepared for that
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
I do feel that our vacation supported the local economy. The local contractors that were used to provide our experiences were great.
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?
We are very glad to have gone on this vacation, however, we are quite disappointed with the operator overall. Firstly, we were scheduled to go see orang-utans at a sanctuary, only to find out that we were going during fruiting season and the orang-utans never come to the sanctuary when they can find food elsewhere. I think it is great that they are truly wild and have their own safe place to live, but it should not be billed as an experience to go see orangutans. This information was readily told to us by people on the ground. It is truly poor form on the operators part to even book this at all during the time of year that we went. We were scheduled for a bike tour of Kuching in the afternoon after the orangutan "visit". When we arrived, the tour company had no idea we were coming, as things had not been confirmed. Thankfully, the bike company was fantastic and asked if they could have 1 hour to prepare. We returned an hour later and had a really fantastic bike trip, but we felt terrible for the bike company having to squeeze us in. Next, our trip to the longhouse was truly a once in a lifetime experience that we enjoyed. Unfortunately, the operator did not prepare us at all for the accommodation. It is at a remote village with no power (a generator is on from 6:30 to 10pm) and there is no hot water, with a bathroom that is essentially that of a poorly maintained campground. Had we known this was what things would be, we would have been prepared. We had to go out and buy towels the night before because our local guide was kind enough to talk to us about the conditions for the coming days. Had he not done so, we would have been in trouble. Another major concern was that we were not able to bring more than a backpack of clothes with us to the Longhouse. This meant that we had to leave our larger luggage behind (something we were not told would need to happen). Our guides in Borneo initially asked us to leave it at the hotel, then said they would take care of it. They stored it in the back of a restaurant where we had lunch on the way to the longhouse. That meant all of our clothes, our computers and other valuables were left in a shop for 3 days. Our agent with this operator knew that we were traveling with a lot of luggage (this is part of a year long trip for
us). Either he didn't care or he didn't take the time to plan something that would have been safer and more reasonable for us. The tree house "resort" that we were booked in was in quite a sad state of repair. The bathroom had broke fixtures (toilet, washing hose) and the on site restaurant had broken down refrigerators so they could not provide cold drinks. This is something of a disappointment when it is as hot as it is in Borneo. When leaving the tree house resort, we were first told we would have to arrange our own transfer to the next hotel, then we were told by the people in borneo that the tree house resort would organize it. When it came time to leave, the tree house resort had no knowledge of a transfer and no one arrived to pick us up. Instead we walked 1.5km with our luggage to the next hotel. Again, if we knew that this would have been required it would have been fine. The problem is that the operator once again did not have their tour well organized. We travel quite a lot, all over the world. I have never been part of a tour that was a poorly designed as this trip by this operator. After reviewing how much money we paid for this trip, I am truly disappointed in what the operator provided. We specifically reached out to a travel agent to organize this tour because it is an area of the world we are unfamiliar with. Our goal was to use a service that had local knowledge and would help us avoid the very problems that we encountered. We could have organized this trip better on our own and at least then we would have truly known what to expect and I am certain we could have done it for a fraction of the cost. We feel that the operator misrepresented this tour just to get us to book it and help them earn money. I cannot tell you how disappointed I am. I will never do business with that company again and I hope that you don't either to be quite honest.We have another tour booked through Responsible Travel coming up in May in Ukraine. We are hoping that things will go more smoothly when that happens.
Read the operator's response here:
Thank very much for your review, we're pleased to hear that overall your experience in Borneo was great and that you believed your trip was supporting the local economy, as well our local partners providing a great experience for you. With regards your other comments, we've very sorry to hear that you did not have an enjoyable trip to the Semenggoh Sanctuary. With any wildlife viewing, there is always an element of fortune in sighting, but we do apologise if this element of chance wasn't made clear to you ahead of your trip, particularly during the time of year that you chose to travel.
Having investigated further, the bike tour had been booked and confirmed with the supplier, but it seems they failed to record this correctly and apologise for the error. It's great that they were able to re-arrange for you the same afternoon, so that you didn't miss out on this great experience.
That's fantastic to hear that your trip to the longhouse was a truly once in a lifetime experience that you both enjoyed. We're sorry to hear that you didn't feel prepared for the accommodation. We do describe the accommodation in the Batang Ai as ‘Simple’ and in our quotation prior to your booking and try and speak to our customers ahead of their trip to run through any queries, so it’s unfortunate we didn’t get the chance to speak before your trip. I have stayed at this accommodation personally and I would certainly have been delighted to impart my experience. We will ensure that going forward we do expand on the experience at the jungle lodge in our PDF quotations in the case that we’re not able to speak to our customers before departure.
With regards taking your large bags with you on your Batang Ai trip, we do apologise for this, as usually they will either be left either at your hotel in Kuching or at our local partner office. This was an error on our guide's behalf and we will ensure that this does not happen again. We are sorry if this caused you undue concern.
With regards the condition of the Permai Resort, we are sorry to hear that this was not up to the standard that we would expect, we have passed your feedback to the resort via our local partners. Your transfer from one resort to the other had been included in your booking, however having investigated the matter further, it seems that the incorrect time had been recorded by the resort. I’m sorry to hear that they didn’t take you over to the next resort as this short transfer can usually be arranged easily at reception.
We're sorry to hear that you felt disappointed with the services that were arranged for you, but pleased to hear that overall you had a great experience in Borneo