Borneo family vacation, tailor made

“Explore wildlife reserves, rivers and beaches at a relaxed, child-friendly pace, with an experienced English speaking guide for company.”


Kota Kinabalu | Tabin Wildlife Reserve | Lipad mud volcano | Kinabatangan River region | Menanggul River | Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary | Shangri La Rasa Ria Resort

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Departure information

This trip can be tailormade throughout the year and can be adapted to suit your interests, budget and requirements as necessary

Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your vacation will help support conservation and local people.

We work with the Orangutan Appeal UK, the only not-for-profit charity that works directly with the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary in Sandakan. Clients have the option to sponsor an orphaned Orangutan named Canyon who was being kept illegally as a pet and was taken in by the sanctuary when she was 2 years old. She is now 5 years old and progressing well. The money goes directly to the Sanctuary in Sepilok to continue their excellent work. Clients receive an Ďadoption certificateí and regular email updates on the progress of Canyon and of course if youíre lucky you may see her when you visit the Centre.

On this tour, you will visit the famous Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah, founded in 1964, to rehabilitate orphan orang-utans. The site is 43 square kilometres of protected land at the edge of Kabili Sepilok Forest Reserve. Today around 60 to 80 orang-utans are living free in the reserve. The facility provides medical care for orphaned and confiscated orang-utans as well as dozens of other wildlife species. Some of the other animals which end up being treated at the center include sun bears, gibbons, Sumatran rhinos and the occasional injured elephants.

Created in 1984, Tabin has been declared a Wildlife Reserve primarily on account of the large number of animals inhabiting its forests, some of which are highly endangered. The three largest mammals of Sabah, namely Borneo Pygmy Elephants, Sumatran Rhinoceros and Tembadau are all found within the reserve; nine species of primate are present, as well as three species of cats all of which are on the protected wildlife list. Of bird species, 42 families representing 220 species have been recorded. The Reserve works alongside Sepilok Orang-Utan Sanctuary near Sandakan - the rehabilitated orang-utans are released into the Reserve. It is twice the size of Singapore so has an enormous potential to allow the wildlife to roam free relatively undisturbed. By visiting the Reserve, clients will be able to learn about the need for the preservation of this important habitat. The Tabin Wildlife Resort believes that research, advocacy and management are the three critical elements contributing towards an effective conservation strategy. The Resort runs many educational programmes including a Rhino Conservation programme whereby volunteers can help the Reserve staff survey and monitor the rhino population. The Resort organises all guests into small groups for all activities to minimise any environmental impart. Kitchen waste generated in the resort is disposed of in a responsible manner and guests are encouraged to recycle waste products by providing recycling dustbins. Tabin Wildlife Resort has a policy of buying local produce and supplies wherever possible and available, ensuring that the local communities benefit, and guests are encouraged to buy local products so that money stays in the local population. The Resort also constantly trains young local guides and staff to provide them with the necessary skills for career advancement.

Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts is a founding member of the Asia Pacific Hotels Environmental Initiative. In accordance with the Group's environmental policy, all Shangri-La and Traders hotels have "Green Programs" to identify ways to reduce wastage, eradicate practices that damage the environment and generally promote environmental awareness. The Resort also operates an irrigation program for its 18-hole Golf Course using 'grey' or recycled water from the Resort.

The Nature Reserve, located beside Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort, has a forest garden planted with different types of trees and plants to encourage the habitation of insects and small wildlife. The 64-acre Nature Reserve of coastal vegetation is home to 62 species of birds, various reptiles and mammals and the much-endangered Orangutans. A Rehabilitation Programme was initiated by the resort in support of the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre of the Sabah Wildlife Department. To date, a total of 32 Orangutans have successfully passed the first stage of the rehabilitation

The Tanjung Aru Resort collaborates with the WWF and works with villagers from Kampung Berungus in Kudat to preserve the seagrass bed habitat of the seacow or 'dugong'. The Resort obtains a weekly supply of sustainably harvested fish and shrimp to be served in the resortís restaurants. It is anticipated that this long-term collaboration will help restore the integrity of the marine eco-system whilst providing poverty troubled villagers with a consistent source of income. The Resort has also introduced a 'Bakashi' program which is a system using fermented organic matter to create compost for gardens from kitchen organic waste. This has resulted in a reduction in the amount of fertiliser and compost used.

The Impacts of this Trip

Our ground agents only employ local guides to accompany our clients. All food in the lodges is sourced locally wherever possible, helping the local rural communities.

The Abai Jungle Lodge operates a tree planting and lunch programme with the local Abai villagers as part of your time there. This programme has been introduced by the Lodge as a way to directly contribute money to the local village community, plus it helps guests learn a little about the way this traditional community lives.

The Rasa Ria Resort established a Nature Conservation Programme in 1996 between the Resort and the Sabah Wildlife Department to establish a nature education center for the general public and local Sabah schoolchildren. The Shangri-La chain has also set up 'Embrace', a Care for People project which commits each hotel to a chosen local organisation for at least 5-10 years.

Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort has partnered with Seri Mengasih, a school for over 100 intellectually and physically challenged children, since 2008. 2010 marked the third year of full school fees support alongside regular hotel skills training in areas such as housekeeping and bakery, with the goal of hiring apprentices into the hotel. One apprentice works at the registration and towel counter by the poolside and is able to interact with guests.


3 Reviews of Borneo family vacation, tailor made

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 21 Aug 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Seeing wild oragutans and proboscis monkeys (not to mention bearded pigs,
monitor lizards, vipers and tarantulas).

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Go further upriver to Sukau to increase the chance of seeing elephants.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes. Local guides and lunch with local villagers.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Very good

Reviewed on 10 Oct 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Probably a toss up between the fireflies on the Kinabatangan River or the stay at the Gayana Eco Resort.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Spend more time at the Abai lodge, this was a perfect stepping stone for wildlife. Spend more time in the Sandakan markets. Sponsor an Orangutan. Visit the Sunbear center in Sepilok. Try and go diving on the East COast of Sabah. Don't expect too much from KOta Kinabalu or Lahad Datu. Expect more from Sandakan that Lonely Planet says. Climbing Mt. Kinabalu is bloody expensive. Expect everything to be punctual. The coffee is horrible but the people are universally friendly.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

This is hard to tell, there was certainly an effort but it is hard to judge how much money trickles down. The work the Gayana Eco Resort is doing the Marine Research Centre is very admirable. I am hoping that the tree planting at the Abai River Lodge is not just a sop to tourists and is having a REAL impact. Can I suggest that an optional tariff is added to trips to benefits endangered species, sustainable Palm oil initiatives and local communities.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

We had a wonderful time. A couple of pieces of feedback.
Tabin Wildlife Reserve - You may want to suggest that the memorial to the woman killed by an elephant is repaired or replaced. At the moment it is being used as a default ashtray.
Sandakan - The lunch at the Sabah Hotel was very ordinary, may be suggest lunch in the Sandakan markets, much more exotic.
Operators - The punctuality and friendliness of all the operators was extraordinary. There was not a bad word to say about any of them
Itinerary - Timing was good, not too frenetic, would suggest, if possible to go straight to Abai River Lodge and spend a couple of nights. We loved it there

Reviewed on 15 Jul 2013 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

There were lots of highlights but we particularly enjoyed seeing the elephants swimming across the river and also releasing turtle hatchlings back into the sea. We also loved Abai jungle lodge. Beautiful scenery and wonderful staff.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Take a rain coat...... It does rain heavily sometimes and you are in open top boats. Take some binoculars. Make sure you wear trainers and cover up in the bat caves. It is an absolutely fascinating place but if you donít like insects its not the place for you.

Try and make time to fit in an extra visit to the orangutan sanctuary by yourselves (not with the tour guide). You can hang around longer and we saw the orangutans actually playing in the wild rather than just at the feeding station. If you are staying at the rasa ria resort hotel or selligan island make sure you wear lots of insect repellant as sand flies are a big issue.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Absolutely. We thought it was great that we could plant a new tree in land damaged by fire. We thought it was good that you were only allowed to see 1 turtle lay its eggs rather than the 28 that came ashore that evening. They are keeping disruption of the turtles to a minimum. Our thoughts were that the money they get from tourism helps to ensure that lots of baby turtles are given a better chance of survival. All the jungle guides were very keen in conservation and protecting the animals which was good

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

9.5 out of 10. Everything was excellent apart from a couple of niggly things. The accommodation and facilities at selligan island needs to be improved and beware of the sand flies at the rasa ria resort and selligan island.

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