Traveling in Borneo with kids

What does Responsible Travel recommend?

Malaysia is far more accessible and family-friendly, with easier flights, better equipped hotels and more developed infrastructure. Sabah – with its desert islands, orangutan rehabilitation center and river cruises is the easiest region to travel round, although Sarawak has delightful cultural experiences to entertain and inspire small minds. Indonesia is for the more courageous family only; those traveling with small children may have a hard time due to its inaccessibility, rustic accommodation and lack of English. Wherever you travel in Borneo with kids, preparation is key – bring bug spray, sun screen, on-the-go-entertainment, and a boundless sense of humour.

Activities for families

What to do in Borneo with kids

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is Borneo’s orangutan capital – and one of the only places you’re virtually guaranteed to see them. Come during the twice-daily feeding sessions to watch them come down from the trees to the feeding platform, and see playful macaques bouncing around. Kids really will learn about conservation in action.
Borneo has some of the most hyped scuba diving spots in the world – but little ones can make the most of the underwater wonders by snorkelling in the shallows around the many idyllic islands – looking out for colourful reef fish, blue-spotted rays –
and perhaps even
the odd turtle...
The turtle hatcheries found on many of Sabah’s islands, including Selingan, Pom Pom and Lankayan, protect the eggs from predators until the tiny hatchlings emerge. They are then released onto the beach to make their way to the sea – kids can watch them crawl across the sand, and know these little creatures may be swimming in these seas for another 80 years.

Tips for families asks the experts

Nicki Hollamby is a Borneo expert from our supplier Audley Travel. Here are her tips on visiting Borneo with kids:
“If I was doing a family trip, I’d spend half the time in Sarawak because you can base yourself in Kuching and do daytrips. It’s a brilliant city with plenty of character, and it’s more of a cultural capital. Whereas in Sabah, it’s all wildlife and beach. In Sarawak you can stay overnight with communities, which – when done properly – is really great for both the tourists and the tribes. Then you can go kayaking through the mangroves looking for the river dolphins and visit Bako National Park, but it’s a daytrip so it’s not too intense for kids. Then you come back to your comfortable hotel in the evening, go out and eat some of the local food, go to the markets... but you’re not really isolated in the rainforest, and I think that’s really good for families.”
Daniel Waters is a Borneo expert from our supplier, Wild Frontiers. He offers advice on traveling in Borneo with kids:
“It’s a pretty safe destination to travel to; resorts and hotels tend to be kept to a pretty high standard. It’s a lot easier to travel round than you might suspect. There are lodges that look after children very well, and KK is a wonderful city for children, it’s very inclusive and approachable. In more offbeat areas where there aren’t so many facilities it would be more difficult, but on the whole it’s a great destination for families. There is a lot of walking involved to get the most out of Borneo so as long as the kids are able to cope with that they’ll be fine. There are different itineraries though – you can do quite an easy Sabah itinerary suitable for any age, but if you’re going into Sarawak, which is a bit more off the beaten path, or into the caves, then young children might be a bit of an issue.”
Photo credits: [Top box image: The Great Traveler] [Sepilok: Robert Nyman] [Snorkelling in the shallows:'s photostream] [Turtle hatchery: U.S Fish and Wildlife Service southeast Region's photostream] [Kota Kinabalu: wugolicious]
Written by Vicki Brown
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