Kota Kinabalu, Borneo

Stephen Bellingham on 25 October 2017
Next we flew to Kota Kinabalu, where we were met by our fabulous, local agent EXO. The guide took us to the Mari Mari Cultural Village, which gives you a look as close as possible to authentic local life in rural Borneo in the long houses. We spent several, very enjoyable hours there. You can visit and stay in a genuine Longhouse if you have time to go bush and explore in more detail. You would however need to travel further afield. Malaysian Fam Trip - Rasa Ria, Borneo Our next two nights were at the amazing Shangri La Rasa Ria. Although 45 minutes from the city, we did not find it too much to travel there. It's a hotel I have used many times before, however I have to say I was even more impressed than I expected. We arrived just in time to have the daily complimentary pre-dinner drinks (wine, local cocktails and canapés). I normally recommend the quieter Ocean view rooms to my clients - we were lucky to be allocated these, and they are truly amazing. I shall be returning with my wife!

These large rooms all have a dining-tables and chairs, mini-bar included, and on the balcony double hot tub baths with a big round day bed and wonderful sea views. The garden view rooms are smaller in size, however for those on a tighter budget still offer all the facilities of the Italian and Indian restaurants, Coffee shop and general shop. As there are no mini bars in these rooms, you can buy or bring your own to store within the room fridge. The hotel has a 3 km beautiful beach and offers a trek to see the sunrise above Mount Kota Kinabalu, along with wildlife bird treks. The old Orangutan Sanctuary will soon offer more of an adventure, nature park with zip wires, so it's a great place to take a few days to chill after an adventurous itinerary. We also visited the Gaya Island Resort, a 15-minute ride from the port of Kota Kinabalu, which offers an Eco Resort with it nature park and marine bay. Explored on foot, by boat or snorkelling in the clear blue sea, it offers a relaxing experience with nature. Our next adventure was to spend the day exploring the Mount Kota Kinabalu National Park along with the Poring Hot springs.Although it's personal taste, I found the hot springs were too commercial. They have been developed to allow locals to regularly use the Springs.

The Canopy walks were a wonderful way to see the flora and forna. You can do a day trek to the Falls in the park, along with bird watching walks or overnight camping trips to the summit. Elite runners can make a return trip in under 3 hours. Do expect to do a fair bit of travelling to get to these places, if you do it as a day trip. Alternatively, what I would suggest is to incorporate it into a full itinerary taking you to Sabah to stay on a river for wildlife and bird watching, and finally to see the Orangutans. I have plenty of experience at collating this type of itinerary for two or three weeks, to suit your preferences. Our last night was spent at the Shangri La Tanjung Aru Hotel, which is 10 minutes from the city, airport and the islands. This is a popular resort hotel with locals with a small beach, mini water-park for children, lovely restaurants and regular boat trips to four different islands, which we explored. It can include Jungle trekking, a zip wire ride between two of the islands and an underwater walk. There's also the opportunity to both snorkel and learn to Scuba dive. The hotel also has a spa, young children's club and Club Lounge for the executive rooms.