A family adventure in Borneo

by Jan

Have you ever thought about a family holiday in the jungle?  If so, a family adventure in Borneo would be the perfect trip.

If you are on a quest for adventure and love nature and wildlife, Borneo is the perfect destination.  It has been at the top of my bucket list forever.  This is mostly because I have a deep love for orangutans, so all my dreams came true this year when my family and I were lucky enough to go.

We had heard great things about Singapore, so took the opportunity for a 4-day visit there too.

See below for the full details of our itinerary.  All accommodation and trips were booked independently in the UK before we left.

Day 2: Arrival and accommodation in Singapore

novotel clarke quay, singapore

We arrived in Singapore at 16:05. (7 hours’ time difference) and checked into the Novotel Singapore, Clarke Quay.  We chose this hotel as it is very central and also has a lovely pool.

If you have children, you can get a family room with 2 large beds.  An unlimited large buffet breakfast was included.  We took full advantage and filled up in the mornings before we went out.

Clarke Quay

clarke quay, singapore

Clarke Quay is a very lively area on the Singapore River.  It has a wide range of riverside restaurants, bars and clubs.  Our family favourite was a Thai restaurant called Renn Thai , which served an amazing Pad Thai.

Although we didn’t use the bars, the children enjoyed wandering around.   They loved taking in the sights and sounds, especially the giant bungy.  As well as offering great nightlife, Clarke Quay is a really central place for daytime visits and it is fun to wander up the river and look at the live fish and crabs in the restaurants and statues along the way.

Days 3-5: Singapore

Singapore is a great place for a family holiday with kids. There are loads of attractions, such as the Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore Zoo  and the Wild Wild Wet Waterpark .

We took a trip out to the fun island of Sentosa, which has its own beaches, water park and Universal Studios.

Top tip: To get around we mostly used a Grab , which is the Asian equivalent of Uber.  This is ideal, as you have the price upfront and know what you are expecting to pay. We would recommend picking up a seven day sim card at the airport or convenience store, so that you can use this app.

Gardens by the Bay at night, Singapore
Sentosa Island Singapore

For more information on things to do in Singapore, read our post:-

7 free things to do in Singapore

Day 5: Fly to Kota Kinabalu, Borneo

Masjid Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu, Borneo

We flew out to Kota Kinabalu at 18:05 with Singapore Airlines .  The journey took 2 hours 35 minutes.  On arrival we just went to our hotel and got something to eat.

Top Tip:  Allow lots of time to spend at the Jewel in Changi Airport.  As well as the chance to see the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, you will be able to enjoy an array of different other attractions at the “world’s best airport”.

Accommodation in Kota Kinabalu

We stayed at the HotelSixty3 which we booked through Hotels.com . This hotel was ideal for an overnight stop, as we arrived late and were flying out the next morning.

It is a clean, safe hotel which has a family room and is fairly close to the airport. There are a few basic restaurants opposite the hotel. We went to Fook Yuen, where the boys had some bowls of noodles at a very reasonable price.

Top Tip:  If you are registered as a member with Hotels.com, you will get some special rates.  For every 10 nights you book, you will get a free night.

Days 6-7: Sandakan, Borneo

Family standing in front of I love Sandakan sign

Getting to Sepilok

First thing the next morning we flew to Sandakan on the East coast of Borneo.  This only took 40 minutes with Malaysian Airlines.

Top Tip:  There are also indirect flights from Singapore to Sandakan via Kuala Lumpur.  However, we wanted to use day 5 as a relax by the pool day with the kids.

On arrival in Sandakan we went straight from the airport by Grab to the Sepilok Forest Edge Resort, where we had breakfast.

Sepilok is about 17km from the airport and took about 30 minutes by road.  You could also take a bus.

Top Tip:  Get a new sim card for Malaysia if you want to make use of Grab here.  It is easy to buy them at the airport.

The Sepilok Forest Edge Resort in Sepilok

Forest Edge Lodge communal area

Nothing could have prepared us for how lovely this resort would be. We stayed in the superior chalet which was absolutely amazing. We had a lounge and kitchen and best of all an ensuite, open air bathroom.

What a lovely feeling to shower looking out over the jungle (even if the water rather cold). There was also an outside toilet, which was scary at night, as I wasn’t sure what might land on me! There was also an inside bathroom with hot water.  This was ideal for those who don’t want to connect with nature quite so much!

As well as the chalets, there is a main restaurant/lounge area where we had breakfast (and dinner on one night).  The resort also has a small plunge pool, with loungers around it.

There are cheaper sleeping options available at the resort, including a standard twin chalet or a dorm chalet. There are also different lodges to stay which are also in the vicinity of the Orangutan Sanctuary.

Things to do in Sepilok

Mother and Baby Orangutan Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre in Borneo

From the resort it was only 10 minutes’ walk to Sepilok’s main tourist attractions, The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre .

Here you can see the orphaned orangutans and sun bears in their own natural environment.  This is an unmissable visit for any animal lovers.

Days 8-9: Jungle Safari, River Kinabatangan

Three monkeys in the rainforest in Borneo

On the 3rd day a minibus came to the Forest Edge and took us to the River Kinabatangan.  We had booked for a 3-day 2-night safari adventure. We stayed in 2 chalets at the Nature Lodge along the River Kinabatangan.

Over the course of the 3 days, we did 4 river cruises, 2 night walks and a guided jungle walk.  This was an unforgettable experience.  We saw orangutans, proboscis monkeys, macaques, an elephant, crocodiles and many more in their natural environment.

This was the highlight of our family adventure in Borneo.

For full details of our stay in the jungle, read our post:-

A trip to the Borneo rainforest

Days 10-12: Sandakan and Turtle Island

view of Turtle Island in Borneo from the sea


As part of the package we were driven back to Sandakan, where we checked into The Four Points by Sheraton, Sandakan. We chose this hotel because of its location on the sea and lovely infinity pool.  There are a lot of cheaper options in the town, especially for backpackers.

Sandakan is the 2nd largest town in Sabah, but is still fairly small and easy to walk round.  We explored the town by following the Heritage Trail, which takes in many of the historical attractions in Sandakan and leads you to the English Tea House, which is good place to stop for afternoon tea.

See what else there is to do in Sandakan by visiting Fab things to do in Sandakan with kids.

A trip to Turtle Island

Turtle laying eggs at Turtle Island, Borneo

On our second day we made the visit to the awesome Turtle Island Park , which is a must-do if you are visiting Borneo.  This is an amazing opportunity to see turtles giving birth in their natural environment.

Top tip:  It’s probably best to book in advance, as they limit their numbers to 50 each day.  We booked directly through Crystal Quest by email.

You can read the full details of our visit in this post:-

A trip to Turtle Island

Day 13: Kota Kinabalu

Jesselton Point Kota Kinabalu, Borneo

After 3 days in Sandakan, we flew back to Kota Kinabalu and checked into the Nexus Beach Resort, which we booked through Hotels.com.

We shared a room which looked out onto the lush gardens and golden beach.  Breakfast was included in our stay.  For other meals you are rather limited to dining at one of the 8 eateries on site.

Day 14: Snorkelling Trip at the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park

snorkeling at the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park, Kota Kinabalu, Borneo

On the first morning, we took a taxi back to Kota Kinabalu (which on this occasion was cheaper than Grab) and spent a day snorkelling at the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.

The Park consists of a group of 5 islands off the coast of Kota Kinabalu.  We booked our trip with Diverse Borneo from the UK.  It included a private boat with an instructor.  He took us to 3 different diving sites away from the crowds of the other boats.

Each session lasted 45 minutes in the water and we had lunch at an island. The boys had the most awesome time swimming around with the fish and even spotted a green turtle passing by.

Day 15: White Water Rafting on the Kiulu River

family of four on white water rafting adventure on Kiulu River, Borneo

Today we went white water rafting on the Kiulu River, which is 1 hour North-West of Kota Kinabalu.  We booked this trip with Riverbug and it was a great fun day out for everyone.

We travelled about 15km down river.  This took about 1 ½ hours, though some of this time we were actually in the river.

For more information on our white-water rafting trip, read our post:-

White water rafting on the River Kiulu

Days 16 -17: Nexus Beach Resort

Nexus Resort Beach Sunset, Borneo

The Nexus Beach Resort is set in 65 acres of lush, landscaped grounds and has loads of recreational activities.  After a very busy itinerary and lots of early mornings, we were all looking forward to some down time.

The resort has amazing facilities and the twins were happy to make the most of the 3 outdoor pools.  The resort has a programme of activities laid on by the Recreation Club, including crafts, batik painting and tae kwondo.

For younger children, there is a kids’ club and adults can take advantage of the golf course or spa facilities.  The resort has its own private beach, which provides wonderful entertainment for those who like playing in the sand or sea.

Day 18: Fly to Singapore

We finished our family adventure in Borneo and flew back to Singapore in the evening.  On arrival, we  checked in quite late to the D’Resort @ Downtown East, which we booked through Booking.com.

Day 19: Singapore

The Jewel at Changai Airport, Singapore, Asia

We had an overnight stay at the D’Resort, which gave us complimentary tickets to the Wild Wild Wet Waterpark next door.

This is an excellent waterpark, with a range of slides and rides for all ages.  There were high speed rides and free-fall slides (think trap door!).  It had a long lazy river and splash zones for little ones.

We allowed extra time for the Jewel at Changai Airport, before getting our return flight to the UK at 23:15.

We arrived back in the UK at 05:50 the next morning.  Our heads were full of lots of fantastic memories of our family adventure in Borneo.

Are you planning your own jungle adventure in Borneo?  For more information read our

Full guide to Borneo

Thank you for reading.

We hope you enjoyed reading the itinerary for our family adventure in Borneo.  It really was a trip of a lifetime.  If you have any questions or tips of your own, please comment below.


CHIMPTRIPS - A Family Adventure in Borneo

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Avatar for Jan
Shelley Whittaker 2nd June 2020 - 10:19 am

I have never been to Borneo but we have been to Singapore many times. We actually got married there is 2014. In January we took our daughter to Singapore for the first time on our trip home from Australia to the UK – can you believe we stayed at Novotel Clarke Quay too? We often stay there and it never disappoints. #TotsTravel

Avatar for Jan
Jan 2nd June 2020 - 7:25 pm

A great hotel, as it is so easy to get everywhere.


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