Welcome to the Turquoise Travel Diaries, a collection of interviews, stories and excerpts from our fabulous team, as they travel around the world. Here at Turquoise we pride ourselves on unrivalled knowledge of the destinations in which we specialise, so that we can provide honest, expert advice to all our guests and fellow travellers. This week, our interview is with Antony, one of our Asia specialists and enthusiasts. Antony has just retuned from an in-house research trip where he was lucky enough to meet some of the world’s most magical creatures and explore the very best of Borneo.
- If you were describing the wildlife experience in Borneo in three words, what would they be? Breath-taking, Spectacular, Unforgettable
- When you were in the jungle, where did you stay and what was your favourite thing about each lodge? We started at My Nature Resort which is the perfect stop over for a night before heading into the depths of the rainforest. My favourite thing about this resort is how close it is to Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre which you can visit the morning after your night’s stay and is only a short drive away from My Nature Resort. Here you’re able to watch and learn about the process of reintroducing the Orang Utan back into their natural habitat, which is a truly humbling experience. A visit here also guarantees that you’ll see these gentle, ginger apes which is not always that common when staying within the rainforest. From My Nature, we headed to Abai Jungle Lodge which is a delightful lodge situated on the banks of the Kinabatangan River. Guests shouldn’t expect five-star luxury here but it’s a charming, comfortable and clean place to stay. My favourite thing about Abai was that as it’s further away from some of the other lodges on the river, the wildlife experience is more exclusive as there are no other boats around when you venture out in search of wildlife. They also have strong links with the local village which allows guests to visit and interact with the local communities. After our stay at Abai, we moved an hour up stream to Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge, a larger and slightly more luxurious lodge than Abai. Their large, bougainvillea clad deck is absolutely beautiful and my favourite feature. It overlooks the gushing river and the tremendous virgin rainforest providing the most breath-taking view and an ideal spot for sipping some sundowners after a day out channelling the inner David Attenborough in you. Our final jungle stop was Borneo Rainforest Lodge in Danum Valley, a 4-hour drive away, 2 of which are via a bumpy road through the rainforest which is an experience in itself! A stay here, in my opinion, is imperative and is the perfect way to round up your jungle experience of a lifetime! The jungle treks, canopy walks and night safaris were my favourite experiences and a wonderful contrast to those on the river. One thing that will stay with me forever is the panoramic view from my private pool, the perfect place from which to watch the sun setting behind the misty rainforest and listen to the sounds that come from within it.
- What was the food like whilst you are in the jungle? What was your favourite meal? The food was surprisingly good given the fact that we were in the middle of the Bornean rainforest. My highlights were breakfast at Abai, which we enjoyed at the feet of some of the oldest trees in the rainforest, alongside the wonderful company of Long-Tailed Macaques. I also loved the dinners we had at Borneo Rainforest Lodge, which were just as exquisite due to the incredible setting.
- Which injections do you need to have to visit Borneo? The best choice of vaccines depends on many individual factors, including your precise travel plans and it is always best to seek medical advice on immunisation well in advance. We didn’t get any inoculations but Typhoid, Polio, Hepatitis A and Tetanus are usually recommended.
- Which animals did you see? What was your top wildlife moment? We saw 3 different types of Hornbill, Flying Lemurs, Slow Loris, Crocodiles, Tarantulas, Flying Squirrels, Fireflies, Civets, Snakes and Proboscis Monkeys just to name a few! My top wildlife moment was seeing a mother and baby Orang Utan in the wild whilst staying at Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
- What would be your top five things to pack if visiting the jungle on holiday in Borneo? BINOCULARS!! Definitely bring a pair of binoculars! A lot of the wildlife is high up in the tree canopy or flying high through the sky. I didn’t realise how essential they are to a trip like this until I was there. Other than binoculars… mosquito repellent, long water-proof trousers, sun cream and a good camera are my top five ‘must-packs’!
- How long would you recommend spending in the jungle to get the full experience? To get the full experience I would recommend spending at least 4 nights in the jungle. 2 nights on the Kinabatangan River and 2 nights in Danum Valley at Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
- When combining the Borneo wildlife experience with some chill time on the beach, how do you choose where to go? It totally depends on what appeals to you and the style of property you are looking for. If you like the idea of keeping the rainforest/lodge theme throughout your itinerary, I’d definitely recommend staying at Bunga Raya on Gaya Island, just off the coast of Kota Kinabalu. This resort is set amongst the rainforest and is tiered down the tropical hillside until it meets one of the most idyllic stretches of beach in Malaysia. If you are looking for a bit more luxury and the opportunity to take advantage of a larger resort, I’d recommend a stay at the Shangri La Rasa Ria in their exclusive Ocean Wing, which is set on one of the largest natural beaches and is guaranteed to sweep you away to a private luxurious respite. My favourite feature of this resort is that after an active few days in the rainforest, you’ll be able to melt into the luscious lavender scented waters of your own private oversized bath which can be found on every balcony.
- Did you do any snorkelling? What was your favourite excursion aside from the jungle experience? The snorkelling from Bunga Raya is remarkable. The waters are clear turquoise and home to an array of coral, fish (including Nemos & Dorys) and even turtles! Another experience that I thoroughly enjoyed was trekking to a view point from the Shangri La Rasa Ria for a private sunrise breakfast overlooking Mt Kinabalu, it really was a spectacular way to start the day.
- Finally, what type of person do you think is most suited to a jungle and beach adventure in Borneo? Someone who isn’t too fussed by glitz and glamour and is willing to trade in the luxury of bathrobes and slippers for waterproofs and walking boots for a few nights. However, a trip to Borneo doesn’t have to be a complete Bear Grylls experience, it’s all about planning the right itinerary for you!
Feeling inspired? Get in touch with Antony or one of our Asia specialists for a bespoke holiday itinerary for Borneo