A mum, dad and their three kids from Tasmania, go on an epic adventure in Borneo for 3 weeks in December

Our itinerary ideas

Well here is the rough draft after much reading, surfing the net, reading forums, asking for advice and listening to podcasts.
At this stage there’s not much that we’re doing that requires us to lock in early, now that we’ve decided against climbing Mt Kinibalu so we can be fairly flexible.

1. Kuching 8 NIGHTS. Nani has a wedding dinner to attend here so we can’t shorten the time here in Sarawak. Having said that, it’s not hard to fill it in. We’ll visit Semmenggoh NP to check out the orang utan rehabilitation. We’ll do this in Sepilok as well, but at Semmenggoh apparently you get closer and on the odd occasion not many turn up so we’re hedging our bets between the two centres. The Sarawak cultural village and museum will be touristy but no doubt be really educational and I love learning new stuff.

Bako NP is an amazing place from all reports with loads of walks and it’s a great place to see the Proboscis monkeys early morning and evening. Apparently they’re quite shy so the kids will have to be in stealth mode. Because there’s so many walks there, and it’s a bit hard to get to (bus and boat) I reckon we’ll stay at least one or two nights in the park, although the accommodation is a bit sketchy from reviews. I’d suggest booking early rather than late, as it starting to book out months in advance.

Tattoos. I’m thinking seriously about getting some tribal ink in Kuching. International award winning Iban tattooist Ernesto Kalum (Borneo headhunter) is there, who’s recognised globally as being a leading tribal tattooist who also uses the traditional method. That’s the needle on the stick and bang with another stick method. I’m fairly sure the traditional method sounds a bit…. slow and maybe more painful than the machine, but the emails I’ve had from his offsider suggests it heals faster than machine – but I might just stick to what I know.

When I’m freshly inked I think we’ll check out the Santubong area north of Kuching and climb the mountain, do some walks, visit the fishing village nearby, grab a couple of kayaks and maybe stay in the Permai tree house for a night with the kids. How cool would that be?

Optionally (because we’ve got around eight nights in Kuching while waiting for a wedding dinner) is to head to Serian for a day trip where apparently there are some really nice waterfalls there.

2. Mulu. 3 NIGHTS.  We’ll fly from Kuching to Mulu and stay at the Gunung Mulu NP for a few nights while we visit the famed caves there, dig around in the batshit and watch them fly out at night, look for carnivorous plants that might eat one or two of the kids and millipedes as big as your foot. I might even take the 10 year old and hike the Pinnacles which is a three day two night jungle trek with the last part hoisting yourself up rope ladders, which sounds like a great challenge.

3. Sandakan. 4 NIGHTS.  We’ll then fly to Sandakan via KK and check out Sepilok Orang Utan rehab centre and then check in to Uncle Tan’s jungle camp. Apparently spartan but it’s on the Kinibatangan River which is the most densely populated wildlife place in East Malaysia so our chances of seeing elephants, orang utan, and proboscis monkeys will be great.

I’m really keen to do the historic walk in Sandakan and visit the war memorial and tell the kids about the 1400 aussie diggers that were killed on the death marches there by the Japanese in World War II. Only six, who escaped and were looked after by villagers survived. I’m going to pay my respects. Agnes Keith house will be fascinating too. She was an American author, who along with her husband and toddler, survived the brief occupation in a prison camp in Kuching and wrote about her experiences living in Sabah.

4. Mt Kinibalu2 NIGHTS. I don’t like the idea of flying everywhere. It’s disjointed from the landscape and gives a false sense of distance and time, so from Sandakan to KK we’ll go by coach. That way we can slow things down, and be forced to wait, watch, anticipate, rest, talk and think about what we’re doing. It will give us a perspective perhaps on the 250km march to Ranau that the diggers did through the jungle, some in barefeet. Stopping at Mt Kinibalu NP we’ll stay from a couple of nights and do some of the great walks in the area and get a good view of SE Asia’s highest peak.

5. Poring Hot Springs 1 NIGHT. After hopefully covering a few kilometers at Mt Kinibalu , we’ll head across to Poring Hot Springs nearby and soak in them and do some walks there and relax for a night. I think the kids will really like it here and we’ll probably stay outside of the park. There are some nice waterfalls to visit as well.

6. Kota Kinibalu 2 NIGHTS.  After that we’ll finish up in Kota Kinibalu, the capital of Sabah (it used to be Sandakan before it was bombed to oblivion by the Japanese), where I’m dying to try the Filipino night market barbeque and visit the  Tunku Abdul Rahman chain of islands to snorkel, swim and relax on the beaches before jumping on a plane and heading back to KL via Singapore.
We really want to be able to relax and take our time to absorb culture and a sense of place as we move through East Malaysia, so we will consciously resist the sense of “I’ve got to see as much as I can because we’ve spent so much to get here” which can easily suck you in. The harder you push with kids, the less enjoyable things are.

7. Singapore

We’ve got relatives in Singapore and since we’re in the area, we thought we’d stop over there on the way back to KL for several nights. I’m not keen on this leg of the trip because I’m not a fan of the concrete jungle, but I’ve drawn up a bit of an itinerary that will hopefully be relaxing and enjoyable with the kids whilst steering clear of Orchard Rd and avoiding affluenza like the plague.

Any thoughts about our itinerary? Anything we could cut out or should maybe add in? I’m still agonizing about booking internal flights because I’m really not sure how long to stay in each place. Once again – a victim of procrastination.


8 responses to “Our itinerary ideas

  1. tom hewitt April 13, 2011 at 12:03 am

    I would not climb the Pinnacles with kids, even for adults it is dangerous and exhausting, one slip and you have a major cut. However Camp 5 is stunning. At Poring there is new rainforest hideaway called Lupa Masa which is in a great location away from the park and the hoardes of visitors. Facebook lupa masa.

    I have guide friends who can organise day or overnight trips to turtle islands and parks out of Kuching – this would be great for your trip I think

  2. John April 13, 2011 at 12:44 am

    Hey there Tom, thanks for the comment. I would probably only consider taking my 11 year old on the Pinnacles and leaving the rest of the family to do the shorter walks around the caves.
    Thanks for the tip on Lupa Masa, I’ll definitely check it out. I like getting away from tourists!
    Can you message me with some contacts for parks around Kuching? Bako seems to be a difficult place to get to… I wouldn’t mind getting some advice on that one.

    This particular lady was dropped off the boat a mile off the beach and had to wade to the park through the mud. Quite a funny story on the Amateur Traveler Podcast.

  3. Fleur April 15, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    We are travelling in Sarawak with two little kids (3 and 1 year old), and stay most of the time in and around Kuching.

    I think it is easiest to have an own car. Semenggoh is about 80 RM per person when you book a tour, but the entrance fee to the park is only 3 RM. It is good driving there. First time we saw about 7 Orang utans, and the second time only one (the ‘big boss’ Richie).

    Bako NP is nice, also with kids. Boat costs 47 RM one way, but you can share with other people. We didn’t walk the famous short-track to the beach with the proboscis monkeys: they were at the headquarters around 5 pm. You see most wildlife at the end of the day or early morning. Staying overnight is recommended. You can easily book at the website

    We loved a trip to Gunung Gading to watch the Rafflesia . At the website of sarawakforestry you can find the phonenumber to call the park if there is one blooming. There are also some trails (don’t forget swimming clothes).

    • John April 19, 2011 at 9:03 am

      Thanks for that Fleur, I might grab a car on the days where it would be really useful. It sounds like for getting to Semenggoh, that it would definitely be good value to get one. We’ll definitely stay overnight at Bako. Is there any accommodation there outside the park? Was thinking it might be a tad cheaper….

      • Fleur April 24, 2011 at 2:12 pm

        I don’t know if there is accomodation outside the park, but at least you pay the entrance fee twice (10 RM pp I thought) and also the boat trip to the park. I think it is cheaper to stay in the park itself, otherwise you’ll miss the animals at dusk and dawn.

      • John April 26, 2011 at 10:13 am

        Yeah good call Fleur, I think I’ll just stay in the park in that case!

  4. angler April 20, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Unless your 11-year-old is tall enough and used to outdoor activities, I’d second tom hewitt’s objection to bringing him to climb Pinnacles. My friend is 5″3 and she had difficulty climbing up some of the pointy peaks at the free-hand climbing section. I wish you luck and hope it won’t rain. Raining makes descent a total bitch.

    • John April 26, 2011 at 10:12 am

      Yeah I hadn’t thought about the height issue. He’s a small 10 y.o. but recently summited the highest peak in Tasmania which is Mt Ossa, which required a fair bit of scrambling. I think the rain would make it really hard though, and we are going in monsoon season…. hmmmm

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