Borneo family holiday, tailor made

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Departure information

This trip can be tailormade throughout the year and can be adapted to suit your interests, budget and requirements as necessary
Vouchers
Accepted
Holiday type
Small group holidays
Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Simplicity
Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.

Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
Mythbuster
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
No.
Meet a group leader
As well as taking care of all the day-to-day practicalities, your group leader is the one who will turn your trip into an adventure. Leaders are extraordinary characters – the kind of person who has spent 14 Christmas days on the slopes of Mount Everest, runs marathons wearing tiger suits to raise funds for their conservation and thinks nothing of leading an overland trip in Sudan or Afghanistan. Fearless and inspiring, group leaders are as important as the destination itself.

Meet a local guide
No matter how experienced your group leader, they can never make up for the knowledge gained from a lifetime in the destination. That’s why many of our trips work with local guides around the world – who invite you into their homeland with pleasure. As well as doing crazy things like climbing Kilimanjaro 100 times, they also donate their time to local projects supported by travellers – such as rebuilding Sri Lankan villages following the 2004 tsunami.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Borneo family holiday, tailor made

Environment

We work with the Orangutan Appeal UK, the only not-for-profit charity that works directly with the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary in Sandakan. Clients have the option to sponsor an orphaned Orangutan named Beryl, who was found alone on a plantation by one of the workers when she was only a year old. The money goes directly to the Sanctuary in Sepilok to continue their excellent work. Clients receive an ‘adoption certificate’ and regular email updates on the progress of Beryl and of course if you’re lucky you may see her when you visit the Centre.

On this tour, you will visit the famous Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah, founded in 1964, to rehabilitate orphan orang-utans. The site is 43 square kilometres of protected land at the edge of Kabili Sepilok Forest Reserve. Today around 60 to 80 orang-utans are living free in the reserve. The facility provides medical care for orphaned and confiscated orang-utans as well as dozens of other wildlife species. Some of the other animals which end up being treated at the centre include sun bears, gibbons, Sumatran rhinos and the occasional injured elephants.

Created in 1984, Tabin has been declared a Wildlife Reserve primarily on account of the large number of animals inhabiting its forests, some of which are highly endangered. The three largest mammals of Sabah, namely Borneo Pygmy Elephants, Sumatran Rhinoceros and Tembadau are all found within the reserve; nine species of primate are present, as well as three species of cats all of which are on the protected wildlife list. Of bird species, 42 families representing 220 species have been recorded. The Reserve works alongside Sepilok Orang-Utan Sanctuary near Sandakan - the rehabilitated orang-utans are released into the Reserve. It is twice the size of Singapore so has an enormous potential to allow the wildlife to roam free relatively undisturbed. By visiting the Reserve, clients will be able to learn about the need for the preservation of this important habitat. The Tabin Wildlife Resort believes that research, advocacy and management are the three critical elements contributing towards an effective conservation strategy. The Resort runs many educational programmes including a Rhino Conservation programme whereby volunteers can help the Reserve staff survey and monitor the rhino population. The Resort organises all guests into small groups for all activities to minimise any environmental impart. Kitchen waste generated in the resort is disposed of in a responsible manner and guests are encouraged to recycle waste products by providing recycling dustbins. Tabin Wildlife Resort has a policy of buying local produce and supplies wherever possible and available, ensuring that the local communities benefit, and guests are encouraged to buy local products so that money stays in the local population. The Resort also constantly trains young local guides and staff to provide them with the necessary skills for career advancement.

Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts is a founding member of the Asia Pacific Hotels Environmental Initiative. In accordance with the Group's environmental policy, all Shangri-La and Traders hotels have "Green Programs" to identify ways to reduce wastage, eradicate practices that damage the environment and generally promote environmental awareness. The Resort also operates an irrigation program for its 18-hole Golf Course using 'grey' or recycled water from the Resort.

The Nature Reserve, located beside Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort, has a forest garden planted with different types of trees and plants to encourage the habitation of insects and small wildlife. The 64-acre Nature Reserve of coastal vegetation is home to 62 species of birds, various reptiles and mammals and the much-endangered Orangutans. A Rehabilitation Programme was initiated by the resort in support of the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre of the Sabah Wildlife Department. To date, a total of 32 Orangutans have successfully passed the first stage of the rehabilitation

The Tanjung Aru Resort collaborates with the WWF and works with villagers from Kampung Berungus in Kudat to preserve the seagrass bed habitat of the seacow or 'dugong'. The Resort obtains a weekly supply of sustainably harvested fish and shrimp to be served in the resort’s restaurants. It is anticipated that this long-term collaboration will help restore the integrity of the marine eco-system whilst providing poverty troubled villagers with a consistent source of income. The Resort has also introduced a 'Bakashi' program which is a system using fermented organic matter to create compost for gardens from kitchen organic waste. This has resulted in a reduction in the amount of fertiliser and compost used.

Community

Our ground agents only employ local guides to accompany our clients. All food in the lodges is sourced locally wherever possible, helping the local rural communities.

The Abai Jungle Lodge operates a tree planting and lunch programme with the local Abai villagers as part of your time there. This programme has been introduced by the Lodge as a way to directly contribute money to the local village community, plus it helps guests learn a little about the way this traditional community lives.

The Rasa Ria Resort established a Nature Conservation Programme in 1996 between the Resort and the Sabah Wildlife Department to establish a nature education centre for the general public and local Sabah schoolchildren. The Shangri-La chain has also set up 'Embrace', a Care for People project which commits each hotel to a chosen local organisation for at least 5-10 years.

Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort has partnered with Seri Mengasih, a school for over 100 intellectually and physically challenged children, since 2008. 2010 marked the third year of full school fees support alongside regular hotel skills training in areas such as housekeeping and bakery, with the goal of hiring apprentices into the hotel. One apprentice works at the registration and towel counter by the poolside and is able to interact with guests.

2 Reviews of Borneo family holiday, tailor made

4 out of 5 stars
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Reviewed on 10 Oct 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Probably a toss up between the fireflies on the Kinabatangan River or the stay at the Gayana Eco Resort.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Spend more time at the Abai lodge, this was a perfect stepping stone for wildlife. Spend more time in the Sandakan markets. Sponsor an Orangutan. Visit the Sunbear centre in Sepilok. Try and go diving on the East COast of Sabah. Don't expect too much from KOta Kinabalu or Lahad Datu. Expect more from Sandakan that Lonely Planet says. Climbing Mt. Kinabalu is bloody expensive. Expect everything to be punctual. The coffee is horrible but the people are universally friendly.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


This is hard to tell, there was certainly an effort but it is hard to judge how much money trickles down. The work the Gayana Eco Resort is doing the Marine Research Centre is very admirable. I am hoping that the tree planting at the Abai River Lodge is not just a sop to tourists and is having a REAL impact. Can I suggest that an optional tariff is added to trips to benefits endangered species, sustainable Palm oil initiatives and local communities.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


We had a wonderful time. A couple of pieces of feedback.
Tabin Wildlife Reserve - You may want to suggest that the memorial to the woman killed by an elephant is repaired or replaced. At the moment it is being used as a default ashtray.
Sandakan - The lunch at the Sabah Hotel was very ordinary, may be suggest lunch in the Sandakan markets, much more exotic.
Operators - The punctuality and friendliness of all the operators was extraordinary. There was not a bad word to say about any of them
Itinerary - Timing was good, not too frenetic, would suggest, if possible to go straight to Abai River Lodge and spend a couple of nights. We loved it there

Reviewed on 15 Jul 2013 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


There were lots of highlights but we particularly enjoyed seeing the elephants swimming across the river and also releasing turtle hatchlings back into the sea. We also loved Abai jungle lodge. Beautiful scenery and wonderful staff.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Take a rain coat...... It does rain heavily sometimes and you are in open top boats. Take some binoculars. Make sure you wear trainers and cover up in the bat caves. It is an absolutely fascinating place but if you don’t like insects its not the place for you.

Try and make time to fit in an extra visit to the orangutan sanctuary by yourselves (not with the tour guide). You can hang around longer and we saw the orangutans actually playing in the wild rather than just at the feeding station. If you are staying at the rasa ria resort hotel or selligan island make sure you wear lots of insect repellant as sand flies are a big issue.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Absolutely. We thought it was great that we could plant a new tree in land damaged by fire. We thought it was good that you were only allowed to see 1 turtle lay its eggs rather than the 28 that came ashore that evening. They are keeping disruption of the turtles to a minimum. Our thoughts were that the money they get from tourism helps to ensure that lots of baby turtles are given a better chance of survival. All the jungle guides were very keen in conservation and protecting the animals which was good

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


9.5 out of 10. Everything was excellent apart from a couple of niggly things. The accommodation and facilities at selligan island needs to be improved and beware of the sand flies at the rasa ria resort and selligan island.

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