Borneo is Malaysia’s hidden gem. The island is best known for its impressive array of wildlife including proboscis monkeys and orang utans, as well as massive natural caves. Near the capital of Sabah, Mount Kinabalu is also a hiker and amateur mountain climber’s dream. But if all this seems a little daunting with kids, don’t worry. suitcases&strollers has a parent-friendly solution to ticking the Borneo with kids box all from the luxury of an all inclusive family resort. 

The Destination

There are times when every parent feels that the most they can cope with is a simple beach holiday. But somehow, a vacation where you never leave the resort can also be accompanied by (very slight) feelings of regret – especially in a destination like Kota Kinabalu where there is so much natural beauty to explore.  

Never fear, there is a foolproof cheater’s way to experience a slice of Borneo wildlife with hardly any effort at all.

The answer is pick a resort that has it’s own endangered species on site. Housed right inside the Shangri-La Rasa Ria is an orang utan protection program at the resort’s Nature Reserve. There are daily feeding sessions so you can bring the kids to see these beautiful but endangered beasts up (fairly) close in something like their natural habitat.

In addition, the Kids Club runs a half day program where children can follow one of the resort’s rangers around to really learn about nature and wildlife.

The Rasa Ria has all the amenities you would expect including beach, decent restaurants, pool with large slide and, of course, the Kids Club, but it’s not a flashy or chic property. Happily, for fussier travellers, there is a second option.

The sister resort Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa is a more modern, elegant option that boasts all the major amenities. The orang utans are only a direct shuttle away, so you can get the best of both worlds (the trendier property and still seeing the gentle apes). But while Tanjung Aru has an extremely cool water play area with 100 meters of slides, water battle stations and a dedicated toddler area, there is no Kids Club here, so parents do have to decide at what price stylishness.

For a Southeast Asian beach holiday with a twist, this is kind of perfect.

The Practicalities

It is not safe to drink the water from the tap in Malaysia. Only use bottled water for drinking and be wary of children drinking water in the shower or the bath. 

For more ideas on family holiday destinations in Borneo, see the suitcases&strollers story Niah National Park.