Losing my heart to Borneo
After our fabulous time in Penang, I was a little worried that our time in Kota Kinabulu and the Shangri La Rasa Ria wouldn’t be as fun or memorable, But I needn’t have worried, we had the most amazing time, with jam packed days of adventure, fun, laughter, activities galore and even a storm! In fact, this was my favourite stop of all the places we visited this summer.
Our arrival at the Rasa Ria was truly dramatic as we arrived as the tail end of the tornado which had hit the Philippines reached the shores of Kota Kinabalu. We were literally blown away by our arrival at the resort but the staff were fabulous. The Garden Wing Lobby was really exposed to the elements and they ensured that everything movable was quickly and efficiently locked down and all guests were safe and looked after.
What can I say about the Rasa Ria resort, it is truly beautiful with its secluded position as the only hotel on miles and mile. With such untouched coastline it meant that it was like a true fairy book adventure, like being castaway on a far flung island. I have a thing for beaches and for me it is the epitome of a holiday and having an entire, gorgeous beach to me was a highlight. The Rasa Ria was well known for their orang-utan scheme, but this program has now ended with all the animals now being relocated in Sepilok . Even though this would have been the icing on the cake the resort itself is still amazing and beautiful and I loved every minute of it.
On Tuesday, my niece and I took part in the hotel’s breakfast in the mountain. The walk is 90 metres through the Malaysian rainforest and was a perfect way to clear the cobwebs. It is a fantastic and refreshing way to start the morning. Having done the Canopy walk in KL, this was much easier but it is still quick a walk and appropriate footwear, insect insect repellent and a sense of adventure is required (we spotted a highly poisonous snake in the trees the next day!). The walk involves a steep canopy walk, meeting creepy crawlies and being rewarded with amazing views at the top! Highly recommend it.
We walked back down to join the rest of the family, who were enjoying what in my opinion is one of the best breakfast spreads ever. There was literally so many choices of everything I could ever imagine eating for breakfast topped off by a traditional tea pourer. Zayn is now disappointed if tea is not poured with such skill and effect as it was at the Rasa Ria.
Part of travelling in a family group is the advantage of having babysitters to hand and my lovely sister and niece volunteered to watch the little adventurers whilst Doc and I got a little time away. Doc and I went to sample the hotels spa and had a truly refreshing full body massage. We had lots of leg massages in Penang but this spa was definitely the next level. All my weeks and daily stresses were quickly washed away with an amazing full body massage. We were so relaxed, Doc fell asleep on several occasions through his massage! The Spa is located in the golf club onsite, which is where we met the rest of the family for lunch.
The setting of the Golf Terrace restaurant in the golf club was stunning, the view from our table was truly breathtaking and the perfect setting for a lunch in a tropical wonderland. However, setting aside we were totally blown away by the food that was served. The portions were huge and the selection was fantastic. We left the Golf Terrace full to the brim and totally impressed with the excellent value for money.
We were moved to the Ocean wing for the remainder of our stay at it made a perfect stay even more memorable. Our bedrooms on the ground Floor of the ocean wing, had an outdoor bath, which the little adventurers LOVED, and had a garden path which led straight onto the beach. The little adventurers were so excited that they could get out from the room and be on the beach. The rooms on the Ocean wing were huge, with ample space for families to really spread out.
In the afternoon and evening we embarked on the proboscis monkeys and fireflies tour. I had been looking forward to seeing the monkeys but was left a little disappointed. The monkeys were some distance from the boats and far in the trees, and after a few minutes and scanning the trees the children and I were a little bored. However, the fireflies totally made up for the disappointing monkey element.
As we were a family of 7 we had out own boat and as darkness fell, we went further into the water to be greeted with scene of lights aglow in the trees. The sight was truly magical, like a scene from Tinkerbell. The guide then used a light to attract some of the fireflies to the boat. It was a truly magical experience to hold a firefly and have it sit on your hand. the little adventurers (and adults alike) were truly enchanted by the experience! This enchantment is why I travel and why I am passionate about travelling with children. As I looked around the boat, each and every face was aglow with pure and unadulterated excitement of an experience which will stay with them for a very long time! The experience was definitely more enjoyable with us having our own boat as it was quite hard to get the fireflies in a boat and being one of tens of people on a boat will definitely detract from the experience. There are so many amazing wildlife experiences in Borneo that we will have to return in the future to try them out.
My niece and I had another early start to the day with a horse riding session on the beach. This was the first time we went horse riding and I couldn’t think of a better place to try this. From the resort you are led onto the beach and at that time of the morning we had the whole beach to ourselves. As we rode across the sand, the waves were crashing softly in the background, it was really picturesque and idyllic.
Whilst we enjoying a late breakfast, Maya and Raihan were having a try at the Rangers experience from the children’s club. The experience is led by a ranger and the child attend unsupervised. From the excitement and the stories that the children shared after they loved their time in the forest. The children learnt lots of different facts and information about the forest, the animals and creatures within the woods and things to look out for and plants which can help! The children were super chuffed that they got to keep their rangers outfit and have been wearing with pride on many occasions since!
The little adventurers wanted to spend the rest of the day enjoying the gorgeous pools in the hotel, so we had a relaxing afternoon of lazing and enjoying watching the little adventurers zooming down water slides and having hours and hours of simple fun! On Wednesday, the hotel also have a meet the rangers session.
I went along but it is great for the whole family. They have all the rangers on hand and showcase plants, animals including snakes and its a really great way to learn about the rainforests and the work that the rangers do.
We ended the day watching a gorgeous sunset on the beach. It was definitely one of the most beautiful we have ever seen.
From there, we headed over to with a gorgeous buffet meal at the Tepi Laut Restaurant. The restaurant has freshly cooked food from Malaysia, Singapore and the Indian subcontinent. The variety and food was fantastic and we all loved trying so many different dishes. The highlight of the evening was the traditional dance show which is part of the restaurants entertainment. I loved that the guests are able to join the performers on the stage and have a try and local traditional dancing and my little adventurers loved giving this a try.
As the day of our last day at Rasa Ria dawned we were all very sad to be leaving but we had a morning of fun still to enjoy. We went for a walk across the beach and watching the children running, playing and really getting to enjoy the beach without constantly fretting that they would be in someones way was great. The little adventurers and Doc went to try out the children’s club, which has an amazing variety of activities for children to enjoy, whilst the rest of us just got to enjoy the peace and tranquility that is the Rasa Ria.
As we left the hotel, I was genuinely sad that our time in Borneo and Rasa Ria had come to an end. We had a fantastic 3 days in the island and it truly stole my heart. Its on wishlist to return and explore the rest of region very soon