Travels in Borneo

I'll be honest, when deciding where to go on holiday about 6 months ago, Borneo was not on my list.  It wasn't a place I was desperate to go to or saw as unique from some of the other countries I've been lucky enough to travel too.

I couldn't have been more wrong.  Borneo is BEAUTIFUL.  The people, the scenery, the atmosphere and the food.  It's full of colour, warmth, culture, and joy.  

I was delighted to be offered to work on a collaboration with the Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort and get to experience all that they have to offer.

 

A Week In Paradise

 

25.02.18 - Arrival

We flew from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu, which is located on the northwest side of the island.  Once off the plane, were greeted by the amazing Cynthia ( Communications Executive) and the wonderfully friendly Shangri-la Driver.  A rather special birthday welcoming for me.  Once we got to the resort we were again greeted by numerous people who handed us the traditional Borneo necklace which symbolized the local tribe here in Sabah.   That day concluded with Dinner at the Italian Resturant Oceana, and a very touching birthday song sang to me at the table.

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26.02.18 - Watersports & Jungle Trekks

After a morning of Paddleboarding on the beautiful Shangri-La Rasa Ria beach, we went on a jungle tour, through the depths of the Sabah forest.  Having been warned of the deadly animals that inhabit this place I was nervous, to say the least.  However, I found it thoroughly educational, beautiful and untouched.  It was actually quite incredible to be in REAL nature, something that we barely see in London.  I loved the exhilarating feeling that something could be around the next corner that we would have no control of!

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27.02.18 - Snorkelling

We decided that today was the day we were going to venture to another Island off the coast of Kota Kinabalu (the main city).  We had researched 4 different islands, trying to find the least commercial to go snorkeling.  I cannot tell you what a let down this whole experience was.  I actually had to leave hours before the allotted time as I was so affected and saddened by it.  As soon as we arrived on Sapi Island it was commercial, touristy and loads of companies trying to sell you things.  Completely ruined the peacefulness and beauty of visiting an island.  Secondly, the coral was dead (read my blog post on the sea here), there were absolutely no fish and rubbish filled the beaches.  It was heart-wrenching to see how we are destroying this planet and how mother nature had been filled with plastic packets.

 

28.02.18 - Kayaking down the Mangroves

I have to say this days activity was my favorite of the whole week.  We traveled 10 minutes down the road to the mangroves river and went kayaking down the breathtaking water. Our guide was excellent and told us all about the tribal culture.  There are 32 tribes in Borneo and 16 different languages, shockingly our tour guide could speak them all.  The Mangroves itself are inhabited by sea Gypsies who live in wooden shacks on the banks and take their tiny fishing boats out to catch their food every morning. Although I'm a city girl through and through, I found myself being drawn to the simplistic life they lead.

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01.02.18 - Pool/Beach day

Our day of rest was today.  Spent all day by the pool reading a very good book.  What else are holidays for?

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02.02.18 - Canopy Breakfast

We got up early today and went back into the jungle, this time for a special private breakfast on the canopy walkway.  Eating fresh fruit surrounded by the thick jungle is something ill remember for a long time.  In the afternoon we got taken on a Catamaran boat by a lovely man called Sheldon, and sailed on the ocean, a rather relaxing experience. 

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03.02.18 - Local towns and Jungle Night Walk

We cycled into the local town Laya Laya today, which took about half an hour from the resort.  It was mesmerizing to see how the locals lived here, growing their own produce and living so minimally.  It really made me think about the lifestyle I have in London.  On the path down to a locals house, we saw a Spitting Cobra on the side of the road (google it), which made me think of the reality of these local people, having to live with snakes on their doorsteps.  Once we had reached the local woman's house we were greeted with coffee and pancakes that she made with love.    

In the evening, was the activity I had been dreading all week.  A pitch black jungle night tour with night vision goggles.  We were told that a lot of the animals in the forest were nocturnal and so we should see quite a few.  Resistantly I went into the jungle, with a HUGE fear of spiders, knowing full well that there were tarantulas lurking.  My own horror film.  I'm happy to say I did see a rather large tarantula and faced my fears head on and came our exhilarated.

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Conclusion

All in all, I experienced so much in Borneo and learned a huge amount about their culture.  Other than the snorkeling trip I would recommend every other activity above.  The Shangri-La Rasa Ria were brilliant at organising all of this and made this week a very special one.