Borneo family holidays

Family holidays in Malay Borneo let you live your own adventure story. Even young kids will feel like intrepid jungle explorers, with rainforest canopy walkways, eye-popping wildlife watching, winding river-boat trips, and snorkelling around tropical islands.

Kids will always remember seeing iconic rainforest wildlife burst from their imaginations into reality, whether watching orang-utans feed just a few metres away, or swimming over weird and wonderful sea creatures.

Even during essential downtime, the sounds, sights and rhythms of the jungle create constant wonder. Whether you’re with ready-for-anything teens, or toddlers taking it all in, no-one’s going to get bored!

Highlights of a family holiday in Borneo

  • Get within breath-holding distance of orang-utans protected by inspiring conservation projects
  • Splash and snorkel in the shallows around Sabah’s west coast
  • Cruise through the Kinabatangan River’s rainforest wonderland
  • Render Batman fans speechless watching millions of bats leave the Mulu Caves at sunset
  • Experience life with local families in a rainforest longhouse

With a UK based team of Destination Specialists with offices and partners across Asia, ensuring we focus on staying really local in our approach.  Our specialists have travelled extensively in Borneo and throughout Asia, many having also lived in the region.

Along with enjoying great travels, the team regularly inspect the best hotels, seek out new activities and design new routes – for inspiration we’d suggest taking a look through some of their Favourite Journeys. The weather during any of the kids' holidays is always an important consideration and we have that covered with our best time to visit Borneo section.

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...and where to rest your head

Three of our favourite family-friendly hotels in Borneo

Borneo with kids: what to expect?

Borneo’s unique wildlife is a massive part of the island’s appeal. Your family holiday will be peppered with extraordinary creature encounters - both planned and spontaneous - from creepy crawlies crossing your path, to iconic mammals glimpsed through the trees.
Young naturalists-in-training will love orangutan spotting at Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre, or catching glimpses of these instantly recognisable primates from a Kinabatangan riverboat. Watch little eyes light up as they spy colourful birds, familiar primates and even pygmy elephants along the banks.

Getting involved with ethical wildlife projects is a top priority for any aspiring Attenborough. The Danum Valley and Tabin Wildlife Reserve are both inspirational settings where kids can get hands on with real-world conservation. Sway along treetop walkways at the renowned Rainforest Lodge to viewing platforms nestled in the canopy. Hear gibbons calling through the trees, see deer padding softly over the ground, and embark on thrilling night safaris.
Intrepid kids, keen to push those adventure boundaries a bit further, can head even deeper into the jungle to make bamboo rafts, build shelters and try some wild cooking. Trek to Gunung Mulu’s immense caves where the topside and underground worlds collide, and watch your brood make friends with local children in a tribal longhouse community homestay. 
If you’re craving a few chilled-out days after the intensity of the rainforest, head to Borneo’s beautiful west coast. Shangri-La’s Risa Ria resort on Kota Kinabalu’s Pantai Dalit beach is a top spot for stress-free family time. Alternatively, the Gaya Island Resort offers the full tropical paradise experience. Snorkel over reefs teeming with life, learn about turtle conservation, and spend precious moments relaxing together on the sand.

Things you’ll all love in Borneo 

What to do in Borneo: Discover more with our hand-picked experiences & highlights
Cruise through Borneo’s rainforest riverways

Cruise through Borneo’s rainforest riverways

Glide through Kinabatangan’s backwaters to the sound of hooting gibbons and exotic birds, keeping a look-out for rare pygmy elephants on the tangled banks. The Kinabatangan River is the second longest river in Malaysia, winding its way through 560km of stunning scenery, spectacular limestone caves, placid oxbow lakes and mangrove swamps. 

Orangutan experiences borneo

Come face to face with the ‘Old Men of the Forest’

These majestic animals fascinate us - perhaps due to their high intelligence, uncannily familiar mannerisms, & inspiring relationship with the rainforest. Much of this habitat has disappeared, but conservation efforts are underway to protect these incredible creatures. Responsible eco-tourism is a crucial aspect of this process, and gives you the opportunity to marvel at the magnificence of orang-utans in their natural surroundings.

Spot weird and wonderful wildlife on land and underwater

Gaya Island: spot weird and wonderful wildlife on land and underwater

Loved for its fantastic snorkelling and swimming, Pulau Gaya is special amongst Borneo’s islands in that it also boasts several accessible wildlife trails through the rainforest, and a small canopy walk. Just 15 minutes off the west coast of Sabah, Gaya is a beautifully balanced blend of jungle adventure and tranquil island retreat.

Discover what life is like high among the jungle canopy

Discover what life is like high among the jungle canopy

Borneo Rainforest Lodge is set deep in the heart of Danum Valley, a large rainforest conservation area two hours drive from Lahad Datu in Sabah's south east. Here you’ll have the privilege of experiencing something very few people ever will – immersion in one of Borneo's pristine rainforests, 130 million years old and with a staggering 200 plant species per hectare.

 
 

Responsible Travel in Borneo

There's precious little left of Borneo's rainforest, with much of it now removed to make way for oil palm and other crops. What remains is generally protected, and home to tribes who've lived there for millennia, along with endangered species — the orang-utan, of course, the most famous of these. 

The island's biodiversity is the stuff of legend, and there's no exaggeration — one rainforest dipterocarp tree supports up to 1,000 species, and 40% of the island's 15,000 plant species can be found nowhere else on the planet. It's not limited to the rainforest, either — Borneo sits in the 'Sea Turtle Corridor', a protected area of ocean recognised as vital to marine life, with several turtle species laying eggs on Borneo’s offshore islands. 

For first-time visitors, we like to combine a stay in the rainforest (including a few short treks accompanied by expert trackers) with a visit to an ethical orang-utan rehabilitation centre, a wildlife-spotting boat trip along a jungle-clad river, and a few days at an island resort with a sound conservation policy. Participating in these activities and through your stay in our carefully selected, conservation focused lodges and resorts helps to ensure that part of your holiday spend makes it back to the  wildlife, environment and communities that needs it the most.

Find out more about Selective Asia's Responsible Travel policy and our innovative One Bottle at a Time initiative.

Our Borneo Specialists' top tips for families

With quite a few parents among our well-travelled Destination Specialists, we know how important it is to get the finer details sorted before travelling with kids, and we always go the extra mile to make sure they are. We want everyone to enjoy each moment without sweating the small stuff.

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For peace of mind when booking your future holiday to Asia, we have introduced flexible booking conditions & full financial clarity.