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Borneo family holidays

Family holidays in Malay Borneo take you out of your comfort zone and towards the extraordinary. Walking through the jungle (or ziplining over it!) brings full-body immersion in one of Asia’s most iconic natural landscapes, with eye-popping wildlife, winding river-boat trips and island snorkelling to capture the imagination. Even during essential family downtime, whether taking a moment of stillness on a canopy walkway or waking up in a lodge deep in the rainforest, the sounds, sights and rhythms of the island create constant wonder. 

Treading gently is a given as you all learn more about nurturing the fragility of the environment. The funding generated through considerate travel to Borneo is a strong force in protecting the landscape and the wildlife within it, making it an ideal place for families to tangibly experience conservation in action. 

Borneo weather & when to go

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Kids will always remember seeing Borneo’s wildlife burst from their imaginations into reality, whether watching orangutans feed just a few metres away or swimming near otherworldly sea creatures.

Stephen - Borneo specialist

Get within breath-holding distance of orang-utans protected by inspiring conservation projects

Sabah beach

Splash and snorkel in the shallows around Sabah’s west coast

Monkeys by the Kinabatangan river

Cruise through the Kinabatangan River’s rainforest wonderland

Gunung Mulu National Park

Render Batman fans speechless watching millions of bats leave the Mulu Caves at sunset

Borneo with kids: what to expect? 

Borneo’s wilderness is a proper antidote to the daily grind, ideal for celebrating the end of exam season or having a memorable adventure before the kids branch out into the world under their own steam.


Borneo’s distinctive wildlife is a huge part of the island’s appeal, from giant creepy crawlies crossing your path to the sight of an orangutan’s russet fur through the trees. Getting involved with ethical wildlife projects is a top priority for any aspiring Attenborough and the Danum Valley and Tabin Wildlife Reserve are both inspirational settings where you can experience real-world conservation in action. Hear gibbons call from treetop walkways at the Rainforest Lodge, see deer padding softly over the ground, and embark on daring night safaris. Glimpse the instantly-recognisable orangutans when they stop to feed at the inspiring Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre or even, perhaps, whilst watching the banks from a Kinabatangan riverboat…


Adventures and local life

Families keen to push their boundaries further can head deeper into the jungle to make bamboo rafts, build shelters and try wild cooking. Take a trek to Gunung Mulu’s immense caves where the topside and underground worlds collide in beautiful cool caverns that are home to millions of bats. Discover a different perspective at a longhouse homestay, where the days start early for everyone, even teenagers! Learn about the lifestyles of the communities who live surrounded by the jungle, immersing your family in an alternative way of life. Join the longhouse residents as they go about their daily routines, discover traditional uses of rainforest plants in Iban culture, and visit local farms to get a deeper understanding of contemporary rainforest living.

Gunung Mulu

Beach life

Balance the vivid intensity of Borneo’s rainforests with a little relaxation on its golden sands at the beginning or end of your family trip. Head to the island’s beautiful west coast where Shangri-La’s Risa Ria resort, on Kota Kinabalu’s Dalit beach, offers a healing dose of together time surrounded by a private nature reserve. Alternatively, the Gaya Island Resort is the full tropical paradise experience, where you can snorkel over the reefs discovering some of the incredible marine species that thrive in Borneo’s waters. A family holiday to Borneo is never going to focus solely on the coast, of course, but a little cross-generation downtime is perfect for digesting everything you’ve seen, or preparing for your next adventure.

Beach in Borneo

Getting the most from your Family Holiday to Borneo

When thinking of a family holiday to Borneo, certain images instantly spring to mind - orangutans moving through dense foliage, winding waterways snaking their way into the jungle, remote lodges where you can rest your head in comfort and wake to the cacophony of the rainforest chorus… It holds an enduring appeal for all ages, ticking all the right boxes for a family holiday with a high level of adventure and intrepid engagement. However, each trip is different and it's important to take things at the right pace for you. Build in some dedicated downtime, marvel at the whole picture rather than searching for a particular species, and slow the pace to soak it all in. 

Girl on boat in Borneo

Our Borneo Specialists’ top tips for families

Book early! Those extraordinary rainforest lodges are the only way to stay deep in the Borneo jungle, and there are only a handful of them, so they tend to get booked up quickly.

Consider turning your flight change destination into a proper 2-day stopover. A couple of nights in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore can be a great way to include some city experiences in your family holiday, before hitting the rainforest wilderness. It lets kids ease gently into a different time zone too.

Be open to the idea of all-inclusive resorts, even if they’re not usually your cup of tea. The rainforest resorts are all-in, because the nearest shops and restaurants are a jungle away! On the coast, there are several luxurious resorts which really do have everything onsite to make your family holiday stress-free, without feeling like a cruise ship.

Unsurprisingly, being a rainforest destination, Borneo’s weather is localised and complex, and most regions experience rainy days all year round. Happily, however, the high season falls between May and September, fitting perfectly around major school holidays, and visits during earlier spring will benefit from both good weather and lower visitor numbers too.

We send many families to Borneo every year, as it’s such a fantastic destination, and the feedback we get is that they feel welcomed, reassured and supported throughout their trip. It’s definitely a more adventurous destination than some, and you’ll be a good few miles from city life, so many things will be different from what you’re used to. If at any time you’re unsure of anything, our fantastic guides are always on hand to help.

When planning a trip to Asia, it’s important to consider the possible requirement for vaccinations and immunisations. Most importantly, we stress that you should contact your doctor or medical practitioner well before you depart to get their advice on any vaccinations you may need for your trip. If you’ve travelled recently and believe that you are already up-to-date, it is still worth checking as vaccinations have a varying life span. Much of Cambodia has been designated low risk for malaria on the NHS Fit For Travel map, and the NHS Travel Vaccinations site has lots of up-to-date information on travel vaccinations too. 

Citizens of the UK, most EU countries, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States do not require a visa to visit Malaysia or Malay Borneo for a stay of up to three months. Notable exceptions are citizens from Greece & Portugal who can stay visa-free for up to one month only. All other nationalities should check with the Malaysian Embassy in their country of residence for the most up-to-date information. In the event of a visa being required, arrangements should be made with the Malaysian Embassy in advance of your departure to Malay Borneo.

You’ll need leech socks when walking through the rainforest to prevent any unwanted guests tagging along for a free ride! Getting them in advance can be a bonus, as you can choose the type you prefer. You can purchase the socks in most good camping and outdoor pursuit shops, or through some charitable organisations whose profits go towards rainforest conservation. If you're visiting the Borneo Rainforest Lodge, you may find they're a lot cheaper there than in the UK.

Prudent packing for a family holiday in Borneo is key, as getting hold of extra bits once you’re there might be a bit of a hassle - you’ll be a long way from most shops! Light, long sleeved shirts, long trousers or skirts, and perhaps a light scarf, will provide valuable protection against strong sunlight and mosquitoes, and mean that you’re prepared for any modest dress code needs too. We’d recommend bringing your own supplies of essentials, such as nappies, formula etc. as well as your preferred brand of sunscreen, leech socks (if you want to get them in advance) and a decent insect repellent. If you’re travelling with tinies, think about taking a really good baby carrier, as you’ll be doing a lot of walking.

There is no need to obtain Ringgit in advance of your arrival, although it is possible to do so. ATM machines are available in Kuching, Kota Kinabalu, Tawau, Lahad Datu and Sandakan (and also at some airports) which usually offer as good (if not better) rates of exchange than currency exchange bureaus or hotels. The symbol used for Ringgit in many shops and restaurants is $, and card payments are usually accepted.

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