Vibrant city breaks, trekking deep the jungles of Borneo looking for Orang Utans, releasing Turtle Hatchlings back into the natural habitat, playing a round or two of golf, exploring the wonders of the Ocean or simply soaking up the sun on a sandy beach overlooking Crystal azure waters. Holidays in Malaysia really do offer fantastic scope for variety and has something to offer for everyone.
I have been to Malaysia many times now and I never grow tired of this place.
During my last trip to Malaysia I visited Kuala Lumpur (of course), Penang, Langkawi and Borneo
In Kuala Lumpur I stayed at the Berjaya Times Square Hotel and can highly recommend it. It’s classed as a 5 Star property however I would probably rate it as a very good 4 star. Suite was very spacious and very well priced and it offered an excellent location, within 3 minutes walk to Bukit Bintan area. I can recommend a visit to the Petronas Towers, Dinner at KL Tower and a visit to Chinatown. There is a lot more to do in and around Kuala Lumpur such as a trip to Batu Caves, and to see the Fireflies but generally 2-3 days is enough to get a good feel for the place and there is only so much you can do without stretching your time too much.
Penang is a great place but many people treat it as a Beach Holiday however I would personally recommend you stay in the Capital of Georgetown and treat it as a City Break before moving onto somewhere like Langkawi. Langkawi is just a short flight or Ferry transfer from Penang and in my opinion offers a far superior beach experience. Sights in Georgetown, Penang would be Cheong Fatze Mansion, a trishaw ride around Little India and a trip to the Fruit, Spice and Butterfly farms.
Langkawi is one of my favourite places in Malaysia. It had a very relaxed atmosphere and is an ideal place to getaway from it all for a while. It also benefits from being duty free so is a little cheaper than the other destinations. Good excursions here are the Cable Car Ride, a Mangrove forest boat trip and an Island hopping trip to the ‘Island of the Pregnant Lady’ so named because it looks like a pregnant lady laying down from a distance. There are numerous Hotels to choose from in Langkawi ranging from 3 Star Mutiara Burau Bay Resort to the luxurious Datai Hotel.
Borneo is in my top 2 favourite places in the World. I started my trip with a stay at the Shangri La Tanjung Aru Resort close to Kota Kinabalu Centre. Standards here are top notch although the beach is man made. This was not much of an issue as I was only here 1 night before I headed off on my Wildlife Tour.
After my overnight stay at the Shangri La Tanjung Aru Resort I headed off for my flight to Sandakan before transferring to Kinabatangan River. En-route I stopped at Gomontong Caves to witness where they harvest the Birds Nests for Birds Nest Soup. This place is filled with bugs and it is pretty difficult to avoid stepping on them so this is not for the faint hearted. To get to Gomontong you must walk through a forested area for around 15 minutes and I had my eyes peeled the whole time, hoping and praying I would see an Orang Utan. Alas it was not to be and I decided I was being way too optimistic expecting to seethe ‘Wildman of Borneo’ during my first encounter with the rainforest. Slightly disappointed but not too down I proceed to Kinabatangan River. It took around 1 hour by boat to reach my lodge from the Jetty and again my eyes were peeled. I checked in and we had a little time to relax before our first scheduled boat trip in search of Wildlife.
I’m not great at spending time on my own so I headed to the bar and got talking to an American couple who were finishing their round the world trip. They, along with a couple consisting of a German man and a French woman were to be my company for the 2 nights I was there and we all seemed to get on very well. After a drink or two we headed off down Kinabatangan and were fortunate enough to see the peculiar Proboscus Monkey and a Crocodile along with many birds but still no Orang Utan. In the afternoon we pretty much repeated this process albeit in a different direction and we were told there had been sightings of Pygmy Elephants but we could not find them.
The next morning we headed to an area called Ox Bow Lake and we set off on a trek through the Jungle. I felt like I was on cloud nine. I have always dreamed of going to Borneo as I am really into Wildlife and I felt like I was on a Wildlife Documentary expedition as we trekked through the Jungle. My guide was giving out calls to try and attract the Orang Utans, although he did tell me this was considered confrontational to the Orang Utans so I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about this. I decided that if my only chance of seeing the Wildman of Borneo in its natural environment was to end up in a fight with one then so be it!! We found an Orang Utan Nest but still no Orang Utan. On the way back to the boat my guide had a conversation with a brightly coloured bird. He whistled a tune and the Bird was replying, it was quite amusing to witness.
After Dinner I had planned to do a night walk with my Guide and we set off and I noticed we were headed in a different direction to everyone else. I asked where we were going and the guides response was ‘that way is to the pre-planned walk, that is for wimps, I like to make my own trek’. Excellent!!! We headed off, machetes in hand as Terence hacked a route for us through the thick vegetation. We had seen nothing other than insects and a Deer when we reached a river blocking our path. ‘Hmm’ Terence said, it seems our path is being blocked, we may have to go back’. He checked his watch and stated ‘too early to go back’ and ploughed on through the river. I was Knee deep into the river, pitch black except for the small amount of light coming from my torch. Some may not have been too impressed but I could not be happier. A real experience, what I had been dreaming of for years and to top things off I was being paid to do this.
The following morning I woke still thinking of my previous nights experience and although I had been totally blown away by my tour so far, there was still something missing. I had still not seen the elusive Orang Utan in its natural habitat. We had one more Boat ride before we had to set off and I convinced myself we would see one. We had reached the end point of our journey and it was now time to head back to the Resort to collect our bags and leave for the airport. I kept my head down, bitterly disappointed that I had not seen the one thing I had hoped to see when all of a sudden I heard a shout from my Guide, he had not failed me. He spotted an Orang Utan in a nearby tree. The captain pulled the boat up to the river bank and my guide jumped out of the boat to get closer. I concluded at this point that he was in fact a little bit crazy but in my eyes he was now my hero. The Orang Utan threw excrement at him, a defence mechanism to deter unwanted visitors but in all fairness he put on quite a display for us. I could now go home a very happy man.
On my way home I stopped at Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre to view the Orphaned Orang Utans and I witnessed the morning feeding. It is an extremely enjoyable experience watching them play with each other and it is certainly worth the stop if you are in the area.
I spent my final night at the Shangri La Rasa Ria Resort, which is located around 45 minutes drive from Kota Kinabalu Centre. This Hotel benefits from a spectacular 3km stretch of white sandy beach and has its own nature reserve within its grounds where you can visit the orphaned Orang Utans and observe their rehabilitation ready to be returned back to the wild. This Reserve is working along side Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre and together they are doing a great job in preserving this fantastic creature.
This holiday in Malaysia was by far my best and I can thoroughly recommend Borneo to anyone who has a passion for Wildlife. I cannot thank my guide Terence enough for all he did to make my stay everything and more I had hoped for. Terence was actually born in the Jungle and to him it was a way of life, not a job to him and this shone through every minute I spent with him.