Call us on 01442 617777 
Call us on 01442 617777 
At the end of February, I had the most amazing opportunity to visit Borneo and Brunei for a familiarisation trip in collaboration with Royal Brunei Airlines. I wanted to share this recent adventure so you can get a small taste of the natural beauty and rich culture, hopefully I can inspire you to visit these breath-taking destinations either as a short stop over or a longer trip. Read on for more information about travelling, flight times, things to do/see and the best places to stay! 

How to get to Brunei - Borneo 

Heathrow Airport - Terminal 4 is where I met the team of people I would be travelling with for the next week. We were informed we had been upgraded to Business Class for all flights to Kota Kinabalu! You will find the check-in and security process with Business Class to be smooth and you'll get through in no time. 
Be prepared for 3 flights from London Heathrow to reach Kota Kinabalu.  
The first flight - London / Dubai - approximately 6 hours.  
The second flight - Dubai / Brunei Darussalam - approximately 7 hours.  
The third and final flight - Brunei / Kota Kinabalu and this was the shortest flight I think I've been on ever at 25 minutes! 
I highly recommend flying Business Class due to the length of flights, comfortablity, great service and very tasty food! It really was a great start to the trip.  

Where to stay in Kota Kinabalu  

1. Shangri-La Tanjung Aru - 5* 
We stayed a night at The Shangri-La Tanjung Aru, an absolutely stunning hotel. We were greeted with a refreshing coconut water and given a beaded necklace each; the attention to detail was fantastic. The rooms are incredibly spacious, and the views are breath-taking, whethere you are in an ocean-facing or rainforest/harbour room. The hotel is quite vast but after just a night there we could quite easily navigate our way around! In the evening, we headed over to the Sunset Bar which was truly magical. Watching the sunset with a cocktail in hand is quite possibly the best way to end a day. I would recommend staying here, especially as it is nearby the airport and city, it's ideal for families and couples alike, with plenty of facilities to suit everyone. 
Sunset Bar at Shangri-La Tanjung Aru 
2. Shangri-La Rasa Ria - 5* 
Slightly further away from the centre of Kota Kinabalu, the Shangri-La Rasa Ria is a sanctuary of luxury and tranquility. It's surrounded by lush rainforest and overlooking the ocean. Again, much like Tanjung Aru the rooms are spacious with amazing views. The grounds include a championship golf course, a spa, and multiple dining options with amazing local cuisine. 
3. Sutera Harbour Resort - The Magellan - 5* 
The Magellan is immediately impressive, with an open layout and very high ceilings allowing for a lovely breeze to drift though the lobby and corridors! On the same coast as the Shangri-La Tanjung Aru, the sunsets are amazing, that should be reason enough to stay here. I thought this hotel would be perfect for family holidays with a kids club, tennis courts, a golf course and a small beach area. With it's very own harbour, you can take a day trip on a small boat over to the opposite islands. 
4. Sutera Harbour Resort - The Pacific - 5* 
The sister hotel to The Magellan and within walking distance, this hotel has a completely different feel. The rooms were beautifully designed with stunning views from all angles. This resort would be better suited for those travelling for business or shorter trips and the amenities reflect this, for example, desks and ergonomic chairs in each room to work comfortably. The highlight in my opinion of this hotel is the Horizons Sky Bar where you can enjoy fantastic music, cocktails and a delicious meal watching the sunset. Sharing the harbour with The Magellan, day trips can also be taken from here. 
Harbour Views from The Pacific 

Things to See and Do in Kota Kinabalu 

1. Manukan Island - Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park 
It's best to head off early to Manukan Island and leaving from the Sutera Harbour it takes roughly 10 minutes on a speedboat. This island is fantastic for snorkelling and strolls along the beach. We saw some Monitor Lizards on land and cuttlefish in the sea and I'm sure if we had longer I would have seen a lot more wildlife! Card is accepted on the island and Arung restaurant served a great BBQ feast. I would also suggest bringing bug spray with you as there are a lot of sandflies - I learned this the hard way! 
2. Watch the Sunrise and Sunset 
Now this is something I tried to do eveyday during my trip. The sunrises and sunsets are nothing like what I've seen before, they are absolutely breath-taking. With the time difference, jet lag and our busy schedule, I was up early to witness this amazing spectacle - and I'm so glad I did. Similarly, each sunset was different to the one before, it felt like they just got better and better! 
First Sunrise of the Trip 
3. Mari Mari Cultural Village  
This is a must! From the Shangri-La Tanjung Aru it's about a 40 minute drive inland and the drive is very picturesque. Mari Mari is a 'museum village' of how the 5 tribes of Borneo would have lived and it was extremely insightful. Our guide, Popeye, was very knowledgeable and funny which just added to the already interesting tour! Here, you have the chance to try some traditional rice wine, pandan juice and local sweets all in the depth of the rainforest. Lunch is also served here. 
4. Masjid Bandaraya 
Pictured at the top of the blog, this mosque was absolutely beautiful and surrounded by a man-made lagoon which gives it the nickname 'The Floating Mosque'. For less than a £1 entry fee you can take pictures of the outside, for an addition £1 you can hire a robe and see the inside.  

Things to Know Before you Travel to Borneo 

There are a few things I researched for the Borneo part of my trip: 
- The airline is alcohol free, but you can take your own drink on board, just make sure its a screwtop as they most likely will not a have a corkscrew on the plane. I unfortunately took a bottle of wine on board and couldnt open it until the hotel! Alcohol is served in most resorts in Borneo. 
- Have plenty of sunscreen and a hat. The sun is very strong in Borneo, even when cloudy you will still get the sun! 
- Plenty of insect spray/repellent. This is a tropical country so there are mosquitoes and the sandflies on Manukan island do bite which can be large and irritating. 
- Bring a cardigan or shawl when dining in an air-conditioned restaurant or travelling in an air-conditioned vehicle as it can get a little chilly. 
- Bring modest clothing when visiting the mosques. Even though they give you a robe, it is still respectful to cover shoulders and knees. 
- Wear comfortable shoes! You will most likely be doing a lot of walking so make sure you have comfortable footwear. If flying Royal Brunei check their dress code also. 
That's it for Part 1 of this blog, hopefully this has inspired you! Check back for Part 2 - Everything you need to know about Brunei. 
We look forward to hearing from you! 
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