Thrills and spills in Borneo.

Borneo had always been on my hit list of places to visit – and mostly, I have to admit, because the name itself has an exotic ring to it. There are other places, too (such as Zanzibar and Timbuktu), that have been on my hit list simply because their names conjure up something mystical and exotic. Borneo, however, lived up to its name.

I went to Borneo with my 13 year old daughter Jasmine on our annual Dad and Daughter Great Adventure. Well, when I say Borneo, we went to the state of Sabah in Malaysian Borneo. The island of Borneo (which is the world’s third-largest island after Greenland and New Guinea) is divided among three countries: Indonesia, Malaysia and the tiny sultanate of Brunei.

Purely by accident rather than design, our trip to Borneo was split up into three distinctly different holidays. The first couple of days were jam-packed with adventure type activities, followed by a few days hanging out with wild and wacky critters then finishing off with a Survivor adventure. In Part 1 of my Borneo Blog I’ll take you mountain biking, white water rafting, zip lining, rock climbing, snorkelling and even a bit of extreme eating.

Mountain Biking

After arriving late at night to Kota Kinabalu (the capital of Sabah) we jumped right into it early the next morning with a mountain bike tour followed by white water rafting. Within minutes of arriving at the starting point near the town of Tuaran we were on our bikes and swerving like a pack of drunks across a very wobbly bridge. For me and Jasmine it was even more of a shock with the stifling heat after coming from a wintry Melbourne.


The wobbly bridge and a wobbly Brian

For the next three hours the terrain varied from dirt roads through rubber plantations and sleepy villages to off-road jungle adventures up way-to-steep-for-my-liking gravel tracks and cruisy paved country roads. It was steep rocky climbs that finally did Jasmine in. Besides riding her bike to school (which she hadn’t done in more than a year anyway) this was Jasmine’s first go on a mountain bike and first go actually riding up a mountain. About half way through our ride, the poor thing collapsed in a heap after we reached the top of one particularly nasty hill and declared, ’I can’t do it. I feel sick.’


The big hill took it’s toll on Jasmine.

I felt sick on the way down that hill. Jasmine shot off in front of me and even though she had both brakes on was thundering down the winding gravelled and pot-holed track. I was sure that I was going to turn a corner and find here in a bloody heap, but thankfully she made it down. ‘I thought I was going to die,’ Jasmine said. ‘I was holding on for dear life!.’ That was enough for Jasmine and she jumped in the support vehicle and followed behind us. About five minutes later we were on a paved road and I suddenly heard Jasmine’s voice. I thought she was calling out from the car window, but she was back on her bike again. ‘I’ve cooled down,’ she said. I was so happy she gave it another go and she ended up having a great time. Oh, except when we crossed that wobbly bridge again. She walked her bike across.


Jasmine back in the saddle again.

White Water Rafting

After getting all nice and hot and sweaty on the bikes we headed up river for some much cooler white water rafting. Although the rapids weren’t very, well, rapid we had a lovely two hours cruising down a wide river surrounded by thick jungle. It was Jasmine’s first time white water rafting, so the rapids that we did go down were enough of a thrill for her. And when we floated gently downstream in the calmer water we jumped into the delightfully cool water and swam around the raft.


The ‘rapids’

Zip Lining

I’ve done zip lining a few times, but none were as fun as this. The zip line goes between two islands, so you are zipping high above the water. We’d taken a day trip from Kota Kinabalu to Sapi Island (25 minutes away) for some snorkelling and, what Jasmine was most excited about, zip lining. Stretching for 300 metres from Gaya island to Sapi Island, the zip line (called the Coral Flyer and only opened last year)  .takes somewhere between 30 and 45 seconds (depending on your weight – the heavier you are the faster you go). The scariest part, aside from stepping off the initial platform into open air five stories up, is the dread that sets in as you rocket over 50 kilometres per hour toward the platform on the other side with no sense of how you could possibly slow down before pancaking into a wall of rock. Luckily, Jasmine opted against carrying her iPhone to make a video of the whole experience because when the brake engages, it hits you with a jerk that would have likely jolted the phone right out of her hand. Anyway, the video would have just had lots of squealing on it (from Jasmine and me!).


Spot the ‘zip liners’ between Sapi and Gaya Islands.

Rock Climbing

I love it that my daughter has my adventurous spirit in her. At the end of very crowded beach on Sapi Island was a rocky point and Jasmine suggested that we should see how far we could get around the rocks. Although we had to clamber over large boulders and tip-toe over incredibly slippery rocks for about fifteen minutes we eventually came across our very own private and perfectly pristine beach. We then had a delightful couple of hours sunning and swimming before clambering back over to the hordes.


Our own private beach.


Although the main beach on Sapi Island was chock-full of day trippers you only had to swim out into the deep water and you pretty much had the coral and the fish to yourself. Even better, when we went to our private beach we had the ocean to ourselves. The coral was also better (and less trampled) and In the space of an hour I spotted countless species of brightly coloured fish, a very scary-looking school of large barracuda, a massive groper fish and swam right through the middle of a shimmering school of iridescent blue fish.


Snorkelling in clear blue waters.

Extreme Eating

Okay, eating food isn’t really an adventure sport, but it certainly was a culinary adventure. After our marine park adventures we went to the Kota Kinabalu night market on the waterfront. As we walked into the market we were immediately engulfed by wafts of thick sweet-smelling smoke from hot food on charcoal grills. We seemed to be only tourists, but the place was full with locals sitting on plastic tables devouring plates of seafood, chicken and local dishes. After an entree of tasty chicken wings, which we ate while walking around, I picked out some fresh prawns and squid from one of the many stalls and sat at a table while my food was cooked up on one of the charcoal grills in the middle of the market. Now, I like chili, but I almost blew my head of eating the tiger prawns. However, it was Jasmine who ate the most adventurous thing. She wanted some more grilled chicken and at another stall pointed out chicken on a stick. The man said, ‘It is the… (he then slapped his rear)…chicken’s ass!’ Jasmine shrugged and ordered three of them. ‘It’s good,’ Jasmine said. ‘And now I can tell everyone that I’ve eaten a chicken’s bum.’


This is how much chili they put in my tiger prawns.

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