By May Salitah
There’s no need to stop travelling when you have a family. Embrace parenthood and take the kids with you! If you’re looking to travel to discover the wonders of Sabah. It’s time to discard your busy schedules (and phones) by going on a short holiday with your family to give you a much-needed time together away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Earlier this year, the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic had a big impact on travelling and local businesses in Sabah. Since the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) was implemented, and with more businesses reopening, many of you are probably still wondering what it’s like to have a RMCO holiday?
Here’s our top 5 spots for family travel in Sabah along with some real-life experiences and tips from our locals on how to enjoy a #bahmarilah holiday while still staying safe.
❗ Disclaimer: Regardless of where you are, it is important to continue practicing social distancing and SOP to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
The Cool Spot – Kundasang
One of the best things about travelling in Sabah is that you get to choose which ‘weather’ you want to experience. Most locals travel up to Kundasang to enjoy the cooler temperatures and of course, waking up to the amazing view of the majestic Mount Kinabalu. Jimmeshella, from Penampang, visited Kundasang with her big family at the end of July and found that it was very easy to travel during MCO. “We constantly reminded each other to ensure we take care of our hygiene – wash hands, sanitise, and avoid crowded areas. We were so happy to see that all the places we visited practised SOP,” she said, adding that the places include Alpine D’Bayu Residence, D’Mesilau Rabbit Garden, Mesilou Highland, supermarkets, and smaller shops or also known as kedai runcit.
The only challenge they faced was when it came to having a meal at the restaurants. Due to the limited number of people allowed to sit at a table, the family had to break up into smaller groups and sit at different tables. However, that did not stop Jimmeshella’s family from having a great time. They even stopped by a few villages to check out local vegetable harvesting and squeezed in a morning hike at Mesilou.
“At first, we were quite worried about bringing our children for a road trip to Kundasang during RMCO because we were not sure whether the places of interest and other travellers would practice the proper SOP. Nevertheless, we ensured that we took care of each other and enjoyed our short weekend getaway.”
The Islander Spot – Pulau Gayana
If you have always wanted to bring your family to the islands, now is the time to do so. With Tunku Abdul Rahman Park just 15 minutes away from Kota Kinabalu, you don’t even have to travel far to swim in the clear blue sea. Mother of two, Elaine, took advantage of the low prices offered by Gayana Eco Resort to bring her family and her parents for a relaxing holiday. When asked whether or not it was easy to travel with two active young boys, she replied “Boleh lah. It’s not easy to put on their face masks and face shields because they would end up tugging them off. It was also not easy to ensure they did not touch anything!”
Nevertheless, Elaine and her family managed to enjoy swimming in the resort pool, the sea, and squeezed in a bit of relaxation time while the kids played at the beach. “Only a portion of the rooms were open, which meant lesser people and smaller crowds. Everyone, including the staff and other guests, adhered to mask wearing and hand sanitising,” she explained. “This boosted our confidence and definitely helped make our stay much more pleasant and worry-free.”
The Top of SouthEast Asia Spot – Mount Kinabalu
We’re pretty sure most of you out there have been itching to sweat it out and go for an adventure. That being said, we’re also quite confident to say that you have never climbed Mount Kinabalu or your last climb was probably ten years ago! When Sabah Parks announced their “Crazy Promo Mountain Climb” deal after RMCO was announced, Brenda and her husband, Dr Loriot, her sister and husband, and her mother decided that it was time for a family trip up the mountain. “What better way to spend time with your family than ‘travelling’ and marking your spot 4,095.2 metres high!”
“SOP measures were strict – starting from registration all the way up to the peak. There were even X markings at every kilometre rest huts, and signage to remind you that you cannot sit on the X spots in order to ensure social distancing,” she said. “The sleeping arrangements at Laban Rata only allow two persons per room and everyone had to ensure a one metre distance while queuing for our meals at the buffet line.”
Brenda also told us that SOP measures were also implemented in picture taking. “My husband and I were ready to have our picture taken at the iconic signboard and the guide told us to jangan dakat-dakat (don’t stand too close to each other). There were also X markings on the ground to show where you are and are not allowed to stand when taking a group photo!”
Most of the time, climbers would choose to climb the mountain with their friends. For Brenda and her family, it was a great time to reconnect with each other and with nature.
The Foodie Spot – Sandakan
With a distance of roughly 331.7 kilometres from Kota Kinabalu, take a eight-hour road trip to Sandakan to feast on the various types of food in the city centre itself! From fresh seafood to decadent desserts to a bowl of hearty Bah Kut Teh seafood soup; there’s definitely something for all foodies in Sandakan. After RMCO was announced, Marianne and her family travelled on a 4D3N trip to Sandakan to try out its famous foods. “Our entourage consisted of myself, my husband and two daughters; my sister, her husband and their baby; and my parents. My biggest worry was my parents and the three kids because they are considered high-risk if exposed to Covid-19. Nevertheless, we ensured that all places we visited adhered to the standard SOP set out by our Health Ministry.”
The food in Sandakan definitely did not disappoint Marianne and her family. “You have to eat it to believe it!” she joked. “Some restaurants allowed us to sit at one big table because we came from one household, whereas other restaurants did not bat an eyelid and told us that it was their SOP. In other words, ‘you can follow our rules or leave’. For the love of food and with due respect to the restaurant’s procedures, we followed through. One restaurant owner even reminded my daughter and my sister to keep our distance when he saw them sitting too close to each other while watching TikTok videos”.
The family also stopped by Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre to watch the orangutans in action during feeding time. Car tyres are disinfected at the entrance and all guests (including little kids) must wear a mask to enter the centre. “It can get quite humid at the area to watch the Orangutan at their feeding platforms which might make your face sweat. You can still readjust your mask to wipe off the sweat, but if you leave it off for too long, the rangers will come by to remind you to wear your mask”.
Marianne related that it was definitely an unforgettable RMCO family holiday. “If you’re a foodie, Sandakan is definitely the place to visit!”
The Adventure Spot – Tuaran
According to Telegraph UK, ‘the world’s most exciting natural environments make for perfect adventure playgrounds’ and we completely agree. When it comes to a family adventure holiday, Susan from Tembara River Cruise has just the thing for you and your family, which includes cycling, kayaking, trekking, river cruise, fishing, and more.
“The best thing about being located in Sabah is that we are available all year round and we give you the freedom to build your own unique and personal trip for your family. My children who are already teenagers, look forward to coming here to get away from the city,” said Susan, adding the activities are also a great way for family-bonding.
“We hardly see our kids on a daily basis because of our hectic schedules unless it is lunch or dinner time. Even then, everyone will be busy with their phones. As a family of adrenaline junkies, going out on adventure trips give us the opportunity to sweat it out together”, she added.
Whether it is white-water rafting, trekking, or fishing, Susan emphasises the importance of adhering the SOP measures even if her family is out in nature. “If you exhibit any signs of sickness such as fever, loss of energy, body aches, or runny nose; it’s best for you to stay home and protect yourself and those around you.”
Mountain-high to ocean-deep; babies to teenagers and adults; there’s always something for your family to enjoy here in Sabah that can offer you and your family the chance to explore and learn together. Please remember to stay safe and vigilant while you take your family and children on adventures in their homeland. With your help, we can open up more businesses, support the local communities, and help those whose income were affected by the recent pandemic get back on their feet again.
#BahMariLah and explore Sabah. The local tourism industry is offering a great array of options to suit all types of travellers. Check out some of the deals: http://www.sabahtourism.com/deals/