Take the natural trail off the beaten track

Take the natural trail off the beaten track

SABAH and Sarawak on the island of Borneo are two dream destinations for those who want a soft-adventure holiday without having to rough it.

Although they offer an unspoiled, back-to-nature experience, both also boast first-class hotels and excellent tourist facilities.

Sabah's main attractions are the Kinabalu National Park, which is home to rare flora and fauna, the Poring Hot Springs, orang-utan sanctuary in Sandakan, and the green turtles of Selingan Island.

All are easily accessible from the excellent beachside resorts on the outskirts of the capital Kota Kinabalu, and several operators offer a choice of pre-bookable excursions to visitors based in the hotels. British Airways Holidays product manager Mandy Miller said: "This is really a soft-adventure holiday for people who don't just want to sit on a beach. It is great for nature lovers and for those interested in botany as there are some wonderful rare plants in Borneo."

More adventurous holidaymakers can also go white-water rafting, take a trek to the top of Mount Kinabalu, or take a tour up river by motorised canoe and stay in a jungle lodge or one of the traditional longhouses. Here the accommodation will be much more basic than that found in the resort hotels.

Most will have running water but some offer only communal washrooms.

Sarawak's main selling points are the vast Mulu caves, the Lanjak Entimau wildlife sanctuary, and the Batang Ai National Park where the orang-utans roam.

But even within a short drive of the capital Kuching visitors are able to see monkeys, macaques, wild boars, lizards and numerous birds in the Bako National Park.

Magic of the Orient, which has several soft-adventure itineraries in Borneo, said that rather than basing themselves at a beach hotel its clients usually take a week's tour of either Sabah, Sarawak or both. This is generally followed by a few days by the sea.

"Sabah is the ideal destination for soft-adventure holidays and there is easily enough there to keep people occupied for a couple of weeks," said managing director Tony Champion.

Distant Dreams features a six-night Borneo Adventure which includes all the main attractions in both Sabah and Sarawak. It costs from £919 including flights from the UK.

The tour, which starts in Kuching and ends in Sabah, takes place in an air-conditioned bus and clients have the option of extending their holiday with a few days at a beach resort. According to Tradewinds, building a trip to Borneo into a package to Malaysia should not add much to the cost of the holiday.

"The internal flights don't really cost us anything so clients will pay about the same for a four or five-day trip to Borneo as they would if they stayed on peninsular Malaysia," said contracts manager Franco Sessini.

He said the majority of Tradewinds' clients spend four to five days on the island as part of a two-week package to Malaysia or the FarEast.

Type of holidaymaker: active with an interest in wildlife.

Length of stay: 10 - 14 days.

Type of accommodation: a typical package would include a mix, from four-star hotels to basic jungle lodges.

Average spend: £1,000 - £1,200 including flights from the UK.

Booking lead time: usually at least six months in advance.

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