With five trips to date both home and away, and another two in the pipeline for 2019, I could well be considered a TripADeal Frequent Flyer. The TripADeal model is changing the way many of us book our holidays. And bargain hunters like me LOVE it!
I’ve paid for all my TripADeal trips and have not received any special discounts apart from the regular prices available to the public.
Since swimming with the whales in Tonga, which was my first TripADeal holiday in 2016, my husband and I have visited Malaysian Borneo, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Canada, USA (Alaska and Yellowstone National Park) and Rainbow Beach in Queensland – all through TripADeal.
So, I would like to offer you a TripADeal review and my own travel experiences with them.
- 1 What Is TripADeal?
- 2 My Love Affair With TripADeal
- 3 What Makes TripADeal So Appealing?
- 4 TripADeal – Ease Of Booking Online
- 5 TripADeal – Pros And Cons of Booking
- 6 How Does TripADeal Do It?
- 7 TripADeal Reviews
- 7.1 16 Day Fly, Tour & Stay – Maldives & Sri Lanka
- 7.1.1 Premium vs Standard?
- 7.1.2 Highlights Of our Tripadeal Sri Lanka Tour
- 18.104.22.168 Negombo Fish Market
- 22.214.171.124 Sigiriya, The Ancient Rock Fortress “Lion Rock”
- 126.96.36.199 Hiriwaduna Local Village Tour, Sigiriya
- 188.8.131.52 Dambulla Vegetable Farmer’s Market (Dedicated Economic Centre)
- 184.108.40.206 Golden Temple of Dambulla – Rock Cave Temple
- 220.127.116.11 Meurulanka Cultural Dance Show, Kandy
- 18.104.22.168 Isini Gems & Jewellers, Kandy
- 22.214.171.124 Geragama Estate Tea Factory
- 126.96.36.199 Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
- 188.8.131.52 Minneriya National Park – Elephant Safari
- 184.108.40.206 Royal 100 Spice and Herbal Garden Tour, Kawudupelella
- 220.127.116.11 Galle Dutch Fortress, Colombo
- 7.1.3 General Comments – TripADeal Sri Lanka trip
- 7.1.4 Suggestions For Improvement – TripADeal Sri Lanka trip
- 7.1.5 Thumbs Up – TripADeal Sri Lanka trip
- 7.1.6 Thumbs Down – TripADeal Sri Lanka trip
- 7.2 Tripadeal Maldives 6 Day Stay
- 7.3 10 Day 2 For 1 Borneo
- 7.3.1 General Comments – TripADeal 2 for 1 Borneo
- 7.3.2 Highlights Of Our TripADeal Borneo Tour
- 7.3.3 Mari Mari Sepanggar Island
- 18.104.22.168 Mari Mari Cultural Village
- 22.214.171.124 Nabalu Native Market
- 126.96.36.199 Kinabalu National Park Botanical Garden
- 188.8.131.52 Kundasang War Memorial, Ranau
- 184.108.40.206 Sabah Tea Factory and Gardens
- 220.127.116.11 Kampung Luanti ‘Fish Spa Massage’
- 18.104.22.168 English Tea House, Sandakan
- 22.214.171.124 Sandakan Memorial Park
- 126.96.36.199 Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary
- 188.8.131.52 Kinabatangan River Cruise At Dusk
- 184.108.40.206 Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre And Sun Bear Conservation Centre
- 220.127.116.11 Rainforest Discovery Centre – Sepilok
- 18.104.22.168 Gomangton Caves in Gomantong Hill, Sandakan
- 22.214.171.124 Kinabatangan River Cruises And Jungle Walks
- 7.3.4 Tripadeal Tour Exclusions
- 7.3.5 Any Tripadeal Complaints?
- 7.3.6 Great Value For Money
- 7.1 16 Day Fly, Tour & Stay – Maldives & Sri Lanka
What Is TripADeal?
TripADeal is an online travel agency currently setting Australia on fire.
Since its inception in 2011, TripADeal has become a one of Australia’s top online travel agencies.
TripADeal offers massive discounts on holiday deals and is competing with market giants such as Expedia.
It was voted ‘Best Online Travel Agent’ by the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) in 2017 and all of this out of little ol’ Byron Bay.
With a mantra of “Making Travel Dreams Come True“, their holiday deals fall into two main categories:
- Travel (tour packages sometimes including cruises)
- Escape (accommodation deals with no tours)
Both categories have domestic and international destinations, with occasional special ‘2 for 1 deals’ that will light anyone’s fire!
Planning your next holiday with friends? Here are some quotes about travelling with friends for inspiration.
My Love Affair With TripADeal
Well, my love affair with TripADeal began in 2016.
The initial hook?
A full-page attractive ad in a local newspaper lured me in.
That was followed by automated TripADeal emails to my inbox at work after subscribing. Now that’s always a susceptible time to be thinking of another holiday!
And all it took was a headline highlighting one of my bucket list destinations, followed by a price I couldn’t resist.
“Simples”, as a certain meerkat would say.
My first dip into TripADeal’s world of adventure was the “Tonga Whale Encounters – Swim With Humpback Whales”, an 11-day South Pacific experience of a lifetime at only $4499 all inclusive.
Little did I know that I was soon to become hooked on TripADeal, evolving (or some would say ‘mutated’) into a TripADeal multi-tripper.
Looking for inspiration? Read these 100 quotes about travel.
What Makes TripADeal So Appealing?
Being a control freak with a triple-A personality, I used to make most of my own travel arrangements, especially if I could save a dollar or two.
But finding the time to do so is a huge issue, which is getting worse.
Everyone is time poor.
I certainly no longer have the time to visit travel shops or peruse brochures or sit and detail all my desires to a busy, half-interested travel agent.
Working a stressful full-time job just doesn’t allow any such luxury and having the interest or inclination to plan details of a complex itinerary, with flights, hotels, meals and side excursions has certainly waned.
So, present me with an all-in-one package, with a great headline and price that catches my eye.
I’m in, hook, line, and sinker!
TripADeal seems to have perfected the technique.
Those regular daily emails just keep dropping into my inbox.
Filled with wonderful eye-catching headlines and photos, they certainly are an easy temptation!
TripADeal – Ease Of Booking Online
Travel Or Escape?
TripADeal’s website is quite user-friendly and their holiday deals are easy to search for.
A mere click on the photo or ‘View Deal’ button takes you to the deal and the details of your chosen holiday are extensive.
They include the itinerary, highlights, tour inclusions and other important info.
Their multi-paged package information is pretty much fully explanatory.
A countdown clock on the right-hand side displays the time you have left to make a decision.
Although we all know that it’s a great marketing ploy to give the customer a sense of urgency, in the case of these TripADeal holidays, there really is an urgency.
If it looks too good to be true, the available dates will go very quickly.
So be forewarned!
If you have any questions, you can call and talk to a Travel Consultant, or Chat Online. After all, they are a travel agency.
Personally, I have never needed to do this at all.
I find the online instructions very easy to read, understand and follow.
Do Your Homework Before Booking
However, you should research your trip before booking, especially to choose the best time to travel for that particular country which best suits you.
Once you have chosen your trip, the date, how many travellers and other details, your final price is shown.
You simply have to complete your order and pay.
Paying for your TripADeal package
Payment methods include Paypal or Visa, Mastercard or Amex cards, great for accumulating points.
They also offer zipMoney, which is a book-now-and-pay-later facility, if you prefer.
Once you have booked your trip, you get a confirmation email that includes a link to your Passenger Information Form which you need to complete within 72 hours.
If you require flights, and if they are not already included in the package, their sister company Phone A Flight can help you with those along with visas or insurance.
Four to six weeks before your holiday is due, you will receive your Final Travel Documentation with your itinerary and other details.
Eh voila, you are ready to go!
Oh, and if you sign in to your TripADeal account, you can see all your current or previous trip details under “My Deals”.
TripADeal – Pros And Cons of Booking
Thumbs Up: Reasons to book with TripADeal
- The prices are certainly very attractive (I don’t think I could match them if I tried to book such trips myself let alone the time and angst it would take me!).
- The ‘2 for 1’ deals are especially awesome.
- There are many advertised cut-price travel deals on the web but the more you examine the details, the more exclusions you find, hence their low price. With TripADeal, that is not the case.
- Most of their Travel deals include international flights, accommodation, most (if not all)excursions and some (if not all) meals. So why re-invent the wheel if TripADeal has done all the hard yards for you?
Thumbs Down: Are there any negatives?
Well, isn’t that amazing? I can’t really think of anything.
Except I guess that it is an online booking agency.
Well hello, but that’s why you are using it, isn’t it?
If you do get stuck booking online, you can still call them or chat online.
Although I have never actually had to phone TripADeal for anything, so I can’t comment on this.
How Does TripADeal Do It?
I thought this might be a good point to have some insight into how TripADeal can offer such great holidays at such fabulous prices.
Q&A with a TripADeal Business Development Manager
Well, Emmy Lou Stockbridge is one of those awesome passionate people who put TripADeal adventures together.
I recently had the chance to ask her a few questions. Here is what she said:
How long have you worked for TripADeal?
Do you enjoy it?
I LOVE IT !!
What is your role in the company?
I am a Business Development Manager – a BDM’s role is to create the unbeatable deals you see online.
How many people actually work for TripADeal – especially in your area?
Over 100 and growing. My department is ‘Product’ and there are six BDM’s.
What is involved in creating a holiday package deal for TripADeal?
First establishing where the customer wishes to travel, looking at global trends and then sourcing the best travel or tour companies and accommodation worldwide, negotiating rates and building relationships, joining this with flights and making an unbeatable deal to put out for sale.
Making travel dreams come true!
Do you visit the country yourself to test out an itinerary you are working on?
Yes, we travel to all our destinations and create itineraries ourselves but only after testing THE BEST way to travel a certain route or a destination.
Is there any possibility of extending holidays before or at the end of the trips?
Yes absolutely, you can find this info in the fine print of all the deals.
Does TripADeal take into account travellers feedback, both good and bad?
Yes, we do, this determines always how much better we can make the trip, we are always wanting to improve on even the most successful and best-selling trips.
How does TripADeal manage to offer such well-priced deals?
All due to the wonderful and skilled negotiations of the Travel BDM’s. This along with our dedication and loyalty to our merchants.
Does TripADeal offer a flight price reduction guarantee?
No, we will just find the best rate online at the time of booking.
If someone still wants to book a TripADeal holiday face-to-face, is that possible?
Yes of course. We are part of Travellers Choice Travel Agency, with 150 stores Australia wide.
Are online bookings the most popular way of booking?
We have been awarded Best Online Travel Company twice, and we send over 30,000 eager travellers around the globe every year.
This is a testament to the growing number of travellers wanting to purchase online.
It’s simple and if you have a fabulous in-house Customer Service department like us, you can’t go wrong.
So what age group do you think TripADeal holidays most appeal to?
In the past, it was generally over 40+.
But a new trend in the market has shown we appeal to all ages!
A lot of the younger travellers are seeing the incredible value in our trips and are jumping on board.
If you want to know more, read my TripADeal Reviews of their Travel tours I have recently experienced.
If you want to travel independently, here’s a Sri Lanka itinerary to help you plan an independent trip.
16 Day Fly, Tour & Stay – Maldives & Sri Lanka
Cost: $2799 (Standard Package), $3199 (Premium Package)
Premium vs Standard?
The premium package of this Tripadeal trip offers upgraded hotels during the 7-day Sri Lanka tour. Hence the price difference.
Whilst you may be tempted to book a Premium Package, to be honest with hindsight most of us wouldn’t have (see suggestions below).
Many tour highlights are included in the price but not all were mentioned in the advertised itinerary or as optional extras.
So I have included them here in this Tripadeal review.
Highlights Of our Tripadeal Sri Lanka Tour
Negombo Fish Market
Touring this seashore outdoor fish market was certainly an eye-opener and one of the places to visit in Sri Lanka that wasn’t on the official itinerary. Fish, flies and cats galore come to memory. It was authentically Sinhalese. Brilliant!
Sigiriya, The Ancient Rock Fortress “Lion Rock”
The coach takes you to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Lion Rock. But admission for a self-guided tour was Optional (and a MUST do).
This was FANTASTIC!
Not only the amazing history (built in 477AD) and magnitude of the rock fortress but the 200m climb up from the jungle to the top is a must.
Beware of the young men will forcibly try to assist you along the walk up the rock.
They are very insistent and quite pushy and will demand payment after.
Despite this hassle, the views at the top are stunning, as was the abundant wildlife along the way.
The troops of macaques were particularly curious, engaging and sneaky thieves if given half a chance!
Hiriwaduna Local Village Tour, Sigiriya
Another un-mentioned Optional tour but a truly rated experience.
It included a twin oxen cart ride through the village (definitely a highlight!).
Followed by a short walk along rice paddies and tree houses (watch towers against marauding elephants).
Then board a local catamaran canoe to cruise a lake, the iconic Lion Rock in the distance. Landing alongside a local village pontoon, we were invited into the village.
Entertainment included learning to de-husk rice, crack a coconut and a leaf weaving demonstration.
And after all that hard work, we were served a beautiful freshly cooked traditional village lunch.
A scary tuk-tuk ride back to our transport completed our tour.
What a memorable experience, and one with a difference.
Dambulla Vegetable Farmer’s Market (Dedicated Economic Centre)
A totally riveting experience.
Walking amongst hundreds of stalls selling local produce whilst commercial trucks and utes try to load up.
This was a very busy active Farmer’s Market selling so many fruits and vegetables we didn’t even recognize.
Again, not itemized.
Golden Temple of Dambulla – Rock Cave Temple
Again, the coach drives you to the Rock Cave Temple. The self-guided tour inside the beautiful internally hand-painted five cave temples is optional but another MUST do.
You will need to take off your shoes and reverently walk through the site to see the 150 statues of Buddha.
Watch out for more monkeys too.
Meurulanka Cultural Dance Show, Kandy
This included show demonstrated twelve colourful ritualistic cultural dances.
But the highlight was the south Ceylonese Wedi fire dance.
Firewalking and fire-eating performed in a street-level car park. Amazing!
Isini Gems & Jewellers, Kandy
A very insightful tour of a top class gemstone factory and showrooms.
It included a historical film of gem mining.
From the Sri Lankan moonstone to multi-coloured sapphires and red or green garnets.
Gorgeous and very tempting!
And did you know?
Lady Di’s iconic blue sapphire engagement ring actually came from Sri Lanka.
Geragama Estate Tea Factory
Sri Lanka has a 150 yr history of growing tea.
This was one of the largest tea factories and its tour was very enjoyable.
Tea is still traditionally hand picked by only women and the eight different Ceylon teas are world re-known.
Tasting the final product was fascinating.
Orange pekoe tea purposefully drunk over a cube of palm sugar and no milk. And a coffee-tea blend, well, that tasted peculiarly like peppermint.
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Instead of driving to the Orphanage, our fabulous guide took us by train.
This turned out to be a great experience of local rail travel, and a highlight for many. But the Orphanage itself was a letdown.
Said to be a conservation and educational centre, it looked more like a commercial zoo.
There were large crowds standing in the dust and heat with not a lot to see.
A group of elephants at the back of the complex had their legs chained. They seemed stressed and very fearful of their keepers.
Another elephant was being forcefully hosed down in front of the tourists but it didn’t seem to be enjoying the experience at all.
Not a good sign.
Minneriya National Park – Elephant Safari
This optional tour, however, was a real highlight. We travelled in open-top 4WD Mohindra jeeps through the National Park.
Hundreds of elephants roamed the savannah and lake’s edge.
There was abundant other wildlife with eagles, ibis, strutting peacocks, brahminy kites, woolly neck storks and spoonbills.
Caribou and small groups of hunting jackals were also spotted.
And to top it off whilst driving home, our traffic was stopped by a lone elephant strutting its stuff along the main road.
This is Sri Lanka.
Royal 100 Spice and Herbal Garden Tour, Kawudupelella
It was fascinating to learn about spice plants and herbs.
The oils and drinks made from them appeared to cure almost any illness.
The tour included free half-hour Ayurvedic massages (although tips were expected).
But then we were split up into individuals or pairs (against our wishes) and escorted through the shop.
What followed was a hard personalized sell of over-priced Ayurvedic products.
A great shame as everyone reported being harassed to buy, at times quite rudely.
Galle Dutch Fortress, Colombo
This was a guided tour of the historic UNESCO World Heritage listed fortress.
The mix of Asian and European architecture has evolved since the 1500s.
Wander along fabulous three-century old streets, through the Old Gate, past the Dutch Reformed Church, New Orient Hotel to the Galle Lighthouse.
Shop in the boutique shops of the Dutch Hospital Shopping Complex and stop at a lovely restaurant for some local food or drink to cool off.
Read this post for more things to do in Colombo.
General Comments – TripADeal Sri Lanka trip
Our itinerary ‘evolved’ out of the advertised Tripadeal one.
We had a great tour guide who occasionally took it upon himself to suggest changes if it suited the group.
Or if the weather was too inclement for planned excursions.
He thus recommended NOT to pre-book (and pay for) Optional excursions prior to starting the trip.
One such example was our Day 3.
We didn’t actually travel to the ancient city of Polonnaruwa.
This became an optional tour which clashed with an opportunity to do the Minneriya Elephant Safari and that turned out to be one of the group’s top highlights.
He also arranged a free tour of an orphanage school in Kandy.
This totally delighted the group, especially the retired teachers amongst us.
And he made the pain of tipping a breeze.
We each contributed one amount to him to cover our whole week of gratuities.
Then he arranged all the tipping in our hotels and restaurants.
So much easier and less stressful than trying to work with foreign currency and local habits!
Suggestions For Improvement – TripADeal Sri Lanka trip
1- Review of Standard and Premium Hotel Rooms
Having both standard and premium hotels each night was not ideal. The tour group was constantly split up. This limited any ability to socially mix at the end of the day during meal times.
It also meant more driving, with different drop-offs at night and in the mornings.
In fact, everyone commented that there was very little difference between the two hotel standards in Sri Lanka. Perhaps with two exceptions.
2- Colonial-Style Accommodation Appeals
In Kandy, most of the group preferred the heritage Hotel Suisse. This was in comparison to the more upmarket and minimalistic Ozo Kandy. Both were on the lake’s edge and 10 mins walk from the city centre.
But Hotel Suisse was a beautiful heritage colonial-style hotel set in 4 acres of tropical gardens. Its amazing original ballroom served as the restaurant. And the decor of the hotel, rooms, and elevators transported you back in time.
3- Include Traditional Stilt Fishing in the package
The older motel-style standard hotel in Koggala was certainly substandard to the much more upmarket premium choice. But the latter was quite a few kms out of town.
Whilst both were beachfront, the standard hotel was in Koggala. It was also only 200m walk from where a few traditional pole fishermen where.
It was a real bonus to witness this as stilt fishing is a dying south coast Sinhalese tradition. We would certainly recommend including it in the package if possible. Even if it is generally posed for tourists.
Thumbs Up – TripADeal Sri Lanka trip
- The Minneriya Elephant Safari was terrific and would a great addition to any future itinerary.
Thumbs Down – TripADeal Sri Lanka trip
- Parts of the tour we wouldn’t recommend? The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage got a definite general thumbs down.
- As for the Royal 100 Spice and Herbal Garden. A tour of a Sinhalese spice garden is a great idea given Ceylon’s history of spices. However, there is a definite need to change the venue. I certainly wouldn’t recommend this place to anyone.
Tripadeal Maldives 6 Day Stay
The Adaaran Club Rannalhi resort was a 45min fast boat ride from Male Airport.
The marina was also right outside the airport.
The crystal clear, azure blue waters were stunning, and that was just in the harbour!
Once on the island and in your room, time stops.
Time to chill, grab a sun lounge or a hammock, and relax.
Thumbs down – TripADeal Maldives 6 Day Stay
Choice of rooms
Standard rooms came with the Tripadeal package.
We personally scored a room on the east side but the beach there is sand-bagged due to strong wave action. And the afternoon shade hits these rooms from about 3 to 4 pm.
So, if possible, request the west side of the island.
It has much longer daylight hours with great sunsets.
However, the resort staff was very supportive of any request to change rooms.
Some even chose to upgrade to the overwater bungalows as they became available.
Thumbs up – TripADeal Maldives 6 Day Stay
All inclusive meal package
Lunches and dinners were generally not included in Sri Lanka.
But all meals (5 a day) in the Maldives were included.
Plus, there was an all inclusive drinks package.
Yes, wine, champagne, beer, and cocktails. Here’s to sundowners!
The meals were stunning
The restaurant was smorgasbord style with too many choices at each meal, both traditional and international fare.
Our group was placed together at each sitting too.
This was much appreciated by all given our separation in Sri Lanka.
Morning and afternoon snacks were also available at the two bars around the island. And Wifi was accessible in the reception, restaurant, and both bars.
Snorkelling was possible right off the west beach
Small coral reefs were within 100-200m of the rooms.
Although severely bleached, coral fish were in abundance.
From clownfish, angelfish, and triggerfish, to a resident moray eel and an amazing friendly hawksbill turtle.
Optional excursions included snorkelling out at sea in a traditional dhoni.
Scuba diving, fishing trips, spinner dolphin, manta and whale shark tours were also available.
As well as the usual watercraft for hire.
Namely, kayaks, stand up paddle boards, jet skis, and catamarans.
General Comments – TripADeal Maldives 6 Day Stay
What GREAT value for money.
A google search quoted our room that same week at $500-$650 per night.
Yet our Tripadeal package included 7 nights, with all transfers and an all-inclusive food and beverage deal. Amazing!
A restful week on the island was also greatly appreciated after the extensive high paced tour of Sri Lanka.
Doing so much in such a short time with virtually different hotels every night can be quite tiring.
Placing the Maldives Stay at the end of the package was brilliant thinking!
10 Day 2 For 1 Borneo
This Tripadeal review is about an offer that looked too good to resist.
General Comments – TripADeal 2 for 1 Borneo
We travelled with Tripadeal in May 2018.
Our 8-day route covered the capital city Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan in east Sabah.
Booking the trip was easy and uncomplicated.
The quoted price included international flights, accommodation and virtually all our meals.
Bottled water was provided free and in abundance by our tour guide.
Dehydration in the hot and humid climate is a no-no, so personal hydration is a must.
We also usually had access to free tea and coffee wherever we stayed.
Our 8 days on this TripAdeal Borneo holiday were packed with included activities and excursions and we soon discovered there were plenty of things to do in Sabah.
There was little spare time to chill or relax.
We covered a lot of territory in our coach with 28 other adventurers.
Highlights Of Our TripADeal Borneo Tour
Kota Kinabalu (‘KK’)
A tour of the largest most modern city.
An insight to compare with home, with waterfront walks, busy markets, and various malls.
A particular highlight was the City Mosque or White Floating Mosque.
Of traditional Moorish architecture, it is built on a platform in the middle of a reflective lake.
Mari Mari Sepanggar Island
Via short ferry from Jesselton Point Jetty, Kota Kinabalu – a tropical island ‘paradise’.
A few hours to chill and relax by the azure-coloured water’s edge.
All under the cover of lush palm trees with a stunning island tree house setting and Malaysian style smorgasbord lunch.
Shame about the floating plastic mimicking jellyfish.
Or the derelict beached fishing boat and rubber tires masked as plant holders. And the piles of discarded empty sacks of biscuit flour (contents ‘Vitamin C and benzoyl peroxide’) at both ends of the beach.
Mari Mari Cultural Village
A 3 hr visit with a local dinner and cultural performance.
A delight to see and experience local traditions and foods.
Evil rainforest insects though. Super strength insect repellent is a must!
Nabalu Native Market
A shortstop passing through the Crocker Range with stunning Mt Kinabalu and National Park in the background.
Great for local food tasting, local handicrafts and cheap T-shirts for presents.
Kinabalu National Park Botanical Garden
A guided walk through the rather stunning rainforest.
A taste of some Mt Kinabalu park trails and the Summit & Climbathon route to the top of the mountain (4095m).
Kundasang War Memorial, Ranau
A self-guided tour of the Memorial to the infamous 250km death marches from Sandakan to Ranau.
Two gardens commemorate the Australian and English POW’s who died.
The Borneo Garden is for the locals who helped them.
The Contemplation Garden honours all the victims of these horrors of war.
The Australian Memorial Hall was full of emotive memorabilia.
A Channel 9 Jana Wendt documentary video about the death marches brought tears to everyone’s eyes.
We even met Mr Sevee Charuruks, a great honour, a Thai national who was instrumental in restoring the Memorial in 2005.
He still works in the souvenir shop café, along with his family and grandchildren.
Sabah Tea Factory and Gardens
The beautiful tea gardens overlook Mt Kinabalu, great for photos.
The informative tour of the factory of Borneo’s top tea producer was hard to hear because of the loud machines.
Just don’t lean on anything green which may look freshly painted.
It probably is. Warning signage is not a Borneo thing!
Our heavily accented tea guide was very difficult to understand. But the tea tasting at the end was very enjoyable. And many of us purchased various Sabah tea product souvenirs.
Kampung Luanti ‘Fish Spa Massage’
Not what you would expect in a western world spa.
Definitely third world in its execution.
Hundreds of (large) fish hilariously nibbling your feet and legs at the edges of the river.
The locals look on and laugh!
English Tea House, Sandakan
Experience a beautiful three-course lunch in a classic colonial heritage house and gardens. Takes you back to the good ol’ days of English occupation.
Sandakan Memorial Park
A self-guided tour of remnants of the actual World War II Sandakan POW camp.
Dedicated to those who died in the Sandakan Death Marches to Ranau.
A circular route through restful rainforest gardens. See original remnants of an excavator and the steam generator.
A beautiful Memorial Pavilion and nearby Memorial Obelisk complete the park.
Very emotional and moving.
A personal highlight was to experience a feeding session of wild proboscis monkeys.
From a seemingly quiet and empty rainforest to feeding platforms full of troops of big-nosed proboscis monkeys.
A photographer’s delight!
Kinabatangan River Cruise At Dusk
Cruise along the river from a local Muslim fisherman’s village on an authentic fishing longboat.
More wild proboscis monkeys. And sparkling fireflies in the bushes along the river’s edge.
A sunset return for a traditional dinner cooked and served by village ladies.
Soup, fish, vegetables, chicken and pineapple curry with refreshingly cold rose water to drink.
Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre And Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Another personal highlight, this visit starts with an introduction video about the wildlife.
Then go on your self-guided tour to feeding platforms and an Outdoor Nursery.
The latter has both air-conditioned and open-air viewing rooms.
Both provide slightly different angles of viewing the juvenile orangs, which is especially important for photography with ever-changing sunlight, reflections, and shadows through the glass.
We were even lucky enough to meet a young male orangutan walking along our boardwalk handrail.
Talk about an up close and personal experience. Memorable!
Rainforest Discovery Centre – Sepilok
A guided walk through the Botanical Gardens with a self-guided canopy rooftop walk.
The informative guided garden tour was fascinating.
A great introduction to many tropical plants, herbs, and spices. But the highlight was the rainforest canopy walk.
The view of the top of the rainforest was amazing. As was the birdlife we encountered along the way.
Gomangton Caves in Gomantong Hill, Sandakan
A tour of the world-famous bat and cockroach-ridden caves.
Another personal bucket list item. And we were not disappointed.
Although we did miss the wild orangutan hanging in the forest along the boardwalk.
Similarly back at the educational exhibition area on the way to the cave. Aaargh!
Kinabatangan River Cruises And Jungle Walks
Included were sunrise and sunset river cruises along a remote stretch of this river.
Stunningly mesmerising in the middle of the Borneo jungle.
Listen to sounds of monkeys howling and birdlife calling as numerous hornbills fly overhead.
The included daytime jungle walk was hot and humid, consequently, little wildlife was seen.
But the optional nighttime walks were a different story.
From Malay and Palm civets to a rare mouse deer and skunk, as well as sleeping kingfishers and a Draco flying lizard.
So worth braving a few forest leeches…
Tripadeal Tour Exclusions
- Camera Fees – Local government bodies charge ‘camera fees’ at certain excursions. Included were: Gomantong caves, Labuk Bay Monkey Sanctuary, and the Orang-utan/Sun Bear Centre. But at only a few dollars at each site, they were more than worth it. And phone cameras were exempt.
- Optional Tours – We paid about AUD $10 each to experience the evening guided rainforest tours at Bilit. What we saw in insects and birdlife was well worth the leech attacks!
- Sundry Items – Alcohol and other drinks, a local Malaysian tourism tax ($3 per room per night) and tips.
Any Tripadeal Complaints?
Well, to be honest, there were very few.
- The coach was very comfortable and air-conditioned. Toilet and food stops were regular.
- Similarly, the accommodation was 4 star in the city and towns. Our rooms were nice and clean, with air-conditioning and swimming pools. In the Borneo jungle, it was 2-3 star. But there was nothing higher in these remote areas. As one could imagine.
- Where possible, we experienced traditional British colonial-style hotels. Our Sepilok Jungle Resort was right next to the Orangutan and Sun Bear Sanctuary. And our authentic jungle lodge was in a remote riverine rainforest area on the Lower Kinabatangan river.
- Most noticeably, the food. Well, that was fantastic. We experienced abundant local traditional fare. But there was always international food if you wanted it.
- Furthermore, the currency exchange makes travelling here very cheap. Food, tips, and drinks were only equivalent to a few dollars. This was a great bonus as the Australian dollar went a long way.
However, one relatively unfit, medically challenged elderly couple did comment: “There was too much sightseeing and walking, especially in the humidity and heat”, and: “Wildlife did not particularly interest us”.
So, if you fall into this same category, perhaps this Tripadeal Borneo 2 for 1 trip may not be the tour for you.
Great Value For Money
All in all, this was an AMAZING trip. Everyone commented on how much we had seen and experienced.
The wildlife, in particular, was stunning. We even saw wild orangs outside our rooms at the Bilit Adventure Lodge, with numerous wild proboscis monkeys on the river cruises.
However, Sabah’s rare pygmy elephants remained elusive. Just another reason to re-visit one day, I guess!
So if you want value for money, wildlife galore and a true authentic Borneo experience? Then you could not do any better than book this trip.
Read about my TripADeal Cruise, Canada and USA trip here.