Aboard the Orion II, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia.

Grantourismo Goes To Sea with Orion Expeditions!

Grantourismo goes to sea! That’s right, we’re about to do our first cruise and in a few days will be embarking upon one of those Orion Expeditions to Malaysian Borneo called Secrets of Sabah.

We’ve been sharing our experiences here with you from Sydney, where we’ve been for the last eight weeks, and we have a lot more posts to go up from our favourite Australian city over coming weeks, which is a good thing…

Because for the first time in a long time we won’t have Internet access at all for 10 days and won’t have much after that for a week or so while we’re cruising around the Malaysian north-east of the island of Borneo.

I’m writing this from an Air Asia plane that’s taking us to Kuala Lumpur, where we’ll test out one of those Tune hotels at the airport tonight, before rising in the darkness for a 7am flight to Tawau, Sabah on Borneo. We’re super excited for a few reasons…

Borneo. Enough said. No? Okay. Orang-utans. Powdery white beaches skirted by coral seas and fringed by swaying palms. Orang-utans. 130 million year old rainforest. Orang-utans. You know we’ve always had a thing for primates – since sharing our homes with them in Costa Rica and Kenya. But, Borneo. Borneo is this wild place in my imagination, of impenetrable jungles and lonely rivers and exotic birdlife. We only have one friend who has been to Borneo and that’s sort of exciting too. Have you been to Borneo?

So how did we come to be going to Borneo? A couple of months ago we had an invitation from Orion Expeditions to do a cruise. We considered some Australian cruises, off the Kimberley coast, pictured above – a part of Australia we love and have covered by land but never experienced from the sea. And we almost did an epic cruise from Shanghai to Malaysia via Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines.

In the end we decided on Orion’s Borneo: Secrets of the Sabah expedition. Note the use of ‘expedition’. Orion Expeditions don’t call their journeys ‘cruises’, because they tend to be on the more adventurous side than most. They like to think of their passengers as explorers rather than tourists.

We will be sailing around the coast of Borneo, sipping gin and tonics I imagine as we gaze out to see from Balcony Suite. But we will also be anchoring to set off on journeys down the Kinabatangan River where we’ll stay overnight in the rainforest and go wildlife spotting to see orang-utans, proboscis monkeys, macaques, and pygmy elephants! Yes! Pygmy elephants!

Orion Expeditions also prefer ‘cruises’ because of the connotation with those colossal ships that are like mini-cities at sea, when, in fact, we’ll be sailing on a super-yacht or mega-yacht (I’m not quite sure of the difference yet), a far more sustainable way to travel by sea. I hope.

We contemplated the sustainability of cruise ships (see this post) before we made our decision to go. While we’ve never had any interest in a cruise on one of those monumental beasts – we’ve seen the damage they’ve done to another of our favourite destinations, Venice – we like the idea that the Orion is small in comparison, just 88 metres long, and there are only 100 passengers and 75 crew, making for more of our kind of experience. We hope!

After our 10 day cruise, we’ll spend a few days feasting on seafood in Kota Kinabalu and another few days in Kuala Lumpur, both for stories, before venturing to Selangor for a week of farm stays and eco-tourism experiences, where we’ll be doing everything from hiking and fishing to bird-watching and horse-riding.

We’ll be tweeting about our experiences on Twitter @gran_tourismo if and when we can, but in the meantime, we hope you enjoy more of our posts from Sydney.

Orion Expeditions



There are 4 comments

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  1. Lara Dunston

    The Orion Expedition *was* an adventure! Our verdict coming soon! Still in Sabah though, in Kota Kinabalu. Will check out Kristin’s posts when we can – bad internet at the moment.

  2. Keith Kellett

    I think that, unless you go outside a lot, on the larger boats you can forget you’re on a ship. We’ve done 4 cruises on the bigger ones: ‘Thomson Emerald’ nearly put me off cruising for life (I used the expression ‘floating coach tour’, with which I was rather pleased. Fortunately, Costa Cruises were much better … even though, so far, we’d only sailed on their larger ships; love to try their smaller ones!

    We’ll be going to Norway on the ‘Ocean Countess’ in March; that’s a little ship, too; has to be, to navigate those fjords. Watch my blog for reports on that!

  3. Lara Dunston

    Hi Keith – thanks for this comment – sorry it took so long to respond, but we didn’t have much internet access on the boat. It was great, by the way – had its pros and cons, which we’ll report back on soon. We’ll be looking forward to your posts too!

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