We had booked a trip to the outer reef with Quiksilver Reef Cruises. I was warned to take seasick tablets as the ride out could be a little rough. I heeded that advice, many didn’t & paid the price. I wondered when we left the dock, why the cruise staff were standing around with airline sick bags, I soon found out!! Luckily not for us!! It was pretty choppy & I was glad to get out to the reef.  It takes approximately 1.5hrs to get out to the outer reef.
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Day 2 was our anniversary, Craig presented me with the diamond ring I had purchased for myself in Hong Kong earlier that year! I had also bought him a new titanium watch as the watch I bought him for a wedding gift had seen better days! I had organised a surprise trip in a helicopter to go over the Great Barrier Reef. This was our first sight of the Great Barrier Reef & it was breath taking.

There were a couple of problems in relation to the time that we were to do the helicopter flight. Nothing that was the fault of the organisers or ourselves, just a bit of miscommunication with the 3rd party involved, turned out fine though. We spent the morning by the lagoon pool & at 3pm the team from GBR Helicopters picked us up from the hotel for our ride over the Low Isles & Batt Reef.

Lounging by the lagoon for the morning

I had never been in a helicopter & it was much smaller than I had envisioned & noisy!! Craig took the front seat seeing as it was my surprise to him. We took off over the Sheraton Mirage so we could get an aerial view of the resort then out to the Great Barrier Reef.

Aerial view of the Sheraton Mirage

It was everything I had expected it to be & more. The views were beautiful, just like you see in all the magazines. I was so jealous of the pilot thinking he has the best job in the world. It was truly breathtaking. I have always wanted to go there & have heard so many people talk about it but nothing compares to seeing it yourself.  The pictures below speak for themselves.

Low Isles from the air

In the chopper approaching the GBR

The GBR, breath taking views, one of the best experiences ever

That evening we went to Aqua, the restaurant at the Pullman Sea Temple Resort. It is a little further out of town than the Sheraton Mirage but I would have to say it is much nicer. The Mirage is getting quite old now & could do with a renovation. We were told that it had recently been purchased and the owners are planning on renovating during 2014.  The Sea Temple is a very open plan resort, it reminded me a lot of the resorts in Asia.

The waiter gave us a glass of bubbles on the house to start off our celebratory evening.  The food was amazing, perfectly cooked. There was a solo guitarist playing in the corner, it set the mood in the restaurant. It was expensive but not over the top & the food was worth what we paid for it.

Dinner at Aqua at the Pullman Sea Temple, Port Douglas

 

In November 2013, Craig & I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary with 5 childfree days in Port Douglas, Queensland. Neither of Craig or myself had been to North Queensland before so we were both looking forward to a new adventure. Read More

No trip to Borneo is complete without a visit to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, so its number 1 on my to do list for our trip to Borneo in October 2014.

I contacted a couple of travel agents we have used previously for quotes for the day trip to Sepilok & both returned with similar costs of approximately $2,600 (AUD) for 2 adults & 3 kids. That’s more than our flights combined or our accommodation for a week in Borneo & whilst I was really keen to do the tour I just couldn’t justify spending that amount of money on a day trip. Immediately I thought there has to be a cheaper way!

First stop Lonely Planet travel guide, can it be done? Yes it can. The Lonely Planet Guide outlined costs & transportation options for getting to Sepilok on public transport, it looked do-able although I was starting to get concerned about how I would manage it all with the 3 kids in tow aged 9,7,5 years old. I didn’t want to make life more difficult that it needs to be. I felt I needed to look into this more.

Next step, hours spent searching on the internet. I came across a booking site, Viator, they were advertising day tours for $156 if you booked months in advance. Bingo, perfect, I gladly booked & paid, I was pretty happy thinking I secured a massive saving of about $2,000. The confirmation notification was taking a long time to arrive in my inbox. Each time I logged on to Viator my booked was flagged as pending, even though they had already debited my credit card. After 2 weeks I called the 1300 number & was connected with a Viator operator in America. He advised that the booking was still pending as the tour operator had not yet confirmed. No worries, he said it shouldn’t be too much longer. After a few more days I received an email from Viator.

The email advised that my booking had been placed on hold  as the airfares for the tour had not been included in the stated price & if I wanted to go ahead with the booking it would be $2,600! Apparently flights from Kota Kinabula to Sandikan for 5 people cost $1,900……! I promptly cancelled that booking (my payment will be returned in no more than 10 days, meaning they had my $700 for nearly a month).

My husband checked out the flights for me & found that if we booked them direct the return flights for all 5 of us were under $300.  We booked those flights. I then googled ‘private drivers in Sandikan’, a number of different hits come up.

I came across Sabah Trips, they have a Facebook page so I contacted them through Facebook. I outlined that there are 5 people & what I wanted to include in my day trip, Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Sun Bear Rehabilitation Centre which has just opened, Probicious Monkey feeding & the War memorial. The reply was very prompt, within half an hour with a price of 300RM (under $100AUD).  That was per day & we could do whatever we wanted to do during that time. Booked, done, so now I have all my transport booked & confirmed for under $400 instead of $2,600. The private drivers from Sabah Trips, pick you up & drop you off at the airport.

The Lonely Planet Guide lists all the entry costs for the places that I wish to visit. My expectation is to allow $100-$200 for entry fees. Even if its a little bit more I’m happy I have still saved $2,000 that I can spend on other things. I will probably take food for the kids as it will be much easier than finding something they will eat. I am sure the private driver will have some favourites he/she might want to take us to.

It continues to amaze me how much money you can save if you do your research & are prepared to go it alone! Lets hope it all runs smoothly, I will repost after our experience with tons of pictures of all the monkeys & bears.

Happy travels.

Sal.

 

 

 

In an earlier post I discussed our flights for our upcoming trip to S.E.Asia & how I managed to travel to 3 different countries for all 5 of us, for under $2,500. In this post I will discuss our accommodation choices.

Travelling with 5 people is very expensive when you have to book hotels, so much so that for us its not within our budget. I have avoided traveling overseas until now for this very reason. Until a girl at work told me about Airbnb.

Airbnb is a website where people rent out accommodation including apartments, private rooms, boats, manors, castles even private islands. It lists 500,000 options in 192 different countries. Each property has a host that you liaise with direct & their profile provides feedback for you to review before booking. The reviews will advise you of any issues to do with location, transport options, cleanliness & lodging that may have been overstated in there advertising. Nothing worse than arriving somewhere & it looks nothing like what you thought you had booked & paid for.

Airbnb has a very user friendly app for iPhones & Android & can also be accessed via a website. I viewed & booked all our accommodation through the iPhone app. All users are required to go through the verification process  which requires you to provide identification & contact details. Hosts will not approve your applications until the verification process is complete.

I started looking at apartments in Hong Kong & Kuala Lumpur. Last year when I had a girls trip to Hong Kong with my mum & sister, we shared a room at the Kowloon Shangri La & it cost us $3,000.  That was for 3 of us sharing a room, it would be double that for 2 rooms to accommodate 5 people. I looked at other hotels that were 3 star but it still worked out to be really expensive, due to the requirement of 2 rooms.

The Kowloon Shangri La Hotel was in a great location in Tsim Sha Tsui (TST), I loved being so close to everything & especially the MTR. When I started looking at apartments on AirBNB my hope was that we would find something in TST. I spoke to a number of hosts of various apartments & prices. I then come across a small apartment with 1 master bedroom & a pull out couch that makes a double bed. The apartment is very small & I am aware of that, I am not expecting it to be the Taj Mahal. We wont be spending much time there as we are going to Macau, Disneyland HK, Ocean Park, Stanley Market & a day to explore Hong Kong Island. Why spend a lot of money when all we are going to do is sleep there!

This particular apartment is in TST & ticks all the boxes for me & best of all its 5 mins walk to TST station. I chatted back & forth to the host & eventually booked this lovely apartment. It has wifi, refrigerator,  bathroom & a lift in the building. All for $680 for 6 nights, yes that’s correct under $100 a night for 5 people in a prime location. I could not be happier.

I then started to focus on Kuala Lumpur, a friend told me the best places to stay is the Golden Triangle or Bukit Bintang as its very central for food & shopping. So again I checked out all the reviews & liaised with the host. I decided on an apartment very central in the Golden Triangle. My application was accepted & the host forwarded me the apartment details. To my amazement the apartment is a penthouse!! Now I’m chuffed.

So I have myself an apartment penthouse in prime location in Kuala Lumpur for $245 for 2 nights, again you would never be able to get a hotel for that prices. These prices also include a cleaner that cleans the apartment on your departure.

So far I’m pretty impressed with everything to do with Airbnb. I will post again with how it went on our return.  I am very positive about my contact with the hosts. Both have provided information on getting from the airport to the apartment. They have advised they will meet & greet us, details to be confirmed closer to the date of travel.

I wont tell you about my accommodation choice in Borneo as this is my little splurge! This is when my big birthday falls & we have gone all out with another Shangri La experience. However I will take loads of pics & post from there.

Happy travels.

Sal.