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Primates and pampering at the Shangri-La Rasa Ria, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

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DCG2With the arrival of kids’ holidays, priorities irreversibly shift into ensuring the journey time is minimal, the tots are entertained and somehow guaranteeing the parents some much needed downtime. It’s an unceasing question debated amongst mamas in Singapore; where is the best kid-friendly short-haul hotel? Well we’re pretty sure we have found the ultimate answer and it comes in the form of the Shangri La Rasa Ria in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia!

In terms of simple logistics, Kota Kinabalu ticks all the practical boxes; a direct two-and-a-quarter hour flight with Malaysia Airlines or Air Asia at convenient flight times, a breezy 45-minute transfer to the hotel, and no visa required.

But that factual malarkey isn’t going to keep the kids entertained! The real selling point is the amazing range of activities on offer for the kids. Most notably, nestling down on the ocean-grazing edge of 64-acres of nature reserve, the hotel is the caretaker of an impressive stretch of jungle and is home to an orangutan orphanage. Not only are there twice-daily sessions when you can walk along jungle canopy walks to witness the furry orange fellas being fed, but – provided your little one is over the age of five – the hotel offers the opportunity to be a Ranger for the day where they get to metaphorically swing from the trees and accompany staff on their daily rounds and animal care duties.

PIc 4The experience is something inimitable and will stay with you and your kids for a lifetime. And if that alone wasn’t enough to satiate their desire for fun, there is also a kids club, a white sandy beach, a kid friendly swimming pool complete with water slides, kids’ menus at all restaurants, kids’ food stations and crockery at breakfast, and fantastic babysitters on site, as well as daily scheduled activities. This roving Sassy Mama reporter was there for a leisurely six days and even then, the kids didn’t quite have enough time to explore every part of the hotel that they wanted to!

Pic 5Often this kid-friendliness comes at a price, but not so here. Operated by Shangri-La, the hotel sticks to five-star standards throughout. The service is impeccable with more-than-obliging staff. The range of restaurants will have you salivating; a Malaysian buffet, a Western lounge restaurant, an Indian spice fest, a Japanese teppanyaki and a fine dining restaurant. Not forgetting the two bars with generous happy hours inviting you to watch the breathtaking sunset with refreshing cocktail in hand whilst the kids roam the outdoor facilities that including boules, volleyball and croquet pitches.

pic 1On top of all that, there is a golf club with on-site spa providing a bit of respite. The one downside of such a kid-friendly hotel – as selfish as this sounds – is the sheer number of kids around! This means that the pool can be a bit rowdy and the breakfast buffet somewhat chaotic. Luckily, the hotel has come up with a simple solution. By paying a slight premium, guests can book into the more exclusive Ocean Wing. Rooms are larger and come complete with outdoor bath, but the real benefits arise from the option to breakfast at Coast, a far quieter and more refined (yet still kid-friendly) experience, and also to swim in the private Ocean Wing pool which, with its lack of waterslide, is remarkably more peaceful.

Pic 3The Garden Wing, whilst a little more frantic with 326 rooms versus the Ocean Wing’s 90, is still a luxurious place to rest your head. The rooms are spacious enough to squeeze your little ones in with you and provide every modern luxury you would expect from Shangri-La. And it’s even better value for money than the Ocean Wing.

This is never going to be an intimate boutique beach holiday, but this hotel still packs a punch. Five-star facilities and service, a beautiful and convenient location and enough activities to keep the kids occupied for days on end (and we haven’t even started to mention the tennis courts, sailing, horseback riding, gym and white water rafting…). Sometimes we need to schedule some mama holiday time, sometimes it’s all about the kids, but this gem of a hotel manages to provide a balance of both. Bring on the next long weekend….

For more information, check out the Shangri-La website.

jaime sig

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