Published: October 14th 2008October 12th 2008
Borneo, land of misty mountains, orange fur pimates and many animals unique to this part of the world!
From Kota Kinabalu (where we arrived) we firstly headed to a place called Sepilok which is where the Orang Utan sanctuary is...........around a six hour bus ride away. We had been told by the people at the hostel that it was very easy and all you needed to do was get to the long distance bus station which is half an hour away and you can buy your ticket when you get there no problem!
Arriving at the bus station at 7.30am we wanted to get on the 8am bus, we asked at the first window for two tickets to Sandakan for the 8am bus the lady behind the window said 'no'!!!! No???? hmmm it seemed that all the buses were full until 2pm at that company so as you do you think you know better so went to the other windows and they had no buses they were all full. How could this be? we thought the station looked busy but this is quite normal in Asia. Turns out that it was a public holiday for the Muslim
celebration of Hari Raya bringing an end to Ramadam, and it is the day that they all go and visit family and friends in Sandakan so it seems!!!!! We had no option but to wait 6 hours for a 2pm bus. We did however try to sneak onto a 9am bus only to be kicked off oops.
6 hours later and we were getting on the bus finally, then the bus decided to break down before we had even left the station!!!!! you just can't quite bellieve it is happening. Anyway we got on our way eventually and it slowly went dark over the misty landscape that was pretty stunning. We had asked to be dropped in Sepilok about 30kms before Sandakan. The driver missed our stop and would not go back so we ended up in Sandakan.
Local buses here are so funny they stop every 20 metres or so for people to get on or off, so a short journey takes a while and they won't leave the station until they are full which can take time. The upside is that they are so so cheap so you kind of put up with the rest. We
took the bus to Sepilok. It dropped us at the end of the road, we walked a couple of kms and man it was hot! It is very humid here, to be expected being a rainforest ha ha ha.
The UK based charity takes in Orang Utans that have been orphaned or rescued. They take them and rehabillitate them so that they can slowly be released into the wild. Alot of them come back to the feeding platforms as a form of familiarity, but they are free to come and go as they please and the feedings are purely a supplement to what they have in the forest. The sanctuary itself has two feeding times 10am and 3pm. Your ticket allows you to the two feeds. The lonely planet said that if you go for the 3pm feed you can then carry over your ticket for the following mornings feed. as we were so tired we had, had a good sleep and got there for 11am ish. We had a look around the wooden buildings with have various displays and videos playing in them. At 2pm we went ahead to purchase the tickets, double checking with the lady that
Long Tailed Macaque
....Don't you hate it when you fall from a great height, and land with your legs ajar on a hard object...
we could in fact use them again for the next morning........her answer was 'no'!!!!! doh. All that waiting around for nothing. You use the guide books as that, a guide but some things you just think are right! maybe you shouldn't.
Enough of me raving about how we waited and waited and so on...............the next day we went to see the ginger furry primates that we had come all this way to see. The morning feed was very busy with coach tours. You walk along a walkway into the forest and then you come to a platform where there are small rails that are the only thing between you and them. You are about 10m away from the feeding platforms which is close!
We waited again in true English fashion until the afternoon feed, we found that there were far less people there and we waited until there were only about 10 people remaining, we were rewarded with lots of Orang Utan's and one with a very small baby. It is amazing how much these animals are like us.........they are so special and it is so sad to think how endangered they are here. People taking babies away
from there mothers and selling them as pets!!! We had been told and read that it was a bit like a zoo here, i would not agree with that. The animals can do what they like and the staff take great care into rehabilitating them so that they don't have too much human contact.
Next stop was Semporna where Ste wrote a blog on before this one. a bit of a mixed set of blogs we are sorry..................
The Kinabatangan River runs for about 500 miles through the country and is surrounded by native rainforest full of wildlife! This was our next destination. There are many tourist tour outfits who run 3 day tours into the forest and you stay at there lodges. We wanted to do things a little different so opted for a homestay option with a local place who offer a package that you pay for the homestay at 65RM ($20) a night per person for your bed and food in a local family home. Then you choose what activities you wish to do and when you want to do them.............perfect!
Our family were the most friendly, hospitable people who couldn't do enough for
us. They live in a traditional longhouse. A Malaysian longhouse is built on stilts and consists of a large living area in the center, with bedrooms off it, follwed by a kitchen area at the rear which is not a kitchen as we know it. It has an electric ring with a huge wok on, then a huge table and a rice cooker. They don't have a sink to do the dishes in they use a bucket and sit on the floor to do it. The bathroom is a seperate eastern toilet, then a bucket and a pan for your shower. The house is all made of wood and there are spaces between the floor boards, so that is where the water goes through when you are washing yourself.........no drainage! It keeps the house cool and the great Grandma used the gaps to spit flem down, with a impeccable aim!!!! Obviously she has done it for years. They live in large family groups with the women traditionally doing all of the household chores. There were 16 people living in the house but it didn't seem like that many as there is so much space. They had a TV in the
big room and everybody would grab there pillow from there bed and cozy up..........................
A lady called Julia was looking after us, she was the only one that really spoke English. She had been living in Kuala Lumpur for 11 years and has come back to Kinabatangan to have her baby, Adam. there are so family driven it is wonderful, everybody helps out! Julia taught us there etiquette. You eat with your hands, well only your right hand. You must wash your hand before and after eating from a tea pot contraption. It was very hard to eat like this for us as it is everything you get taught not to do at home you had to do here, we got our hands in a right mess ha ha ha! Rice with sauce and bits of veg everywhere!
Our first activity was a sunset river cruise, followed by a night jungle walk. It was just me and Ste and our guide which was fab as you really get the benefit of having a local know all the animals and know exactly where they will be. Within 10mins of being on the boat we were spotting kingfishers, hornbills, monkeys
and lizards! the setting was unreal, dense jungle lining the banks of this chocolate like river........birds crossing your path with noises of things we couldn't see. It was amazing! The best was yet to come.
The night walk was a big step for me as I am like many people I am not too keen on the old insects, but to be honest i was that amazed as to where we were and what we were seeing i didn't think about it. We each had a torch, our guide went ahead he spotted things we would never have seen. The noises were so loud in there and when you looked behind it was pitch black. We found things from tree frogs to giant stick insects, spiders, baby birds and of course the feared leeches!
It was back on the river for sunrise, with Hari Raya biscuits form Julia for our breakfast. They make little tiny biscuits and cakes for the festive period! Watching the sun come up was a spectacular sight the colours in the sky reflecting in the murky waters. As we passed slowly down the river our guide said 'you are very lucky, there is an
Orang Utan up there............a wild Urang Utan wow! It was a large male with large cheek pads, sat in the tree eating fruit. Makes you realise how lucky you are to be able see something like this and how humble you are with a large endangered animal, that man is slowly endangering more by chopping down its habitat.
After a walk in the trees in daylight this time, spotting insects and yet more blood sucking leeches we returned to our homestay for lunch and a play with Adam and Shami, Julia's 4 year old nephew who also lived in the house. We had been invited to a cultural dance that was taking place for a tour that was passing by, so we went along. They performed traditional dances in traditional costume then got us all up to join in. Then we were all touched when we were called up one at a time by name to recieve a gift of a flower and sweets for watching them perform..........now would that happen at home?????? nope. These people are truly the nicest. After that Ste and I were asked to go around to our guides house and meet his family. Once
again we were greeted with fantastic hospitality, a cool rose drink and more Hari Raya biscuits yummy. We went outside into the village and slowly it seemed that everybody was coming out to play volleyball, the mums had the kids out and the grandparents were watching all in a big happy community.......quite special. Ste ended up playing football with some kids that just thought he was great so he loved that ha ha ha!!!!
It was a sad goodbye at the homestay the people that had welcomed us into there home, that is a sad aspect of travelling, constantly saying goodbye to people.
Kinabatangan was an experience that we will never forget and definately recommend it to anybody..........on the top ten of things we have done by far!
Since the jungle adventure we have been a bit boring really, we have come back to Sandakan and done very little, acted like a local ate in some very dodgy looking places with fab food and tried to decide what our next move is. The Mt Kinabalu climb is out as the prices have rocketed and seem unreasonable, including $80 each for a bunk in a 60 bed dorm
Long Tailed Macaque
"DON'T Look at me...."
on the mountain, Besides we have decided that it is tourists that have made it into a thing to do here, which is great for the people here but they now have the monopoly. We want to get off the track and do different things so have decided to save our money for something different that will arise.
There are more photos below