5* treatment and oranguatans, orangutans and wild orangutans....

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February 19th 2014
Published: July 17th 2014
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Kuala Lumpar - Kinabatagan Wildlife sanctuary

Having dropped off Amana at her departure terminal(who incidentally passed backpacker bootcamp with honors) we boarded a plane to Kota Kinabalu (kk). We were starving at the airport and having seen the amazing food on offer outside our departure terminal we thought we may be getting a culinary treat (i.e mc Donald's) once we had checked in-no such luck, we made do with a packet of crisps and a snack on the plane. Kk is the main city in Borneo and we were flying here for two reasons 1) to spend some time with my mum and dad (caz and col) who very nicely had decided to come and see us whilst we were away and also 2) to go and meet/see some oraguatans.

After a reasonable wait at immigration (not sure why we needed another stamp as we were technically in Malaysia) we picked up our bags and walked through to find my dad taking a picture of us as we met them whilst we had our backpacks on, and were looking very hot and sweaty (this was the first of many pictures to come).

I can safely say for the next 7 days we were no longer backpacking....we had upgraded to first class and were, for sure, glam packing. My parents had wanted to make sure we had a relaxing few days doing nothing and not worrying about where we were staying or costs so we were all checked into the Sutara Harbour which is a 5* hotel in kk. It was amazing...huge room, a television, toiletries, towels, great view of the sea, huge pool, a bar in the pool, gym and as an added treat we were all made members of grand pacific club. In the club there was free food available, such as breakfast, chocolate fondue in the afternoon, cakes, biscuits, free drinks from 5-7 every night and free tapas. On our first night (wearing our best clothes we had) we smoothed our way in and lived the dream-we must of looked out of place as after making friends with other club members at the bar we were asked how/what we were doing there as this was not someone we were probably likely to be found -ha. It was great. Whilst with the parentals we spent time hanging out, going for swims, catching some rays, eating lots of nice food and did some side trips. We found an Irish pub in town and even had shepherds pie with baked beans and gravy! Yum! We went to another hotel called the shangri la which has its own orangutan rehabilitation centre. This one takes mainly younger rangas and when they are bigger they are moved to the Sepilok rehabilitation a centre. After watching a short film on the ginger celebrities we waked through the forest to a viewpoint. Whilst the 'parents' (that's the name for the people who are assigned an oragnutan to teach basic living/survival skills for when they are reintroduced to the jungle) put some food out for the rangas, we waited patiently and were kept entertained by a very hairy, bear type thing (had a look for what it was but can't find it I'm afraid) who was trying to take a nap right where the tourists could view the main act. He wasn't too up frightening but you certainly got the impression that you could look but in no way touch or go near or generally disturb.

The rehab centre has a large amount of land and the rangas can freely roam to practice their swinging through the trees skills, general bendability, and finding food. Twice a day food is provided just incase they need it-this is when the tourists can watch, take pictures and basically entertain the rangas as much as they entertain them. I really enjoyed this, and even though mum and dad have been before they seemed to be having just as much fun. I have to be honest though and say that it's not only rangas who may come for the food. Some very very cheeky monkeys were hanging out around the food too. For me, they very almost stole the show from the orangutans. The monkeys were being very mishiouvous and sneaking up on the food stations like monkey ninjas to take as many bananas, apples and other fruit before they were shooed off by the parents. One monkey had managed to steal food and place it between his toes, under his arms and in his hands (monkey paws), he had more than he could carry. The orang-utans here are juvenile ones and are scared of the older monkeys so they were not doing a good job of protecting their own food and would flea when a monkey came hunting..it was vey funny to watch. We stayed till the last second we could and I loved it, highly recommend.

We also took a taxi out to the local cultural centre which was really interesting too, we saw lots of different types of huts and buildings the indigenous people lived in and also how they live their life on a daily basis. There was all different information and old pictures of local tribes including pictures/drawings the first explorers had taken which I loved. I was not loving a book Craig found in the bookshop called..'man eating crocodiles of Borneo' nor the pictures that accompanied it of victims inside the caught crocodile and pictures of people with limbs missing that had been bitten off. Especially as we were going into the jungle after time with mum and dad. Eek!

We had a brilliant time with mum and dad and were sad to say goodbye. Things got worse when I realised we would be flying to sepilok for 2hours in the smallest, scariest plane I've been in. There were 6 passengers, two propellers and not a lot of space. To say I was scared was an understatement and I spent the flight sobbing very quietly with my head in my pillow wishing the time would hurry up. Not the best. To make matters worse the plane had to stop en route to pick more people up meaning another take off and landing. Luckily the turbulence wasn't too bad but it was bumpy. Craigs not scared of anything so he enjoyed the flight and read his book the entire way. I'm not really that scared of flying but I hate turbulence and small planes get thrown around a bit more than bigger ones.

So we landed (phew) and headed to uncle tans adventure camp. This meant a 45 minute taxi to the 'control centre' to sign in. When everyone had arrived we all took a mini bus for three hours (having to stop twice as the driver was clearly tired and falling asleep) to the river dock, then get on a long boat for 2 hours down the kinabatangan river to get us to the jungle camp. En route we saw a lots of Palm oil trees/plantations, these are the main culprits for the demise of the orangutan. Farmers can make a lot of money from selling Palm oil. It is a material used in all everyday items and such as soap and is cheaper than other materials which do the same thing. With the world trying to cut costs this industry is booming, but the environment is suffering and so are the animals, including and especially orang-utans and the probiscus monkeys. Unfortunately these farmers do not see the end result which could be that orang-utans are made extinct. But what else can they farm which will make them as much money?

We were intrigued to see uncle tans jungle camp as at the control centre we had to sign a form saying we had read the disclaimer which informs us that things are basic at the camp and if you don't like it you will have to pay to get out of there by boat and car. It lived up to the disclaimer, we'd gone 5* to a hut without no windows or doors, 3 double mattresses on the floor in said hut for 6 people, a mosquito net and a bathroom about 100 metres away with no running water so you had to fill buckets from Rain water containers for a shower or to flush the toilet. Welcome to the jungle! To be honest, this was all we needed. The itinary at the camp was so busy you had little time on your matress. We were out on sunset boat trips, 6am boat trips, jungle walks and nighttime jungle walks, it was knackering. We spent a total of 2 nights and this was enough. The first night you can't really sleep for all the noise of the jungle which is literally on your doorstep (despite wearing earplugs) the second night you sleep better as your so tired. The first night I slept the worst because all I could think about was that blooming book 'man eating crocodiles of Borneo' Craig had been looking at In kk. Several times in the night I had to switch on the torch as I was convinced a man eating crocodile had walked up from the river and was standing next to me, next to my mattress!. The second night Craig was a gentleman and swopped places so I was next to the wall and he by the entrance to the hut (remember there were no doors). It was a fantastic experience and we saw loads of wildlife such as bats, loads of probiscus monkeys, turantualas, flying fox, crocodiles, python snake, kingfisher...and to finish the amazing trip off....a real life..wild orangutan!!!! Swinging through the trees! I'd like to think he was singing 'jungle VIP' from the jungle book film. Amazing! I felt so lucky and privileged.

Another thing they showed us was the fruit bats migrating at night whilst the sun was setting which made for good pictures and also they showed us some tracks left by a crocodile which could easily of been as big as the one from Peter Pan. I'm talking massive! About 3-4metres. Scary!! That book of Craig's is seeming more likely to be true.

We really enjoyed ourselves and think we even saw more animals than in the amazon, I think because a lot of it is done on the river and and not walking (as we did in the Amazon) they are not so easily scared off. Wildlife is in abundance here. Let's hope it stays this way.

The staff were also fantastic at the camp and on our next night we all had some rice wine together (potent) and (cringe) sang songs with them playing the guitar. We got stuck in and enjoyed ourselves. The food was also amazing and as always there was too much but it was delicious. Pancakes for breakfast with pineapple jam, noodles for lunch and chicken for dinner. One afternoon myself and Craig took up the offer to go line fishing and we caught some fish (small catfish) which the staff later cooked for us for dinner...quite bony but we had caught them so they were enjoyable.

We made it back to the uncle tans control centre on the third day and headed to sandakan which is the local town where we were stopping. We decided to treat ourselves to a private room instead of dorm. This was a great idea. We were so grateful for air con, a bed, sheets and our first shower since coming back from the jungle, which was one of the best I'd had. We also treated ourselves to a western meal (as these are often more expensive than local meals) of pizza which doubled with a couple of pints/glasses of red sent us both into a food coma and we were asleep at 4pm and woke at 8am -we must have needed it!

The following day we went to visit the sepilok orang-utan rehabilitation centre. This is the hub of all things orang-utan and there are lots of documentaries you can watch on the work that goes on here. Larger organutans are brought here (who have either been rescued or grown up in captivity) and they enter organutan school so they can be trained up with the skills they need to live in the wild. Again, they roam around the jungle area here freely and if they need food it is provided twice a day. Not the same orangutans come at meal times (if any) but we were lucky to see two oragnuatans who hadn't quite equipped themselves with life on their own and needed a little extra food. We watched one ranga go to the food basket and pick which fruit he wanted from the parent which was amusing. They are so human like. The two rangas didn't stop long but the experience was great. I hope they make it back to the wild.

We flew the next day (thankfully on a bigger plane) back to kuala lumpur and then onto Kathmandu. Very exciting, we were heading to Nepal.

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27th September 2014

Brilliant photos! the orangutans are the most adorable species on the planet and you got some memorable shots of them, the 5* hotel must of seemed like paradise how lovely of your mum and dad to come and share your adventure bless them! i cant understand about the palm oil thing its not good for anyone or the sugar crystals, why would you risk the extinction of some of the most diverse and beautiful gifts of our existence on this planet ( there is room for us all to exist harmoniousely on this gift of a life ) did you get any photos of the flying foxes they sound very intruiging! and dont you think proboscis monkeys look remarkably human? lots of love Antonia xx

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