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Published: April 29th 2013
For us, uninformed and unprepaired, Borneo was one big surprise. The first thing you notice about Borneo is the most amazing sky you have ever seen. It is the most beautiful mixture of all shades of blue with different types of clouds in different layers and everytime you look up you think wow this is really something special. The second thing we realized pretty quickly was that Borneo is much more developed that we would expect and very modern and very very expensive (although the public transport between cities and touristic places is an absolute disaster that would deserve some improvement). The only two things we have planned for Borneo was to climb the famous Mount Kinabalu in the northern Sabah and to visit the Bako national park in the sourthern Sarawak state of Malaysian Borneo. We didn't do either of that. And honestly the price of the Mount Kinabalu climb was pretty much the only reason to change our minds about the climb. And we actually skipped the Bako park for financial reasons as well but would have probably done that if we haven't seen it all already in the most amazing Kinabatangan jungle. And finally, we had some vague
ideas about Borneo having some cool jungles but in reality, the landscape and the wildlife is much more beautiful and more much exciting than we would have ever imagined on one hand and much more alarming and sad on the other.
We arrived to Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the Sabah state and experienced the hottest and the most humid weather of our travels. Surprisingly only an hour drive from Kota Kinabalu in the Kinabalu national park we got to be really cold for the first time since we started travelling as we were caught in a heavy tropical rain in the middle of a national park and there was just no escape to that (and to the blood sucking leeches either). Now, being in Kuching in the Sarawak state, we got a room with an air-con for the first time and 25 degrees inside temperature feels like it's absolutely freezing in comparison to the crazy hot weather outside (oh yeah dreading to come home to the 25 degree summer 😊.
I probably wouldn't be the biggest fan of Kota Kinabalu town itself, it felt like a small version of Kuala Lumpur, chinese and touristy and noisy and
hot but I think Davy loved it with its cheap t-shirts and sport bars with live football matches. But it has its own charm (mainly in comparison to Kuching which is quite boooring I have to say) and its Sunday market was a great adventure. Staying up late and getting up early and actually living on the main Gaya street, we saw the market being set up as early as at half 2 in the morning and it is a perfect mixture of stalls with anything thinkable to be sold from fresh fruit to gardening tools, fish, the cuttest puppies being locked in tiny cages in the crazy heat to the usual touristy t-shirts and souvenirs.
Being on Borneo, we decided to invest into a proper jungle adventure and considering what everything was included in our 3 days/2nights package it was actually quite cheap and definitely worth of spending money (free pick-up, accommodation in a lovely ensuite jungle hut, 3 meals per day, 4 river cruises, 2 night and 1 day jungle treks all with an experienced local guide for 450 ringgits each which is around 110 euro). The jungle we went to see and where we got to
spend the two nights was along the Kinabatangan river and as another surprise apparently next to the Lahad Datu region where a civil war is happening! Other tourists in our group contacted their embassies before coming to Borneo and were told it is not safe to come here to Borneo at all but by talking to local people and checking the news here, it seems that there is no real danger unless being in the Lahad Datu itself and being very unlucky at the same time! Again, before coming to the Kinabatangan jungle, we didn't really have a clue what animals to expect to see and that's why the reality really surprised us. We got to see an amazing array of monkeys, including long-tailed macaques, pig-tailed macaques, a wild orangutan in his tree nest and two monkey species living only on Borneo, the cute nocturnal slow Loris and the funny looking Proboscis monkeys with their huge noses and huge pot bellies. Then we got to see crocodiles which were just massive and you loose your desire to jump into the river for a small dip quite quickly. And lots of different birds like kingfishers and hornbills and other bird and
bugs and geckos and a small snake and stuff.
After the real jungle, we moved to Sepilok to see some semi-wild orangutans in the Sepilok rehabilitation centre which takes care of orangutan orphans and tries to return them back to the real jungle life. We met a couple who went there a few days before us and they told us they got to hold a hand with an orangutan while they took a walk around corner from the feeding platform where you can see the orangutans twice day coming to get their fruit. We, or definitely me, got really excited that it might maybe happen to us as well but the risk with the Sepilok sanctuary is, that the orangutans are semi-wild and sometimes you don't get to see them at all when they just hang out in the jungle and feed themselves which is obviously a good sign of their successful rehabilitation. Sepilok itself is not even a village, it's more of a few resorts for tourists and nothing else as people really come here just for an hour or so to see the scheduled feeding. We stayed overnight to have the luxury of a full day in
the sanctuary and what happened to us absolutely blew our minds away. We got to the sanctuary well before the morning feeding was about to start and bought a few bananas as Davy thought it'd be good idea to have some bananas for the monkeys and even before we bought our tickets, we saw an orangutan freely walking outside the sanctuary. Davy went closer and gave him a banana. Exciting! Then a second orangutan appeared and walked straight towards Davy and without any warning he just put his hand inside his pocket and got his own banana. Davy had to fight a little to keep the last banana he had as he didn't want to give away all bananas to the one guy. So that was a wee adventure for the start and we felt so lucky to really see the amazing creatures so close that we thought maybe there is no point of paying the entry fee and going inside the sanctuary after that. But of course we did and following recommendation of the couple we met, we got to the feeding platform and sneaked out around the corner hoping to see an orangutan there. And there he was!
Swinging on a tree and you have to see the following video so you would believe how amazing moment it was. He climbed straight to us and got to hold our hands and wanted to be swang from us and it was just the best best moment of the whole Borneo trip and definitely one of the very best highlights of the last few months. It is incredible how lucky we were getting so close to one of the most amazing animals on the world. So there is one link here