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Published: March 13th 2010
so i finally saw an urangutan!! well not one.. lots in fact.. they are amazing.. the orange men.
Well I believe I left you all at Kuching - what a journey since then, and what a place I’m in! Borneo is … well let me see, it is diverse, full of mediocre food (not nearly as good as india or Thailand) but full of a variety of animals and fish that I have spent the past three weeks trying to see!
So. Let me start where i left you, which i believe was hitch hiking back to Kuching from the weird Jong's Crocodile Farm! Well after arriving safely back in Kuching i took a flight to Mulu National Park (and World heritage site) THe flight was amausing as the plane probably only had 40 seats and only about a third of them were occupied and when we disembarked we just strolled across the runway into what i can safely describe as a single roomed airport! .. it was so small that the man who took my bag off the plane handed it to me personally! Mulu is in north sarawak and is a world heritage site. It is also home to ‘the pinnacles’ - a collection of 45metre high limestone needles that cling to the side of Gunung
the bats at Deer Cave
That black smokey looking thing is actually a load of bats flying out of the cave! amazing
Api (fire mountain) which took a gruelling three hours of uphill walking to reach - when I say ‘up hill’ I don’t just mean a saunter in an upward direction; I mean three hours of constant climbing, - you are literally using hands and feet to clamber up the mountain. There is no straight path and the path is not lovely and clear but full of roots and stones and other jungle type flooring! At the top it is so steep they have had to place a series of 15 ladders and ropes in order to actually reach the pinnacles. It is grueling to say the least (some people don’t make it!) But the reward at the top is a spectacular view and a sweaty and very hazardous descent! (Borneo is not big on safety and the descent is even more dangerous than the ascent and takes longer as most has to be done backwards due to the gradient!) The whole thing takes three days as you have to get a boat and then trek on day one and day three in order to get to the remote location. I found a lovely couple to do it with (to spread
Outside Lang's Cave
see what i mean.. gorgeous stalagmites and stalagtites!
the cost of the boat and the guide etc) and the 3 of us had an amazing time and were able to celebrate when we made it down!
During my 4 days at Mulu I also did another night walk which was great fun (again lots of insects and creepy crawlies but not many animals!) as well as a rather uninspiring canopy walk and a wander around the jungle.
Oh i nearly forgot to tell you about the caves at Mulu... which would be a shame because Mulu is famous for it's caves!! THere are 4 main caves that most people visit in Mulu. THe first two I saw were Lang's Cave and Deer Cave. Lang's cave is the most beautiful cave full of stalagmites and stalagtitesl.. it really is stunning. You walk through and are surrounded by hundreds - perhaps thousands? - of these amazing formations. It is beautiful - and unlike the caves i visited in Vietnam which had multicoloured lights, this was lit very sensitively! I then went to Deer Cave which is one of the biggest caves in Asia (or perhaps the biggest? i can't remember!) .. anyway it's huge and full of between 3-4
More stalagmites and stalagtites... beautiful
million bats.. .yes, 3-4
million! You can smell the amonia from all the bat poo from outside the cave and when you are inside you can almost taste it, it's so strong! After walking right into the cave we all headed outside to watch the bats leaving the caves to start their evening hunt for food. This is an amazing spectacle as the entire 4million or so bats all left in mass groups which looked a little like thick smoke emerging and streaming into the early evening sky - an unforgettable sight. (the photo attached doesn't really do it justice!)
So with Mulu and Bako I have done a fair bit of trekking in different terrain! I have really enjoyed the jungle stuff and it was just what I was expecting Borneo to be like! - although in my head I was expecting it to be much less ‘forward’ than it is! - mobile phones, Macdonalds and wifI are all the norm here and whilst there are the most beautiful jungles and amazing flora and fauna there are also great swathes of land that have been either logged or cleared for the palm oil plantations which is a great
bees on shoes
After trekking through the very humid jungle everyones clothes, shoes, rucksacks were swarmed by these bees (i assume looking for the salt in our sweat? ) .. luckily they didn't sting, but there were so many it was a little annoying!!
shame. This was very obvious when I went up to Sabah.
From Mulu I flew to Kota Kinabalu (Sabah) and after some serious indecision I finally decided that I had better not climb the mountain (the mountain I am referring to, is of course, Mount Kinabalu - the highes in Asia) I am very sad about this, but after ‘the Pinnacles’ my knee was giving me some pain and I didn’t want to risk injuring it more /or getting to the top and not being able to make it down! (that would have been very embarrassing!) So having made the decision not to climb I raced to catch a bus southbound for Sepliok - home to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. I refuse to leave Borneo without seeing some orangutans and since I didn’t get to see them in Sarawak I decided to come here where I had been guaranteed orangutans!! And boy did I see them!! Loads of them! Loads of them swinging through the trees and eating fruit and playing around. They are amazing animals and I was very glad to have seen them. I got some amazing photos and left very happy indeed! I stayed in the
and a big one too!
technically two snakes in fact, because there was a smaller one lying on top! .. one is a viper but not sure which!!
most lovely place called ‘Paganakan Dii’ which as the Lonely Planet says, seems like someone left off one of the zeros! It was a lovely place on the top of a hill with a view over the jungle below and lovely wooden huts and clean showers and towels! (this is a mark of a very swanky place in my eyes! - if I get a towel I’m happy indeed!)
From Sepilok I met an English couple and a Candian girl called Julie and the 5 of us took a bus to the Kinabatangan River (2nd longest in Asia… or Borneo .. can’t remember!) and is where we stayed for 3 days and 2 nights. During our stay we took endless (!) boat rides down the river looking for wild animals and birds and did night walks (where we saw absolutely nothing except what looked like very ordinary daddy long legs!) and did a very short trek (which was actually more like a stroll!) However, it is the boat rides that I want to tell you about. This really felt ‘the heart of Borneo’… we did two a day; one early in the morning for 2 hours and one in
the night walk
a frog! obviously!
the afternoon for an hour, and we were all eyes to the trees. So what did we see…
Wild orangutan (apparently not the wrong season after all!!), Oriental Pied Hornbill, Rhinoceros Hornbill (these are the huge birds with amazing coloured beaks with what looks like a second beak on top of the first pointing upwards… stunning), crocodiles, endless Macaque monkeys (long tailed and pig tailed), proboscis monkeys (I had seen some briefly in Bako but they had eluded me in Mulu.. finally I saw them here on the river.. a monkey completely unique to Borneo) otters, snakes, kingfishers, eagles, snake birds and probably some more that I’ve forgotten! Needless to say it was brilliant and whilst I left feeling very pleased with all I had seen (oh, I mustn’t forget to mention that as well as all the animals and birds and insects I was staying in the heart of the jungle and what felt like to me, ‘proper’ Borneo!) I do however feel now like I have ‘done’ the jungle and I left ready for the next phase of what Borneo had to offer….
And wow what an incredible place I am in now!!! So as I write
45metres high, made of limestone
I am sitting on a small island called Mabul. I took a bus here with Julie (the Canadian girl I met in Sepilok) I have also re-met a few people I bumped into during my stay in Borneo including endless Swedish people!! (I think there must be some cheap deals from Sweden to Borneo!) anyway amongst the people I keep bumping into are 4 lovely Swedes who I met initially in Kuching (Bjorn sold his mosquito net to Julie for two beers as she was being eaten alive - which makes a nice change from me!) and with whom we played endless games of shithead and drank with until the early hours! (I say early hours but in fact we tend to go to bed fairly early here so it is probably more like 11pm when we go to bed!!)
So. Mabul. It is reached by boat from Semporna and I am staying at the Scuba Junkie camp (one of many dive ‘resorts’ on the island) It is from here that I have racked up a lot of dives in my log book! I do three dives a day in the clear blue Celebes Sea surrounded by beautiful corals,
We reached the top after a VERY sweaty climb and were rewarded with an amazing view.. the pinnacles really are unusual and well worth the sweat!
fish and lovely people! I have well and truly fallen in love with diving… I am desperately trying to think how I can do this all the time!!
So. Tomorrow I will dive off an island called Sipadan. It is ranked one of the top 5 dive sites in the world and according to the people I have met it is a reputation it lives up to (Julie, Bjorn, Anna, Kajsa, Niklas - the Swedes - and Julie all did it today and saw sharks, turtles, barracudas and other exotic aqua marine life and said it was ‘awesome’ ‘mindblowing’ - leaving me very excited as you can imagine!! The camera I bought in Kuala Lumpur is amazing (if anyone needs to do some underwater photography I would thoroughly recommend the Panasonic DMC FX48 and it’s underwater housing) and I am loving taking pictures of all the amazing things I see during the hour or so that I am floating around at the bottom of the ocean.
Talking of which; let me tell you some of the things I have seen:
Green turtles, hawksbill turtles, octopus, pipe fish (a variety of different colours an types) pygmy sea horse, blue spotted
on the way to the Nature Reserve Lodge, Kinabatangan.
ray, eagle ray, cuttle fish, lion fish, scorpion fish, stone fish, shrimp, lobster, sweetlips, crocodile fish, frog fish, barracuda, snapper, bump head parrot fish, amazing schooling Jack fish, trumpet and cornet fish, endless types of nudibranch, grouper, moray eels, goat fish, fire dart fish … the list is endless… I am in heaven!!!
So I will leave you here. As I sit outside my dorm room (in Borneo I have only slept in dorm rooms as they are much cheaper and whilst they are mixed sex they are always clean and the people I have ended up sharing with are lovely.. and I still have Julie here for company too!)
I wanted to quickly tell you about the transport as well!! In India I was very taken with the buses as you know (If you read my blogs from there!) but Borneo doesn’t have trains, so I resorted to the buses. Well they are amazing! The best buses I’ve ever been on… they are clean, they have toilets on board (sometimes useable but not always - can’t have everything!) the roads are good, they are air conditioned (very important as it is very hot and humid here) and
long tailed macaque
check out the b***** on that!!
they also tend to show videos. And this is what I really wanted to share with you… the videos are the most inappropriate videos you can imagine! Great for adults but not for children! For example the other day on the bus I was sitting near a family including two very young boys (4 and 7 years old perhaps) and one of the videos they chose to show was ‘Ninja Assassins’ which was as violent as the title suggests, and started with the words, ‘fuck, fuck, fuck’ and then a shot of someone’s head being taken clean off with a samuraI sword! .. I looked over to the mother and her two young impressionable sons expecting her to kick up a fuss; but no, they avidly watched it… and she didn’t stop them!! Probably just glad of some peace and quiet for the journey ahead!
Well. Next time I write I may well be in the Philippines.. but no doubt I will have something to say about Sipadan.. I just hope I haven’t got too high expectations!! … although I’ve not been let down so far so we’ll see!
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