Occasionally I go to Sandakan, more out of necessity than out of choice. And when I was sitting in a street cafe there the other day, looking at the scruffy surroundings, the rubbish in the street, the run-down apartment blocks, I was thinking how amazing nature is in comparison to man-made structures - nothing in nature is wasted, nothing is ill-conceived, everything is perfect just as it is. And I remembered a quote by John Burroughs, "I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” So it’s not surprising that I prefer to spend my days off exactly there – in nature.
I may go for walks on my own in the forest around Sepilok, where I encountered red-leafed monkeys recently and spent ages following them, trying to get a picture. And one time Maria and I went to Turtle Island, where we had a lovely, relaxing day at the beach and at night were lucky enough to watch a large green turtle come ashore and lay eggs. On another occasion our group spent a night at a jungle camp at Tanjung Bulat Lake, serenaded by a myriad of frogs and cicadas. And
in the morning we saw our first truly wild orang-utan - a large male, who bombarded us with branches and threatened us with loud smacking noises. And although I am surrounded by orang-utans every day to see this guy was a humbling and at the same time exhilarating experience. We also went to Gomantong cave to see how swiftlet nests are being harvested for bird's nest soup; and we cruised along the Kinabatangan River where we saw proboscis monkeys, rare storks and more wild orang-utans. And the more time I spent surrounded by nature, the more I could feel her healing powers...
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