Borneo - The Land Below the Wind

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May 25th 2011
Published: May 25th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

Sorry it's been so long since I last updated the blog, Borneo has been a bit of a rollercoaster!

We've done so much of our journey by land it was really strange getting on a plane again. We landed in the no frills capital Kota Kinabalu and went straight to the hostel. No public buses from the airport so had to rely on an extortinate taxi price, they just don't budge either. Luckily, we shared our ride with a Chinese couple so it wasn't so bad. We settled into the hostel and had a bit of a shock when we looked at some of the tours Borneo offer - soo expensive. We thought we'll just see what we can do

We spent a couple of days having a look around the capital but there isn't really anything to do there or to see and we were feeling a bit under the weather so we booked 3 nights in Kinarut, not far from KK to get some rest. I think the malaria tablets we had started taking were running us down. We both had colds and I just felt really tired all the time, whereas Andy was suffering from insomnia - which is not like him at all. We stayed at this little resort on the beach with a little swimming pool and it did us the world of good. When we returned to KK we felt back to normal and ready to take on the jungle!

We caught a coach and travelled the 6 hours to Sandakan. To show the point of how expensive the taxis are there - it cost 30RM to get a 10 min taxi to the bus station. But then our coach journey cost 30RM for 6 hours! It's crazy and it makes me mad. It was on this journey that you really saw the palm oil plantations. Rolling hills and valleys as far as you could see, there was just no end to them and it's devastating. To think that it was once all jungle it was really sad to see. Once a long time ago it was said that an orangutan could swing from one end of Borneo to the other without touching the ground. Sadly, no longer the case. We got dropped off the Sepilok junction and walked the rest of the way to Uncle Tans B&B where we planned to stay for 2 nights. We thought it was a bit pricey at first and then we realised that all of our meals were included which was great! After nearly 3 months travelling it was nice to have a few days where the meal was put in front of you rather than trying to find somewhere to eat. I can't wait to start cooking again!!

The next day we went off to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre! I was very very very excited! It was one of the main reasons to come to Borneo. After being glued to The Orangutan Diaries on tv I did have some high expectations. I have to admit I was slightly dissappointed. I know you can't touch them or feed them or get to close but I was expecting a bit more. It was rather expensive for us both to get in. There were two feedings one at 10am, the other at 3pm. Then the centre closes from 11am until 2pm. Once we'd got the tickets we walked along a raised wooden walkway with the jungle on either side until we got to a large open space which was the viewing deck. About 10m away was a feeding platform. By 10am it was packed and it was absolutely boiling! There was no shade to stand in. People were just melting. Two men climbed onto the feeding platform and laid some fruit out, within a couple of seconds 3 orangutans descended from their trees and came to the platform to eat. It was really cute to see that two of them had babies. We watched them for about half an hour but it was sooo hot we went to get a drink. It was only by chance that I overheard someone saying something about a orang video so we went to watch that. It gave you a bit more info on what the centre does behind the scenes.

By about 12, I was feeling a bit down, we paid 40RM to see 5 orangs. We were originally planning to stay there all day but as it closes for a 3 hour lunch break, we wouldn't really know what to do. We waited for our pick on a verandah in the carpark with a couple of other people. All of a sudden there was rustling in the tree next to us, I grabbed the camera just as a really sweet orang just popped his head out the tree 2m in front! It was amazing! He climbed the roof of the verandah and just sat there casually eating the leaves. He even posed for some pictures! That did make the day soo much better getting so close to one. I did enquire about volunteering at the centre. It costs about 3,000 pounds not including flights for 8 weeks - crikey! Would love too, but it sounded like a bit of a tailor made tour.

The next day we were really excited about our tour to the jungle, we had been looking forward to this for months!! We were driven about 2 hours to a jetty and then we all clambered in two boats. Luckily, there were only 11 of us so the boats weren't squashed at all. The safari started right there along the Kinabatangan river. We motored around for a couple of hours spotting otters, heron, monitor lizards, macaques and amazingly a wild male orangutan!! It was mind blowing to see one in the wild, up a tree probably thinking who are you looking at?? I was soo pleased to see one straight away!

At the camp we were shown to our wooden huts, basically all open and 3 mattresses on the floor with mosquito nets around. We shared with two other Aussie couples who were great fun! We had a briefing where they told us that the camp is on a flood plain and just 3 weeks earlier they had water up to 3m high! They could only just see the roofs of the huts! When the waters went down they've been busy cleaning up and painting. I wouldn't have even noticed if they hadn't told us. They said it normally floods once a year, but this year it's been 3 times already. They had to move from their old camp a few years ago because the land was sold for palm oil plantations and there was nothing they could do about it. They are currently growing fig trees which are the orangutans favourite and when they are big enough they give the trees to the government who then give them to thew WWF who are buying back the land from the palm oil farmers and slowly replanting the land back to its original state. Good luck to them.

The first night we went out on a river night safari, we all took torches, I just kept mine shining at the water watching for crocodiles!!! The guide had a big spot light that he just swept up and down the river banks, he watched for the glow of eyes to know if something was there. It was very impressive as we saw owls, kingfishers, macaques and a wild cat! That night we put all of our creams, lotions, mossie stuff, toothpaste and toothbrushes into a big sealed container because at night the rats come and try and sniff out anything. They are known to eat anything. Luckily, the whole time there I didn't see one! A couple of people had holes in their backpacks though. We were woken at 6am for a morning safari - it was the best time to see the animals and we were treated to more wild orangutans, gibbons (too hard to get a pic of), hornbills, eagles etc. It was brilliant! Our camera takes amazing photos and I wouldn't change it for the world but gosh if we had a decent zoom! A chap in our boat had an amazing huge lens and his photos were out of this world amazing! Still I'm quite chuffed with ours and its little 3.8 zoom. Hehe.

After breakfast we ventured out on a trek. It wasn't too long but it was soo muddy and swampy we borrowed wellies (gum boots - the aussies say!) from the camp and off we went. The mud was up to our ankles and I got stuck quite a few times, if you don't keep moving it's hard, hehe. It was really good fun, the guide asked us questions about palm oil uses back home, he was surprised when I said it's hard not to get something with it in. It's not the best time to see animals so he showed all the different vines and trees and plants, which ones were poisonous and such. It was really interesting.

We had a bit of chill out time in the afternoon so I played cards with the Australians and Andy played football with the guys from the camp. Think he was in his element! We went on a sunset river safari and saw more orangutans! I felt so lucky! A girl we'd met the week before that had also gone to Uncle Tans said she only saw one! Most of the ones we saw had babies too which was really special to see! The sunset over the river was amazing, hope you like the photos! I've already chosen which one I'm going to blow up when I get home! Hehe.

Played more cards the last night and had a bit of a sing song with the whole group, the guides knew a lot of songs and they had guitars so it was really good! Then we went into the jungle for a night trek, which was really hard in the pitch black in all that mud. We saw some amazing birds fast asleep in the branches as well as a rare scarlett bird that bird watchers come to Uncle Tans to see but rarely do. On the last morning safari we saw about 3 gibbons swinging through the trees which was amazing but really hard to get a photo of. We also saw this impressive crested serpent eagle - with a dead snake in her claw so she lived up to her name.

It was really sad to leave the camp but I was looking forward to a shower and nice comfy bed! We stayed the night in Sandakan town before catching the bus to Semporna. We went to Semporna for one reason only - to swim with turtles. It was another 6 hour journey that turned into 9 with a lot of waiting around so we were shattered when we got to Scuba Junkies backpackers. Up at 6am again the next day and straight over to the dive shop to get us booked in on a snorkel tour. As there wasn't many snorkellers we went on the dive boat. It was really interesting to see them with all their equipment and what they did with it all. As much as we liked the look of diving we still have to accept it's out of our budget. Never mind. Plenty more years left to learn. I say to Andy it gives us an excuse to come back!

We stopped at 3 different reef sites and the divers went down for an hour while we floated along the top. Our first stop, Lobster Wall we saw our first turtle. It was a Hawksbill Turtle! My favourite! It was amazing and we were really lucky that over the day we saw 3 in total. One of them Andy and I followed for ages and then he popped up for air right next to me! It was amazing! Andy absolutely loves them! He was really happy. It was a great day out and well worth the money, talking to the divers it seems we saw just as much as them.

The next day was time to head back to KK which we were dreading because the coach journey was 10 hours long!! It actually wasn't too bad, comfy seats, and I've been glued to the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series so I was quite happy. Andy just slept or listened to music. We were so exhausted when we got back to the hostel. I worked out that we had spent about 30 hours on a coach or minivan in the last week!!

On Friday I woke up feeling awful, we had planned to go to Sabah Museum and book a mountain day trip for the next day but I was just so ill. Won't go into too many details but it wasn't pretty. By Friday night I was still feeling really bad, actually worse. Had pains all over my body and I was shivering freezing cold one minute and then boiling hot the next. I was hoping it was just a 24 hour thing. When I woke really early on Saturday morning I was sick twice so Andy said "Right thats it - we're getting you checked out." So we made our way to the hospital. I had a high temperature, blood pressure and my heart rate was a 140 (probably because I was scared). They said I was severely dehydrated so I was put on a drip for 3 hours which wasn't nice, I really don't like needles anyway but one that stays in your hand - brrr makes me shiver now! They looked after me really well and after the fluid I felt much better, they gave me some anti-biotics, nausea tablets, paracetamol etc. They said I've got a bowel infection that I've probably picked up from some contaminated food. I was very weak for the next few days - lost loads of weight!! At the moment I'm feeling ok, still on the tablets and still getting better. Thank you for all of your kind wishes!

We are back in Kuala Lumpur now and our next stop is Singapore! Very excited! Will keep you posted!

Take Care! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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