Back in Borneo, Baby!

May 3rd 2014
Published: May 3rd 2014
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Last time I was in Melaka, back in 2011, I arrived at the main bus station (Melaka Sentral) and there was a guy there asking everybody on the buses if they wanted to stay at his guesthouse, Le Village. I stayed there, it was good and cheap (20 Ringgitts for a room). However I understand it has had a change of ownership since then and gone way downhill. This time when I arrived at Melaka Sentral from Singapore there was a different guy there asking everybody on the buses if they wanted to stay at his guesthouse, Travellers Planet. So that's where I stayed this time! It is also good, and is actually right round the corner from Le Village so I know the area already.

First priority was buying a Taylor Swift ice-cream. I had been keeping on seeing these advertised all over Malaysia and Singapore, so I had to try one because.... because... aargh, too many jokes about Taylor Swift as an ice-cream!!!

Second priority was buying a Nestle Drumstick ice-cream. “Life Is An Adventure” was the slogan on the promotional posters. I can with fair certainty say that I have never done anything as adventurous before as eating roast chicken flavoured ice-cream. Sadly the ice-cream was not named a drumstick due to it tasting of chicken. Another adventure ruined.

I didn't do any bird-watching in Melaka, it was totally zoo visits.

At Travellers Planet there was a pamphlet for an aquarium on the wall. Excellent, I thought, I've never been there! Hmm, Coral Wonderland was the name .... why did that sound like something I had heard before? “Malaysia's Most Touchable Aquarium”.... that sounded awfully familiar! With the emphasis on “awful”! The photo of a gormless cretin holding a horseshoe crab up for the camera by its tail helped me remember why I would never visit such a place.

The first animal collection I did visit in Melaka was the Melaka Zoo. All the animal collections in Melaka (except the Coral Wonderland) are clustered in Ayer Keroh, about 12km outside the main city. There are two buses from Melaka Sentral which go past the zoo, the number 19 (Ayer Keroh) and the number 1B (Tampin-Alor Gajah). These two buses could never be accused of being regular – the number 19 appears to make the trip only once every 1.5 to 2 hours, and the 1B about once an hour. You'll probably spend longer sitting at the bus stop waiting to get back to the city than you spend inside the actual animal attraction.

I had last been to the Melaka Zoo in 2011 and then it was amongst the best zoos in Asia (if one overlooks the horrific Small Mammal and Small Carnivore houses which were there then). Since then it has had a fall from grace with literally hundreds of animals “mysteriously” disappearing during a changeover in operators in 2012. Now the zoo is a shambolic half-empty shadow of its former self. Almost all the birds are gone, including all the birds of paradise, and there are hardly any mammals left smaller than a serow. A real tragedy.

Directly opposite the zoo – literally on the other side of the road – is the Taman Buaya Melaka (“Melaka Crocodile Park”). I didn't really feel any great desire to visit this place but it was right there and I had read it was free so I crossed over. It was not, as it happened, free. It cost ten Ringgitts, about NZ$4, so I decided to leave that and head instead to the Melaka Bird Park which is in the Botanic Gardens just up the road. On the way I happened across a sign with an arrow pointing to “Akuarium”. This was a little place which a friend of mine had also happened across unexpectedly on his visit to Melaka in early 2013. It had been closed but he visited anyway, because that's just the way he rolls. The aquarium was in a tiny little building, about the size of a one-car garage, painted on the outside with an attractive undersea mural (sharks, octopus, clownfish). Unfortunately the building was locked up tight. I looked through the windows and all the tanks were empty. They looked like they had been empty for a while. The car-park had been rendered obsolete by the simple expedient of covering it in dozens of large potted shrubs. I don't think it is going to be re-opening any time soon!

I continued on to the Melaka Bird Park which is fairly new, having only opened in March 2013. This was rather disappointing to be honest. It claims to be the largest walk-through aviary in Malaysia, which it may well be. However due to its newness it is also incredibly bare still, and it doesn't really look like they even intend it to be anything more than “dead trees on lawn” inside. The result is that from any point at all you can literally see every single other point in the aviary which significantly decreases the appearance of huge size. Plus there is very little to see. There are quite a few birds in there but most sit out of sight under the supports of the aerial walkways. I had my binoculars so I could see where and what things were, but your regular visitor probably not so much. Most of the birds are exotic parrots. Maybe in ten years it will be good, now not so much.

With the bird park having been little more than a thirty minutes visit I decided to give the Crocodile Park a try, and returned there. The bus back to town left from outside the zoo, so I had to walk past the park anyway to get to the bus stop! There's not a lot to say about the Crocodile Park: it's a small crappy zoo with crocodiles and a few other animals. That's about it.

The next collection to visit in Melaka was the Melaka Butterfly and Reptile Sanctuary (Taman Rama-rama & Reptilia). I had tried to visit it in 2011 and hadn't been able to find it! I had a pamphlet from the park, written instructions found on the internet, and a mental map courtesy of Google Maps, but no luck. I knew the road to the park was right before the highway toll gate but the guards at the toll gate had never heard of the butterfly park and after wandering around fruitlessly for a couple of hours I gave up. It didn't help that the road sign arrows to the park pointed in every single possible direction! This time, with exactly the same resources, I found it no problem at all! Life is funny sometimes.

I'm really glad I made it to the park this visit. I can honestly say that it was better than the zoo, bird park and crocodile park combined! It is a small site but they make the most of the space, everything is kept well, reptile enclosures were often large, everything was healthy, there were no cringe-worthy moments. Definitely recommended. The most, er, interesting sights were the open-fronted scorpion display and the walk-through mangrove snake enclosure where most of the snakes were clustered in a ball of death above the walkway right at my head-height.

And that is Melaka done and dusted for a second time. The next day I got on a plane and......

….now I'm Back in Borneo Baby! A place also known as “Good God Will This Trip Never End?!”

I have been to Borneo before, back in 2009 for seven weeks. I wasn't going to go back this year but some cheapish flights came up so I thought what the heck. What's a bit more money right? I have ten days there and I was going to spend it all at Mt. Kinabalu (looking for Mt. Kinabalu ferret-badger!) but then I remembered that Bornean slow loris and Horsfield's tarsier are quite gettable at Sepilok so I added that as well because both those species have so far eluded me in the wild (although I have seen both in captivity). No proboscis monkeys or elephants this visit though. I have no books with me for Borneo (birds or mammals) so I will be relying on memory and google to help me out with what I see!

I just arrived in Kota Kinabalu a couple of hours ago (about 7.30pm) and have found my way back to Lucy's Homestay where I stayed last time. Tomorrow, Mt. Kinabalu.


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