Semmengoh Nature Reserve
After a swift flight change at Kuala Lumpur we boarded yet another ‘winged friend’ and touched down in the early moonlight hours at Kuching, the other side of Malaysia. Basically, to all you kids that nodded off during geography, we were extremely excited to have arrived in Malaysian Borneo. Not ones to miss a trick, we dumped our bags and headed into china town for our first Borneo fill of rice washed down with a bucket of beer. With Claire still out of practice and getting p*ssed on two cans, rising in the early hours would normally be a long drawn out process but, not today. Claire was up, dressed, fed and camera ready…………. we were off to see our Orange cousins!
Sharing 97% of our DNA (98% if your ginger), if was very difficult not to pick one up and put it in our rucksacs. We soon changed our minds when we saw the photos of the tourists and guides who had tried to do just that. Thankful for all 10 fingers, we gave it a miss and just oooo’d and ahhhh’d very quietly when we were fortunate to see the cheeky monkeys coming out from the jungle for a bit of free snap. The Orangutans here are semi wild and live within a vast section of protected jungle. Its sad to believe that these fantastic creatures are rapidly dissapearing off the face of the earth but, when you fly over Borneo glancing out of the window to the uniformed miles and miles of palm oil plantations, you can see why.
Semmengoh Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
Claire sized this one up perfectly for the rucksack
Then changed her mind when Daddy came along
Borneo’s Mr Universe contestent
Mum and baby
Its behind you!
Using Kuching as a handy base, we spent the next few days pottering about the town and taking in some day trips to the various national parks. Kuching sits in Sarawak, a place famed for its culture and strong heritage. Sarawak is the land of tribesmen and head hunters, men that literally eat men for breako. With his swiss army knife safely zipped in his backpack pocket and his Haka dance style escape routes rehearsed over and over in his head, we decided it was safe to head out to the rainforest festival and enjoy some traditional tunes with the locals.
Kuching is known as the Cat city. Apparently Kuching IS cat in Malaysian. This itself seems to attract visitors from all over the place. You cant turn a street corner without coming face to face with one of the worlds worst plastic cat figures adorned with a silly hat, playing with a bit of string or licking its testicles – Jeez theres even one outside the McDonalds.
Traditional Iban Tribe Longhouse
Dannys ‘slightly big’ mate
Sarawak Cultural Village – The venue for the festival
Sunset at the festival beach
Doing the time warp with the locals
The new whiskers model
Sampling Borneo’s culinary delights
Taking a stroll away from the cats
Topspot food court – Food fit for a
Gunung Gading National Park
Home to the worlds largest flower and only a two hour bus ride (and a hot one hour walk away), this place was unfortunately crossed off the Nightingale itinerary as basically, none were in bloom. Not ones to ever miss a worlds largest, we were gutted to hear that we weren’t lucky enough to drop on one of the 90 days of the year that you can actually see one. Avoiding all postcards and other Rafflesia souvenirs, we planned our days on not seeing this flower but kept nagging at the tourist office everyday to let us know if one was in bloom. Well, persistence paid off. Two days later we were walking that grueling hot one hour walk poised to see this wonder of the natural world. Only blooming for one day before it decays and rots like flesh, we had to be quick to view this carnivorous beauty.
A wooden one on the sign doesn’t count
Claire has got a pea head but this thing really was big!
A critter along the way
73cm across, surprised it fit in the viewfinder
We couldn’t wait to buy the postcards and magnets now
Taking a stroll around the park
A quick dip in the waterfall before the hot walk home
Bako National Park
Taking a break from the cats of Kuching for one night, we boarded a bus then a little boat to take us to Bako National Park. Established in 1957, this is the oldest national park in Sarawak and is home to a staggering number of endangered flora and fauna. No matter how many David Attenbough documentaries and discovery channel programmes we’ve watched, nothing could prepare us for what actually calls Bako its home. It was like stepping into some kind of magical kingdom where the animals rule and your an intruder.
On the way to Bako
Arriving at the Park
If the Crocs don’t get you, the jellyfish will
Even the trees are scary
Doing as he is told
After registering at the National Park office (basically in case you get eaten and they have to send out the search party), we headed into the jungle and followed one of the trails which snaked through the rainforest and finished at the beach. Only a limited number of visitors are allowed to the park each day so the place was eerily quiet as we tripped over every single tree root and snagged our drip wet clothes against every conceivable prickly bush trying not to scare away the locals. Emerging from the rain forest unscathed and in serious need of a cool down, the next obstacles to contend with were the bag riffling macaque monkeys (Dannys favourite) and the stingrays in the sea.
The path of doom
Almost lost a head – check out the spikes on that thing!
This Pitcher plant would make a lovely tea cup
And this one tea for two!
Out of the jungle and onto the cliff top – nowhere is safe here!
Dannys MONKEY FREE ZONE!! We did shifts guarding the bags whilst the other wrestled with the stingrays
But, there was one resident primate we couldn’t wait to find. We had heard all about these rare monkeys endemic to Borneo – famed for their huge gonzo noses and bulging beer belly’s they wouldn’t go a miss in the Nightingale family album. Once dusk was upon us, we sauntered along the deserted beach hoping to spot a glimpse of these cartoon like apes, luckily, we weren’t dissapointed as perched ontop of the tree was the biggest fattest monkey we ever saw munching away completely unbothered by our camera lense and constant chuckling. Apparently, as with all things ‘male related’, the bigger the nose the better the female they attract, jeez this ones lass was in for a treat.
The boss of the group
Look at that hooter!
A male can weigh up to 50lbs – this was a strong branch
Chief photographer walking away from the scene
Our digs for the night in Bako National Park
After an eventful day it was onto an eventful night. Whilst there was plenty to see in the daylight hours there was even more to see when darkness fell only this time, you needed a guide! It’s dark out there and from all the noises echoing around us, it was also pretty scary indeed. We had to walk slow, stick together and be very quiet………….
Poisonous Tree Frog
Asian Pit Viper – In the same tree that the monkey was 3 hours earlier
Sad to be leaving such an amazing park, we got up with the birds and wandered down to another beach to take a look around for some more wildlife. This beach was once again famed for ‘Dannys favourite animal’ so, both armed with a stick, we guarded our bananas and squashed coconut creams and pitched our backsides down on a rock surrounded by the sea waiting for the little cretins to take advantage of the dopey family enjoying their breakfast on the beach. Never failing to disappoint an audience, out came the troops helping themselves to a few boiled eggs and cartons of cappuccino. Monkeys 1, family 0.
Ready for a fight
The stick of success
Leaving the park
Gunung Mulu National Park
From one national park to another, we got on a matchbox plane yet again to fly us over the impenetrable jungle to Mulu national park. Mulu, a UNESCO heritage site is famed for its huge cave networks not to mention its incredible wildlife – remember we are in Borneo.
Our four days here were jam packed with walks through the rainforest looking for anything that moved, climbing through the adventure caves dodging the racer snakes, speeding along the river bed passing the tribal villages and gasping in awe at the bat exodus and the magnificent show caves.
Excited yet again
Inside Deer Cave
Bat Guano smells so bad it makes Indian toilets seem sweet
Deer Cave, biggest in the world till Vietnam found there’s!
Bat exodus, three million bats leave every dusk – an amazing sight
Wheres the safety goggles…..
Travelling up the river
Danny pee shooting a polystyrene animal
Not a good spot for a picnic
Danny.. I think!
New screen saver anyone?
Tree Canopy skywalk, 25 metres high
This viper was about 2 metres below us
No matter what the book says, this thing wasn’t safe
You see what I mean? This snake was tucking into another for its breakfast
Time to leave?
Spike the lizard
This viper was outside National Park HQ………. reyt laff
Onto the adventure cave, no safety equipment required apparently
Tomb raider Rowley
Problem is she couldn’t see most of it
There she goes
Scrambling down the ropes
He made it to the exit, all in one piece
The problem with the rainforest is…………..the rain
The river by our digs
Just like a Timotei advert
Last view of the park before we got on another plane
A shaky short flight later we arrived in the Kelabit Highlands of Borneo. A mountain range bordering Kalimantan, Indonesia, the Kelabits is home to various ethnic tribes and groups. Some of the people here still make the jungle their home and no matter what, never come out. After a night in a home stay at Bario, we were off yet again trekking through the rain forest to the tiny village of Pa Lungan in the middle of nowhere hoping to find out about how the 100 or so locals live. What we also found out was just how much it rains here, it bloody wazzed it down and the muddy old logging route just doesn’t really have the drainage system seen at home. Cold, wet and starving we were greeted by a lovely old couple, a hot mug of coffee and some tasty home made cake.
Taking a rest at the airport
Free Milo on flight!! Ryan Air take note
Flying over the rain forest
Waiting for the luggage
Check in desk, weigh yourself then your luggage
Our lift from the airport, we were sat with the dog
Thank god we missed the earlier flight
Our home stay with the morning flight in the garden
Walking around Bario
Flooded rice paddys
A traditional longhouse where the whole village live under one roof
The Kelabits Family album
On the way to Pa Lungan
The only transport in town
A tricky crossing requiring no boots
An old burial site and ‘Badeye’ our second homestays dog
Some very boring archaeologists, looking at even more boring rocks
Sticks are now mandatory walking equipment
Having spent a day and night in Brunei (will be a separate blog post as its another country on the list), we had a quick stop over at Kota Kinabalu before we could move on to Sepilok. Kota Kinabalu is like the Blackpool of Malaysia, you can’t walk 10 metres without seeing an ice cream seller or kids running up and down the street armed with buckets and spades. The best thing for us however, was the duty free ferry stop off enroute. In a muslim town its not exactly easy or even possible to get yourself a beer so, we took full advantage of ‘little Gibraltar’ and packed a slab of tinnies and a bottle of rum into the top of Dannys bag.
Boarding the Ferry
Excited at the prospect of a beer and some lovely seafood
Picking our tea
Drinking beer Muslim style
Sepilok Nature Reserve
Waking very early with a cracking hangover, we then decided to walk about 5 km through town to the bus station. Sweating and feeling a little worse for wear, we then had to sit for 45 minutes until the bus was full enough to leave. Once full, it chugged very slowly along the road to another bus station where we had to jump ship and sit on the last 2 seats right on the back next to the overflowing bog – oh what joy that day was. Eventually, after about 7 hours of hitting our heads on the roof, we arrived at Sepilok and let me tell you, we couldn’t have been happier.
Sepilok is home to an even more famous Orangutan rehabilitation centre. This is the one which you always see on tv with the little babies in their washing baskets and nappies. Unfortunately, you aren’t allowed anywhere near the babies, you cant even see them but, its all for good reason. The day before our visit we wandered around our digs which were based in some kind of kids adventure park, it would have been rude not to try out the assault courses.
I can do it
Until Danny told her he saw a Croc!!! I absolutely sh*t my pants!!!
Ready for some more monkeys
Cheeky monkey 1
Cheeky monkey 2
Cheeky monkey 3 & 4
Cheeky monkey 5
And a weird creepy crawly on the path
Uncle Tans – Kinabatangan River
Another quality morning with our cousins and then we were shipped off on a bus then onto a little power boat down the Kinabatangan river to Uncle Tans Jungle Camp. The Kinabatangan river is like an outdoor play centre for every animal you can think of, its especially famous as it is the best chance you have of seeing a wild Orangutan. Upon arrival, you are briefed on what activities will be occurring over the next few days, these were a combination of morning and evening boat trips, nightwalks and day treks all with the same main agenda – we were looking for the wildlife. The accommodation here consisted of lots of huts on stilts over the mangroves, all of which had 2 mattresses on the floor, no door and no toliet within 100 metres. Being split into groups of four, we got put in the honeymoon suite with a lovely couple from Holland celebrating their memorable day. The next 3 days were just a wildlife lovers paradise, it was completely none stop.
Ready for the boat trip
Whizzing along the river
Wouldn’t fancy a swim
Uncle Tans Jungle Camp
Kingfisher on the night boat trip
Tarzan of the Jungle, The Gibbon – This guy was fast!
Pair of Hornbills
A lonely Hornbill
We saw one!!! A wild Orangutan!!
Getting back to camp for dusk
Holy smoke Batman
Claire decided to ‘drip dry’ on this occasion
Scorpion on the nightwalk
Tree frog on nightwalk
Jungle football which included a cool down in the croc infested river – barmy
The Honeymoon suite
The Honeymoon Shed
Thoroughly enjoying all the wildlife above water, it was now time to move onto one of the best underwater dive sites in the world. Sipadan sits on the far eastern tip of Borneo Malaysia, right at the heart of the Indo-Pacific basin, this little island has one of the richest marine habitats in the world and more than 3,000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species call this their home. Knowing all this, we just couldnt wait.
We arrived at the port of Semporna late in the afternoon along with a few mates who had also been at the Jungle Camp. With our rum burning a hole in Dannys rucksack and the beer being freely available again, we forgot about our 7am start and full day of diving the next day and basically got a little drunk. Claire ‘2 cans’ Rowley was escorted home before she turned into a pumpkin and slept it off ready for the early start.
Taking full advantage
Oh dear, Danny told her the chopsticks were a bad idea
Fresh as a daisy, 7am on the boat to Mabul (Sipadan)
Passing beautiful islands enroute
Billabong Dive, our home for 3 nights
So the next few days went a little bit like this – Eat, dive, eat, dive. The diving was just absolutely amazing, our crappy underwater photos just do not do the place justice and to be fair, we didnt even take the camera down on alot of the dives as it was too deep. We saw so many turtles and sharks it almost got boring! The fish under there and the corals were super, what a place!!! We loved it here and really, every dive site we will probably go to afterwards will never compare. The only downside of this place was the little friendly visitor in our room who had a sneeky liking for chocolate bourbons and cheesy puffs.
Underwater sunken village
It was just like an aquarium
Danny bobbing around
Fishes everywhere, at one point you couldn’t even see each other
Yawn yawn…..Turtle power
Claire with her mate
Danny having lunch on Sipadan Island
Boat jetty at Sipadan, by permit only
The T shirt says it all
What a place
Completely exhausting the whole of Borneo it was sadly time to head back to normality and hit Kuala Lumpur yet again. We had an absolutely fantastic none stop four weeks in Borneo and it completely lived up to the ‘Animal addicts’ expectations. We did everything there was to do and pretty much saw every animal we wanted to. Feeling very lucky and grateful for our time there, we did the usual sightseeing ‘musts’ in K.L and gawped at the damage Borneo had done to our piggy banks.
Heading back to K.L
Tarn up the Petrona Towers
Playing with the gadgets up the tower
There’s always one plonker……….ok maybe two
Its a long walk up there
Tarn with his tea cups
Farewell breako at the market
Danny saying bye to his pal ‘Fook Chee’
Goodbye Malaysia, you have been brilliant
Well, what a trip that was, it definitely will stay proudly at the top of Claire’s list for years to come. No time for resting or praying for a lottery win, we were jetting off to Japan for three weeks of fun, beer and eating the underwater delights we had been photographing days earlier.
Our route on this post:
|1||Kuching, Malaysia||June 26, 2013|
|2||Semenggoh Nature Reserve, Malaysia||June 27, 2013|
|3||Kuching, Malaysia||June 27, 2013|
|4||Gunung Gading National Park, Malaysia||July 1, 2013|
|5||Kuching, Malaysia||July 1, 2013|
|6||Bako National Park, Malaysia||July 2, 2013|
|7||Kuching, Malaysia||July 3, 2013|
|8||Mulu National Park, Malaysia||July 4, 2013|
|9||Miri, Malaysia||July 8, 2013|
|10||Bario, Malaysia||July 9, 2013|
|11||Pa' Lungan, Malaysia||July 10, 2013|
|12||Bario, Malaysia||July 11, 2013|
|13||Miri, Malaysia||July 12, 2013|
|14||Sungai Tujuh, Brunei||July 13, 2013|
|15||Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei||July 13, 2013|
|16||Muara, Brunei||July 14, 2013|
|17||Labuan, Malaysia||July 14, 2013|
|18||Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia||July 14, 2013|
|19||Sepilok, Malaysia||July 15, 2013|
|20||Uncle Tans Jungle Camp, Malaysia||July 16, 2013|
|21||Lahad Datu, Malaysia||July 18, 2013|
|22||Semporna, Malaysia||July 18, 2013|
|23||Pulau Mabul, Malaysia||July 19, 2013|
|24||Pulau Sipadan, Malaysia||July 20, 2013|
|25||Pulau Mabul, Malaysia||July 20, 2013|
|26||Semporna, Malaysia||July 21, 2013|
|27||Tawau Airport, Malaysia||July 22, 2013|
|28||Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia||July 22, 2013|