**********28 DAYS IN SABAH & SARAWAK**********
Tuesday 23rd October 2018 – day 117 KK to Sandakan to Sepilok
KK to Sandakan
Today the alarm went off at 6am, I don’t know about the others, but I sure as hell did not like being awake at this time of day. But we needed to get up and be ready to call a GRAB at 7am to take us to the airport for our 8.45am flight from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan, which is on the east coast, less than an hour’s flight away.
Stupidly, I had not packed my suitcase last night so after getting dressed this of course was my urgent task. The other ladies seemed to be much more organized than be, but there you go.
I called the condo people to advise we were leaving, and they said just to leave the keys on the dining table, so that is what we did before locking and pulling the door closed behind us. Amazingly, we were at the front gate at 7am and I called a GRAB car to take us to the airport. 15 myr = $5.00, which was a much better price than the 30 myr we paid from the airport. This sim card and credit has almost paid for itself already on the money we saved on a taxi. Luckily, the car was big enough for all 4 of us and luggage.
The short drive to the airport got us there in plenty of time to check-in, drop our bags, have breakfast at Maccas and make our way to the departure gate.
The Air Asia flight was just about full and took less than the time it took for the hosties to serve us our meals and we eat them. We were still finishing up our 2nd breakfast for the day when the plane started its decent for landing.
Sandakan Airport was a lot flasher than what I was expecting. I thought we would unload into a tin shed, but this was a proper fancy airport. We collected our bags and I again called for a GRAB to take us to our accommodation for the next 4 nights. Unfortunately, the car that turned up was not big enough for all our luggage and us, so he stopped another GRAB car and talked the guy into taking me and some of our luggage. Dolly had asked in at the airport taxi stand and they quoted 42 myr for our destination. We managed to get 2 cars for 15 myr each and I gave them both a 2 myr tip for helping with the baggage, so total cost was 34 myr – big saving of 8 myr! But we may have had to take 2 airport taxis also, and that would have cost 42 x 2!
Paganakan Dii Retreat was about 20km from the airport and took about 30mins to drive there. We were shown to our bungalow in the jungle, which has a set of bunk beds (guess who got the top bunk) and a double bed. Air conditioning, ceiling fan, ensuite bathroom with hot shower and toilet. The small balcony gives us a fabulous view of the jungle around us. This is the area where we are hopefully going to start to see some Borneo wildlife. We are here for 4 nights @ 1040my = $347 or $87 per night including breakfast and free transfers to the nearby conservation sanctuaries.
Mid-morning until just before 2, when we took the van to the Rainforest Discovery Centre, we just hung around the bungalow and relaxed. I think some needed a bit of time to adjust to our basic? Surroundings.
The RDC cost 15myr each to get in and was basically an aerial canopy walk through the forest. Some of the trees were just amazing – so tall and straight. Apparently, this is a great bird watching place, but to tell the truth besides one eagle that Robyn spied in a tree we did not see many birds at all. We did also see a couple of long tailed brown squirrels, which we managed to photograph before they scurried away, but other than those it was just the magnificent trees and giant leafed plants that we able to admire.
Our accommodation van took us back to our accommodation at 4pm, after we had a walk through the very sad flower garden, which did not have hardly any flowers at all.
We ventured up to the restaurant from our bungalow at around 6pm. The menu is very limited, and although the prices are a little more expensive they are not too bad. We ordered meals and the food was not fantastic, but we are a bit of a captive audience here as there is nowhere else around for us to go to eat.
Not long after dinner and before we got up to return to the bungalow we were hit by a fantastic thunder and lightening storm. I’m pretty sure the building we were sheltered under was hit by a lightening strike as the power went off, sparks lit up the darkness like fireworks and the whole place shook. No one was hurt, although one of the girls had a fall in the kitchen due to being scared by the lightening strike and hurt her back a little. The downpour of rain prevented us from returning to our room. The power came back on minutes later, but we hung around for about half an hour waiting for the rain to easy.
And ease it did to a spit and we returned to our bungalow which had no power and halfway through my shower no water. Robyn braved the spitting rain to return to reception to advise the staff and soon we were rescued by a guy flicking the fuse back on and getting the water going again.
We are all now in bed and the storm seems to have died off. The rain has shopped and there is no sound of thunder. The only noise I hear now is the air con blowing next to me – remember I’m on the top bunk, and the sounds of frogs and insects outside in the jungle. Ok guys, time to shut up as we need to get to sleep – fat chance, nature seems to be rejoicing in the coolness of the cleansing storm.
Tomorrow we visit the orangutans!
Wednesday 24th October 2018 – day 118 Sepilok
Robyn sounded the wake-up call at 8am, we had to have breakfast before the 9am van took us into Sepilok for the day. It’s only about 5km away, but too far to walk in the heat here if we can get a free ride.
Breakfast is included in our room rate and we were served a fried egg (as in deep fried egg – the way the Asians love to cook their fried eggs) a sausage (which was some kind of over-over processed chicken, I think) and toast. Tea and something they were calling coffee was included too. It was enough to give us a start to the day, although I was the only one who braved eating the sausage.
The van dropped us off at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre at about 9.15am. We purchased entry tickets 30 myr each and 3 of us paid for camera/phone to be able to take photos 10 myr each. You are not allowed to take any bags into the area, so we had to check them into the free lockers. On entering we were directed along the boardwalk through the jungle to the nursery area. This is where they have the first feeding and supposedly only the younger orangutans come to this platform.
We were already on a high before even getting to the nursery as we had already seen an orangutan in the trees and a mother with baby ahead of us on the boardwalk railing. The viewing at the nursery was not the best as the people are all behind glass to it was difficult to take photos, it was a bit like a zoo situation, although the animals were not in cages, the humans were. But it was the same feeling.
Soon we were all ushered back onto the boardwalk and told to head towards the feeding platform. This is where we saw magnificence. We saw lots of different orangutans that came to feed from the bananas that were thrown onto the platform. At the feedings they are only given a monotonous diet of bananas which they get bored with, forcing them to forage in the jungle for a variety of foods. This is all part of the rehabilitation program which seems to be working as they have released a few back into the wild.
Anyway, we managed to see lots of the orange primates including mother with tiny babies hanging onto their mothers’ fur for dear life as they swung on the ropes or from the tree branches. They were amazing.
As the bananas dwindled away, so did the orangutans. We wandered back to the nursery to check out if any had returned to there. We had all day to kill as our van back was at 4pm.
Just across the road from the orangutan centre is the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, so of course we had to visit there as well. Entry fee was again 30myr each. The Sun Bears in this sanctuary are all bears that have been rescued from people who purchased them as cute little cubs, or from private zoos. It is illegal to keep Sun Bears in Malaysia and now there are hefty fines imposed. The Asians also used to kill these beautiful calm little bears to collect their bile ducts for some medical use. There is one man who has established this centre to save these bears and release them back into the wild once they are fit and healthy again. Most of them were received in terrible condition and all were very stress and have childhood trauma from being kept in small cages for most of their life.
We were lucky enough to see one of these agile little bears climb up a tree to get some leaves and slide back down like a fireman on a greased pole. Credit to these wonderful people who are out there trying to save the amazing animals of their country. Unfortunately, both the orangutans and sun bears are losing their natural habitat to the clearing of forests for palm tree farms. This is a whole other subject of which I can understand both sides of the coin but won’t go into it here.
After visiting the sun bears we crossed back over the road and went for lunch at the café/restaurant at the orangutan centre. The room was air conditioned and the food was priced ok, so we spent about an hour there in the cool and had some food. This brought us up to the time for the afternoon orangutan feeding at 3pm.
Walking back to the feeding platform, a guy already there pointed up to tree as we arrived. There was a mother and baby who climbed along a rope over to the platform just as the big male orangutan arrived at the platform too. Wow, this was a great family photo opportunity! Mum, Dad and baby – amazing. They were the only animals that we saw at the afternoon feeding, apparently the other orangutans and monkeys will not appear when this giant male is present. We didn’t mind because we enjoyed a great experience with just the 3 of them.
What a great day we had today. This is what we come to Borneo for to see these amazing creatures and we were definitely not disappointed.
Before joining the van, we grabbed a cold drink from the café and some takeaways to have with our rum back at the bungalow.
The sky today, although full of fluffy white clouds, was mostly a brilliant blue. It was hot and humid, so we all needed a shower to wash off the days sweat, but what a great day!
First up showers for everyone, then dinner at the accommodation.
Thursday 25th October 2018 – day 119 Sepilok
I was awoken several times during the night by the sound of rain falling on the roof. Not a problem, I went back to sleep thinking it’s ok if it rains in the night, then the days will be clear. Wishful dreaming on my part, when we woke it was still raining, but only lightly. We managed to walk up to the restaurant for breakfast without getting wet.
Wasn’t long before the rain became heavier and we decided to hang out to see if it would easy off. Our plan for today was to catch a GRAB car to Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary, which is about 25km from our accommodation. The sanctuary has 4 feedings per day at 2 different platforms, 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. No animal is going to come out in the pouring rain even if they are getting easy food, so we decided to wait until the afternoon hoping the weather would clear a little.
Seems the sun gods were shining on us as the rain eased by about 11am and the sun started to peek through. The afternoon feeds were at 2.30 and 4.30 so we decided to call a car and drive over and have lunch at the sanctuary then go to these 2 afternoon feeds. By the time we arrived at the ticket gate the sun was out and there was lots of blue sky, so we had made the correct decision.
What we didn’t know was that the feeding platforms were 3km from the ticket gate and then they were 1km apart from each other. Luckily our car had not driven off in a hurry as it was obvious that we were going to need him for the entire visit. What started off as a cheap 20 myr = $7 GRAB ride, turned into a 135myr = $46 charter for the day. This was still very cheap for just $11.50 per person, we had a car and driver to take us there and back and then wait around for 5 hours and drive us back and forth between the 2 view platforms. There was no way we could have walked this as the day had turned very hot very quick with no shade along the roadside.
Entry was a hefty 60 myr = $20 per person (double the price of the orangutans and sun bears) plus 10 myr for cameras. But by the end of the day, we all agreed the entry fee was worth it.
Our driver firstly drove us to the platform B area as this was where the restaurant was. Food was basic and moderately priced and nothing spectacular. We had our first glimpses of the funny nosed monkeys from our lunch room. At 2pm we were driven back to platform A for the 2.30pm feeding.
Wow! What beautiful creatures these proboscis monkeys are! Why they don’t get as much attention as the orangutans of Borneo I don’t know. Perhaps they are not endangered as their fellow red headed primates. We were able to view 2 different families at this first feeding. One of the families had a 20-year-old alfa male, who was just as handsome as they come – a magnificent specimen who was kind enough to spend a lot of time posing for us. He even stayed behind after all the other monkeys had cleared the platforms after the food was all eaten.
We saw many females with cute little young ones at various ages – these guys were amazing with their little protruding noses just starting to grow.
After about an hour our driver took us back to platform B where we just had enough time to have a cool drink before walking the short boardwalk to the viewing area. Waiting patiently were already a group of silver leaf monkeys who did not seem to be bothered by human presence at all.
They were all sitting up on the wooden railings and did not make a move as we or anyone came close. They also did not try to jump or grab at us or our bags or cameras. They just seemed to be happy sitting and being photographed waiting for their free meal.
When the spattering of food was thrown out for the proboscis monkeys they started coming out of the forest in droves. I have not idea how many there were or how many different families there were in this area but there were a lot. And although no giant males like we saw earlier, there were quite a few big males and they were yelling and chasing each other across the roof and into the jungle. Not sure who exactly was the boss in this lot, obviously there must have been a few and they were all trying to keep their patch in order.
We saw a lot of proboscis monkeys today! What an amazing experience. Like yesterday, I took over 300 photos! Lots of little baby monkeys clinging to their mothers as they sprang from the ground to branches and up onto the platforms. When mum stopped the little ones would try to struggle away from them to explore a little, but mother would always grab them and take flight at the slightest disturbance.
We also saw a couple of hornbills today. One that the feeders called down to be fed and another as we were driving out.
Returning to our accommodation I was happy to pay the driver the charter amount, he seemed to be happy with the amount he was paid for the day too.
The weather had stayed dry all afternoon for us, again sunny, hot and humid so showers for all of us was the first thing back in the bungalow.
Dinner was a little later than last night, but as I write this at 9.30pm all the ladies are down below (I’m in the top bunk remember) gently snoring.
Friday 26th October 2018 – day 120 Sepilok
Rest day today. We all lazed around in bed until a mad panic at 9.30 when we all had to get up and get dressed to make breakfast which finished at 10am.
Blue sky today, still cloudy, but it does not look like it will rain at all today. We lingered after breakfast, then meandered back to our bungalow where we continued our rest day.
2pm we caught the shuttle into Sepilok to have lunch at the orangutan centre café just for a change of scenery. And it was air conditioned, so we were happy to sit in there and chat until the return shuttle at 4pm. We bought some cokes for mixers, so we could lessen our duty-free rum a little more back at the accommodation.
Due to our late lunch we did not head up for dinner until about 7pm. Quite a few guests here tonight and we sat chatting with an English lady travelling by herself who seemed a little bit too keen in meeting up with us in Kuching next week.
We are all rested and ready for our next destination near the River Kinabatangan.