A Travellerspoint blog

November 2018

2018 OCT 29 - 31 - MALAYSIAN BORNEO - Sandakan

OUT OF THE JUNGLE, INTO THE TOWN.

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**********28 DAYS IN SABAH & SARAWAK**********

Monday 29th October 2018 – day 123 River Kinabatangan to Sandakan

We had breakfast and then our luggage was loaded for the trip back to Sepilok. We did have a stop on the way back in a jungle area where there are supposed to be orangutans for a last-ditch effort to see them in the wild. This was an easy walk as it was along the road that leads to the big caves where all the swiftlets making bird nests are. We did see evidence of orangutan presence in the way of old used sleeping nests high up in the trees. But none of these were fresh and we saw exactly zip again. The most exciting part of the walk was when Robyn was attacked by a wild animal in the way of a bee or wasp that bit her on the face. This was the closest any of us came to seeing any animal. Although on the way out at the entrance gate we saw a Borneo Baboon and another monkey with a cute little baby.

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Mr Aji had to so to the airport to pick up the next load of clients and he offered the services of his son to drop us at our accommodation in Sandakan rather that dropping us back in Sepilok. This was good for us as we would have to find maybe 2 separate GRAB cars to get us and luggage into the town. He dropped us at the door and we paid him 20myr = $6.60 which was the same as we would have paid a GRAB.

I phoned the agent for the apartment and was advised our check-in was not until 3pm, it was now 12. We opted to pay the 30myr = $10 for early check-in rather than waiting outside for 3 hours. The agent showed up 15 minutes later and showed us to the 15th floor 3-bedroom apartment, which is home for the next 3 nights. The apartment block seemed a little out of town and when I asked about the closest supermarket he advised not far and next thing we know he had wangled a lift with him if we could leave now.

Turns out the supermarket was not that far away, and we would be able to walk home with the small amount of groceries we had purchased mainly for breakfasts at the apartment. Lunch was at KFC – bad choice really, but that was all there was at the mall beside pizza hut.

On our return, we decided a swim in the enormous pool was in order, all except Robyn who opted to stay inside. The pool was lovely and for half an hour we were the only ones using it. We decided we’d had enough when a group of kids came down and broke our peace.

None of us could be bothered heading out anywhere for dinner, so we made do with a few of the breakfast supplies to throw together a bit of a meal.

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Tuesday 30th October 2018 – day 124 Sandakan

Dolly & Robyn shared the main bedroom with ensuite and April and I each had a single room each. The aircon in my room kept turning itself off so I was constantly waking up during the night and turning it back on. It was obviously hot enough that I was waking up.

Robyn was not feeling the best this morning, so she stayed in while the rest of us caught a GRAB into town. I was surprised at the distance we were from the centre and made note to check distances next time before booking accommodation. The GRAB was only 10 myr - $3.30, which is so cheap to get around making the distance out not too bad. We were dropped off at Agnes Keith House, which is probably the biggest tourist attraction in Sandakan besides the animal sanctuaries which we had already visited. Agnes Keith was an American woman who was living in Borneo before World War 2 and wrote books about her life there. She was married to an English man, Harry, who was sent to Sandakan with his work. Agnes, Harry and their young son George were taken prisoner by the Japanese during the war and she wrote books about their experiences during this time as well. She is obviously the most famous white woman to have lived in Sandakan, so they have restored her home and turned it into an attraction. We visited the house and it was actually very interesting. Next door there is an ‘English Tea House’ that we visited next to sample the high tea. There was a nice view from where we sat under the pergola in the garden and considering where we were the high tea was ok. We sat there relaxed for awhile then took the 100 stair steps down into the centre of town. This was all part of a Heritage Trail they have set up in the town. We did walk the whole trail as the other sites were not that interesting. At the bottom of the hill was the museum, which we did enter. It was just a couple of rooms, but had some great old photos of what the town looked like before and after the war.

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We walked a bit around the town, it’s nothing spectacular. The seafront is nothing. We sat in a waterfront restaurant to have a cool drink before looking for a supermarket to buy water and something for dinner to take back to the apartment as I knew no one would want to venture out again.
Dolly was keen to cook some potatoes on our one burner supplied in the kitchen and I suggest a roast chicken would be easy if we could find one. As luck would have it we found a mall that had a Kenny Rogers Roasters Restaurant and we were able to purchase a whole cooked chicken. We found some ladies selling vegetables on the footpath, so we managed to procure some potatoes to go with the chicken.

With dinner sorted I googled for a GRAB to take us back to the apartment. We had stopped right next to a taxi rank and the taxi driver came over to try and steal the ride, but they were not going to do the trip for the same price as the GRAB, so happily stepped aside.

I think Robyn was happy to see us back with some food for dinner. She asked if we got caught in the rain while we were out as it had come down here at the apartment. We did not have any rain in town at all. We ate in the apartment, could not find anything in English to watch on the telly.

Wednesday 31st October 2018 – day 125 Sandakan

Sleep in day today, it was looking a little grey outside and it was raining when we finally decided it was time to head out. I called a GRAB and we were taken to Agnes Keith House again so that Robyn could have a visit. Of course, Dolly, April & I headed straight for the tea house which we noticed yesterday was serving cocktails. It was well after 12 noon so we thought a cocktail would be nice. All excited we ordered and where shortly after told there was no coconut ingredient available so the house cocktail and the pina coladas were off. Not happy, we opted for tea instead, not a very good substitute, but I had already ordered a scone and needed something to wash it down with.

Sitting disappointed, we were soon joined by Robyn who had finished her visit of Keith house and also ordered tea and scone.

We sat for about 2 hours enjoying the peace full atmosphere of the gardens, it had not rained here so it was pleasant to sit outside under a different pergola to yesterday. The English owner came over to greet us and we complained about the lack of coconut ingredients for cocktails and he apologized but still did nothing about it. A little later we saw him drive off and thought he might be out to buy coconuts, but no such luck. He came back empty handed. Still, we remained until it was dark, we had planned on heading to a rooftop bar to watch the sunset, but time got away from us and it was lucky that the 100 steps were lit up so we could walk down to the town.

We found the roof top bar at the top of the Naka Hotel. It probably would have been a nice stop to watch the sunset, if there was any kind of sunset with the clouds and all.

The bar and staff were all decorated for Halloween, can’t believe this American holiday get celebrated here in the far reaches of Borneo, but there you go. We ordered overpriced cocktails, these were the most expensive I have had in Asia. 25 myr = $8.50 – I had an Expressotini – which was also the most yucky cocktail I have ever had. The other ladies ordered White Russian which they said were not too bad, but too expensive I say. Take me back to Kampot, Cambodia!!

After just one drink we headed back to the waterfront restaurants, near where we had stopped for drink yesterday, to have something to eat. There were a few locals out and about, but this is definitely not a tourist town. I guess the tourists stay out in Sepilok near where the animals can be seen. If there are any in town, they are definitely not out and about in this area.

I called a GRAB and soon we were back in the lift going up the 15 stories to our apartment.

Bags needed to be packed as we are flying to Sarawak tomorrow.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 01:26 Archived in Malaysia Tagged borneo sandakan Comments (1)

2018 NOV 1 - 5 - MALAYSIAN BORNEO - Santubong

SARAWAK - UP TO THE JUNGLE IN SANTUBONG PENINSULA

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**********28 DAYS IN SABAH AND SARAWAK**********

Thursday 1st November – day 126

Big travel day today. We are leaving Sabah and flying down to Sarawak – the southern part of Malaysian Borneo. This involves a flight back to Kota Kinabalu from Sandakan, then another flight from KK to Kuching.

The apartment manager knocked on our door at 7.30am to return the 200 myr bond we had to pay. A nice young girl who was not even interested in looking around to see if we had damaged anything – of course we had not anyway. I called a GRAB and we were in the elevator heading down to meet it by 8am. Our flight was not until 10am but we were not sure if we would need to call 2 GRAB cars to take us and luggage to airport. Luckily, we all fit in the one car and the GRAB price of 6myr = $2 (I gave him 10 myr = $3.30 as he assisted with loading and unloading our bags) was a bargain to take us the 10-minute drive to the airport. Loving these cheap GRAB rides.

So, we were very early for our flight, but were able to check our bags in and then just sat around until it was time to board. All smooth, the flight was about 50 minutes and we were given a meal – hardly enough time to eat it before landing – as I had purchased the flight with luggage and meal deal. The chicken rice meal was quite nice, and I ate most of mine, the others said theirs was very dry and awful looking so did not.

The flight managed to get us into Kota Kinabalu 20 minutes ahead of schedule before 11am, which was not much good for us as our next flight was not until 3.35pm. This time we were too early to be able to check in our luggage, so we sat in Maccas waiting until the 3-hour mark before our flight. Finally, bags dropped in, we still had 3 hours to wait for the flight. We found a seat after going through security check and waited until it was time to go to our boarding gate. Thought it was a good idea to have some lunch before boarding the 2nd plane which was due to land in Kuching at 5pm, and I had not purchased the meal deal on this flight. We had some very ordinary food from Marry Brown, a Malaysian fast food chain. I have eaten at Marry Brown before and it was ok, but here everything was cold and soggy so not very enjoyable at all.

Our flight to Kuching left a little late, and I slept most of the 1 ½ hours it took to get there. On the ground we collected our luggage and had to line up and go through immigration again. This was odd considering we came in on a domestic flight, within Borneo even. They did not stamp our passports but did take photos and finger prints again.

I called for a GRAB car, luckily finding one that would take us all. The fare come up as 78 myr = $26, which was about right compared to an old Lonely Bastard book I am carrying. Our accommodation is a fair way out of Kuching – more than 1 hours drive so this price is pretty good and divided by 4 a real bargain.

We managed to get a nice friendly driver, who played good music we all knew and didn’t flinch when we all sang along.

It was dark by the time we reached our accommodation PERMAI FOREST RETREAT. It’s costing us about $120 per night for the 4 of us with breakfast and dinner included. After checking in, we were given a mud map to show us the way to our cabin, which was about 200 metres away. So, we had to drag our luggage in the dark, although the path was lit up, and granted the path was cemented but there were a few slight inclines which made it quite difficult to struggle with our luggage. Finally, we found the cabin and I must say it was a bit of a surprise. 2 bedrooms with 3 single beds in each room, and a sitting area with limited furnishings and a little mini fridge. No air con, but ceiling fans and open screened windows. And a nice big veranda at the front – it was better than what I had expected.

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Friday 2nd November – day 127

April woke me this morning with ‘Cindy, its 20 to 9, best get up if we want to go to breakfast’. I sat up and dug the breakfast vouchers out of my bag – breakfast finished at 10am, but it was time to get up anyway.

Our cabin is about 100m from the restaurant and we walked the same path that we had dragged our luggage over last night. I looked a little different in the daylight. We could see the ocean, that we could only hear last night, through the trees, it was about 10 meters away. The little bit of sky we could see was unfortunately grey, which meant it was cloudy, and it was hard to tell where the water met the sky on the horizon as they were the same shade.

Breakfast was semi buffet, a help yourself local noodle dish and local bean dish. A couple of cereals, coffee, tea, toast and a guy standing cooking egg omelettes. Bread and a toaster were help yourself and there was an empty plate that was labelled pancakes. The others had toast and eggs, I waited another 10mins for some fresh pancakes to come out. They were ok, a bit stodgy but ok. Breakfast in included in our room rate.

We sat around chatting and admitting the view from the dinning room. Then April suggested we try the jungle ‘walk’ to the waterfall. Everyone was keen, so April and I walked over the wooden boardwalk to the reception as it was a requirement to register when you did a walk.

The beginning of the track was not far from our cabin, just past the jungle pool, which we thought would be nice for a dip on our return. The map from reception claimed the walk was 2km round trip. It was fairly easy walking, although we were steadily climbing up. About an hour in, we came across 2 Dutch guys (in their 60’s) who had started the track from the other side and said it was pretty hard going and did not think we could make it. They had already been walking for almost 2 hours. We were less than half way so when we walked a little further and came to a part of the track that was climbing over huge boulders with the aid of a rope, we all agreed it would be best for us to turn back an go the way we come.

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We had walked for almost 2 hours by the time we returned to the jungle pool. Dolly and I were the only ones who braved the cool water. Dolly already had her swimmers on and I just took off my shorts and went in knickers and t shirt, I was dripping wet with sweat anyway. April decided to walk back to reception to advise them we were back, to avoid a search party being sent out and Robyn returned to the cabin for a shower.
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After our swim, Dolly & I returned to the cabin for a shower and we all had a bit of a relax after our strenuous effort for today. Shame about the waterfall, however when I asked the Dutch men about the waterfall, they just said it was a trickle of water, so we did not miss much I am guessing.
Worst part is, my camera has died! Yes, the new one that Robyn brought over for me from Australia. I too some photos during the walk and it just stopped working. I don’t seem to have much luck with cameras at all, hopefully it will come good.

After showers and a rest, we headed out to find some lunch. April decided to stay in and rest some more so just the 3 of us headed out to see what we could find. The restaurant here does do lunch but after a look at the menu it seemed a little pricy for local food. We walked into the village and found a big food court in a type of shopping centre. Here there was a lot to choose from, all at good local prices. There was also a 711 store and a couple of other shops selling assorted goods and souvenirs. We had a browse through them all to kill some time then strolled back to our bungalow. The sun was out, and it was still hot, nice blue sky.

Our included dinner was nothing exciting, they served the good old chicken curry again, but tonight was corn soup which I filled up on as I thought it was very tasty.

Saturday 3rd November – day 128

I was woken up by a clap of thunder at about 1am. It sounded like it was going to rain so I got up out of bed and went outside and took in my washing which I had left out to dry overnight. Good thing I did too, as I’m not sure how much later but it did rain for the rest of the night. It sounded like quite hard rain but it’s a little hard to tell as we are surrounded by trees and perhaps it was the sound of the rain coming through them that made it sound so loud. In any case, it did rain and was still pouring down when we woke in the morning.

At around 9.30am we headed up for breakfast and there was hardly a spit of rain falling by then, but the day looked like it was going to stay grey for the duration. It’s a little cooler but still you can feel the humidity. Not much we can do when the weather is like this, hardly the beach weather we were hoping to at this location.

Breakfast was the same, fried or omelette eggs cooked on demand, with tea, coffee and stodgy pancakes. Sorry I cannot get excited about the food here, am so over ‘Asian’ everyday food so will not dwell on it.

So, looks like a reading books, catching up on blog sort of day today, as although the rain has stopped its gloomy.
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The activities advertised here by our accommodation are very expensive, and we cannot do them anyway as they involve going in a boat on the sea and we have been advised it is too rough for the boats to go out. A 3 in 1 trip which is snorkelling from an island, attempting dolphin watching and a mangrove tour is 250 myr = $83 per person. I thought it might have been 250 myr per boat but no it was confirmed per person. This is a very expensive excursion, but it’s irrelevant anyway because the boats are not going.

And my camera is still cactus! I was kinda hoping it was spring back into life after it cooled down a bit, but it’s still as dead, refusing to do anything.
The sky had cleared a little by 2.30pm when we ventured out to the village to get some lunch. On the way passing through reception I stopped to ask if it was possible to change our reservation from 5 nights to 4 nights. The young girl asked by me why and I said because of the weather is not so nice we have nothing to do here. Luckily, they were able to change the Booking.com reservation without any problems because we had not yet paid. I will have to look and see if I can change the booking for our hotel in Kuching town for an extra night. At least if we are in the town we might be able to do something.

We returned to the same food hall we visited yesterday, today I had a chicken chop with chips and a coffee milkshake, all for 15 myr = $5 – so food is cheap enough that’s for sure.
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After we had eaten we did another lap of the same shops as yesterday, however April was not with us yesterday and we had nothing better to do anyway.

Returning to our accommodation, we had tried to take a look at the flash resort next to ours, but you cannot go in without paying a 10 myr day pass. Weren’t that interested to see inside so we decided against it. Back in our reception I managed to get onto the interest to try and change our booking for Kuching. Booking could not be changed, but I was able to just book another night in the same hotel, same type of room so all good there.

I then contacted the GRAB guy who took us from the airport up to here to collect us on Monday and drive us to Kuching. He had a nice big car that fit us all and luggage comfortably. He responded and will be here on Monday at 12 to collect us.

With not much else to do we relaxed until it was time for sunset where we took a seat on the restaurant balcony. There was not much of a sunset view due to trees, but there was cloud cover as well so it was not a great sunset anyway. As the restaurant did not serve any alcohol, we ordered mocktails and took our own Malibu to add to it. That was not very successful either as most of the mocktails were not available either. I ended up with an orange juice with a scoop of ice cream, which tasted ok with a dash of Malibu splashed in (on the sly). Dolly and Robyn had a coconut with a scoop of ice cream and a good splash of Malibu – April decided on nothing. There was no pineapple available, so the choice was very limited.
We sat and watched what we could see of the sunset and then went to dinner. Returning to our cabin it had not rained all afternoon or evening, but I’m sure there was more rain to come.

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Sunday 4th November – day 129

The rain first woke me at about 12.30am. I guess it was heavy as it was loud enough to wake me. It was still showering when we woke up later in the morning. Being under tree cover its often hard to tell if its actual rain or tree drops that are falling on the roof of our cabin.

Walking up to breakfast didn’t even warrant a rain cape but the rain looks like it has set in for the day. We had a long leisurely breakfast, not in a hurry to go or do anything again today. The breakfast is ok as they serve help yourself toast, and someone is there to cook an egg omelette or fried egg, so at least breakfast is hot. Not the usual luke warm food served at dinner.

As I sit in our cabin typing this it sounds like the rain has set in for the day. On other days it has usually stopped and started to clear by nearly midday. We don’t mind lazing around, but how much relaxing can one do?

2.45pm we decided it was dry enough to wander into town to the food court for dinner. Yes, the rain was finished, and it was a muggy as anything. Everything feels slightly wet, washing that has been hanging for 2 days refuses to dry and even clothing that has not touched water since the last machine was even feels damp. Things could easily go very mouldy here very fast.

Being Sunday, the food court was busy, even at this late time of 3pm. I had the same meal of chicken chop and chips as I had yesterday as it was so tasty, and I’m done with rice and noodles if there is a choice. We did not linger around after lunch as the local karaoke was starting to make our ears bleed. I was about to grab the mike and have a go as it was obvious singing talent was not needed in this entertainment. Instead we walked back to the cabin and waited for dinner time to click around.

Our last dinner was not memorable so nothing to advise there. It had not rained at all during the afternoon, although the sea still looked choppy and uninviting.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 23:24 Archived in Malaysia Tagged borneo kuching Comments (0)

2018 OCT 27 - 28 - MALAYSIAN BORNEO - River Kinabatangan

Down by the river!

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**********28 DAYS IN SABAH & SARAWAK**********

Saturday 27th October 2018 – day 121 River Kinabatangan

As we had all packed last night, it was up, get dressed and drag luggage to reception (all except Dolly of course, who got one of the young fellows to go and collect her bag and cart it up to reception) to have breakfast before the 9am shuttle to Sepilok. Turns out as there were other guests that also wanted the shuttle to go see the orangutans, we had to wait for it to come back and collect us. No matter, as our pick up was not until 10.30am so we had lots of time to have an iced coffee before we noticed Mr Aji in the café also having a morning beverage.

After a quick briefing and payment of 1980myr (495myr = $168) we were loading the luggage into 2 cars, as there was us 4 and 2 others – a couple from Wales. The $168 is the total price for our 3day 2nights inclusive. This covers 2-night accommodation in air con twin room x 2, a couple of boat trips up the river to see wild life and a couple of jungle walks – hopefully to see the same. Dinner x 2, lunch x 1 & breakfast x 2. Mr Aji had great reviews on TripAdvisor, so I hope he lives up to the comments left by previous clients. The young couple were taken in one car and we 4 ladies were driven by Mr Aji himself in another car, the interior of which was covered in photos of Borneo’s wild life. There was also a photo of Mr Aji and Mr Wildlife himself – David Attenborough – adorning the back-interior wall of the vehicle.

It was just over a 2-hour drive to the river village and we stopped about an hour in at a town where we could buy socks if needed and snacks for the boat tours and lunch. It was only 12 noon, but he advised dinner would not be until after 6 so best we eat. Dolly bought some sexy stripped socks and Robyn bought socks and shoes as she did not bring any closed in shoes with her from home. We then went to a restaurant selling Indian food for the cheapest lunch we have had in Borneo. Here we paid local prices and the food was ok.

Back in the car, up until now Mr Aji had not said much at all, but one mention of the palm plantations that were lining both sides of the road was enough to set him off. He is very passionate about wildlife and preserving the forest – or at least what remains of it. There was a KFC where we had stopped for lunch and I stupidly joked we could have gone there for lunch. This is what started Mr Aji off, he says it’s all the ‘fast food’ places of the world that demand the palm oil that is being grown here in not only Borneo but the whole of Malaysia. He advised we should always boycott the likes of KFC, Maccas, Burger King and the like to cut down on the demand for palm oil. He also advised we discontinue the use of any cosmetics etc that use palm oil. He said we should stop eating chocolate!! He also threw in the plight for single use plastic bottles while he was at it. When I asked ‘didn’t the restaurant we just all ate in use palm oil’ he was quick to answer that locals use a very small percentage of the oil that is produced in Borneo – and yes that is true, but they are still using it also. Anyway, interestingly he advised that most of – like 95% - of the palm plantations are Chinese owned. The land sold off or leased to them by Malaysian politicians who fill their own pockets and the coffers. But this means that all the money from these plantations in Borneo goes straight to China! None of it stays in Malaysia. And to make things worse the Chinese bring in their own laborers from China, so there are not even jobs for the local people. He told us there was a law passed in 1997 that no more jungle in Borneo could be logged and cleared for any more palm plantations. Unfortunately, a lot of the damage is done and so many animal numbers are down. Numbers cannot be increased even now because there is nowhere for them to live.

When we arrived at Sukah village and our accommodation for the next 2 nights we were shown to our rooms and advised to meet back at 2.30pm for the first afternoon boat trip.

No rain today, and the sun was shining out of a blue sky. Although our boat had seats with backs – thank goodness – there was no cover as this would obscure any viewing, so it was very hot out on the river. We did catch a little breeze from the movement which was a bonus. Just before we took off, Mr Aji advised he’d had a phone call that the pigmy elephants were upstream and if we were willing to pay an extra 20myr = $6.80 each for extra fuel we could take us up there to see if we could find them. Of course, we all agreed and of course we did not see them. They are still wild animals, not in a cage or enclosure and they are not controlled where they go. We still had a great boat tour and saw 3 out of the 8 different hornbill birds of Borneo and 3 different types of monkeys. 2 crocodiles – 1 large and one baby. A few other different birds and loads of boats filled to the brim with tourists, most of which headed out in the direction of the elephant sightings more than an hour after us. We were out from 2.30 to 6pm and arrived back just as our accommodation and surrounding buildings lost power.

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A generator was connected, and we had power again for dinner at 6.30pm. Rice, soy chicken and pumpkin in coconut milk was the dinner we were served, pretty good, certainly as good as the meals we had been having at our last accommodation. After dinner at 7.30pm we did an hour’s night walk through the jungle which was a hot and sweat torch walk through the trees not seeing much at all. A few hornbills up in the trees asleep, a common old rat in a tree trying to escape our torch light and at the very end a skunk being stalked by a local black cat. Yes, who knew Borneo had skunks? We only knew before this because there was one squashed dead on the road near our accommodation that we saw a few days ago.
The restaurant where we ate dinner sold us a few cold cokes to have with the last of our rum, then showers and bed.

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We have to be up early tomorrow for a jungle walk at 7am before breakfast.

Sunday 28th October 2018 – day 122 River Kinabatangan

We assembled in reception at 7am, all kitted up for our early morning walk in the jungle. We pretty much walked the same path we did on the night walk and pretty much saw the same things = nothing, as we did last night. Mr Aji did point out a few plants that had local municipal value, but he lost my respect when he left a chocolate bar wrapper shoved into a tree trunk after our brief stop. He seemed so passionate about preserving the jungle yet couldn’t be bothered taking out his own litter. Just seemed very weird to me.
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Back before 9am and we all opted for showers before having breakfast. Our time was free for the rest of the day until 2.30 pm when we went out on the river again. Most of us went back and had a nap then hung around, Dolly went for a walk into the village but did not discover anything interesting enough to warrant the rest of us walk up there. She just wanted to get her step count up.

From 2.30 until just before dark we were on the river. Saw lots of monkeys – mostly long tail macaques. Mr Aji was able to take the boat up really close to them, so we got lots of good photos. It was funny to watch them cross a monkey bridge, which was a rope swung high above the river for them to cross. We also so a numerous proboscis monkeys, great to see these in the wild as well has having seen them close in the feeding sanctuary.

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Mr Aji did have a pretty good eye at spotting the wildlife, he managed to see a bearded pig and zoomed the boat in towards the shore line with just enough time for us to see the pig before it bolted off into the jungle. I managed to get a quick snap and saw there were 2 little piglets hot on the mother’s tail when she retreated into the bushes.

Dinner was from the menu tonight, we could choose what we wanted.

These 2 days on the Kinabatangan River have been good. I’m also glad that we went to the sanctuaries and saw the animals up close. However, it was great seeing the ones we did see in the wild. Unfortunately, we did not manage to see the pigmy elephants, which the only place to see them and we did not see any orangutans in the wild. But, the animals are in such low numbers that you really have to be very lucky to see them in the wild. I personally, am a little disappointed but also understand that its pot luck to see anything in the wild so I guess we were lucky to see as much as we did. One bonus was we spotted 4 of the 8 species of hornbill birds so that was a privilege.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 00:28 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

2018 OCT 23 - 26 - MALAYSIAN BORNEO - Sepilok

ORANGUTANS, SUN BEARS & FUNNY NOSE MONKEYS!

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**********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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 22:52 Archived in Malaysia Tagged kinabatangan orangutan sabah probosics Comments (6)

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