My ‘Cousins’ in Borneo

08 March 2017

After breakfast and the 1-hour boat ride back to Sandakan, we were taken to the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve.

There is a video screening at the Nature Education Centre and we were able to watch, through glass, young orangutans at a feeding platform that was like a playground with ropes etc.

It was pouring rain and cold.  I had forgotten that a few meters of altitude, makes a big difference in temperature.  Bring a hoodie or sweater along with a light raincoat.

Even in the rain, we got to interact with an older male who had been at the centre for some time and appeared to have no fear of humans.  He sat in the shelter while we all stood in the rain, with raincoats and umbrellas, taking photos of him.  His expression suggested that he thought we were stupid.

 

Old Man of the Forest
Old Man of the Forest – Photo by David Worthington

 

Please follow this link to adopt one of our cousins https://www.orangutan.org.au/

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5 Things I Learned about Sea Turtles

  1. The hatchlings have to run from the shore to the water or they will get disoriented.  If they are released further out at sea, they will just swim back to the shore.
  2. The female adult turtles return to where they were hatched to lay their eggs.
  3. The sex of the turtle is determined by how hot the eggs get.  In order to manage the percentage of ‘girls’ to ‘boys’. the hatchery has shaded and full sun areas.  Where the new eggs get put is determined by where the others were most recently placed.

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    Seligan Island hatchery (Photo by Andrea Brandle)
  4. The green turtles lay their eggs at night and the eggs hatch at night, both are adaptations that help to prevent the eggs and hatchlings from being eaten.
  5. Light confuses them.

Please follow this link to help with the conservation of sea turtles or just to buy a really cool calendar.      https://conserveturtles.org/product/2018-sea-turtle-scenes-calendar/

Selingan Turtle Island Escape

David had said that the only thing he really wanted to do on this trip was to visit the Turtle Islands and he sent me a link.  None of my friends that I asked had heard of it and considering that this would make a fantastic weekend getaway from Singapore, that is unfortunate.

I booked a 2-day/ 1-night tour with Amazing Borneo Tours.  We were picked up at the Nak Hotel at 9 a.m. after we had eaten a nice breakfast.  We were transferred to the “Sandakan seafront jetty” for a speedboat trip across 40 km of the Sulu Sea.  It reminded me of a similar trip from Phuket to the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand.

 

The brochure and reviews made the accommodation on the island sound primitive but with air conditioning and hot showers, I would have described it as moderate rather than basic.

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Sandakan, Sabah

The flight across Borneo from K.K. to Sandakan is short (40 minutes) and if we had a couple of days more, we could have made the trip by bus or train.  Andrey pointed out that when we went to the Mount Kinabalu area, we were almost half-way to Sandakan.

Poster in the Sandakan airport

I had chosen the Nak Hotel for our one night in Sandakan because it sounded like it had character.  Unfortunately, in this case ‘character’ meant ‘needed maintenance etc.’.  The staff were all young and not very well trained.  The restaurant on the roof of the Nak served good food but the staff didn’t seem to understand the basics of customer service.  It is well-located and has history, so I really hope someone will take it over and turn it into a boutique hotel.

View from my room at the Nak Hotel

We went for a stroll around the downtown part of Sandakan before turning in for an early night so that we would be well-rested for the next day and our Sandakan-Seligan Turtle Island Escape.

 

Last day in K.K.

Monday, 6th March 2017

We had a flight booked to Sandakan in the afternoon, so David and Andrey decided that we should visit either the state or the city mosque. We decided on the city mosque.  On the way, we stopped at a posh shopping centre so that I could get a new battery for my camera.  The surprising thing about this shopping centre was that they charged people to use the toilets!

After buying the battery, we walked along a seaside path to a park across a highway from the mosque.  Getting across was a bit scary for me as I would rather ford a raging river than cross multiple lanes of traffic.

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I was dressed modestly and had tucked my hair up under a baseball cap but it wasn’t sufficient.  I learned ages ago that shoulders and knees should be covered when visiting churches, and more recently, I learned that similar attire is needed when visiting Buddhist temples but in order to visit this mosque, arms needed to be covered and I was wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt.  Perhaps the ‘rules’ vary from country to country, or mosque to mosque.  When I visited the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, I had to put a scarf over my head but I am not sure if the scarf covered my arms.  I cannot honestly remember what I was wearing.

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Hunting Monkeys

I know that the title of this post is going to upset a lot of people but rest assured our ‘hunt’ was like a treasure hunt.  We were hoping to find and photograph three of the species of monkeys that live in the Klias Wetlands of Borneo.  My camera battery was kaput so I didn’t get any photos but David was able to get some ‘award-winning’ photos. I have included a few here but it was difficult to choose which ones to include because there were so many really good ones.

The Klias Wetlands are a few hours drive south of Kota Kinabalu.  After our daylight river cruise where we were able to see Proboscis monkeys and Long-tailed Macaques, we had a buffet dinner at the base camp  Our guide told me that the Silver-leaf monkey is very shy and rarely sighted.

Hanging out
All photos by David Worthington 5 March 2017

After dinner, we returned to the boat for a firefly cruise.  It wasn’t as exciting as ‘hunting’ monkeys but seeing a whole tree lit up as if with fairy lights was quite magical.

 

Gaya Street Sunday Market

Day 4 (Sunday, 5 March 2017) – The street in front of the Jesselton Hotel and a couple of the streets next to it, are transformed into a street market every Sunday morning so, after breakfast, we went shopping!

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#nofilter

I bought a fabulous pearl necklace that looked like one that the woman in front of me on the Silk Air flight from Singapore to Kota Kinabalu was wearing.  It consists of big, baroque, pearls in slightly different colours – some are a bit greyish and some are white to cream.  One has a big flaw.  They were quite cheap (250 MYR) but I think they are freshwater pearls.

I also bought some fridge magnets and bookmarks from a Bornean artist who describes his style as “naive”.

 

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Awang Fadilah

Manukan Island, Sabah

Saturday, 4 March 2017 – Reynald, our guide from yesterday, came back and got us but not so early this time so we had time to have a nice breakfast in the tea room of the Jesselton Hotel.  The hotel’s name comes from the British name for the town before it was called Kota Kinabalu.

Today was our ‘beach’ day and we all agreed that Manukan Island was nice enough that an overnight stay would have been great.

Bubble heads at Pulau Manukan

We were all going to go on these bubble head ride things but as soon as my bubble went under the water and I felt the pressure, my heart started to pound!!  I tried slowing my breathing but it didn’t help so I signalled the guy that was towing me that I couldn’t do it.  I think he could tell by the look on my face. 😦

David got some great videos of all of the fish and I managed to get a little bit sunburned while snorkelling.  Day 3 was a really good day!  🙂

Poring Hot Spring and the Rafflesia

The afternoon of day 2 (03 Mar 2017) began with lunch in the restaurant at Poring Hot Spring followed by time to relax in the hot pool.  This part was strange – I have been to hot springs in Peru and Japan but they were nothing like this.  These were small, tiled tubs with taps, outdoors.
When we were entering Kinabalu Park, we saw a hand-made sign that said a Rafflesia was blooming nearby.  Go ahead, say it – “Andrea, you are the luckiest girl in the world!!”  The largest blossom on earth cannot be cultivated.  They grow where and when they want to so it is a matter of luck, not planning, to be able to see one.  The area where they bloom becomes a protected site and the owners of the land cannot do anything with it except charge tourists to see the flower.
That evening we went to the Night Food Market in Kota Kinabalu for dinner.  Day 2 was a very, very full day.

Kinabalu Park and Poring Hot Spring

DSCN1215The-world-s-smallest-orchid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, 3 March 2017
Kinabalu Park is a world heritage site and home to the smallest orchid, among other fascinating plants.  We only had a couple of hours here but it is possible to stay in one of the lodges and explore to your heart’s content.

Next, we went to Poring Hot Spring and did the canopy walkway.  This popular activity is not suitable for those who are afraid of heights or those who suffer from chronic impatience.

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