Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Borneo - Jungle adventures

After Mabul and Sipadan islands we headed back to the Mainland (semporna) and took a bus down to Sepilok.

The next part of the trip was the jungle trek along the Kinabatangan river. We left semporna and took about a 6 hour bus into Sepilok. Here we stayed at a resort one of our friends who had been before recommended. It was amazing! You felt like you were in the middle of the rainforest and for what you paid it was absolutely stunning! The food was great and the views were amazing. When we arrived we were welcomed with a cold cinnamon and lemongrass tea and face towels under a ceiling filled with Chinese lanterns and the smell of freshly cooked seafood wafting through the air. After all the hostels and hardly any running water this was literally paradise!
We were only supposed to stay that night and then go to the jungle with uncle tans but we decided to book it for the night we came back from uncle tans too, just so we could rest and clean up and eat great food before heading back to Kota Kinabalu for the last leg.
We spent the morning of the next day at the Orangutang sanctuary in Sepilok, they really are amazing creatures and the work they do there is brilliant! We arrived for the feeding time so we could see one of the workers take up the food to a platform at one of the viewing areas and as soon as he placed the food down the orangutans came swinging in on tree branches from all areas to grab some food.
There was one Orangutan with a baby which was adorable!
We were quite disappointed though because the sanctuary is huge and there are many more animals to see but because of construction the trails were closed so we were only able to see the viewing platform and take a little walk through the sanctuary.

The food at sepilok forest edge resort

We had a little friend join us in our room :)

Braaing our toast, why not?

The walkway into sepilok forest edge resort

Amazing sunset at the resort

Once this was done we waited there for a bus to pick us up and take us to uncle tans to start the jungle trek. We first stopped at uncle tans basecamp which was in sepilok itself to have some lunch and get briefed on the whole trip. They had had some visitors before that didn’t do any research when signing up for the trip and assumed they were staying at a lodge in the jungle and then complained for hours when they found out what the living conditions were like.
So they made sure we all knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into before taking us to the river. We had all done our research so there were no last minute changes in our group.
We had quite a few interesting people in our group which made the trip all the more interesting, there was Gabby and I and then a Dutch couple from Amsterdam, an American couple who had been teaching in China for four years and were travelling before finally going back to the US, a French girl who was on a year and a half world trip, a Chinese guy that had never traveled alone before and had a t-shirt and pair of shorts and was sorely unprepared for pretty much anything and then there was a Spanish birdwatcher that had been to 31 countries and just added Malaysia as the 32nd.
With this group of people you can imagine the trip was highly entertaining! I learnt many new card games, many facts about birds (which to be honest I wasn’t all that interested in), some more Dutch words and some great information about Chinese culture. I also had the opportunity to educate the others about South Africa and fix the very skewed impressions they had of the country. I did such a good job that the French girl that was travelling around the world added South Africa to her destinations where she’d previously taken it off. So beware, you might all be getting some e-mails with requests to be a tour guide for a day or two J

Being in the jungle was an awesome experience. We took 2 little motor boats from the drop off zone on the river about 40 mins further up to the camp. It’s all very bare minimum so you share a cabin that sleeps four and you each get a mattress on the floor with a mosquito net over it. There are toilets but they are the ones that are like longdrops so although they look like a normal toilet there is no plumbing system so you have to take a bucket of water in the stall with you and pour it down once you’re done. The showers are basically huge vats of brown river water next to the bathrooms that you can scoop onto yourself with mini buckets. It sounds worse than it is. Everything was clean and you’re only there three days so it’s not a big deal. I really loved being out in the open with no cell service or laptops or TV or any other modern devices that waste your time these days.
We did a night boat cruise the evening we arrived and then the next morning at 5:30am we did a morning river boat cruise followed by breakfast and then a jungle trek and then lunch and then siesta time for a few hours followed by an evening boat cruise, dinner and a night jungle trek. We ended it off the following morning again at 5:30am with a morning boat cruise. On all the cruises and treks the guides will tell you about all the animals that you see and point out things you wouldn’t otherwise have spotted.
Falling asleep to the sounds of monkeys swinging in trees, insects making all kinds of noises and owls hooting away was amazing. It was so peaceful and I would definitely recommend it!
I think it was very different for me compared to the others though because I think coming from South Africa we are very spoilt when it comes to wildlife. We have all most likely been to some kind of game reserve and many zoos and just in everyday life like at dams and parks we see more wildlife than many other people do. So it did get to a point where the guide would point out a bird or a daddy long leg spider and I was like ‘Really? You really felt like you had to make us stop for this daddly long leg? ANOTHER bird? How interesting…’
But on the whole it was a great experience. Oh besides for the mosquitos!!! If I could kill every mosquito on earth I would! We were all pretty much eaten alive even though we covered ourselves from head to toe in mosquito repellent! I think our mistake was taking the herbal stuff that locals had told us worked better, these suckers needed proper chemical spray to kill them.

Amazing sunrise on one of our VERY early morning boat cruises

A bird... think it could be a hornbill... but with the amount I listened when it came to birds I would be very mistaken

Gabby trying to not get eaten alive by mistakes while stuck in the mud and trying not to drop her camera ;)

Our sleeping quarters

Some of the guides playing soccer