Borneo – english

8. Juli 2015 at 8:51

Happy birthday Mom!

„First, I am going to spend a week in Sukau at the Kinabatangan river cleaning the forest and planting trees, after that, I’m going diving around Sipadan, the number one diving paradise. After that, climbing Mount Kinabalu (the highest mountain in southeast asia) and last but not least a few days at Gunung Mulu National Park to check out the caves there.“

So much for the plan. Two and a half weeks time to experience Borneo in my known, adventurous way, aiming at the highlights of the region. After Sumatra, I was curious to see what else I could expect here nature-wise.

Wednesday night, 20.5. – Making my way to Kuala Lumpur airport
Thursday, 10 am – Arrival Sandakan airport
1 pm – Arrival at our accomodation in Sepilok
3 pm – Visiting sunbears and orangutans at the rehabilitation center
6 pm – Meeting my co-volunteers to talk about the upcoming week, lead by Mark, the malay programme-coordinator of APE (Animal Projects and Environmental Education).

After this, 4 days of hard work mixed with exciting nature-experience were waiting for us.

Together with James, Ben, Millie, Tiff, Jeff, Nick and Grace, I spent the first 7 days on Borneo in Sukau, a small and lovely fisher’s village at the Kinabatangan, where numerous organisations work on reforestation, nature – and wildlife conservation as well as keeping the palmoil plantages away. Through teaching programmes in schools and ecotourism, they also support the local communities in the region.

APE is mainly doing conservation and reforestation in the „Corridor of Life“, which serves as important habitat for thousands of animal and plant species as well as for dozens migrating between the eastern coast of Borneo and the Sabahan highlands. It’s therefore vital for species conservation and maintenance of the bornean eco-system.

The schedule:
4:45 – alarm – down to the river to get the joints and muscles ready
5:15 – wake up the rest
6:00 – breakfast
6:30 – departure by boat to the planting site
7:00 – Starting to clean newly planted trees off grasses and vines by machete, afterwards planting fresh seedlings.
(Personal treecount: 1x Indonesia, 10x Malaysia)

10:30 am – boatride back
12:30 pm – lunch at and with a family from the village. Amazing food en masse!
4:30 pm – departure by boat for wildlife monitoring

I was able to see 3 monkey species, dozens of insects and reptiles as well as countless bird species that I had never seen before! Using binoculars from the boat, we watched carefully, interpreting and reporting every movement in the forest greens, noting animal positions and studying them carefully. For the more rare or fascinating, we took a longer stop and watched. Beneath those – EVERY DAY – completely wild orangutans (even though „already“ seen on Sumatra, these primates were to be encountered in a very different way here at the river. Completely wild, shy, careful, instinktive, romantic. Quite different to the hairy fellas on Sumatra that are broadly used to humans already.)

Also: Proboscis monkeys https://www.google.com/search?q=proboscis+monkey&espv=2&biw=718&bih=621&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=icmcVcajIcipuwTAu724DA&ved=0CAYQ_AUoAQ
in incredibly big numbers. Masters of movement and relaxation at the same time. Great creatures!

My highlight of the animal watching: female orangutan building a nest in one of the treetops – in front of a glowing red sunset, she made herself a pillow out of young branches for the night, while her male waited to come over in the next tree.
Unforgettable.

7 pm – dinner, as lunch in the village
10 pm – falling into bed, fully exhausted. But excited for the next day.

One day we spent in the village cooking traditional dishes, learning bananaleaf-origami and playing Malaca (a funny marbel game, apparently also very popular in east africa – hadn’t heard of it before.)

On Thursday the 28th of Mai, I left the diligent volunteer group to continue travel alone. Next stop: Sipadan.

1 day, 3 dives, ultimate diving experience. See for yourselves.

Still on the evening of the diving day, I took a bus from Semporna towards Kota Kinabalu and arrived 8 hours later, at 3 am at the foot of the great Mount Kinabalu. With 4095.2 m claiming to be the highest mountain in southeast asia, he’s towering, surrounded by rainforest, over the hilly plains of Sabah and makes for the most awesome views all the way down to the coast.

Having left in the morning with 2 Swedes (Karl and Oscar, who spontaneously let me join their group), it was going steep and even steeper up the hill. To save the 12 Ringgit fee for a luggage locker, I decided to take my ~12kg backpack with me to the top. That got me sweating. Completely destroyed, we reached the camp at about 2900m in the afternoon. Time to strengthen up and relax to start the last stretch of climbing at 2:30 am the next morning to get to the top in time for sunrise.

Unfortunately, we were the last to leave the camp in the morning. Two and a half hours until sunrise, 1200 meters vertically, partly secured with ropes. Let’s go! Many hikers didn’t make it up in time for sunrise. Were were not beneath them. And the struggle was worth it!

After a killing descent, we took the bus to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah’s capital. Having spent a night there, in the morning I left to make my way to Miri and take a small plane to Mulu and the national park.

There are caves to see and explore in Mulu. Let me wrap up: I spent a total of 5 days in the park, with about 6-8 hours of hiking per day, 5 different caves as well as huge rainfoest stretches all around. One of the caves, we conquered in a 6 hour climb- and squeeze-action with phenominal views and giant chambers inside. Topped up by a 1km swim in the underground river to the exit.
Beautiful moments with great people (Greg, Nick, Luke, Gavie, Emily, Adrian, Pradum). Most of those in copmlete darkness though. Not on camera but saved as memories.

From Mulu, I went back to Miri to dive one more day off the coast of Sarawak. Super open and friendly people, tons of fun with the people from Co.Co. dive, gorgeous dives with loads of macro! A strong opposite to Sipadan, but nonetheless exciting and inspiring.

On the evening of sunday, the 7th of June, I was back home in Shah Alam.

Next to the amazing natural encounters and the many possibilities to get to know and love the outdoors even more, my trip through Borneo was especially great because of all the fantastic people I was able to meet on the way. One character more interesting than the last. Loads to learn plus getting inspired.

Now a few pictures to round off this post. Most of them should follow though, as soon as I have collected them all from my travelfriends.

Stay awesome and get inspired!

PS: Ramadan has been on for 20 days now. Fasting from 5:30 am til 7:30 pm. Good challenge, good experience.
PPS: Tomorrow I’m leaving for the big trip through Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Can’t wait to see more, feel more, learn more and share it with you!