A tick on life's to do list
Trip Start Oct 17, 2007
49Trip End Feb 04, 2008
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Where I stayed
We stayed at a lodge called the Jungle Resort, set a 5 minute walk from Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, one of only 4 orangutan sanctuaries in the world
Ok, this paragraph is where I get on my soap box, I have warned! And the following applies to essentially every animal I write about in this entry. There has been HEAVY deforestation in Sabah (Malaysian Borneo), most poignantly for palm oil plantations. You can drive for endless kilometers and see nothing but palm oil plantation, dotted with palm oil factories, harvesters etc. It's so different to hear about it, as opposed to seeing it yourself; it's just difficult to understand its extent. Palm oil is found in many, many, many food items we buy, i.e. cookies, crackers, chocolate etc., and it's listed in the ingredients. The big issue is that native forests are cut down to make way for the plantations. In the process there is an enormous loss of habitat and sometimes animals, such as gibbons and orangutans are purposely splayed because they are in the way. That's how many young are orphaned. The key issue is that the palm oil industry is not regulated, and companies don't need to state where the palm oil came from, therefore the demand for palm oil continues and so does the deforestation and habitat loss. So, what YOU can do is write the equivalent of your Minister for Foreign Affairs in your country, and demand that food companies act responsibly in their purchase of palm oil and state where it came from in their ingredients list. It's not about destroying an entire industry; it's about responsible and sustainable growth, and consumers knowing what they are impacting when they purchase a product. Alright, jumping off my proverbial soap box now. See, that wasn't so bad! Ah! PS: if you want to know about the Orangutan appeal connected to Sepilok, visit: www.orangutan-appeal.org.uk. Oh, here's a link (I think this is it) to an ex co-worker of mine' documentary trailer, she made in Borneowww.youtube/watch?v=4sTyJ8PTwZc.
Also on our wildlife agenda was Turtle Island which was a 45 boat ride from Sandakan. During the day we went snorkeling just off the beach and came across the feistiest fish you ever did meet. He was about the size of Scott's hand, was black with a yellow stripe, and would NOT back down when we happened to snorkel over his little hidey-hole. Whack! He aimed towards Scott's head! Thunk! He head-butted my goggles! He was screaming "Get away from my #$@& seaweed hidey place!" (Not making that up, I am a fish whisperer. Yes, I know, another talent...). Scott made the mistake of resting his knee at one point on a bit of sand off the coral, and he swam his little fins off towards him and nipped him on the knee! At least, we think it was him, if not it was his Italian cousin, Vinnie the mafia-fish. Scott after all, did get whacked! He won, of course, we went back to the land, where the humans belong.
That evening we were fortunate enough to see a greenback sea turtle come to shore to lay its eggs. The island has a conservation program and the rangers regularly identify and tag the turtles, remove the eggs once they have been laid and re-bury them in a controlled, predator-free area where the eggs have a much higher hatch rate
The most surprising part of our trip to Borneo, as we enjoyed it soooo much, was the Kinabatangan River. We stayed in a riverside lodge where we had to use mosquito netting at night, and the wildlife, both plant and animal was profuse! We got to the lodge by crossing the river in a rickety, powered canoe tied to a half-submerged jetty. Wow, is it ever "fun" to walk on an angled, slippery half-drowned jetty with all your crap! Our limits of balance and coordination were tested to the maximum! Needless to say, success was our game, we were like Olympic athletes on a balance beam when crossing it. But with bags. And it's wet. And we're not Olympians. And my runners are soaked. Again. God they smell.
Ok my wildlife aficionados, here is a list, carefully compiled by moi and our trusty boat guide Aloy of what we saw that was identifiable
Then it was back to the city of Sandakan. We took the local bus into town from Sepilok where we were staying, and whatever you imagine a local bus to be in the middle of Borneo, you are correct. Chairs falling apart, overcrowded at times, people smoking, standing in the open doorway when the bus was moving... the 40 minute journey took a very bumpy and leisurely hour and a half, but what an experience! On the bus we met the self-titled "two distinguished gentlemen, who were from Kuala Lumpur and were in their 70's. What a crack up those two were! The ultimate team, like Siegfried and Roy, Bonnie and Clyde, Sherlock Holmes and Watson. Seventy year old Hardy boys, agile as agile can be, full of smiles, and telling us tales of all the mountains they've climbed, and kilometers of world they have walked... and this is as senior citizens! We had dinner with them in Sandakan, and took their photo, they were so lovely. And yes, the photo is out of focus, I could spit! We also met two Canadian women doing some hard-core backpacking. They didn't know where they were going, how they were going to get there, where they were going to stay, or where they would be next. We got lots of tips on packing light and South-East Asia from them. Again, such nice people. Ah, one thing I absolutely have to tell about the bus is the lovely music they blared, as loud as possible over the speakers: Malaysian metal. Oh yes, there is Malaysian metal indeed, and I can now inform you all that no matter what the language, all metal songs, somewhere within their lyrics scream in a very Smashing Pumpkins/Metallica/Guns and Roses manner : "HHHEEEEEYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY YYYYYYYYYY, YEAAAHHHHH!". Remember, sound must imagined with raspy, throaty metal voice.
Canaussie rating time my friends!
Jack fruit: 3, tastes good, but gives me tingly mouth and throat I'm so excited to continuously discover my many hidden allergies!
Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary: 5
Turtle Island: 3, it's good to see what they are doing, but many things are difficult to see. Better to go diving if you have a certificate, it's supposed to be amazing
Kinabatangan River cruise: 5++++
Malaysian Metal: hmmm, 2. Unless you really want to listen to metal in a bus in Borneo
Until the next....