Getting into nature!

Trip Start Sep 14, 2009
Trip End Aug 16, 2010

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Where I stayed

Flag of Malaysia  , Sabah,
Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It took us four hours on a bus to get to Sandakan which we shared with Kylie and Spencer who were from Portsmouth and setting out on a new life for themselves in Australia. We also shared it with a very smelly toilet and a video on the front TV screen of "Flight of the Zombies". Fortunately we got the kids to watch their DVD instead of the blood drinking weirdo's on the telly!

We stayed at a great little place run by Mr Lum (or Mr Glum, depending on his mood) and met up again with Bonnie and Dave. We all decided to hire a driver to take us on a tour the next day to see the famous Borneo Proboscis monkeys at a sanctuary nearby. We got there for a 9.30 am feeding and were lucky to be the only people there. It is hard to describe the excitement and amazement we all had as these majestic animals swung through the trees and came down to collect a few pieces to eat. We also got to see Macaques and Silver Leaf monkeys and a stunning Hornbill close up.

At lunch time Aidan resumed his Pool addiction and ended up playing a local policeman at the restaurant. It was too late before I managed to warn Ady about the risk of beating an officer of the law, he had stuffed him, much to the amusement and mickey taking of his colleagues.

In the afternoon we went to the top of the hill overlooking Sandakan to the famous author, Agnes Keith’s house. There we all had a traditional English afternoon tea on the lawns with scones and jam served on a traditional bone china three level serving plate. Very yummy too!

The following day we also shared a trip with Bonnie and Dave to see a number of sights starting with the local Chinese temple. Next we went to a memorial park for the British and Australian soldiers that were involved in the Death Marches. There was a small museum there that depicts the tragic story of 6000 men that were forced to live as POWs in appalling conditions on the site building an airfield for the Japanese army before being forced to march inland 265km to escape the impending allied invasion. Of the 6000 men held and then forced to march, only six Australians survived by escaping en route. In this sense it was even more shocking than the Death railway that we had visited in Thailand.

A totally different scenery at the Rainforest discovery centre not only lightened the mood, but also took us through a fascinating trail of beautiful trees and flowers through the forest. There was even a long wobbly suspension bridge across a bridge that the kids delighted in rocking excessively when Dave was trying to cross. His calmness in the face of adversity was impressive! There was also a high canopy walk which took us up to see the top of the trees and Ady thinks he glimpsed an Orang Utan there.

We then visited the Gamontong caves which are famous for the swift nests. These are regarded as a delicacy called birds nest soup and are made from the swifts saliva attached to the side of the cave. These nests are collected by the local 'nest collectors ‘, via a labyrinth of bamboo ladders and ropes carelessly suspended from the ceiling of the huge cave and strung across to enable the workers to access the nests. It is certainly a sight to see but the tremendous stench of bat poor was over whelming. The men literally crawl precariously along these swinging ropes and ladders risking their lives to scoop the birds nests in their nets. They actually sell these extremely valuable nests for $500 per kilo for soup!!

Our final activity was a late afternoon boat trip down the Kinabatangan River in a small boat. It was wonderful to see so many animals that come to the waterfront for feeding at dusk. The highlight was seeing a group of five Pygmy elephants, just behind the tree line. We were very close and one of the young elephants got separated from its mother and the trumpet calling it made to find it’s way back was so loud and exhilarating for us. It was very special to be chugging down the river seeing lots of monkeys, monitor lizards, kingfishers, hornbills, and so many other animals in their natural habitat with the rainforest literally tumbling down into the water and the noise of the jungle becoming deafening at times.

It was a long day but probably the first one that we all felt as though we had finally seen the true beauty of Borneo and it had whetted our appetite for more.
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Ian Kirkwood on

All those animals it just sounds like another night out in "the City of Culture"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I by the way 7-1 thats all I will say! Keep on having a great time! Ian & Colette

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