Borneo Part 2 scores 8 on Units of Pleasure Scale

Trip Start Jan 08, 2015
Trip End Feb 26, 2015

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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Monday, February 16, 2015

Our day began with a visit to the Orangutan and Sun Bear Sanctuary at Sepilok. Orangutans are endemic to Borneo and are an endangered species . At the sanctuary orphaned animals are looked after until about 12 years of age when the process of returning them to the wild can begin. Babies and adolescents are completely dependent upon their mothers from whom they learn the life skills necessary to survive; orphaned animals stand little chance of making it to adulthood on their own. The monkeys were very entertaining as they swung around their "nursery", masters of leaping from tree to tree, hairbrained creeper and rope manoeuvres plus hanging upside down when the mood takes them. It's amazing what you can do with effectively 4 hands. The young animals crave affection from their carers with whom they form a close bond, however this means repatriation to the jungle can be a long process.

At around 3 foot high, sun bears are the smallest bear species in the world. Like the Orangutans, these creatures are high on the scale of cuteness but do not desire the same level of nurture. The bears remained completely unconcerned as we all looked on, instead they concentrated on sucking the milk and nibbling at the flesh from coconuts as if nothing else in the world mattered unless of course they were snoozing up in a convenient tree.

After the sanctuary we were ready for the real thing and travelled back to Sandakan where we boarded another power launch. Here we joined a lovely Finnish couple called Jukka and Marjukka, who were to be our rain forest buddies for the next few days. The launch soon attained warp speed factor 8 as we zoomed off on the 120km journey to the Sukau Rain Forest Lodge on the Kinabatangan River. At first we passed through the mangroves along narrow winding waterways...... we felt like we were in a chase from a Bond movie!  Along the way, Jamil spotted a croc languishing on one of the was a monster.....well over 4m long. It obligingly opened its mouth to show off its impressive dental attributes, so that our professional photographer ie Mrs C could take a snap...Geddit? 

We arrived at Sukau at 3pm.....what a place! On arrival we were given cold towels and iced tea to refresh ourselves. There then followed a demonstration on how to put on traditional Sabah sarongs.....apparently there were his and hers in our rooms for us to wear for dinner. Well it had to be done didn't it?! The Lodge was top drawer and was where David Attenborough came to film Proboscis monkeys (another unique species) and Orangutans for one of his wonderful BBC Wildlife programmes. This was obviously THE place to be!

After a fast turnaround we boarded a small boat and Jamil ferried us downriver to a narrow tributary off the Kinabatangan. Almost immediately two huge rhinoceros hornbills flew overhead. I felt like I was entering Jurrassic Park. We soon saw troups of long and pig tailed macaques busying themselves by the water edge, crashing through the trees, preening and in the case of the young monkeys tumbling through the branches with poorly executed gymnastics. It was not long before some proboscis monkeys were spotted. These were slower moving than the macaques and larger (especially in the nose department!). The dominant males in each troup were impressive beasts. Over the next 2 hours we were held spellbound as we observed different groups of monkeys displaying all sorts of antics. As dusk began to fall we saw flying stork billed kingfishers and a oriental darters or snakebirds diving for fish. Wow! Returning to the lodge, our senses felt overloaded. It was time for a (magnificent) dinner (in our sarongs of course) and a cold beer as we sat on the terrace overlooking the river under a pristine, light pollution free sky. Wow again, what a day!

Over dinner with Jukka and Marjukka we learnt how to toast in Finnish.......simply put its "gibpiss!" Not sure if the spelling is correct but "gibpiss" became our standard shout each time we raised a glass! Well it says it all doesn't it? We also met a great couple called Neil and Mary from Thame.....not so far from us AND they play golf at Mentmore GC which is close to Pitstone. It transpired Neil plays for the Seniors team against local clubs including Whipsnade where I play. Perhaps we will be golfing adversaries later this year!

Next morning we were out on the river at sunrise to witness the swirling mist disperse as the the air temperature rose revealing more wildlife. Now there were more species of hornbill plus Great egrets, soaring Eagles and we were able to have a closer look at some Proboscis monkeys. Two hours flashed by before returning to the lodge for a cracking breakfast. Afterwards we had time to swim in the pool.....well why not? When there is a pool in the Rain forest, it would be rude not to swim in it! 

Later in the day we returned to the river in search of pigmy elephants and Orangutans. Unfortunately we were disappointed. It was as if we expected to see them due to our earlier successes......which of course is ridiculous. We tried again after dinner when we went back on the river for a night safari. Again we saw none, however we did find sleeping kingfishers. It was amazeballs! At night it is possible to manoeuvre a boat within 5 foot and shine a bright light on them where they remained motionless sitting on a branch just above the river. Their eyes even look open! Extraordinary. There were also banana and mangrove snakes lying in the tree branches just above our heads looking like massive Cumberland sausages. Mrs C and Mary were snapping away transfixed by these slippery reptiles, until they remembered their fear of hissing Sid's........aaaargh! Gin and tonics were required when we got back to base.

Behind the lodge was a covered Boardwalk which wound its way through the forest. Jamil plied us with facts about the trees and plants plus their uses in traditional medicine, making poisonous darts and making stuff. There were giant iron trees up to 300 ft high, ebony trees and rattan. Swinging about in the bushes were some Silver Langur monkeys or Beckhams as the locals call them due to their Mohican style hair. Our poor brains were at bursting point again!

We left the lodge after 3 days, said goodbye to our new friends and climbed aboard the power launch for our return journey to Sandakan. The Rainforest had been so wonderful. In fact, for me, it scored 8on the Units of Pleasure Scale (see later), something rarely achieved in my lifetime. However being greedy we still wanted to see Pygmy elephants and Orangutans......we joked with Jamil, who we had grown to really like, that this was just not good enough! He promised to do his best and after 40 minutes of speeding up river he called for the pilot to slow the boat. We edged close to the river bank and there in the tree was a female Orangutan caressing her baby as she plucked leaves from the branches. We then noticed the dominant male higher up the tree, he was a big unit! Such animals have 5 times the strength of a human. He was an impressive beast!
After another 20 minutes we slowed again as there was a small herd of elephants crashing through the trees. The pilot carefully manoeuvred the boat onto the river bank where we could watch them go about their business of consuming their body weight in food every day. They were fantastic to look at and brought back fond memories of Sen Monorom......but now we were seeing these majestic beasts in the wild! We moved away feeling very pleased but the best was yet to come. About 100m away Jamil spotted the male of the herd. He was about the size of a large female Asian elephant with a fine set of tusks. He was just wandering around, having a bit of a scratch on a tree trunk but frustratingly he kept his back turned to us. We watched patiently and THEN he turned round and and moved towards us, face on, staring at us, not more than 20 feet way. Even Jamil and the pilot were excited. There he stood quite still while we watched and took pictures for what seemed and age. Jan and I looked at each other, we knew this had been a another special moment. What's more while all this was going on there were a pair of white bellied sea eagles circling overhead lucky were we?
We moved away, sat back in our seats and remained silent while we reflected on what we had seen. The pilot fired up the nautical Quattro and we sped back to Sandakan through the mangroves.
To say Borneo was exhilarating would be an understatement (see note below).  We had only seen a small part of this magnificent country but we were hooked.
(ed note: when superlatives are no longer adequate to describe your level of fun and pleasure, the Units of Pleasure Scale (UOP) is a useful tool. Like the Richter scale for measuring earthquakes it is logarithmic. That is if something scores 2 it is worth 100 units while a score of 3 is worth  ten times more that is 1000 units and so on. This means Borneo's score of 8 on the UOP scale is equivalent to 100,000,000 Units of Pleasure. That's how good it was)   
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lydie on

An amazingly informative and enjoyable read. What will I get such pleasure from when u return !!!!! Another fantastic trip u will have to plan. Not sure when u are back but safe journey home. Love and hugs as always xxxx

Barbara Reynolds on

Luvin' the beard man! Luvin' the narrative more though, amazing xxxx

cathy on

love the pleasure scale! So what was the very highest scorer - now you are back....tough choice! XC

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