Kev was home

Trip Start Jun 05, 2007
Trip End Jun 2009

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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Saturday, December 13, 2008

Luckily we had been escorted to the bus station by a 'guide', we had been told we would be taken to the station only to find in the morning that we were taken by this 'guide' on the local bus, a feat that we could have achieved ourselves. Then when we received the tickets that was for an amount far less than the price we paid, I hit the roof. She was dumbfounded and acted like this was news to her as well or she was a very good actor. She told us that she was coming to Sandakan the next day and would refund the money, somehow I didn't believe her.
We boarded the bus and prepared ourselves for the 6 hour journey to Sandakan, it wouldn't have been too bad if it wasn't for the incredibly loud Malaysian movie and music choices. The journey was broken in Sandakan for the night so we could head to the Sanctuary fresh faced in the morning. That night we received a telephone call from the hostel owner apologising for his 'mistake' - our money would be waiting in KK for when we returned!
Our choice to get to Sepilok was either an expensive taxi to the doorstep or a bus to the main road and a 2 km walk - we decided on the latter and a far cheaper option only to find the walk  4 km and by now the sun was relentless. We had booked a nearby lodge so went straight there to drop our bags, we had missed the morning feeding time but had heard the afternoon was generally quieter anyway so didn't mind too much plus it gave us chance to cool down. The lodge was lovely, it had a small pool and verandah-cum-restaurant looking out over the expansive grounds.
We set off to the sanctuary in the afternoon, it was still hot with increasing humidity and the sky was becoming dark. No sooner had we made it down to the main road when the heavens opened, fortunately there was a small stall selling a fluorescent pink liquid and deep fried bananas and they had erected a rather convenient canopy. We sampled some of the fluid expecting a sweet syrupy drink only to experience a kind of bland milky rose water that Kev nearly vomited back given his huge dislike of anything 'rose' flavoured. I didn't like it too much either but drank it out of politeness, we got to try some banana too for free, not sure if the ladies felt sorry for us in our drenched state but it passed the time until the rain stopped.
At the Sepilok sanctuary we paid our entrance fee and learnt a little about the rehabilitation work that is done here and in the wild as well as the education that is being taught in the local communities to try stop the massive amount of deforestation that is happening in Borneo and subsequent destruction of orangutan habitat. We then followed the boardwalk through the jungle to the feeding platform, it would be an hour until the rangers came so we hung around waiting for some orangutans to arrive. We were disappointed to find that there weren't any smaller walks we could do in the interim in a bid to increase our chances of seeing some orangutans close up. By now we were both pretty excited, this had been one of the things in particular that Kev had wanted to do (not that I minded in the least) and had been talking about this for 3 years now, so to be here waiting to see the orangutans was really a dream come true. We walked the small boardwalk in order to pass the time and saw a few people stood around one particular area, once there we saw a an adolescent male orangutan just sat on the fence. He was lovely but looked almost forlorn, people were having their photo taken with him and he was so placcid just watching and looking the people up and down. Eventually he got fed up and must have been pretty hungry as he walked the fence and stopped by a bolted gate that he managed to open with no problems at all, we realised that this must be the way the keepers come when they bring the food, very clever! We also spotted a baby up in the tree just above our heads, we weren't sure where his mummy was and he seemed a little anxious so took a couple of snaps before leaving him alone.
As we waited on the viewing deck something else caught our eye, the trees behind the platform had begun to shake and the ropes spanning the trees seemed to wobbling up and down, this was far too much movement to be caused by the wind and sure enough a large orange orangutan came swinging into view. She landed on the platform with ease and as she turned, a small baby clinging onto her chest came into view. A few more orangutans were starting to arrive, a couple of younger looking ones as well as another mother and baby, suddenly it almost felt like the earth was moving and the trees were swinging violently, several of the younger ones scarpered as a great big male came into view by now we were pleased for the distance between us. The adult male certainly had more than food on his mind as he apprehended one of the mothers to have his wicked way, the poor baby didn't have a chance of attention as the brute kept pushing him out of the way. Eventually he left and the others started to make their way back just in time for the keepers and the bucket loads of bananas they had brought with them. The bananas were devoured in what felt like minutes and soon the orangutans were off in their own directions, back into the jungle again. The show didn't stop there though, as the orangutans departed to the left, the macaques entered from the right. Walking along the fence, hopping up through the bushes then launching themselves into the air to land on the nearest tree, the macaques made light work of cleaning up the feeding platform!
We left the sanctuary in absolute awe of the orangutan - 'the wild man of the forest', the first time we had seen them and despite the hoard of tourists it hadn't felt too much like a zoo although we had expected to get a little closer or seen behind the scenes, at least briefly. It had certainly wetted our appetite, now we just hoped to see one in the wild at our next stop, the Kinabatangan River.
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