Up Close and Personal with Orang-Utans

Trip Start Sep 05, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Flag of Singapore  ,
Tuesday, May 3, 2011

We seriously struggled when the alarm went off at 7, and our last Borneo breakfast was eaten in a grumpy silence – it is unbelievable how terrible the 4 of us are in the mornings! Once in the taxi heading for the 9am feeding in Semengog Orang-utan Sanctuary we started to cheer up however and get a bit excited about seeing our cheeky orange friends again. The sanctuary is 40mins from Kuching and much less touristy than the one we visited in Sepikok, Sabah. We were warned that there was no guarantee that we would see any as they are free to roam in that park as they please and only come to eat if they are hungry.

We were really in luck however, and five minutes after a ranger headed off down a jungle track to check if any orang-utans were about, the head ranger excitedly gathered everyone together and explained that the dominant male was in there waiting for us! He gave us a stern lecture about being very quiet, hiding any food and under no circumstances going too close to them. Having watched a video explaining that a fully grown male could rip a human in half, we were fine about this last bit. The warden also explained that they would be in the trees above us and we should therefore watch out in case they peed or threw sticks at us! It was with a little trepidation that we headed down the jungle path (yes we were at the front of the queue!).

After 200m we saw two cheeky young males swinging in the trees above our heads, but were told to keep moving to see the big guy. Turning a corner we were all completely blown away to see an absolutely enormous male munching his way through a huge heap of bananas. Looking at his massive arms it was easy to see how he could be so vicious. Apparently his name is Richie and he became the dominant male a few years ago when he fought off another male George and ripped two of his fingers off. Staff intervened so that it was not a fatal fight and poor George was relocated to another sanctuary.

Once we got used to Richie sitting munching and staring right in front of us, we had a look around and noticed that we were in fact surrounded. A mother and baby looked on over head and, two adult males were swinging past trying to pluck up the courage to go near Richie for food. In the 45 mins we were there we saw about 9 urangatans of different ages all monkeying around above our heads and coming down for snacks. It was competely incredible and so utterly not what we expected to get after we paid our 60p entrance fee!

After the last orang-utan swung back off the feeding platform the rangers told us to leave and incredibly said that there were more waiting for us back at the park entrance. I thought these would be in cages or something, but no – a mother and tiny baby and a young male were relaxing in trees above our heads. The ranger got out a coconut hoping to tempt the mother and baby closer, but the young male had other ideas and snuck down and grabbed it. He then swung straight back up intp the trees to find a quiet spot to munch it. At one point he dropped it but swiftly caught it with his feet! He smashed it open on a tree trunk and sat happily munching it and we watched in awe as the tiny baby decided that he wanted some too, and left the safety of his mothers arms to swing wobbily along some vines and across a couple of trees to where the adult reluctantly gave him a little piece! Moving further into the park to look at some crocodiles G and C had seen in a cage, Mikey and I found another mum and teeny-tiny baby who were munching coconut about 2m from a group of tourists. When they finished, the mother dropped to the ground and started walking straight towards us with the baby on her back! She calmly and slowly stalked right through the centre of the park's pathway and across a grassy lawn scattering tourists as she went before lazily climbing a small tree just by the park gate. We stood right below her, enraptured as she and the baby played and swung upside-down, thoroughly unimpressed by all of the attention.

This morning was definitely the best thing we did on Borneo, and looking back, I can't believe it was just something extra to do the morning before we caught the plane. We loved them at Sepilok but only saw about 5, and they were nowhere near as close or as active.  A brilliant end to a brilliant holiday.

The rest of the day was pretty straight forward, back to the hostel for lunch and last minute present/postcard buying before the taxi to the airport. Amazingly the team agreed it would be ok to get to the airport a mere 1hr and before the plane took off! We just had time for a truly disgusting chicken burger and incredibly painful 8 minutes in a massage chair (using up Malaysian money) before the flight.

Apart from G and C being unable to work the ticket machine in the MRT station and creating an embarrassingly long queue, the trip back to Sleepy Sam's B and B was very straightforward. They were waiting for us and, thank goodness, still had our luggage and bikes. Apart from the bed bugs this place has been absolutely fantastic and storing our luggage for free was incredible (we’d looked into it and not found anything less than 70.

Bags dumped (not under the beds where the bed bugs are!) we got straight back outside for a drink, finding it unbelievable to imagine sitting in exactly the same place 2 weeks earlier when Mikey and I had just got off the bikes. We had our final meal in Little India again at the Apollo Banana Leaf restaurant as recommended by our insane taxi driver. (He gave us a lecture on the way about how terrible modern society was and how he had the perfect life with many girlfriends and no wives!)

The curry lived up to expectations and we had to walk home  as we were so full up - a great last night, and although Mikey and I are excited about going to New Zealand we are not at all excited about a 14hr flight and saying goodbye to our best buddies.

Miles Cycled: 0 - carbon footprint 6094732529...
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