Sepilok is a sancturay for orang-utans where these amazing animals are rescued, rehabilitated and ultimately after years of work released back into the wild. As part of the process Orang-utans are free to roam the reserve but a feeding station is set up where they can receive food twice a day at 10.00am and 2.00pm. Young Oragn-utans will return to the feeding station to supplement what they manage to find and eat in the rainforest. The feeding station provides them with bananas and milk every day and the concept is that eventually the Orang-utans (like humans) get bored with the same diet and begin to explore the forest for themselves. Ultimately they become indpendent of the feeding station.
Small groups of tourists are allowed to view the feeding platform from another platform about 4/5 metres away. There is no guarantee that you will see orang-utans and I was very lucky that such a large number turned up the day we were there. They are not encourged to interact in any way with tourists and your job there is to stay quiet, take phots and keep the disruption of their natural habitat to a minimum.
There are 2 ways to gettig to Mulu. The first way is by river, from Miri. This is exremely long and involved 2 ferry boats duration of about 8 hrs. Stopping in a town to change ferries. The second way is by flight. Its world famous for the caves and the pinnacles. I was most impressed by the fantastic rock formations in Lang cave, much smaller than most caves in the area. Beer cave is near by and weather permitting the bats will come out at sunset. its also famous for the rock formations such as Abraham Lincolns face and the garden of eden. This was our last day in Mulu, as it was wet, the majority of the group decided to stay in the hotel as they were fed up of 3 days of being soaked. I felt that they missed out on some of the most impressive sites in Mulu.
The Chinese temple is situated on a hill overlooking Sandakan. The temple is ornately decorated and is a lovely place to quietly contemplate life the universe and everything. As its on a hill facing the sea the air is refreshing. It offers good views over Sandakan and the surrounding coastline.
An interesting decorative feature is the use of the Swastika's on the doors and gates. It is differen to the German WW2 emblem and is an ancient chinese representation of the 4 elements of earth, wind, fire and water.
This is Sim Sim village in Sadakan, Borneo. It shows the typical stilt style houses that are common through Borneo and much of Asia. The houses consist of one large living room with a kitchen, toilet and one or maybe two bedrooms. Access to the houses is by way of small wooden piers which can be a bit dangerous especially with no side rails and the odd plank missing here or there ! The prospect of falling into the water particularly when you consider the toilets flush directly into the sea beneath the wooden buildings is not a pleasent one !
Some of the houses have small souvenier stalls to attract tourists. We went into one of these and the owner had it well decorated with polished wooden floors. As is the custom you must remove your shoes before entering. The woman who owned the house sold some sourveniers and was good at getting you to buy a few small items. The children were watching TV on a mattress on the floor and she had about 15 cats around the house...most of them were also sprawled out watching TV.
A number of the houses are decorated with bright colours or lots of flower pots and these are wonderful. The people are friendly and are keen to show you their house if you stop to chat to them but equally are happy for you to go about your business and let them do the same - after all you have to remember you are invading their space and you must respect that fact.
Sandakan is in Sabah and is the second-largest town in the state. In the past it was the state capital under British rule in what was then British North Borneo. In the 1870’s the Sultan of Sulu ruled this area along with the Southern Phillippines. With the persmission of the Sultan William Clarke Cowie (a Scottish gun runner) set up a trading post here and he gave the area the name Sandakan (which means that which is pawned). There was a strong German influence in the region prior to the British aquiring the lands under lease. Sandakan was burned to the ground in 1879 and William Pryer moved to where Sim Sim is still today. He also changed the name to Elopura (beautiful city) but the name did not stick and it reverted to being Sandakan.
By the late 1800’s it was the state capital of the British North Borneo Company and the area derived huge wealth from the timber industry right up to the start of WW2. The area was under Japanese control during the war and they re-named the town Elopura. The town was totally destroyed during the war with the exception of only a few buildings (St Michael’s church being one example) that survived. This resulted in Sabat’s adminstration and capital moving to Kota Kinabula where it remains today. Sandakan continued to rebuild based on the timber industry, coffee, mining, fishing and in more recent years in tourism in particular as a start point for wildlife related eco-tourism. It is still an important port in the region and continues to develop and modernise. There is a strong Chinese community in the town and as a reuslt a lot of Chinese festivals such as Chinese New Year are eagerly celebrated.
Things of interest in the area are
·Kampung Buli Sim Sim or just ‘Sim Sim’ village for short
·St Michael’s Church (1897)
·Sandakan Fish Market and Sandakan General Market
·Puu Jih Shih Temple (Buddhist)
·The English Tea House
·Agnes Keith House – Author of a number of books about the region and its culture
This is a great photo opportunity. The sights, sounds and not to mention smell of this busy market make it an interesting place to visit. If you are staying in any self catering accommodation then this is a great place to get fresh fish. As with all fish markets its not for the squimish ! You have been warned.
Labuk Bay Proboscis Sanctuary
The Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary is a real undiscovered gem.
The male of this species is very distinctive (and if you don't know why take a close look at the photos - not for those of a delicate disposition!). This is a really great trip to go on. You come to this area to see the orangutan but the experience at this monkey sanctuary is just as good and makes a good contrast to the orangutans. It is quite an expensive trip because the reserve charges a high entrance fee (it is for a good cause though, so dig deep). You have to go down a very long and bumpy road to get there.
We did this as an afternoon trip from Sepilok Jungle Resort. You can either go in the morning or the afternoon (the trip takes half a day). Like Sepilok you see the monkeys at feeding time. You can book the trip up when you get there. The Jungle Resort will take you in one of their jeeps (price is RM140.00 each). The reserve seems to be less visited than Sepilok which is a shame but then again made it better for us!
There is also a resident otter that you can pet and some playful puppies!
One more reason for visiting Borneo in particular Sabah is for turtle Island. Here you can relax by day, sunbathing and snorkelling. At night the turtles come and lay their eggs. The Island is protected, only a certain number of tourists can stay in any one night. You are not allowed on the beaches alone at night. However there is a turtle watch. When the first turtle comes and lays her eggs, all the tourists are called out to watch her. A turtle usually lays about 60 t0 70 eggs. The Island is all about conversation, so once the turtle has layed here eggs they are dug up and put into a nursery. The tourist also get to release that days hatchlings back into the sea. you get to hold a baby turtle. the tourists are only allowed to see when turtle lay their eggs for low impact tourism. this may involve alot of waiting around as they can not garantee what time the first turtle will arrive at night.
Borneo is where I went to see Orangutans in the wild. I caught an Air Asia flight to Sandakan, then went to Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary. When I arrived I bought my admission ticket, then went and watched a film about the Orangutans.
Next, was a walk on proper board walkway to the feeding platform. Here, there were some Orangutans, the young ones were swinging around having some fun.
When the keeper came with some milk and bananas for them, that stopped, and it was time for a feed. After they had eaten they just wandered off into the Jungle.
OPEN 8 - 5PM DAILY and admission is 30rm
This was another highlight of my time in Borneo and something I think you should do if you are interested in seeing wildlife.
The cruise departs from Sandakan wharf and heads out across the ocean and into the River.
Once in the river, it wasn't long before we saw Monkeys, the Proboscis and Macaques. The Proboscis Monkey is huge, a lot bigger than I expected, and once you know what you are looking for, then I found I saw a lot. They have Harems, a Male and a lot of females! I also saw Hornbills and Snakes.
The cruise was really nice, so peaceful going up the river, with just the Jungle on either side.
Another big reasons for going to Borneo is to see the wild life in particular the Orangutans. Although it would be great to see them absolutely in the wild this would be extremely rare. Best to go to the one of the rehabilation centres. The biggest one being sepilok. They feed the animals here with bananas at set times of day. The orangutans live in the jungle but they know when feeding time is. They only feed them bananas so they get bored of them and eventually they are able to find their ownfood and dont return to the centre.
Another unique wildlife of Borneo is the probosous monkey, the male has very large noises. Infact the bigger the noise the more wives he attracts. Unfortunately if you do see these animals in the wild they are often too far away to appreciate them. The monkeys like to live in the jungle next to salt rivers from the sea, unfortunately much of their natural habitat has been destroyed due to the palm plantatations. Nowadays one of the best places for seeing the monkeys is at the Proboscous monkey sanctuary, where they have two families of monkeys totalling about 50 monkeys. you will also get to see a very informative video. this was an extra on our tour and well worth the money.
After a month of travelling round the country staying in very remote places it was nice to stay in a city and a hotel. Kuching is a happening city with nice restarants, strongly recommend JUNK, museums, markets and beaches. Reflexology
One reason to go to Borneo is to see some of the fast amounts of jungle. From the air it seems to go on forever. On foot you need guides and in reality you can't get very far. We had our first glimpse of the jungle when we stayed with the river people at the MESCOT homestays.They took us on a camping trip over night to the jungle camps. Inreturn we helped them plant trees in an area of forest that had recently had a fire. we were taken on a night walk. unfortunately we didnt see much wild life, just a few frogs and insects. OF course leeches!!
WE climbed the Pinnacles, yes they wer impressive but I dont think it was worth the hike. An extremely steep hike took us 41/2hrs up, longer down. Dangerous particurly when it rains which itwas doing, very slippy. ladders and ropes near the top. Use extreme caution. Howver if you really want to see the Pinnacles in our their glory without much effort I would recommend the flight from Mulu to Miri in the small aircraft to be bought locally. Its not really a scenic flight but if everyone all bored are tourist they will fly via the pinnacles. note only 16 passengers!