Trip Travelogues » Clarissa » page 2
Report from Borneo (continued)
DAY 5Up really early to catch the first flight of the day from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan so that we would be in time for the feeding of the orang-utans at Sepilok. We were picked up from the Hotel by the tour bus and transferred to the airport in plenty of time for our 07.00 hrs flight. We could see that we were going to have fabulously clear weather for the flight, so requested seats on the port side of the plane (that's the left side for those unused to the "proper" terminology!!). We knew that the plane would allow us excellent views of Mt Kinabalu shortly after take-off. We were not disappointed. It was so clear we were able to imagine being there, and also so close to the summit that we strained to see if others were on the mountain experiencing the same sunrise over the mountain that we had from the plane. It was one of the best views of the mountain that we could imagine having without actually being there.
We finally got under way. It is only about a 20 min trip to Sepilok, and we arrived in time for a video presentation on orang-utans and the work that is done in Sepilok in the rehabilitation of the orang-utans back into the wild.
A lot of photos are taken by the tourists, but
I would be surprised if many turned out to be anything of any consequence.
It is actually deceptively dark in the forest - even though we were using
400 ASA film, in many instances the light was insufficient to allow a fast
enough shutter speed. The other problem of course is that you need a telephoto
lens to be able to get close enough, and the lens will itself chew up a
bit of the available light. Next time, we'll try 800 ASA!!
Once finished at Sepilok, we headed off to Sukau
and Sukau Rainforest Lodge where we were to spend the night. Sukau is about
150 km South-East of Sandakan - about a 2 hour drive on a mixture of bitumen
and gravel/dirt road. The last 50 km on the gravel/dirt is not the most
pleasant, but it is over fairly fast. [the trip from Sandakan to Sukau is now done by boat - ed]
The main building of the Lodge has been built in traditional style from local timbers, with the guest rooms located to the rear of the main building. The guest rooms are what would have to be described as fairly basic - each room has two single beds, with a fan in the ceiling, a couple of cabinets/shelf units for your belongings and bags, and a separate bathroom with toilet, shower and wash basin. Space is certainly at a premium in the room. We had even less space, as we had an extra mattress on the floor for my son. The rooms are connected with the main communal area by a long covered verandah. In retrospect, it does not matter much that the rooms are small as they are, because you really don't spend much time in the room anyway - the room is designed for sleeping, and you should not have any problem doing that.
After a late lunch served in the dining area, we had a little time to get to
know the immediate vicinity, before heading off by boat to find the proboscis
monkeys getting ready for the night.
At about 17.00 hrs we were able to see the first group of proboscis monkeys making their way through the trees.
Again, photos prove difficult. In this instance, not only are you in a jungle environment, you are also contending with what sun there was, disappearing from the sky! An 800 ASA film would probably be ideal for this situation too. You may also be able to use a good flash with the 800 ASA, as the distances are not too great - a bit far for 400 ASA though.
A sumptuous dinner was served on the open air deck at the lodge, with candles at the tables. There was certainly plenty of good food to eat, and I am sure that none of the guests starved. After dinner, there was an informative slide show on birds and animals of the region, together with a bit of history of Sandakan and the surrounding area.
By 20.30 hrs, we were beat. Our escapade of the
previous day, and almost total lack of sleep, had caught up with us - we
were off to bed with the news that we would be woken at 05.30 hrs for a06.00
hr departure by boat to the Kelenanap Oxbow Lake, further down river.
DAY 6We were woken about 05.30 hrs by a bunch of Gibbons. A knock on our door then indicated to us that it was time to get up for our trip to the ox bow lake. We were firstly provided with a cup of coffee to get us going, and then into the boat for the trip up the river. The Kinabatangan in the vicinity of Sukau is tidal, the water however is not particularly salty. It was an amazing site to see the numbers of logs which lay in the middle of the river. They apparently ebb and flow with the tide, tending to be washed out to the coast in flood periods. At times the boat had to weave its way carefully around the logs. It is a picturesque time of the morning to be on the river - the temperature of the water is actually slightly warmer than the air, and the fog rises gently above the water, so that everything takes on a slightly ghost- like appearance. As the sun warmed the air, the fog gradually disappeared.
The birds of the area were up and about. We saw quite a number of hornbills in the tree tops, and flying around, however, they were always too far away for that "just perfect" photograph which you would love to be able to get. There were, however, many other water birds including snake birds and various cranes, egrets, sea eagles, herons and parakeets. After about 20 mins of travel on the main river we turned into a very small tributary to the river - so small that if you did not know it was there you could easily miss it. Once on the tributary, the jungle closed in around us, and we were able to take in the sounds of the jungle just beyond our sight. We were, however, to be disappointed. As we arrived at the entry to the lake, we found that the water hyacinth which has a prolific rate of growth, had in fact closed off the entry, There was about 15 metres of the weed between us and the main body of the lake, and there was no way that we were going to be able to cut our way through it without some serious effort, and of course, some decent tools. So we turned the boat around and headed back to base. We subsequently heard, about a week later, that the entry had been cleared and that the wildlife seen in and around the lake had been the highlight of the trip to Borneo for the people who told us about it. We'll just have to come back again!
That is actually something about Borneo which a lot of people may have trouble coming to terms with. Although plans are made, it is not always possible for the particular programme to proceed in its entirety. Sometimes you have to accept that this is not a developed area, and that things do not always proceed with the clockwork efficiency of the Swiss or even the Japanese. The best way to handle a trip to Borneo is to sit back and let everything happen, and don't get upset if it for some reason is delayed, or fails to happen altogether. I know people who would not enjoy this type of trip at all because things do not happen the way that they are used to. An example of this is the train trip we did to Tenom - there are days where the train will not run due to circumstances beyond anyone's control. That is just the way things are in Borneo!! But, I digress.
There were some swiftlets visible as we walked around the cave, including some baby swiftlets, as the hatching season had just finished. The valuable nests, though, are higher up in the cave.
We arrived in Miri just as the sun was setting, and were transferred to the Rihga Royal Hotel [now known as the Miri Marriott - ed] which lies on the outskirts of the main part of the city, located on the coast. In a way it was a pity that the sun had already set, as the sunsets from the hotel are apparently superb.
As we arrived at the hotel we noticed a sign advertising that the hotel had the largest swimming pool in the whole of Sarawak. One would have to admit that it is a fairly big pool, and we decided that after being on the go for the whole day, we deserved a relaxing swim in the largest pool in Sarawak!
The next day we were in for another adventure - Mulu.