Taking on the wildlife.
31.01.2007 28 °C
Well it's certainly a long slog from French Polynesia to Borneo but after a flight from Pape'ette to Auckland, Auckland to Kuala Lumpur and Kuala Lumpur to Kuching I was finally able to start living the Borneo dream.
Kuching (means "Cat" in Malay)
The capital city of Sarawak, the largest of the two Malaysian Borneo states is probably one of the most refined cities I have visited in SE Asia. Full of charm, friendly people and delicious food I was pleased to be using it as my base for exploring the nearby Longhouses and National Parks of Sarawak.
My first few days were spent visiting the Sarawak Museum, Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre and the Cultural Village.
Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.
The centre attempts to rehabilitate orang-utans, monkeys and honey bears which have been orphaned or illegally caged ready for a safe release back into the wild. I was up at the crack of dawn in the teaming rain to catch the early morning feeding for the best chance of a sighting.
Well it appears my "kiss of death" approach to spotting wildlife continues as despite the guides hour long attempt to coax them out of the wild with some pretty impressive Tarzanesque mating calls we saw absolutely zip. I wondered whether it may be the rain but figured orang-utans are pretty hardy creatures and was then informed that with it being fruiting season they are able to source all thier own fodder so they rarely make an appearance for a slice of Watermelon. Although slightly disappointed I did feel gutted for the older couple I got chatting to next to me, apparently it was their fourth consecutive visit and still no-show - you think you'd get the hint....
Sarawak Cultural Village.
The village provides examples of traditional dwellings built by the different tribes of Sarawak in a sort of living museum. The dwellings are inhabited by tribes people who demonstrate local arts & crafts, blowpipe shooting and musical performances. All in all it was very well done although obviously quite touristy. I think the secret is to get as involved as possible, I aced blowpipe shooting, sucked at basket weaving and put in a performance to be proud on the drums.
Longhouse - Sarawak Cultural Village
Fancy looking guitar
Bako National Park.
Covering an area of 2,727 hectares and hugging the South China Sea on the tip of the Muara Tebas Peninsula Bako contains also every type of vegetation found in Borneo as well as an abundance of wildlife.
After registering at the park headquarters it was a rather choppy 30 minute crossing on a tiny four man boat expertly chartered by a very small, very smiley Malay guy who kept reassuring us we were Ok as we crashed through the massive waves. Shared the boat trip with a scouse guy Daz who was to become my trekking and drinking buddy for the next few days.
One of the main draw cards of Bako apart from the rainforests, jungle and pristine beaches are the Proboscis Monkey. Bako is home to 150 of this rare breed which are only found in Borneo. So you can appreciate my delight when we chanced across three or four feeding on the mangroves as we set off on our first trek. We also spotted Long-tailed macaques, silver leaf monkeys, monitor lizards a bearded pig just for good measure.
Day two involved a leisurely 8 hour trek through the park. There are 16 different colour coded trails running through the park which are easy to navigate so there is no need to take a guide along. That night we also did an hour long night hike (this time with a guide) who pointed out a whole manner of creepy crawlies some of which glowed in the dark which was pretty cool.
So that's Kuching and now it's time to make a move after a thoroughly enjoyable 10 days.
Next stop - Miri.