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I’m dropped off (Thanks Proboscis Lodge) at the Tabin Wildlife Resort office beside the Lahad Datu Airport and head for what is considered Sabah’s ‘greatest wildlife sanctuary’ and which is amazingly twice the size of Singapore. The resort is the only accommodation in the area – I will stay for 2 nights and three days.
It’s on the Dent Peninsula, jutting into the Sulawesi Sea, and is an hour’s journey from here: once we get to the entrance it’s still another 10 km on an unsealed, lumpy road. We’re travelling on roads with oil plantations on either side of the road and my heart sinks. I don’t think there will be much wildlife in this environment. How wrong I was!
I’m the only person being picked up at this time so can sit in the front for good views during the journey, including seeing a magnificent Mengaris tree. I later realise this must be the most photographed and tallest rainforest tree in the area.
Monitor lizards are sunning themselves on the road, and a raptor flies overhead: both animals are scavengers so I realise there is food around for them – confirming that some of my pre-Borneo perceptions about some oil plantations are obviously wrong.
The Tabin Wildlife Resort brochure says is ‘Borneo’s Birding & Wildlife Paradise’, and to reinforce the claim, all visitors are given a ‘pocket checklist’ for recording the creatures we see. It starts with the 260 species of birds recorded here. I ticked off about 25 despite not a being a ‘birder’ in the usual sense of the word – and saw more than I ticked!
Guests are assigned a guide when they arrive – I’ve just driven in, haven’t been given one or been shown my room when I’m told, ‘quick, come with me, gibbons just past your room.’ OMG. My first sighting of something I’ve never seen before and it’s only a 2 min walk from the dining room, 20 seconds past my accommodation. I’m in love already.
Gibbons, it seems are silent except for an hour or two on awakening, and these are silent as they swing circus-like from branch to branch, just as you imagine all monkeys do (but don’t). They’re hard to photograph because of their speed, and their hook-shaped hands and comically extra-long arms and long legs make them really agile and I ‘ooh and aah’ with pleasure as I watch them in the tree canopy where they spend most of their time. Lunch can wait.
Like tightrope walkers they use outstretched arms to help keep their balance and I’m amazed at how they leap across large gaps, from branch to branch and it’s not until they move on into the deeper forest that I go and check out my lovely unit that overlooks a small river – an ideal spot to relax to the soothing sound of water and watch many birds, butterflies and the mischievous macaque when they travel through the resort. Just sitting there makes me realise why Tabin is considered a bird-watchers paradise.
The next morning about the time I wake up, the same family (mum, dad, and 3 youngsters) announce their presence with territorial hooting calls, warning other gibbons to stay out of their ‘hood. This noisy display takes 1/2 hour or more every morning and is started by the adult female – it is also she who decides when to move on too I’m told by Palin my ‘Tabin Native Guide’.
Their haunting calls can often be heard for long distances and consists of a duet between the mated pair with the young ones sometimes joining in. Monogamous, and endemic to these dense forests, they are tailless with coats that range from brown to nearly black, and with white markings on their faces and hands. Among the most threatened primates with their habitat disappearing at a rapid rate, they’re often captured and sold as pets or killed for use in traditional medicines. All but one species of gibbon are listed as endangered or critically endangered. This one, the Müller’s Bornean Gibbon (Gray) is endemic to the island of Borneo.
Seeing them so unexpectedly was just the first of many highlights in this small river valley and resort, in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve which is twice the size of Singapore. The reserve is managed by Sabah Wildlife Department who, with the Sabahmas Plantation, also have a project in the area to encourage the Sumatran rhinos to breed: there are only 30 to 50 in the world.
Dominated by secondary growth, with patches of virgin forest, this area is largely surrounded by oil plantations which I now find makes it easy to see many creatures as they move between the plantations and forest for food – or even wander down the road. I believe the reserve and plantation share a 9 km boundary which means resort, the department, and the oil plantations have shared responsibilities for the flora and fauna of the area – an alliance that seems to be working for them all, and the animals.
Ugly animals to fall in love with http://ow.ly/vMM1f #Borneo #Sarawak #Malaysia #travel #photos
Birds fight over food near a fishing boat, Kaikoura, New Zealand.
Our boatman, a local tribesman employed at the Proboscis Lodge for his water and nature skills, is a skilled boatman and during our safari turns the motor off, or uses the quiet electric outboard motor, when we stop to watch wildlife.
‘Look before you leap’ does not seem to be a saying that proboscis monkeys observe. They’re a noisy troop communicating with honks and groans and crash through the foliage, leaping from tree to tree and landing almost as a belly flop. A threatened species, they are a columbine monkey, which means they have enlarged, multi-chambered stomachs that has a bacteria which aids digestion, particularly of the hard-to-digest leaves they eat, and making them the only ruminant primate.
I’m told the babies have blue faces; all have webbed feet and can swim well; they only live about 13 years and need to range widely to find sufficient nourishment I love these comically long-nosed proboscis monkeys more than the world-renown man-of-the-forest the orang-utan and loved that we could sit in the boat and watch them living in the wild.
Twice I saw wild orang-utan in this area: I also saw people in a small electric boat. (They’re either NGOs or a University research team) Seems they often record all they see here, monitoring the animals – especially I think, as some Sepilok orang-utan have been released in the area.
My journal is full of sightings; palm squirrels, long-tailed and pig-tailed macaques, and langur. A Storm’s stork, Serpent eagle, and Brahminy kite to name just a few birds. Up a side river, the Menanggol, an estuarine crocodiles, on the bank and in the water, eyes on us: these huge creatures, up to 8 metres in length, once prized for their hides, are now extremely rare. An optional extra, my night boat safari adds two civet cats and a couple of Buffy fish owls and the beautiful stork-billed kingfisher, the largest of kingfishers; this whole area, like Bako, is just another place on my revisit bucket list along with the caves here and in Sarawak.
Borneo is young geologically and was once the huge land of Sundaland, a bio-geographical region of Southeast Asia, the part of the Asian continental shelf that was exposed during the last ice age. It included the Malay Peninsula on the Asian mainland, as well as the large islands of Borneo, Java, and Sumatra and their surrounding islands and when the ice-age finished, the sea rose and Borneo became isolated, the large island it is today.
New Zealand week in Malaysia #travel #NZ #Sarawak #Malaysia http://ow.ly/vxo1m
Shortly I’m off to my favourite Asian country – Malaysia – in time to be at the Borneo Jazz Festival (9/11 May) in Miri, Sarawak. (Staying at the Park City Everly Hotel)
The Borneo Jazz Festival was suggested around 2006 as a way to increase visitor arrivals to Miri and the northern region of Sarawak. I’m expecting a fun-filled and entertaining musical experience while also exploring Miri – I…
Snake-like, the Kinabatangan is a 560 kilometre river and after a road trip from Sandakan I’m picked up by boat to travel on it to the Proboscis Lodge where I’m staying 3 days and 2 nights. Sabah’s longest river, this area of it is the 26,000 hectare Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, home to all 8 species of hornbill, as well as orang-utan, proboscis monkey, crocodiles, pygmy elephant and many colourful tropical birds and many other species of Malaysian Borneo’s remarkable wildlife.
I love it when I learn something new and I join other guests on a boat to go to an oxbow lake. I thought it was a funny name for a lake, and it’s not until the next day, browsing in the Lodges library, that I realise exactly what it is we saw. They’re a unique feature of this unusual area, an area that’s influenced by tides as well as the flooding from heavy rains, and there are about 20 ‘oxbow lakes’ in the Lower Kinabatangan. I learn they’re formed by large meandering bends in the river’s course that eventually get cut off from the main river by erosion on the bends; flooding then changes the river’s direction as the gush of water rushes directly towards the sea. This eventually leaves a lake behind, cut off from the main river flow and the ‘oxbow’ refers to the shape of the wooden harnesses on oxen – and the only oxbow I’d ever heard of until now.
These occasional massive floods slowly change the river, and the lakes too are eventually claimed by vegetation: this process is speeding up by the invasive water hyacinth which has been in the area for about 100 years. Listed as one of the most productive plants on earth – it can double in size in 12 days and is considered the world’s worst aquatic plant. It forms dense mats that competitively exclude native submersed and floating-leaved plants and low oxygen conditions develop beneath them. Recent studies have shown it to be very useful in absorbing heavy metals from polluted water and here in Malaysia, this plant has also been used to feed ducks and pigs.
Travelling up the narrow stream that joins the lake to the river suddenly it opens out to a huge expansive lake: fascinating and peaceful. It’s a great spot for birders and fishers who mainly use nets for their fishing.
I take four boat trips while at Proboscis Lodge and each one provides a different aspect to this scientifically, and historically, important region and I see one of the four tallest trees in the world, the Mengaris. Locals believe these trees, in which bees often form hives, have spirits living in them and that ill fortune will come to those who cut them. Driving around, areas that have been cleared for oil plantations often have these tall trees reaching skyward, more I suspect for practical reasons than because of myths, I’m told the tree has silica which soon blunts saws!
It’s in this region, in the ‘land of Hornbills’ that I’m finally seeing many hornbills although the Malaysia Nature Society says there are less around. Like New Zealand’s native Kereru, the world’s largest wood pigeon with its distinctive swishing sound, I hear the hornbills in flight before I see them as they fly into a roosting tree at the lodge. It’s for sights, and sounds, like these that I love to travel, and for my concern for habitat both here and in my country (NZ).
I could have, I wish I had, stayed twice as long in this magical place, and more blogs will follow!
how to order coffee in New Zealand … home of the lang flat white! ( which I don’t drink!) http://wp.me/Pc3Zw-a8
‘Never smile at a crocodile‘ the old song went. This is estuarine crocodile certainly has a wide-mouthed smile!
Photo taken when I was on a river safari as part of my stay at the fabulous Proboscis Lodge on the Kinabatangan River – Sabah’s biggest river.
They’re easy to spot at night as their eyes shine red in the torchlight. We saw many of these reptiles sunning themselves on the riverbanks. I…
What are my qualifications for writing this blog you may ask
Well, I can spell Rugby, and I’m a girl
- I once, briefly, coached a rugby team of 7 or 8 year-old boys
- My husband coached a team ( Shirley Club)
- Buck Shelford is my by marriage cousie-bro (for the curious; his grandfather and my mother-in-law were twins)
- I am a one-eyed Cantabrian and an All Blacks supporter
- My younger son played for Shirley, and Canterbury in the lowest grade (before a major motor-bike accident)
- I opposed the Springboks playing in NZ and was even arrested in 1981 for protesting
- I’m opinionated and love fun – and these are my best qualifications to write this blog
How to pick the best team to follow
If you don’t have a particular local team to follow during the world cup colours are a great way to choose one.
Find the team whose colours suit YOU best and become their fan. If black makes YOU look cute, follow the All Blacks. If green and gold are your favourite colours well it’s the Australian team for you as that’s their sporting strip. There are many stripes of red, blue and white.
When the forwards get into a huddle to fight for the ball the technical term is a scrum. Sometimes the “other team” behave badly when in this pack, (cluster or huddle) and have to be sent to the sin-bin.
Learn history: NZ Rugby started in Nelson – it originated in the mid-1800s, in the UK, when some cheeky bloke called William Web-Ellis picked up the ‘foot’ ball and ran with it: or so I believe!
For your information: touch judges never touch anyone, and hookers are not REAL hookers – they are very import in the scrum as it’s their job to ‘hook the ball’ away for the ‘other’ team. When they do that they become happy-hookers, although this is not an official rugby term.
Use Numerology Pick the player to support and follow by his number ( which as you know equates to his position on the field) For me that would be an easy choice, as my local team, (Canterbury/Crusaders ) and the All Blacks #7 is the world’s #1 (Richie McCaw )
Learn the rules and rugby-speak. That will amaze the boys (and other girls too I guess) then pick a team (or player) and support them totally: remember they can do no wrong! A sign at the Christchurch Central library – ‘books with balls’ – Well, rugby is a game with balls! The commentators often make (inadvertently) funny comments when talking about balls and you can too.
Crouch, touch, pause, engage. This is a rugby term used when the forwards get into a huddle to fight for the ball. It can be used as a timing strategy in many situations that need a few seconds countdown. A friend uses it daily in her to get in and out of her apartment
The three biggest men are put in the front row of the scrum, and the next two biggest get behind (they call these men ‘the tight five’ because they hang onto each other tightly) them and try to push the other team backwards. In the ‘olden days’ supporters would call out ‘weight weight’ meaning put more weight into the big shove. My mother embarrassed me by saying “No, don’t wait.’ She needed a guide like this!
The ‘backs’ have mathematical terms for some position names – for someone lousy at figures it is not strange that my teenage love played as ‘fullback’ or #15 rather than one of the five-eights. Other names such as ‘centre’ #13 and ‘wing’ (11 & 14) are self-explanatory
The ‘tight-five’ is a dangerous place to be especially for ears. Many people don’t like cauliflower, and no-one wants their ears to be called that but many front-rowers have them because of repeated hits to the ear. Once this happens, the person’s ear may look lumpy forever. Some wise players try to prevent this by wearing headgear.
Read rugby history … this link is about the 50 greatest All Blacks … knowing this will impress your rugby-head matesGirls guide to rugby What are my qualifications for writing this blog you may ask Well, I can spell Rugby, and I’m a girl…
Unfortunately, because of time pressure, I only had 2 nights at the Sepilok Jungle Resort - a handy base for exploring the Sandakan area of east Sabah. I start talking to a woman at dinner time and find she was one of the original owners! She and her husband started the lodge some 18 years ago and as well as increasing the number of rooms, they planted all the magnificent plants and trees. ( it’s still a family business)
Their rooms range from dormitory to air-conditioned deluxe with balcony rooms and over the years the trees have grown and the Resort is set in this magnificent landscape – it’s also the first place I saw the bird om my bucket list – the fascinating hornbills.
I also saw many birds, fruit bats and butterflies feeding on fruits and flowers as well as fish feeding in their lakes: it’s the perfect place to relax in tropical jungle surroundings.
This is a great base to visit other places including needing just a five minutes’ walk to the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary which is on everyone’s to-do list.
I also went to the Agnes Keith House from here, attended the Sandakan Memorial Day ceremony for the Death Marches, and visited the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary as I’d been told it was the best place to see them up close – this was true but I loved seeing them in the wild albeit a little further away! These monkeys are only found on Borneo making them rarer than orangutans.
Thanks for the great accommodation!
Sepilok staff, the orang-utan minders, remind us to keep noise to a minimum, to keep our belongings safe from the naughty, inquisitive macaques and, after wiping our feet on a disinfectant-drenched mat – to help reduce contamination of their space with our human bugs – we walk to the platform area.
This is where the orang-utans, often orphans, who have graduated from the nursery (learning essential skills they would usually learn from their mother) to this ‘outdoor nursery’ where these young ‘wild men of Borneo’ are now learning jungle skills and where they’re fed with supplements of fruit and milk. The aim of the centre is to help them become independent and integrated into the wild population.
I overhear a group talking. ‘I’d pay much more to come here’ which is fine for our western bank account but not for many locals. I believe it is great locals are coming as it’s these very families who will save the forests the animals need. They cannot be saved only by the western or tourist dollar – even though that is essential. If tourists such as I heard talking are ‘happy to pay more’ I suggest they make a donation or ‘adopt’ one of the orphans not that the Sepilok increase the price. Open twice daily, this is one of the few places that admission prices are the same for Malays and non-Malay.
I stayed only a few minutes away from Sepilok at the wonderful Sepilok Jungle Resort where I received some of the best, most efficient service of any accommodation places in the region. They were hosting me, but I also noticed how solicitous they were with a girl who arrived with infected insect bites, arranging for a car to take her and a parent to the Dr.
A family run business, which started in 1991, they have planted all the trees in the beautiful landscaped gardens and it’s a peaceful place to stay – I also saw my first hornbills there. With raised walkways connecting accommodation, pool, jacuzzi, reception, and café, it’s good for bird spotting. Even better, it’s only five minutes from the popular Sepilok rehabilitation centre and I walk there to see the current inhabitants. More about the Jungle Reserve in another blog.Orangutans need our protection Sepilok staff, the orang-utan minders, remind us to keep noise to a minimum, to keep our belongings safe from the naughty, inquisitive macaques and, after wiping our feet on a disinfectant-drenched mat - to help reduce contamination of their space with our human bugs - we walk to the platform area.