As they say in Borneo ‘ Selamat datang ‘ or welcome and so I hoped it would prove to be , having always wanted to go to this mythical place the land of The Headhunters and strange orange apes .Having reviewed itineries of various companies ‘ Wildlife Worldwide’ were selected and a fusion of their Sarawak and Sabah tours put together with it being a tailor made tour . The trip was timed to have the best of the weather post the monsoons which occur in this part of the world . The ground operations in Borneo were undertaken by Borneo Adventures who were exemplary in all aspects anyway enough of that lets get on with the tour .Flying into Kuching the capital city of the district of Sarawak via Kuala Lumpur ( KL ) gives you a great base for further local travels.On arrival here the hold luggage was still at KL so a swift window shopping trip was carried out but fear not it arrived on the next plane .
Having seen a big poster of Arsenal FC in a shopping Mall of which a picture text was duly sent to a mate who just happens to be a Spurs fan , he did see the funny side of it eventually.Day one took the form of a trip out to the Santubong River which flows out into the sea via Kuching . It was here that several Irrawaddy dolphins were seen interacting with the local fishermen as they sorted through their latest catches throwing their bycatch back for them . These dolphins are an esturine species and are named after a river in Burma they are also threatened in some of their range . Then heading seaward going past Tukong Ara island Great Crested , Bridled ,Black Naped and a local race of Common Tern were seen in close proximity . Further out towards Satang Island where a local conservation project monitors and protects nesting Green and Hawksbill turtles , we even had a couple in the sea close by whilst snorkelling.
The following day it was a trip to Gunung Gading National Park , Gunung meaning Mountain in Malay. The focus of this trip was to observe Rafflesia flowers ( largest in the World) at close quarters to see these it required the help of a local guide . Being parasitic on host vines they smell of rotting flesh to attract flies to pollinate them . Though this was supposed to be the highlight of the day, my own personal one was being invited into a Muslim wedding with my guide as a complete stranger, dined but not wined obviously it was a real emotional experience and one I will never forget .
The next three days was spent enjoying the sights and sounds of Bako NP which was the first National Park in Sarawak. The only way in is via boat a brief view of a saltwater crocodile prior to landing at the jetty was the first glimpse of this magical place . All visitors have to be signed in and guided whilst there if you are stopping overnight , our guide Joe had incredible eyesight and found some of the more tricky species such as Brown Skink Lizard , Colugo male and female this is the nocturnal flying lemur and Bornean Pit Viper . On free time I just marvelled at the Proboscis Monkeys a real mangrove / coastal specie with a lot of its habitat threatened elsewhere but my real favourites were the Silver Leaf Langurs which are known as the David Beckham monkey on account of their trendy hairstyle.
Transfering to Mulu the next day to Gunung Mulu NP this would be an altogether different experience visiting jungle and a series of world renowned caves and viewing their inhabitants . Over the next couple of days Clearwater, Wind, Lang and Deer Caves were visited some via longtail boat and others on foot .
Close by is the Sun Bear conservation Centre( the worlds smallest bear ) it is also known as the Honey Bear as they climb trees and raid bees nests for the honey. Hunting and the capture for the barbaric Chinese practice of extracting bile for traditional( <<< I hate that word) medicines has really pushed these creatures to the edge .
Palm Oil is used in so many products worldwide, it crops throughout the year and creates jobs in more remote but is essentially a monocrop more of that in a moment. Upon arrival at Lahad Datu which is essentially a Palm oil town you have to check in at the airport based Office for Tabin Wildlife reserve before proceeding there .
After about 50 minutes of sheer bum shaking in the minibus on a terrible road we finally swept into Tabin Jungle Lodge. An Incredible place so far removed from everywhere else with some primary and secondary rainforest on site. Again over 300 species of bird can be seen here as well as a large number of mammals. We found out that our guide Herykahn had won the 2015 Sandakan bird race so we should be on a winner. With Asian short clawed otters in the river, and rather aggressive pig tailed Macques close to the lodge there was plenty to see without travelling far. There is a small group of Asian Rhino in a captive breeding programme here. The saying here is you wake up with Gibbons and go to bed with cicadas not literally but the sound of. So it proved with Bornean Gibbons the stars of the show as they crossed the trees just above the road over our heads singing and calling away .
They just have to be one of my favourite creatures on this earth, their call and their agility second to none . Day walks gave views of Mouse deer, Sambar deer but still no Elephants with the group here said to number 80+. Night drives with soft coloured lamps gave views of Buffy Fish Owl , Barred Eagle Owl , Malaysian Civets , Leopard cat , wild boar and more .Several more species of Hornbill were seen to take our list up to seven of the eight species found in Borneo . Many other raptors were seen as well as three types of Pittas . In this part of Sabah the rats and other rodents build up in the Oil palm areas this in turn helps some of the aforementioned nocturnal species as they are favourite prey items.After all of the Jungle activity a retreat to an off shore island spa resort was the only way to unwind . So to Gaya Island with lots of snorkelling over the pristine corals and all their life in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park . From Land you had great views of Mount Kinabalu at a towering 4095 metres above sea level.So as a place Borneo is a staggering place like no other, with incredible diversity it is facing challenges but projects like the heart of Borneo Initiative offer hope for the future before it is too late .