We arrived in Kota Kinabalu and were met at the airport by a transfer. Mum had organised a 10 day tour of Borneo through Intrepid Travel so we had to at back and be led around the island.
We got to the hotel and had the day to kill before meeting our guide and the rest of our group. We opted to fill that time with a relaxing massage. Well it was supposed to be relaxing, I had a hot stone massage, mum and head neck and shoulders. The ambiance of my massage was constantly interrupted by giggles, oofs and ahhhs coming from mums bed next door. Not sure mum enjoyed it too much, saying that she didn’t have as many knots in the shoulders afterwards!
We met our group the following day, 8 Australians, 2 Americans and us 2 brits. We would be lead by our guide Aldrin. We made our introductions and sat and listened to the tour itinerary. Due to the nature of the “comfort” tour, many of our fellow tourists were a bit older, and the itinerary was suited to an older clientele. It was perfect for mum, maybe a bit restrictive for me but we would have fun.
After introductions we grabbed some much needed zs.
I awoke early the following day, and decided to start my 29th year as I meant it to go on, by a morning trip to the hotel gym!
We jumped on a bus and headed a few hours out of KK towards mount Kinabalu. We spent some time at a stunning viewpoint enjoying the imposing view of the mountains before heading out to a local town.
We had a lovely walk through the town, seeing all the local fruits growing, including some juicy looking pineapples! The walk was topped off by some wonderful home cooked lunch, at a locals house. We got to learn about the local culture and way of life.
We followed lunch with a hike around the Kinabalu mountain national park. While I would have loved to have climbed the mountain mum wouldn’t have managed to get to the top. It was a 2 night trek. We settled for the hour long hike around. It was a nice walk. I’m incredibly proud of mum for how she did. It wasn’t an easy walk, it was a hot day, hiking through slippery and uneven ground, and she smashed it.
For a 50 something year old woman who struggles with problems with her feet I couldn’t have asked for more!
Following our walk around we visited a memorial for the victims of the Sandakan death marches.
When we learn of wwii in the uk we learn of the European war, nothing about the war in Africa or Asia. Considering 600 brits died on these forced marches I think its appalling I had never heard of them.
As the war was nearing its end, the Japanese force marched 2345 POWs across treacherous trails. They had little food, were malnourished and suffering. If they fell behind they were killed.
The trail had been cut by locals. Thinking it was for the Japanese soldiers they made the trail through the roughest terrain they could. Only 6 people survived the march’s, and these only survived as they had escaped and were sheltered by the locals.
The memorial lovely. Its situated close to the end of the march and features an Australian, Malaysia and English garden.
It was a lovely way to spend my birthday!
The next day we went and visited a tea plantation. Id been to many on my travels but it was still interesting to see how companies like PG and Tetley’s get their tea. We went into the processing plant and saw the leaf to bag processes.
Another drive found at our jungle resort. Situated just inside the jungle by the Kinabatangan river. Our home for the next 2 nights. We had 3 river cruises scheduled. I search of the elusive Orang-utan.
We boarded the boat for the first of our 2 evening cruises and set off. Both armed with our cameras were eagerly eyeing the trees and foliage on both sides of the river for signs of life.
We quickly came across some Macaque monkeys playing up in the trees. We saw eagles and hornbills, flying In the sky or perched majestically on the tallest trees.
The highlight of this cruise was finding the Proboscis monkeys. Huge animals with bulbous noses. They were great to watch as they look so bizarre.
The monkey even put on a show for us
We woke early the next morning for another cruise. We again saw lots of birds and monkeys. We were also absolutely privileged to find an Orang-utan.
When mum booked this trip my biggest reservation was that we wouldn’t get to hike overnight into the jungle to find wild orang-utans, so it was a huge surprise to see one so close to the river! Mum took great delight capturing the orang-utan on her camera. The moment was made even more special when we realised the Orang-utan was a mother, with her baby.
These amazing creatures are endangered as their habitat is being destroyed. We saw evidence of that throughout the trip with huge palm oil plantations. Miles upon miles of palm trees, where before had been wild jungle.
It was very emotional seeing the orang-utans and I think mum was very close to tears. Ive not seen her that happy since we had travelled to China.
After our morning cruise we took a walk through the jungle. It was quite a tough hike and again mum smashed it. At points she was convinced she couldn’t carry on, but she did, and she made it! Very proud son! I think she surprised herself with how much she was capable of! she even managed to find inside a hollow tree.
That evening we had our last cruise and went in search of some Pygmy elephants. After a mad rush chasing another boat who had clearly heard something, we found ourselves along a stretch of river with several other boats scanning the shore. We spotted them first!
3 pygmy elephants next to the shore, hidden in long grass. While they are called pygmy, they are smaller than traditional Asian elephants, they are anything but small! It was again amazing seeing so much life within the jungle! I was amazing at how well such huge creatures can be hidden in the dense jungle!
The next morning we got up and went to visit a cave. Not just any cave, this cave is where the birds nests are harvested for birds nest soup. Its also home to over 1million bats, countless cockroaches and poisonous millipedes.
On our walk over to the cave lady luck again smiled upon us. As we were walking along the boardwalk towards the cave, we saw another wild orang-utan off in the distance. Our guide also got incredibly excited as we saw another monkey. We thought it sweet that he still got excited seeing something he must see all the time. Only to realise, he had seen a red tail monkey. The first he had seen in over a year!
As we made our way to the gave entrance we were also greeted by lots of macaques, including a baby and mother.
You could smell the cave before you saw it. 1 million bats make a lot of guano mess. The walk thorough the dark cave was great. The formation of the cave was majestic. The smell notwithstanding. We didn’t see any birds nests as it was out of season but saw lots of roaches and centipedes and hundreds of bats!
That afternoon we visited the site of the Sandakan POW camp. Beautifully maintained it tells stories of the survivors, locals and those who didn’t make it. Its a very sad place but I’m glad I could pay my respects and learn more about the atrocity that was committed.
Next up was a visit to an orang-utan sanctuary. Having seen them in the wild I wasn’t overly keen on this part. It was really nice to see them up-close, it still had the feel of a tourist trap.
While it does a really great job of helping injured and orphaned orang-utans, I’m still not a huge fan of animals in captivity, even if its a loose captivity. There were just too many people making to much noise for me!
The same can be said of the Proboscis sanctuary we visited. Where the “Keepers” were encouraging the monkeys to stamped and perform for the crowd. People sticking camera phones in the faces of wild animals just doesn’t sit right with me. At one point a keeper got a group of monkeys to stampede to get some food.
A mother abandoned her baby to get the food, the baby was quickly surrounded by camera phone wielding tourists. The cries of fear from the baby was completely heart-breaking. The keepers just sat by and watched. Disgusting, I had to leave before I lost my temper and did my own camera phone smashing stampede.
The sanctuary for the sun bears we visited was 1thousand times better. Big enclosures where the tourists couldn’t get near the bears! Much better.
We even saw on of these beasts climbing up the tallest tree! Stunning!
We flew back to KK and got on a boat to spend 2 days on one of the surrounding islands. It was my time to do some diving! After 4 weeks I was again getting withdrawal symptoms.
The resort we stayed at was stunning. Lovely beaches and a great chalet.
I took mum out snorkelling for her first experience of that. Unfortunately she didn’t like it, at all. The feeling of breathing under the water was one she couldn’t quite relax into and she had a tendency to panic a bit when she couldn’t touch the bottom.
We wandered along the pier in the evening and were again lucky enough to spot a shark swimming around under the pier! Talk about animal spotting luck!!
Mum got covered in bites that night, lots of which swelled up so she took a day off while I went diving. 3 nice dives around 3 islands.
They were easy shallow dives and while fun, the visibility wasn’t amazing and the fins I was using were shite, which can ruin a dive. To much time concentrating on compensating for those than enjoying the sites. I was also grouped with some new divers which was again frustrating as I had to surface when they inevitably ran out of air early. That being said it was great to be back diving.
We headed back to KK for another massage and relaxing night before saying farewell to the group and boarding a plane to Singapore.