Kota Kinabalu and Rasa Ria
We arrived in Kota Kinabalu at about 5pm on friday the 12th, I was on a flight with 2 girls on the project; Kate and Kirsten. We had a 6 hour wait at Bandar Seri Bergawan airport in Brunei Darrusalam where we had a complimentary tour of the city which was pretty cool, we saw the water village - a whole village including schools and drs surgeries and everything on stilts! Its a very wealthy country and as a result very little logging for timber goes on there. The tour took us past the Sultans palace too, which is the largest residential palace in the world! There were so many mosques with gold rooves, it was spectacular!
On arriving in KK we met most of the other volunteers - only 2 were yet to arrive, and met Albert, who is travellers coordinater in KK. We went for dinner at a Thai resteraunt, which was very nice! We were staying in the Tang Dynasty hotel for 2 nights, I met my roomate Annabel when I got back from dinner. In the morning we went down for breakfast where we met the film crew that would be following one of the volunteers, Alice who is from Austria. After breakfast we went to the market in KK which was fantastic but I found the stalls selling pets quite disturbing, the Terrapins had no water and alot of the fish had only a couple of inches of water, all the animals were in the heat of the midday sun which was horrible and I felt so powerless to help. In the afternoon, Kate, Kirsten, Annabel and I went to Manukan, and Island about 20 minutes boat ride from KK in the Tunku Abdul Rahman national park, we hired snorkels and saw some fantastically diverse sea life, the visibility wasn't great but it was still amazing and the South China sea was like a bath! Then we went for some drinks at a nearby bar before getting the boat back! In the evening we went for dinner at an Italian (not the most cultural choice perhaps, but it was lovely!) then we met a guy called Maximus who ran a white water rafting centre who showed us the way the the Q bar (gay bar) owned by Albert, where a few of us had some drinks then made our way back to the hotel.
On Sunday we were drove 45 minutes to Shangri-La's Rasa Ria resort, where for 9 days of the placement we would be working on the game reserve there, although unfortunately not staying in the hotel, so we made the most of the 2 nights we had there! I can honestly say I've never stayed anywhere so posh! So much for roughing it! The group met in the coffee lounge for a set 3-cpurse lunch (way too much food!) then Annabel and I went for a swim in the sea followed by some lush cocktails (I had a rainbow rum - looks as cool as it sounds!) before going for a buffet dinner!
Monday was our last day in Rasa Ria before flying out to Sepilok, we went for a short jungle trek up to the top of the hill, I fared better than I expected, I thought I would be way to unfit to cope with the uphill struggle and the heat, but I think I did quite well! The view at the top was spectacular, I could see all the way to Mount Kinabalu, which I plan to climb once I finish my project :S On the way down we went via the Orang-Utan feeding platform where I saw my first Orang-Utan in Borneo! It was amazing, although they were by no means wild (they were young ones that were let out to play in the rainforest during the day) it was still wonderful to see them where they should be, doing what they should be!
In the evening Alice and I went horse riding along the beach, it was so nice! I rode a horse called Toulouse, he was lovely and full of energy despite the heat! After a shower we went for some more cocktails, another buffet dinner and then post-dinner cocktails - and to think I was imagining I'd lose weight when I came out here!
I was kind of glad when we left the resort the next day - I felt a bit of a fraud, I am meant to be roughing it after all! The flight from KK to Sandakan only took 25 minutes, it was a bit bumpy though! Sepilok was only a 20 minute drive from the airport but I began to see the extent of the palm oil industry on that drive, Albert told us that although it was no means ideal it is the most sustainable form of vegetable oil.
I'm going to bed now, There will be more to follow on my adventures in Sepilok!