A Travellerspoint blog

Mabul and Sipadan

The last 3 days have been totally fantastic! We left on monday at about half 8, the 5 hour drive was fairly uneventful (by Malaysian driving standards!) and we arrived in a very rainy Semporna by 2. From there we took the boat to Mabul. It was really windy and we all got completely soaked. Several people (not naming any names) were really hungover from the previous nights antics but fortunately everyone managed to keep down their lunch of crisps, chocolate and coke. It took about an hour to get to Mabul, we landed at the homestay which was right at the edge of a water village and were shown to our rooms, they're pretty basic - just a matress on the floor but comfortable and the place had a really friendly atmosphere!
After we'd dryed off we walked through the little town to the resort on the other side of the island - all the locals were really friendly and all the children said hello as we went past! We walked by lots of little stalls selling fruit or sweets and some selling shells and jewellery. We went along the boardwalk to the bar at the resort where I had a fresh honeydew juice - it was really good! Then we walked by stopping off at the shop where Katie and I got some cheap board shorts. It was getting dark when we walked back and the 2 of us did get a bit lost, but only for about 15 minutes!
After dinner we pretty much went straight to bed (at about 8!) I slept pretty well even though the building swayed in the wind! The next day we got up early - the snorkellers left for Sipadan at 7 and even before that we were woken up by next doors chickens! Fiona, Jen, Katie, Annabel and I were all diving so we set out quite early to find out what time we needed to be there. When we got there they said they had no room for us today but we were going to do all 3 dives tomorrow. So we wandered over to the other side of the island and went snorkelling, even near the shore there were so many fish, very ominous looking black urchins, star fish and we even saw a mantis shrimp! At 12 we went back for lunch, but went back at 2. Annabel and I swam out rather than jumping off the pier but got stung by lots of tiny jellyfish, it just felt like wasp sting and didn't hurt for long though!
After the first day everyone was so brown despite it being really overcast, everyone except me that is! Apparently I'm just going to stay pale (and interesting).
Another early night (about half 9 this time! pushing the boat out!) as we didn't really know what time we were leaving to go diving the next day!
On Wednesday Jen and Fiona went to find out what time we were leaving, we had to be there by 7 so it was another early start! We got our kit together and left at around half 7. Jen hired an underwater camera and put her memory card in it - she got some fantastic pictures! In the morning we had 2 dives off Sipadan, Katie had never dived before and Annabel not for 10 years so they did 2 introductory dives so we weren't all together. The dives were incredible and the water was literally teeming with Green Turtles, we saw dozens of them! They were so graceful in the water, I'm not a great diver at the best of times but I felt very clumsy indeed next to them! A
Barracuda and a White tipped Shark came up for a closer inspection (we speculated later that it was possibly due to my nose bleeds) and we saw some amazingly coloured Nudibranchs!
After the first dive we stopped for an hour on Sipadan and had a snack of Nice biscuits and peanut butter - good combo! I was talking to the dive master and it turned out that he'd been working at Shamwari the year before me! It was really cool to talk about all the rangers we knew (and Louie!).
The next dive took us to Barracuda point, it was soon obvious why it was called that when we swam past a school of hundreds of Barracuda!
We were back on Mabul for about half 12 so we got some lunch, Fiona, Jen and I had to be back for 2 for our last dive, we weren't going far as we had to leave the island by 4, so we went to an artificial reef off Mabul, it was another fantastic dive, we saw 2 more turtles resting on the sea bed aswell! It was quite eerie though with Jack Fish swimming inside the sunken house! 3 nose bleeds later - apparently some peoples noses just bleed when they dive :S we left Mabul and took a shorter much calmer boat trip back to Semporna - the sun even came out! John was waiting for us when we got there and we got back in good time! It was such a fantastic trip! Although I did feel homesick for the Rest House and Amoi's cooking! Which will continue for 9 days as Selina, Annabel and I are flying to KK to work at the Rasa Ria today! Will update when I get back!

Posted by Chewbecki 17:44 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Jungle trekking, sun bears, karaoke and more

I hope you all appreciate my ddedication to this blog - I am up at the crack of dawn to write it as I am off to Sipadan in an hour!
The last 9 days I've been jungle trekking, which has been great fun! The first 5 days of the placement we were counting the Orang-Utans nests in the morning, which involved walking between 2 and 4km and counting nests along a 2knm transects. It started of pretty tame, we mainly stuck to the paths but after a couple of days we were living more dangerously, I think its safe to say we'd have been up shit creek if we didn't have James leading the way! As we proved in the outdoor nursery our orienteering skills need work! We also had to balance along a few slipperly logs and climb over some questionably safe looking bridges! One day we walked out to the water hole and walked along the top of the waterfall!
We saw a few interesting things like a spider with red horns bigger than its body! and heard alot of bird calls including a wild peacock!
In the afternoons we were helping out at the Sun bears enclosure, they're such beautiful animals, the smallest of the bears with really long tongues, they eat mainly fruit and insects. Unfortunately the enclosure they have needs alot of work and the number of bears they have is contuinually growing, the week we were there they got the 12th addition, Susie. They badly need funds to build a new enclosure and a visitor centre as 2 of the bears - Susie and Syria (who is just a baby) are confined to small cages. Wai and Roslee (the bears keepers) do their best for the bears though, providing as much enrichment as possible. While we were there we raked leaves for in the enclosure, drilled holes in tyres to stop the water pooling in them ans prevent mosquitoes laying their eggs in them. When we went to the giant supermarket we bought a few bits for the bears - they love honey and Syria is particularly partial to peanut butter. We were scheduled to spend the first 5 afternoons with the bears but word came out that in addition to the new baby Orang-Utan and Susie there was a new Sumatran Rhino on the way (its been a year since the last one the centre cared for died) so we had to help clear the old Rhino enclosure, which was not the most pleasant job - raking leaves and shovelling lots of mud! But it was here we realised the big difference between the Malaysian and British work ethic - Malaysians go for the 'leave it and have a beer and we'll finish it tomorrow' They're also big on peer pressure here - if they're drinking, so are you! So it was a beer break with all the rangers after cleaning the Rhino pen each day! Which proved alot of fun!
On Monday night we all went to mile 4 for dinner, and karaoke! It was brilliant - Amoi and co are so good and they take their karaoke very seriously here! Apparently someone got killed for singing bad karaoke - I was only informed this after Selina, Katie and I had murdered a few numbers (including Mr. Big's To Be With You - got to be done!).
For the last 4 days we were carrying out a small mammal survey which involved setting 30 traps about 1.5km into the jungle and for 4 days we would check them in the morning and afternoon. Some days we didn't catch much as the macaques had raided the traps but we caught quite a bit, no Moon Rats though which we were hoping for! We even caught a couple of tortoises that got themselves wedged in the traps! We caught small mammals like Plantain Squirrels, Muller Rats, Low's Ground Squirrels, Large Tree Shrews and Common Tree Shrews (which squeal like a squeaky dog toy when you pick them up). When we caught them we had to weigh, measure and sex them and then cut a small patch of hair as a recapture mark. On the last day we hardly caught anything, and as we got to 1 of the traps we could only watch as a Plantain Squirrel escaped! And the next Trree Shrew we caught squirmed out of James hands and escaped!
I really enjoyed the small mammal survey (excepting the part when I got a leech stuck in my belly button! We had to get it out with a pen - very unpleasant!). I also got my Machete this week - not entirely sure what use its going to be in England but its awesome, Gabili made it and it has my name carved on it!
Alot of the time we spent hanging around the clinic, which was nice as we got to see the Orang-Utans in the indoor nursery and occasionally take an Orang-Utan back to the outdoor nursey - Mico and Tiger were particularly bad for wandering off!
On Wednesday night Julie was leaving so we had a bit of a do! Was good fun but mad Julie will certainly be missed, she was the life and soul!
On Friday night we were supposed to have our local culinary experience, but Sylvia is still away so it will have to wait! On Saturday and Sunday we went on a night walk with James (after our run - we're in training for the mountain climb! - I don't think its going to help!) on saturday night we saw Giant Red Flying Squirrels which were incredible!We also saw a Pit Viper, A frog a Giant Gecko with no tail and a few spiders! Not forgetting Merico on his way to make a nest! On Sunday night (after being forced to neck a rice wine each!) we went up to the Outdoor nursery to watch the Orang-Utans make their nests, which we did not see as we spent the whole time playing with Naru and lovely Ganang!
In the evening we had a LUSH bbq, courtesy of Amoi and co (Annabel and I had gone to mile 4 with Amoi and George on Saturday during lunch to get food so the vegetarians had a bit of a feast!). Gerogie, Kate and Fiona had just got back from Rasa Ria so it was party time! I retired at about 11 (its quite surreal this knowing when to stop thing) but I think the party went on pretty late and got even more messy (with the Salina tequila - Selina was loving it!)
Anyway, I have to run now! I'm off to to Sipadan! Will update when I get back on wednesday!

Posted by Chewbecki 16:46 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Gomantong caves, Sukau river and Labuk bay

The last 2 days have been pretty action packed! On wednesday John met us at the rest house at about half 9 and we took the hour and a half bus journey to the Gomanong caves made famous by the harvest of the birds nests to make birds nest soup. The hour and a half drive was pretty sobering, it became shockingly evident just how much of this beautiful country has been converted to oil palm plantations. At most points throughout the journey all we could see was oil palms for miles with the occasional pocket of rainforest. Although the oil palm plantations may look more aestetically pleasing than clear-felled land I had to remind myself that ultimately its just as bad because nothing can live in the plantations with the exception of rats and wild dogs.
When we arrived at Gomanong a short boardwalk through the forest brought us to the cave mouth. It was fairly well lit and you could see the rickety ladders that are used to climb to the top of the cave and harvest the birds nest - rather them than me thats all I can say! We walked along a boardwalk inside the cave as the bat droppings are so deep, at one point we walked on top of a huge mound of bat crap (following in the footsteps of Sir Dave) absolutely seething with cockroaches, it wasn't really recogniseable as poo as it had been so well decomposed but I can't even begin to imagine how deep it was! We walked around the outside of the cave and saw thousands of swiftlets flitting in and out and looked up and saw the great wooly horseshoe bats hanging from the roof of the cave, we saw one poor baby bat close to the floor of the cave that had evidently been separated I could only hope that it would be found by its mother, which isn't too far fetched when you think that a mother and baby bat can recognise each others' calls out of a group of thousands. We also saw huge swarms of cockroaches and even a scutigerid (long-legged cave scorpion) which was one of the most awesomely creepy things I've ever seen! Outside the cave we found a green agamnid lizard which was beautiful! On the walk back to the bus through the forest we came across some red leaf monkeys which were amazing to watch!
Another half hour or so in the bus and we arrived at the Kinabatangan, we sat around and played cards for a while waiting for the boats to arrive at half 3. The river cruise was awesome! The scenery was stunning and we saw wild Proboscis monkeys, a wild pig with 2 piglets, a kingfisher, several cattle egrets and some huge birds in flight that I can only assume were storks. Another of the groups even glimpsed a baby crocodile sliding into the water!
On the way back the guy driving the boat got a call, said something in Malay to John and we sped of, I had a hunch we might be seeing elephants and 15 minutes later my speculations proved right! There was a cluster of tourist boats around the bank watching the elephants and although we didn't have a great view we could see them browsing on the grass and even at a distance see how much smaller they are than African or Asian elephants. When the tourists left John leapt off the boat and beckoned us to follow, when we got onto the shore we could see the group of 5 pygmy elephants perfectly, they completely ignored us and seemed not perturbed by our presence in the slightest despite having a tiny baby with them! I don't know how long we stayed and watched them for but it was incredible, at one point we were crouched in the bushes just 5 metres from the group, which I must be honest made me a bit uncomfortable - they may be pygmy elephants but I still wouldn't want to get into a fight with one! When they eventually left the clearing we were all on a total high, my hands didn't stop shaking for about half an hour! It really was a(nother) totally incredible day!
On Thursday Charmaine, Georgie, Annabel went to the Proboscis moneky sanctuary at Labuk bay. The drive was another interesting experience, it was only 23km away but took about an hour as in some places the roads were still being built! At one point a digger had to actually come and flatten out the road so Abdul could drive the van over it! We got to the sanctuary which is just 100m from the sea (although you would never have guessed it as the forest is so thick) and spoke to the gentleman that ran the place (he had kindly let us in free as we were with the Sabah Wildlife Department which I felt quite guilty about!). He told us that the monkeys ate only the young leaves of the mangrove trees but they fed them on a diet of unsweetened pancakes and cucumber (which Annabel and I sampled!). We also learnt that in addition to being used for sexual selection and communication (the male signals when he is 'in the mood' bu wiggling his nose and if the female is 'in the mood' she will reciprocate) the proboscis monkeys huge noses were used as snorkels!
At about half 11 the rangers called the 3 family groups over to the 3 different feeding platforms (calling 'Aaaay' which sounds like the honking noise the males make). They may seem comical to look at with their huge noses and giant stomachs (they need the huge gut to properly digest all the mangrove leaves) and the males permanant erections(!) but they are incredibly agile leaping huge distances between trees. After the feeding one of the rangers took us down the old board walk through the mangroves which was now closed to tourists, again our travellers t-shirts came in useful!
On the way back we stopped off at mile 16 for some lunch, which was delicious and only RM5 (less than a pound!).
At about 4 o'clock the others arrived back from mile 4 and a group of us took the 20 minute walk to the rainforest discovery centre (where we had found Ellen the released Orang-Utan earlier in the week) where we walked around the botanical gardens and then did the canopy walk - a walk at about 25m high through the rainforest canopy - one of the only places in the rainforest where you can watch the sun set!
In the evening Alice, Selina, Katie and I went to the jungle resort for some drinks with Julie and the film crew, then we came back and had some drinks with the rest of the group and the rangers, it was yet another very funny night! Everyone except Annabel and I have gone either to the Sabah hotel or to Sandakan but me and Annabel are going to go back to the outdoor nursery today to see our Orang-Utan friends again! I miss Austin and all the others so much!

Posted by Chewbecki 19:09 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Sepilok - Outdoor nursery

-17 °C

The last 9 days have actually been the best 9 days of my entire life. I don't think anything can ever top them. My group (me, Slina and Annabel) were at the outdoor nursery for 8am, where we were introduced to the rangers - Dusain (aka the boss man) Addie and Wilson then the Orang-Utans. The Orang-Utans in the outdoor nursey range quite widely in age, the younger ones (some as young as 5) are generally kept in over night and released in the day. The first job in the morning is to take some food (usually bananas) to platform D, which is only 2 minutes from the outdoor nursery but you can't see it as the forest is so thick. The usual suspects at platform D are Angkung, he was one of the first I learned to recognise and probably the biggest character, on the first day he stole my hairband, spat sugar cane down Selinas top and tackled me around the neck, if he was a person he'd be a skinhead. He's usually accompanied by Mico who isn't quite as mischievous but doesn't have far to go!
The next job is to clean the cage that the younger ones are kept in over night, then we will sometimes take food to platform A which is the tourist viewing platform, then we have to stand on the bridge incase any of the Orang-Utans come too close and we have to lure them away from the tourists. On our first day Eyos, a very dark, quite buig 9 year old female came down to the platform, Wilson told me to call her over which I did and she came straight down and leapt into my arms, I was temporarily taken aback but it felt completely natural to be carrying around a fully grown female Orang-Utan! I had to take her to the clinic as she had 2 ticks by her eye, it took 4 of us to hold her down while Dr Cecilia removed them, then Eyos took my hand and I brought her back into the forest! On my way back to the outdoor nursery I came across Irwan who asked me if I could take Oscar, one of the larger males back to the outddoor nursery, after a little coaxing I managed to lure him down and carry him back! At half 10 we met Dr Sen, the chief vet of the Sabah Wildlife Department and as we left the meeting we found Ganang, a young very timid little female Orang-Utan hanging on the wall of the clinic, it took a little while to get her down but all we needed was a bit of patience and she followed us back to the outdoor nursery. We stuck around a little while and met a few of the other residents including Naru who is another easily recognisable character! Dusain told us he loves the volunteers, he acts a bit of a wimp and he seems very human dependant but I think he's tougher than he lets on, he put up a good fight when Angkung leapt on him! Next we met Brock, named after Brock Lesnar the wrestler, which we found to be quite fitting as he loves a good wrestle, and particularly enjoys biting wellies!
We have quite a long lunchtime, from about half 11 until 2, as this is the hottest time of the day and the heat would be very hard to work in, its bad enough early in the morning!
The next day in the outdoor nursery was even better! We went with Addie to platform 4, which is about a 20 minute walk into the jungle, we took bananas and some of the slightly oder Orang-Utans who are ready to stay out in the jungle over night. We took Brock, Naru, Anne, Ganang, Austin and Hope. It was fantastic when we got there even though we were sweating like heroes! Austin got scared and jumped onto my lap, I didn't have the heart to push him off, I know I'm meant to be practicing tough love with these guys but its not easy! That was the start of a beautiful friendship between Austin and I, I don't do favourites, but if I did he would be mine! Every time we went up to platform 4 he would sit by me and eat his bananas or jack fruit before scampering back into the trees with Hope. Naru isn't quite so willing to part from us though, a few times he has followed us straught back to the nursery or leapt on us as we leave. After lunch on tuesday we got back to the clinic and found lovely little Ganang covered in paint! She looked so sad and pathetic, Addie gave her a wash and then we towel dryed her and took her back up to the outdoor nursery! She looked so small and sad when she was all wet! In the afternoon we went back to platform 4, but somehow managed to get lost, to be quite honest I think that was Dusains' plan! There are quite alot of little trails that get to the same place, unfortunately as it was only day 2 we didn't quite know them yet! We got there eventually though and it was so worth it when we did because in addition to the group we'd seen earlier Mimi and her baby Ronnie turned up on the platform! Naru seemed terrified by them and clung onto me desperately, I wish he'd man up a bit, I think he'll get there eventually, it just seems a long way off until he's a wild independant Orang-Utan! Merico, one of the older rehabilitated males also turned up to the platform so we made a swift exit followed by Naru who squealed pathetically when we left! Addie told us that he's normally more willing to stay out in the forest over night as Rosalinda is usually with him but she fell from a tree when she was running away from Mimi and has dislocated her leg so will be in quarantine for the next 2 months. When I got back I found my first leech had attached itself to my stomach! Lovely! It bled like a bugger, theres anti-coagulent in there saliva so it felt like I lost about a pint of blood!
As we were finishing work on wednesday Dr Cecilia asked if some of us volunteers would go down a nearby resort with the rangers as there was an Orang-Utan on the roof causing trouble, Annabel and I jumped in the back of the pick-up! We got there and soon realised it wasn't going to be as simple as getting Ganang down from the roof of the clinic! It was an older female that Addie and Wilson didn't recognise and she didn't seem to happy about being harrassed by a big group of humans! She was clearly quite worked up and kiss-squeaking furiously. We left some water melon on the ground and hung back. When she came down the rangers jumped on her, it looked pretty brutal but she was not happy about it and they had to tie her down before Ellis arrived with a tranquiliser. To be honest I felt pretty useless through the whole process although I did carry the watermelon! Haha! The boys carried her into the back of the pick-up and Annabel and I sat around her, hoping the tranquiliser wouldn't wear off in the 5 minutes it took us to get back to the centre! When we got there Dr Cecilia recognised her as Ellen, she had been released 3 years earlier from Sepilok. It was amazing, she seemed so wild, it really is testament to the good work they do at Sepilok, and although the younger Orang-Utans may seem dependant eventually they can be as good as wild!
We've found that quite often theres alot of waiting around when we're at the outdoor nursery so we've been playing alot of cards with Dusain, particularly shithead and some other games which I am fairly sure he makes up as he goes along. Dusain is a bit on the mental side I must say, he was the ranger that gave us the rice wine on my birthday and he frequently sings to the Orang-Utans particularly Angkung!
Throughout the week we took turns to 'police' the tourist platform and trek out to platform 4, by about day 3 we knew the names and faces of all 24 Orang-Utans at the outdoor nursery but we still weren't entirely sure of the way to platform 4 until about day 4! One day Selina and I went out to platform 4 and were disturbed not to see Naru, all the usual suspects were there, Brock, Anne, Annekara, Austin, Hope and Otan but no Naru, we both admitted being quite worried that was until we got back and found out that he had been hanging out at the clinic all day!
The evenings have been fairly uneventful so far, mainly as we've all been so monged out from working in the heat, but Saturday was Sophies last night, so Amoi cooked a delicious feast and all the rangers came round for a little celebration (no rice wine this time though!) Sylvia taught us some Malaysian dancing and we tried and failed to learn a Malaysian song! It was a great night that only began with Wilson putting on Sophies dress and doing his best 'lady boy'!
So far I've had 6 leeches that have attached to me, one even managed to attach through my sock, but I am wise to it now and wear thick socks which I tuck my trousers into, I might have to crack out my attractive pair of leech socks if it continues though! On Sunday there were no issues with leeches but we found an enormous (about 9 inch long) poisonous centipede in the 'staff cage' I must admit I'm generally a fan of big interesting insects but this guy creeped me out a little, but I still picked him up on the end of a ruler and put him safely in the hedge! After our run in with the centipede we walked to platform 4 and took a big bottle of milk, which I have now learnt sends even the mild mannered Anne into a frenzy! They can't get enough of it and will have a huge tantrum if they aren't getting it! Wilson and Addie left to continuew their research in Tabin on monday so we were joined by Joseph and Ray. On Monday we went out to platform 4 and were joined by the usual crowd and also Mimi and Ronny which once again terrified Naru who clung on to whoever was nearest! In the afternoon we were policing the tourist platform, but all the Orang-Utans remained safely in the forest!
Then on our way back to the rest house we came across Eyos getting a little too close to some tourists, we think that she is in estrus at the moment as she is being closely followed by dominant male Miskam. We called her down but didn't want to get too close as Miskam is very protective of her, unfortunately for me she decided to jump into my arms and I had no choice but to run up to the outdoor nursery and prize her off before Miskam got there! It was a bit close for comfort I must say!
Tuesday was our last day at the outdoor nursery, I am totally gutted our placement there is over, I loved every minute of it and although I'm sure all our other placements will be fantastic I really don't want to leave all my Orang-Utan friends! Our last day was by far the best, it was almost like all the Orang-Utans knew it was our last day, I think they probably did as we were allowed to bring cameras on the last day. Dusain was also on excellent form comedy wise!
We went to platform 4 in the morning and in the afternoon, the usual suspects were there but Brock turned up later than normal, although he was hilarious when he did arrive! He sat in the tray of milk and used it like a paddling pool! It was impossible to get it off him when we had to leave and we all stank of sour milk! At one point we came down from the platform as both Mimi and Ronny and Britt (a pregnant female with 1 eye) turned up, the littler ones all clambered up into the trees and Austin (who is an occasional wimp despite being named after Steve Austin) clung onto best friend (well, best friend other than me) Hope. When we arrived back at the outdoor nursery Dusain told us that Mico was causing trouble by reception and asked us to go and retrieve him, we stopped off at the clinic to get some bread to tempt him with and then stood for about 15 minutes calling him, he wasn't having any of it, but made a day nest in the trees. One of the rangers said not to worry and that he'd keep an eye on him. He also showed us an amazing lime green viper to the side of the board walk. He also told us that it was potentially deadly and that Dusain had been bitten by one in his youth! After that we made our way back to the outdoor nursery via the tourist platform, we came across a macaque on our way, the rangers told us that if we see any to pretend that we have a sling shot and shoo them away. It did not work and as we rounded the corner we came across about 10 more macaques including the big male which chased us all the way back! I honestly never knew I could run so fast in wellies!
After lunch we had yet another run in with the pig-tailed macaques, I don't dislike any animal, but if I did then I would dislike macaques! Ganang was in the trees by the road and getting a little to close to the power lines so we went to the clinic to get some bread and bananas to lure her down, but the food intended to lure Ganang down also brought the macaques which made a fairly difficult job even harder. After about 20 minutes of scaring off macaques and coaxing down Ganang I managed to grab her and swing her onto my back only to find Mico hanging around in the trees about 50 yards up the drive. He wasn't having any of it and it was much harder trying to get him down with Ganang on my back, but eventually I got him (and managed to fall into a pile of bushes full of fire ants in the process - ow!) and the 3 of us took them back up to the outdoor nursery. We carried Ganang and Naru as far as platform 3, where we came across Austin and Hope who all follwed us (or followed the food) to platform 4. We stayed for about an hour and at one point were surrounded by 11 Orang-Utans. Mimi and Ronny turned up again, as did Eyos guarded by Miskam, Britt came onto the platform too, then there were the usual youngsters, Otan, Brock, Austin, Hope, Annekara and Naru. Even shy little Ganang put in a brief appearance! It was a fantastic end to the best 9 days of my life! Naru seemed to be acutely aware that it was our last day and clung tightly to each of us in turn as we were leaving!
I really can't believe the week I've had, when I'm there doing it it doesn't seem real and it isn't until I get back to the rtest house in the evening that I realise I had an Orang-Utan sat on my knee today, or I had an Orang-Utan picking off my leeches today (they do love to do that, particularly Otan!)
I'm off to bed now! I've got 3 days of

Posted by Chewbecki 06:12 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Sandakan, Sepilok and my 21st

I'm so behind with this damn blog! Ok, so on the 16th we left Rasa Ria (now to start roughing it!) for the airport in KK where we flew to Sandakan, the flight got in about 20 minutes early (it only took 25 minutes) but I'd been told to expect a fast and bumpy flight due to Air Asias kamikazee pilots! We got in and were driven the half hour to Sepilok from Sandakan, so far I hadn't seen the extent of the oil palm industry but we drove past acres of plantations on the drive! When we got to Sepilok rest house we were shown our rooms, I'm sharing with Katie. We unpacked and were given a 'light' lunch - Malayisan light lunch is not so light me thinks! It was expertly cooked by Amoi and was delicious! I think I had better not do any sunbathing while I'm here - If anyone sees me they may mistake me for a beached whale and call greenpeace, thats how good the food is!
We went to watch the 3 o'clock feeding at the tourist platform it was fantastic! I couldn't believe that these are the Orang-Utans that I'm going to be getting to know over the next couple of months!
When we got back a few of us walked to the nearby resorts, where we saw a huge bright red millipede!
The next day was the 17th! My 21st birthday! I woke up and opened my cards and my present from M and D, they got me a Fay Page necklace! Charmaine had done the birthday fairy thing and left me a little something on my bed! Kirsten and Kate also got me a card and another necklace! I decided to wear all my birthday jewellery including the bracelet Kathryn got me, so I was well and truly blinged out! Haha! We had a tour of Sandakan organised during the day, we left at 9 and met John our tour guide who would be organising all our excursions which look AMAZING! The first stop was the crocodile farm, we had the choice of staying on the bus but entry was free so I went in with mixed feelings - on one hand farming crocodiles for food and fashion prevents poaching the wild population, at the same time I was concerned for the welfare of the animals in the farm, and thought it would be better for them to have a good quality of life while they are alive. The feelings I left with were very much one sided, the conditions were terrible, the normally solitary crocodiles were packed into small concrete enclosures filled with small pools of stagnant water. Some had lost their tails and one had an enormous abscess. That wasn't even the worst if itm there were porcupines, tortoises and terrapins in tiny concrete enclosures, 2 ostriches in tiny pens one with an open sore on its back and then there were macaques packed into a barren cage. It was awful, I think I really take for granted how good the welfare of most animals is back home and that animals would never be allowed to be kept in conditions like that.
The next stop on the tour was the war memorial which is the site where 2500 Australian and British POWs were held captive by the Japanese in WW2 and forced to build an airfield. They were taken on a series of 3 260km 'death marches', only 6 men survived. After that we went to a Chinese temple where the religions practiced were Buddhism, Taoism and Goddess of Mercy. It was amazing, and we learnt that the nazi symbol actually means the harmony of the 4 elements, earth, wind, fire and metal which would givce world peace. The statues and decorations in the temple were stunning, and there were complimentary books for visitors, I took one which I read on the bus, it's really interesting all about practicing mindfulness.
The next port of call was the water village in Sandakan, where I bought quite a bit of jewellery in a little shop, I didn't feel so bad about spending money though as a) the lady ran a cat shelter and it went towards that, b) all the jewellery used local natural stones like freshwater pearls and c) it was v cheap!
Next we stopped off at, of all places an English tea room! I had Borneo rainforest tea (just to mix things up a little bit!) which I am going to have to stock up on before I leave! Anyway, true to form while we were there it pissed it down with rain! On the way back to the rest house we stopped off at the supermarket at mile 16 and purchased a few essentials, for instance very cheap, nameless alcohol (about RM5, or less than a pound!) We also found some amusing items such a a deodorant called 'Smelly-no-more' and some 'Romantic love rubbers' - Oh yes, you guys know what presents your getting from Borneo!
When we got back I went to do some laundry and came down to find that everyone had decorated the rest house! Selina gave me a bracelet which I have a sneaking suspision she bought from the water village, as while we were there she asked me my opinion on said bracelet.
After I blew out the candles on my cake we went outside where Dusain (one of the rangers) gave us some rice wine, which we drank from a bucket with a piece of bamboo, it was actually pretty damn good! All of the volunteers and the guys from the film crew came for birthday drinks at the jungle resort, it was great! I was so happy everyone came along it really was the best birthday!
The following day we had off which was a damn good job as I felt ROUGH! We did go and watch both the feedings at 10 and 3 though, other than that I just veged out!
Next day was our induction at Sepilok! We met Sylvia whos the boss lady but shes so lovely! When I first saw the Orang-Utans in outdoor nursery 2 I nearly cried I was so damn excited! We went up to outdoor nursery where I would be working first and were harrassed by some of the older Orang-Utans, they were amazing! I really couldn't believe I was really here and finally going to be working with these amazing animals! I am literally living my dream! What a cliche! Loving it! We watched the afternoon feeding and Julie pointed out the dominant male who was not on the platform but lingering behind the platform so none of the tourists spotted him! In the evening we had our introductory dinner, expertly cooked by Amoi who entertained us with her guitar playing!
Had another day off on sunday so we went to mile 4, most of the shops were closed but we had a wander round and went to pizza hut of all places, which is waaaay cheaper than english pizza hut by the way! Had an early night as we were starting work the next day! I'll update this when I finish my first 9 day placement which so far is amazing and I really don't want it to end!

Posted by Chewbecki 04:42 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

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