Man of the Forest

source // wikipedia

source // wikipedia

Sunday, 30 January, 2011

Sabah, Malaysia

My family have decided to come and meet us in our next destination, the Philippines, which I’m really look forward to. Their visit obviously came with dates that needed to match, and as a result, we were only left with five days to spend on Borneo island.

As the saying goes, you can’t have your cake and eat it too – on a side note, that has to be the most ridiculous phrase in the world. Who on earth wants a cake purely to look at?

Due to our time constraints, we needed to choose how to spend our stay in Borneo carefully, and we deemed Sungai Kinabatangan to be the most appealing option. This would involve cruising down a river while keeping an eye out for orangutans in the trees.

I can’t think of many cooler ways to spend a day than that. My eighth birthday was pretty cool, I went to Burger King with a bunch of friends and they gave me extra chips. Regardless though, I would still probably rank orangutan spotting even higher than that on the cool scale. I was pretty excited for this one!

Although, it wasn’t until we arrived that we were informed crocodiles would be swimming in the river underneath our boat. The water was very dirty and misty too, meaning you’re never really quite sure how close you are to one of the reptiles at any given time. Based on our travel experiences so far, I’m pretty sure I subconsciously want ‘eaten by a crocodile’ engraved on my headstone.

The fear was certainly not helped when we saw our boat, either. It was tiny, wooden and filled with cracks – it looked as though it had been headbutted by a crocodile, was still carrying the bruises, delicate and ready to surrender. Furthermore, it came with a huge motor on the back, which was so large in comparison to the rest of the boat, it looked like it would tip it over. Swimming with crocodiles was seriously a 50/50 possibility at the point.

Basically, it looked like something from Art Attack, and I’m not talking about the show’s onscreen masterpiece, but rather, the crappy replica put together by a six-year-old watching at home.

As it goes, the locals know more than me when it comes to travelling along a river filled with sharp-toothed predators, and we survived the trip. Not to mention, we were fortunate enough to see some great wildlife along the way.

The highlight was, of course, watching an orangutan swinging from tree to tree, but we also had the pleasure of seeing two species of hornbill, a few long-tailed macaques and a group of proboscis monkeys. The last mentioned are strange looking creatures, they have a big oval shaped nose that drops over the top of their lips – I’m pretty adamant that a proboscis monkey’s nose will make the noise of a comical clown’s horn when squeezed.

Seeing an orangutan in such a way was fascinating and made choosing our next port of call fairly easy – we would be going to the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

The centre takes in orangutans that have been rescued from logging sites and illegal hunting grounds, before training those monkeys to be able to once again survive in the wild. The place deserves a lot more acknowledgement and credit than it gets.

Both our timing and research could have been better though, to be honest. We arrived three hours too late for the first feeding and three hours too early for the second.

So, what do you do with three hours of time to pass? Obviously you get a beer and discuss weird, useless facts that you have picked up over the years – knowledge you would usually consider too boring to share. For instance, did you know that giraffes can’t cough? That was one of mine! Amazingly, this made the three hours feel more like four.

Then came the rain, this was some forty days and forty nights kind of weather – well, it was extremely heavy and didn’t look like it would ever stop anyway. We had to seriously consider if buying tickets would even been worthwhile at the point – you’d suspect that not even the fattest of monkeys could be lured in by the appeal of a banana in this rain!

However, we would have essentially just wasted three hours of our day if we decide not to watch a feeding. That, and I would have also unnecessarily revealed my hidden strength of giraffe knowledge. Therefore, we still got tickets, even with our odds of seeing anything substantial being pretty low.

we were going to get really frigging wet though, that one couldn’t be debated.

There was a guy at the entrance selling ponchos too, but apparently, my testosterone got the better of me. I regretted that one when my t-shirt felt like it had been glued to my chest – stupid, manly ego!

Another option would have been to make my own poncho, there were a lot of tree branches around and it would have kept me pretty dry – although, I didn’t have the brain power to think of that at the time. That idea was later inspired by an orangutan.

As I stood there – wearing clothes now so stuck to my body that I genuinely believed I may need a pair of scissors to cut myself out of them, or have the alternative of wearing the same outfit forever  – I watched a relatively dry pair of orangutans emerge out of the trees and unintentionally mock my misfortune.

She was wearing a homemade raincoat pieced together from various parts of the forest, which covered both herself and her child. Poncho sellers need to be careful, orangutans may be on the verge of putting them out of business. To anybody that thinks people wouldn’t walk around holding a branch over their head for fear of looking stupid, let’s not forget that humans had mullets in the 80’s.

They were the only monkeys brave enough to make the food dash on the day though. We were told that smaller species of monkeys also usually come sprinting at the call of scran – I guess they were too dumb to build a raincoat.


The rain I was talking about, the rain that forced the giraffe talk and a monkey raincoat, yes, that rain, didn’t stop – not once. Forcing us to stay within the hostel area for the remainder of our Borneo time – leaving me with very little else to share. We have read a lot – I’m currently working my way through  ‘Let the Right One In’ by John Ajvide Linqvist. It’s about a vampire, a psycho kid and a paedophile. Go check it out!

As I mentioned, we will be spending the next few weeks in the Philippines with my family. So, with 75% of my audience not really having any reason to read the upcoming blogs, expect them to look something along the lines of this… mdkowqiqdjewdfjsdknfckdsowhediqndfiwefdndskfnksdcnsk- just a heads up, Mrs. 25%.

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