For me, Borneo has always conjured up all kinds of wild and mysterious imaginings-Fascinating wildlife living in the deep rainforests, native tribes with intriguing old habits and truly spectacular natural beauty.
Turns out my imagination and David Attenborough Borneo specials painted a pretty accurate picture, but there is a lot more to Borneo than most people know about it. Our 8 days of river cruising and jungle meandering was a truly eye-opening journey and here’s why I think everyone should visit Borneo at least once in a lifetime.
1. The Wildlife endemic to Borneo.
There is a reason Wildlife experts, film makers and conservationists travel all the way to investigate the unexplored rainforests of Borneo. Both states of Sarawak and Sabah boast some of the world’s most fascinating wildlife, found here only.
Seeing Pygmy elephants beside the river, Proboscis monkeys with their long noses and big bellies high up in the trees and Orang Utans (jungle people) in their natural habitat was mind-blowing. As the days drew to a close we saw crocodiles, Rhinoceros Hornbills and Longtail Macaques going about their day in the humid jungle.
The best place to spot wildlife in the rainforest, is to stay along the Kinabatangan River in Sabah (longest river in Borneo) as each lodge and backpackers offer river cruises in the morning, afternoon and night time with a guide.
To see animals that have been rescued from hunters or families holding them illegally as pets visit the Matang Wildlife Centre in Sarawak or the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah. Due to some animals, especially Orang Utans, being captured and kept illegally as pets for so long, many are not able to be released and will sadly spend their lives in enclosures.
2. Witnessing young, rescued orangutans learn survival skills.
At the Matang Wildlife Centre in Kubah National Park, we were able to watch two young Orang Utans, Buyee (1 years old) and Dr. Kok ( 5 years old) undergoing their primary school training in the forest. I have seen lion cubs, young rhino babies, tiny zebras and giraffe but there is nothing more adorable than a baby Orang Utan. Sharing 96.4 percent of our DNA, it’s no surprise these little guys appeared so human and very much like mischievous toddlers.
Visitors are not allowed to touch them as the park believes that in order to be released into the wild one day, they need minimum human interaction. Usually Orang Utans have to stay with their moms for their first 6-8 years but when separated from their moms and rescued, one human handler begins to play the role of their mother and teaches them how to build nests and climb up trees.
3. River Cruising.
Even though the birds and animals are the purpose and appeal of the river cruises, I found myself delighting in the pure enchantment of the rainforest on either side of the Kinabatangan banks. Our guide, Jamil, took us down narrow estuaries each displaying their own unique flora. Ancient trees with giant trunks stood tall beside the river, whilst other mangroves extended their branches down into the water flow.
Lime green willows swayed just above the surface and sometimes our boat glided right into a lake of lilies and ferns. Purple and yellow blooms sprouted on certain trees and tiny green and purple apples on others. It is a wonderland for photographers and botanists and with the chirping of insects, birds and call of the wild; it was the most beautiful backdrop for a boat ride.
Labels: Borneo, Kinabatangan, Kubah National Park, Matang Wildlife Centre, Orang Utan