Thursday, October 04, 2012

The Wilds of Borneo

I stared wide eyed at the great ape before me. It ambled across a long rope 20 metres overhead. Dropping from a tree on the other side, 'Ritchie' the orangutan enjoyed a feast of fruit before climbing casually away through the trees.

Andy and I were at Semenggoh Wildlife Centre in Malaysian Borneo. After one year on the road we had decided to take a break from the bicycles. Semenggoh rehabilitates injured and orphaned orangutans. There are no cages and it was amazing to see these majestic animals in their natural habitat.

With an excess of energy we visited Bako National Park to go on a hike. The park is only accessible by boat and our driver dropped us at the beach due to low tide. We waded through the South China Sea marvelling at the jagged limestone mountains carpeted by a sea of green.

After registering at HQ we were given an A6 map of the 10 square miles. Under sunny skies and in high spirits we set off.

We trekked for a couple of hours to Tajor Waterfall where the jungle parted as a series of cascades cut through it. A huge tree trunk stretched across the banks and we took turns diving from it.

After lunch we headed further into the dense jungle. Choosing the longest, 8-mile trail; we planned to hike all day, camping on the beach and trekking back the next morning.

Over the course of the afternoon the trail deteriorated, becoming a series of near vertical climbs and descents on slippery ground. By 6pm it had become so dark I could not see the trail under the tree canopy. It began raining as lightning flashed across the sky. Our concern began to grow.

We got to the beach just before night fall and quickly set up camp. We collected wood for a fire and with no tent or ground mat I found a four-meter leaf to sleep on.

Eventually we got the fire going, ate some dinner and lay down to rest. Crocodiles are endemic in this region and thoughts of them kept invading my sleep, snapping me awake. After a few hours the monsoon rains began again so we retreated into a small cave in an attempt to stay dry.

After sunrise a water monitor lizard wandered past and then a tribe of monkeys scoured the beach for food.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: The Wilds of Borneo