Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Wild Encounters: Sabah, Borneo

Avid naturalist and outstanding local guide Jame Marajan gives us an insight into the incredible wildlife the rainforests of Sabah have to offer.

Originally from the small town of Sandakan in the northeast of Sabah, Jame Marajan has guided travellers through the Bornean rainforest and along its waterways for the past 17 years. With a focus on the east, Jame has become an expert on this ecologically rich region, with regular visits to the lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Gomantong Cave, Selingaan Turtle Island and Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. The lower Kinabatangan river is an extraordinary area of 26,000 hectares that is home to the largest wildlife concentration in Southeast Asia. Jame talks to us about the land he knows so well.

What wildlife do visitors to the region typically see?

Well, more than 100 different species of mammals have actually been recorded, from the smallest Bornean pygmy squirrel to the largest Bornean pygmy elephant. There are over 200 species of birds, including all eight species of hornbills, and more than 100 species of reptiles, including snakes, soft shell turtles, estuarine crocodiles and lizards. Proboscis Monkeys are endemic to Borneo, and we have macaques and wild orangutans too. These are all species that people can actually see when they visit.

And what is your most memorable wildlife encounter?

A few years back, I was trekking with two American tourists by an oxbow lake when a Borneo pygmy elephant bull suddenly appeared about 10 metres away from us. It was shocked to see us there and the same goes for us. In fact, both parties were so shocked, we all ran a different way.

Do you have a favorite species to spot?

My favourite animal has alway been the snake, as they're such fascinating and primitive creatures. Even now, so little is known about their habitat, breeding and behaviour. But, I also like to see the clouded leopard and Bornean ground cuckoo because appearances are so rare.

What challenges have you faced guiding people through the rainforest?

Once, when I took five Canadian students trekking through the jungle, I saw a nest of stinging bees. I pointed to it and warned them to keep away, but one of them reached out and poked it, after which they all ran in different directions. I managed to gather them up after half an hour, but the student who'd poked it got stung five times and I did once. Imagine if it had happened in a denser forest. That's my worst so far [laughs].

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Wild Encounters: Sabah, Borneo