Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Borneo trip planner: top five places to visit


FROM unique wildlife to untouched jungle, few destinations can match the natural drama of Malaysian Borneo. Visit hill tribes, explore tropical islands and conquer its highest mountain on this unforgettable adventure.

YOUR TRIP MAPPED OUT

Discover Malaysian Borneo by car, plane, boat and on foot, beginning in Sarawak, with a visit to our jungle-dwelling cousins and a stay with local tribespeople, before heading to Sabah and its islands, the peak of Mt Kinabalu and Borneo's "lost world".

1. SEMENGGOH WILDLIFE CENTRE

Best for orang-utans

Watch orang-utans frolicking in the canopy at the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre, one of the best places in the world to see the species in their natural habitat.

Kilometres into your trip: 0

Fly to Kuching via Kuala Lumpur. Semenggoh is a 24km drive from Kuching by taxi.

It's feeding time at the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre and bananas, coconuts and jackfruit are piled on the feeding platform. Soon, a face pokes from the tree line: two chocolate eyes, a pair of puffed-out cheeks and a wrinkled muzzle, framed by a mantle of cinnamon fur.

"Here comes Ritchie," says John Wen, who's been working as a wildlife assistant at the Semenggoh reserve for nine years. "He's the big man of the orang-utan family here. Usually we just call him the King."

He watches as Ritchie lumbers out from the forest, balancing on balled fists at the end of two bushy arms.

"He has a bad temper, so the rest of the family usually let him eat first. We've all learnt it's not a good idea to get in between the King and his lunch," John laughs, as Ritchie scoops up an armful of fruit and disappears back into the forest murk.

As soon as he leaves, the other family members swing down to claim their lunch, cartwheeling lazily through the trees to gather heaps of fruit in their rangy limbs. Of all Borneo's wild inhabitants, none has the totemic status of the orang-utan. Asia's only endemic great ape, the orang-utan (whose name derives from the Malay words for "man of the forest") lives wild only on Sumatra and Borneo. But their natural habitat is under threat due to deforestation and palm-oil plantations, which makes wildlife sanctuaries such as Semenggoh, along with sister reserves at Sepilok and Matang, all the more vital.

Surrounded by 740ha of protected rainforest, Semenggoh is the largest wildlife reserve in Sarawak. It's home to a permanent population of 27 orang-utans, many rescued from captivity, that roam the jungle and return to the reserve at meal times.

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