Saturday, January 09, 2016

Off the beaten track in Borneo


Somewhere deep in the Bornean jungle a cicada emits a noise akin to an ambulance siren. It is shortly before 6am. The guides say the animal sounds off at this time every day, only put off his stride slightly if the weather affects his body-clock.

The fake siren is far from the only noise. The jungle is alive with a cacophony of sound, day and night. Metres from where we lie in our mosquito nets are pit vipers, huntsmen spiders, soldier ants, tiger leeches, lizards, bats and birds.

Our hosts are members of the Murut tribe, former headhunters and the last local tribe to renounce the practice. We sleep on hard canvasses which creak loudly at each turn. This is not a trip for the faint-hearted.

But then you get up. You see the mist shrouding the jungle canopy ahead of you – it will burn off by 9am – and, for the moment the humidity is at the lowest it will be all day. The scents of breakfast – banana fritters and veggie noodles – waft from the kitchen.

You look down upon the river and remember the joy of the children you saw diving yesterday as you travelled in low-slung boats towards camp. You forget about the disturbed sleep. The fear of the known unknown evaporates. Here you are, deep in the interior of Borneo, lost in the moment.

This is Sabah, one of the component states of Malaysia located in the northeastern part of what is the world’s third-largest island (the territory is split between Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia).

Sabah is famed for its wildlife (orangutans and proboscis monkeys being its most famous residents), good diving off the east coast and climbing on Mount Kinabalu. The latter made international headlines earlier this year when a group of backpackers stripped off on the sacred mountain, an act which some locals claimed to have caused a magnitude 5.9 earthquake which killed 18 people.

But there is even more to this far flung territory, from the busy markets of Kota Kinabalu, snorkelling amidst the coral that surrounds the islands just north of the capital, the unspoiled beaches of the northern road to Kudat or a bit of luxury in five-star resorts that dot the coast. And, of course, jungle living.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics & Vid) at: Off the beaten track in Borneo
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