Sunday, March 06, 2016

Kiki Roams - Danum Vally Conservation Area, Malaysia: Red Leaf Monkeys and What Might Sneak Up On You In The Dark

At the crack of a time where I am rarely awake, I dragged myself out of bed for some early morning trekking before breakfast. As I left my little bungalow, I was greeted by a group of 7 red leaf monkeys: six were snacking on red leaves (three guesses as to why they are called red leaf monkeys) on the trees in front of me and one on the walkway. There was also a one-month old red leaf monkey, that is actually white when it is a baby, who was unsuccessfully trying to leap from branch to branch like his mom.

The monkey on the walkway was a little surprised at my appearance (both because it was 5:30 a.m. and nobody should see me at that time of day and also because he hadn’t expected an unusual looking mammal to materialize). He did what any reasonable monkey would do: He “smiled” at me (also known as baring his teeth) and started shaking a tree branch at me in order to scare me away. Our guide had given us briefings on various animal defensive or aggressive behaviour on day one, so I knew that I should back away. Quickly.

Once I was a reasonable distance away, the monkey felt less stressed and joined his brethren in the trees for his breakfast. (Note: I would not have breakfast for several more hours and considered eating some leaves myself).

Morning Trek

We went on three hour trek before breakfast to search for a type of hornbill bird that makes the most hilarious bird call. It takes the bird almost two minutes to complete one call and it starts slow and culminates in what sounds like a laughing monkey.

We passed by more interesting insects, enormous ants, monitor lizards out for a lazy swim, other lizards that glide from tree to tree, and of course, more monkeys.

We trekked by a “jacuzzi pool”, which is a small pool of water created by a tiny waterfall in the jungle. You can’t really swim in it anymore as the jungle had a small landslide and since then, the water levels are low (the pool doesn’t really fill up with water) and it’s murky and muddy. However, you can still sit on a log and put your feet in and there are tiny fish that will eat the dead skin off your feet.

Viewpoint Trek

After breakfast, we showered, changed and started a 3.5 hour trek to a viewpoint area where we had the pleasure of spotting exotic birds, butterflies, and tarantulas (those that live on the ground and those that live on the trees), and more orangutans.

The viewpoint trek is probably one of the more challenging treks, but isn’t difficult. There are several parts that are very steep so it’s going to take some effort to haul yourself up the 1,265 metres. But you will be rewarded with an amazing view of the Danum Valley in all its jungle glory. Also? It’ll be the first breeze you feel in several days and that is not something to take for granted.

We also did a side trek to “Coffin Cliff” where the indigenous people buried their dead in small holes carved into a rock cliff. There are a couple of bones next to the cliff that no one dares to touch or move out of the way as it is said that the deceased’s spirit will follow and haunt you. Since I have the grace of an elephant trying to do yoga, I ensured that I stayed far away from the bones. Let’s face it – if they haven’t been moved in hundreds of years, there is no doubt that my clumsy self would knock right into them.