Sunday, July 10, 2016

Rubbing shoulders with nature's royalty in Borneo

The island of Borneo is home to species-rich forests and is a hot spot for birdwatchers and wildlife spectators

We love exploring biodiversity hot spots, scouting for exotic flora and fauna and sharing photos and travel stories with our friends while encouraging nature conservation.

One of our favourite destinations is the island of Borneo, a 1 1/2-hour flight from Singapore.

Borneo is the third-largest island in the world, 1,000 times the size of Singapore. Less than 1 per cent is occupied by Brunei, 27 per cent by East Malaysia under the states of Sabah and Sarawak, and 73 per cent of it is Indonesia's five Kalimantan provinces.

Borneo's species-rich lowland rainforests, complex mangrove coastal forests, mature riverine forests and even the relatively infertile peat swamp forests boast a high degree of endemism.

It is biologically diverse and deeply threatened. As an avid birdwatcher and wildlife spectator, there is an urgency to capture the best moment of the world's oldest rainforest before someone empties this treasure trove.

In the past two decades, despite visiting the island a few dozen times, Borneo never fails to mesmerise us with her charismatic Big-Three - the Bornean orang utans, proboscis monkeys and pygmy elephants, plus countless interesting animals and plants.

Whether you are a first-timer looking for an easy jungle walk or a seasoned explorer looking for new frontiers, Borneo has something for everyone.

Our eight essential items for expeditions always include a hat, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, light-weight and quick-drying long pants and long-sleeved shirts (to protect from the sun, insects and splashy mud), poncho, water bottle and anti-leech socks.

Our journey begins at the most accessible Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Sabah. After an easy flight to Sandakan and a two-hour drive, we arrive at our rustic lodge near Sukau Village, preparing energetically for our river cruise.

There are plenty of eco-lodges and homestays in the area, all providing local guides, clean and spacious rooms and delicious home-cooked meals.

The award-winning Sukau Rainforest Lodge offers all-in, full-board packages for three days and two nights from about RM1,500 (S$502) a person, including airport pick-up in Sandakan and boat safaris.

It can be difficult to settle down in your lodge nestled on the bank of the Kinabatangan River, when you are bewildered by the cacophony of its inhabitants.

A few species of hornbills are squawking in the fruiting fig trees and others are whooshing their wings in flight high overhead, while the proboscis monkeys join them to show off their funny noses.

It was awesome to watch these big birds foraging in pairs. We boarded our small boat to cruise along the banks of the Kinabatangan, Sabah's longest river.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Rubbing shoulders with nature's royalty in Borneo