Monday, January 22, 2018

Emily's World: Beautiful Borneo

Borneo is somewhere I have wanted to visit for years, mainly because of my love for orangutans and my long-term dream of seeing them in their natural habitat. As I did some research, I realised I might also be able to see my other two favourite animals in Borneo too; elephants and turtles.

I love elephants and was lucky enough to volunteer with them in Thailand a few years back but I had never seen them in the wild, nor had I ever seen a Pygmy Asian elephant, which are only found in Borneo! I also really love turtles and another big bucket-list dream of mine I’ve had for years, is to see turtles laying their eggs on the beach.

So off I went to Borneo with high hopes to fulfil my jungle dreams!

Kota Kinabalu

Borneo is a large island in Southeast Asia shared by Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. As I did some research, I read that despite being the smaller share of the island, the Malaysian part of Borneo is the more well trodden path than the Indonesian so this is where I headed- to the state of Sabah, in the north.

I flew from Bali to Kuala Lumpur and then straight on to Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the state of Sabah, landing late at night. I hadn’t had any internet for most of the previous week, so when I got up that first morning and did some proper research, I realised that Borneo was not only way bigger than I had anticipated- it is the third largest island in the world- but also I actually wasn’t anywhere near where I wanted to be!

I wanted to be in Sepilok, in order to visit a well renowned Orangutan sanctuary there but unfortunately it was actually a six hour drive away from KK on a public bus. Instead of wasting the extra day travelling there, I decided to book an early flight to the nearest airport Sandakan for the following day.

At this point I was still with my friend from home Jordan who had come with me to the Komodo Islands, so I booked for us both. All admin done, we then went exploring the city of Kota Kinabalu.

When thinking about Borneo, I thought only about the jungle and rainforest so I was kind of surprised by the size and craziness of the city of Kota Kinabalu; it was really busy, with big buildings and hectic roads.

As the day went on though, we realised that although the city was busy, there weren’t many other tourists around at all. We definitely stood out and got so many stares! KK is a coastal city but the beach wasn’t within walking distance, so we spent the day exploring the streets, finding the odd food market where we bought some tropical fruit and I tried a spicy chicken laksa. 

Surprisingly we also found a large, modern shopping mall with many western shops- which was something we wouldn’t have expected to see at all in this non-touristy city. Quite sad when you think about it! My Great Auntie actually lived in KK back in 1965 (called Jessleton back then) and I sent her photos- it would have been interesting to see how it was back then, untouched by the western world.

Later that evening, my friend and I caught a public minibus to the main beach Tanjung Aru, to view the sunset. There were soooo many tourists taking photos but mostly Asian tourists; I had read that Borneo is popular amongst Singaporeans and Malaysians from the mainland.

It was the most incredible pink sunset- which then turned into heavy rain shortly after, so we sheltered under a nearby shelter which fortunately turned out to be another really big/ cheap food market! This is one excellent thing about being in a non-touristy place- everything is sooo much cheaper!

Sepilok – Orangutans

The taxi came at 5am the following day to take us to the airport for our short flight from KK to Sandakan. On arrival, we got a taxi to Sepilok which took about half an hour. We were staying at Forest Edge Resort which fortunately was just down the road from Sepilok Orangutang Rehabiliation Centre, so we headed straight there.

I have always loved Orangutans and wanted to see them looking happy and healthy, ideally in the wild but if not possible, then in as close to their natural habitat as possible, in a good sanctuary that treated them nicely. (In the wild your chances of spotting one are very slim- how it should be.) So I did lots of research on this- and the day was every bit as good I had hoped.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Emily's World: Beautiful Borneo