Saturday 30th April.
After a restful night in our cottage we were up early today as we wanted to maximise the available time we had and get back to the pool before it got too hot. Once we had showered (in our outdoor cold water shower in the bush) The kids attacked the breakfast buffet with gusto along with the other guests. It’s all very sociable and relaxing as we are all visiting the same places today. My self imposed one coffee a month has been discarded currently having had 4 now in the past 7 days. The toaster on the buffet was a small charcoal Satay grill over which you toasted your slices of bread. (the selection of which today was white bread or white bread….I’m guessing tomorrow our choices may also be limited to white bread or white bread)The kids had fun making breakfast and I asked an Aussie guest if he had any shrimps to throw on the barbie.
Appetite sated we then left the retreat and walked approx 1km down the road which brings us to the entrance of the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. This is the main attraction in this area and whilst they rescue and raise orphaned, injured or displaced Orangutans eventually releasing them into the wild it is within their natural habitat over a huge area with no guarantees you will see anything. No bags are allowed into the forest as they can be taken by the monkeys. They provide you lockers. Also you must pay a fee to take your camera in. (you are checked at the entry). We paid for 1 camera but with a little kiwi ingenuity got another in. This was my silent protest in that Malaysians pay 500% less to get in than “Other Nationalites”
Feeding time was 10am,we arrived around 09.30am and walked towards the feeding area along with a hundred others. You are not able to feed them, but merely watch them feeding. They feed the exact same food every day in an effort to encourage them to forage for themselves by being sick of eating the same day in and out. Papaya and Banana is the menu of which the ones we saw feeding went for the papaya. I was questioning wether the monkey/banana thing was a myth when a non orangutan monkey swooped in and stole a bunch of bananas which settled that thought.
We saw around 5 orangutans(1 with a baby) come in at various intervals, have a snack and take off back into he bush. Their gracefulness and dexterity in movements are really quite amazing. Further on is the nursery in which the smaller rescued orang-utans and babies are kept and also fed. You can watch them from an elevated viewing area and they are like kids in the school playground, rolling around and playing oblivious to the audience. In the nursery young Orangutans learn skills such as climbing, finding food and building nests (yep…they live in nests… the tree tops are dotted with them, they build a new one each night) Once ready they move to the larger area with increased space and freedom and decreased food and emotional support from staff. Eventually they achieve total independence and are released back into the wild.
The walkway through the area is elevated off the ground and rises in places. Good job as we came across a snake at one point. It was the kids first ever live snake and whilst BB was intrigued, KK was less so. Another feature of the centre is a trail leading into the jungle in which you can wander catching views of the birdlife and occasionally orang-utans. All we saw were a few birds and a squirrel until we arrived back at the starting point when a large male orang-utan swooped out of the bush and planted himself on the walkway in front of us. A nearby guide told us his name was Pujol. He then made his way down the walkway and disappeared. From then we found 3 more younger ones hanging in trees nearby.
We even came across and took a photo of the orang-utan that Ruby & Jacob had adopted(Noelle has posted that photo on Facebook for Sharon)
Our highlight of the day was upon leaving the centre we found a small orang-utan walking down the road from the rehabilitation area. Walking as if nothing was happening his keepers spotted him and he then sped up. As they called for him he climbed up into the roof of a nearby shelter and refused to let them catch him. All this was a metre in front of us. In the end a bribe got him down.
After we left the orang-utans we went across the road to the Sunbear conservation centre. Sunbears are reputedly the smallest bears in the world and are found throughout parts of Malaysia. Again the centre handled the orphaned or injured bears with some being released back into the wild and others kept in the centre full-time. As it neighbours the orang-utan centre, you get orang-utans crossing over at times into their enclosures. Sunbears are prolific climbers and spend most of their days climbing and looking for food. They are not as graceful as the orang-utans but seeing the heights they scale is pretty incredible. The centre has a capacity of 43 bears and currently holds 40. It costs around 50K RM to rehabilitate and release back into the wild each bear. They all have distinctive and personalised marks on their chests and this allows the keepers to tell them apart. I’ll add some more about this later.
Walking back this afternoon we had a couple of coconuts and then scooped out the fresh flesh…..mmmmm…… it was around NZ$1.80 per coconut.
The kids spent 2 hours in the pool, Noelle spent that time planning our accomodation after Mt Kinabalu and I spent it reading. Dinner tonight was laksa, fried rice, banana flower and prawns, pandan chicken, fried noodles and local vegetables. Again an awesome feast. Tomorrow after breakfast we head to Kinabatungan which is about 2 hours drive away for 3 days of jungle trekking and seeking out crocs, leopards, monkeys and elephants.
After been on the road a week we think we have found the balance with the kids in terms of what we can do with them and how hard we can push them. This trip is a bit like a marathon so it’s about finding a constant and steady pace….not a sprint at the start. Generally after a big day we need to give them an easier day. That’s not all bad as it allows us that time to sit back and enjoy it all as well and relax. They are doing well but have had an early night tonight…..It also appears a few other guests where we are are headed down the same way tomorrow so who knows our paths may cross again. This evening I spent some time talking with a Swiss and Austrian couple who live in China. She comes from Annemasse which is on the Geneva/French border which was about 10 minutes from where I was living in Geneva all those years ago.
The wifi connection is sporadic and is making it difficult uploading pictures so Noelle has posted a few on Facebook. Once we have an opportunity to get a good connection we’ll get some pics up.
Travel day tomorrow and not sure of what IT resources we will have but will update as we can. Well done the Highlanders tonight! a great result.