Borneo ~ The Land Below the Wind
BORNEO ~ THE LAND BELOW THE WIND ~
Across the South China Sea from Peninsular Malaysia lie the states of Sabah & Sarawak, better known as Borneo. Rich in lush tropical jungles filled with diverse wildlife, wide sandy beaches and oceans which abound with rich marine life, Borneo is a nature lover’s paradise and an explorers dream.
We travelled with Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong for a few days of sightseeing in the former British metropolis before an onward flight to Kota Kinabalu in the State of Sabah. The bustling City sits majestically on the South China Sea and offers superb world class Hotels, some within their own picturesque Bays of white sandy beaches and warm waters. Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Hotel sits on the picture perfect Dalit Beach and offers spacious guest rooms overlooking the ocean and is surrounded by virgin rainforest. There are a choice of restaurants within the Hotel including Coast where you can enjoy exotic Malaysian dishes in a beachfront setting; the highlight of the meal though is the selection of tasty desserts bought to you at your private table under the stars. Very Romantic! The Hotel offers a perfect place to relax and unwind with plenty of watersports and a golf course to while away the hours. It also boasts its own Nature Reserve where it is possible to visit Orang Utans at feeding time and get up close to these beautiful creatures.
For me one of the main reasons for visiting Borneo was to see the orphaned Orang Utans in the World Famous Sepilok Rehabilitation centre so we flew to Sandakan for a few days.
The main tourist draw here is the Rehabilitation Centre where you have the chance to see orphaned babies and juvenile Oran Utans being cared for in nearly natural surroundings. Having watched the ‘Diaries’ on TV this was a must in our itinerary and although it is a major tourist attraction with hundreds of people visiting each day, much needed funds are raised by visitors for this worthwhile cause. The whole visit is carefully staged to avoid too much contact with Humans so that the beautiful animals can be reintroduced to the wild when they are grown enough to fend for themselves. Having taken a million and one photos of these mischievous babies we were driven to our Lodge where we spent the night and took an optional night-time walk through the Rainforest. Not the best idea if you don’t like leeches and don’t have leech socks! But enough said..
The following day we travelled by speedboat to Seligan Island, better known as Turtle Island, where most nights Hawksbill and Green Turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. What a privilege it is to see these huge but gentle creatures slowly making their way across the sand in the moonlight to lay their eggs before slipping silently back into the water and disappearing from view. The eggs are then gathered and protected until they hatch and are nurtured until the young are released back into the sea. It’s quite a comical sight to see these hatchlings riding the waves but quite sobering when you are told that their survival rate is so minimal. Our time spent on the Island during the day was extremely relaxed, there are few facilities and the accommodation is basic but the snorkelling is great the beach is out of this world.
Having spent an exciting night on Turtle Island we travelled back to the mainland and to the Kinabatangan River Lodge. A fascinating longtail speedboat journey up river to get to the Lodge revealed dense rainforest on one shore and the intrusive Palm Oil Plantations taking over the other shore. The Palm plants growing so tightly together that it looks impossible for wildlife to survive and a stark reminder that the habitat for so many wild creatures is being destroyed forever .
The Lodge is basic but clean and comfortable; the emphasis is on the surrounding wildlife. The Kinabatangan River is home to crocodiles and extremely rare creatures such as the Sumatran Rhino. On the evening Canoe Safari we were very privileged to see Pigmy Elephant which are very rarely spotted and a gathering of the very amusing looking Proboscis Monkey.
Apart for the abundance of wildlife experiences North Borneo has a fascinating history including the Japanese invasion during WWII and the infamous Prisoner of War death marches to Ranau. Ruins of the Camp are still there along with a memorial to the Prisoners who died.
The museum of Agnes Keith an American author was a brilliant find. She made her home in Sandakan with her British Husband who was ‘Conservator of Forest’ prior to WWII, her books telling amusing stories of her married life in North Borneo then her subsequent capture & imprisonment by the Japanese during the War. Her books make excellent holiday reading in ‘The land below the wind’.
Holidays to Borneo can be tailor-made to suit any budget. Please call Sue Alexander at Eagle Travel on 01234 348882 or visit Eagle Travel at 11 Goldington Road Bedford.www.eagletravel.co.uk.