As we left Sabah, looking back on the time we spent there, two amazing experiences come to mind that shaped our image of Borneo. Not surprisingly, each experience we immersed ourselves in involved the diverse wildlife that inhabits Sabah.
Our first memorable moment was definatley the cruise down the Kinabatangan River. Arriving there just before sunset and heading off in a small wooden boat in search of many types of primates and birdlife was exciting as much as it was relaxing.
Within moments of starting our trip down the river we had already spotted the Rhinoceros Hornbill, characterised by its colourful beak and distinctive call.
The cruise didn’t fail to deliver with the various primates we saw too! Long tail Macaques, Red leaf monkeys, Proboscis monkeys and amazingly three wild Orang Utans! We had already been told that to see the Orang Utans in the wild was near impossible due to their dwindling numbers, but as we turned round a bend in the river, we noticed a few other fellow ‘river-cruisers’ hovering around a large tree on the bank of the river. Looking up, we saw the Orang Utans, hanging about and eating in the tree! A mother with two babies, one of them looked as if it had only just been born maybe a few weeks ago and was being rather adventurous hanging at the topmost point of the tree with one arm! We thought ‘surely it can’t hang out there for long?’ Sure enough the Mother must have been nervous too- with one big arm pulled the little one towards her- safe and sound.
The Proboscis Monkeys were fun to watch also, we saw many of them sitting along the banks, jumping from trees, calling out to one another and eating lots of food. We had seen how unusual they looked in pictures, but nothing compared to the real thing. The males looked frighteningly human like, sitting their scratching their rotund belly (a bit like an old man with a large nose who permanently has a cold!)
Heading back as the sun was setting made us really appreciate all that we had seen in the two hours out on the river. Cuddled up side by side, thinking ‘Wow, we are really in Borneo!’
So, how could any other experience match up to that? We thought that ourselves, but that was before we went diving at the famous Sipadan Islands. We had heard so many people rant rave about how wonderful it is. ‘It can’t be that good can it?’ we thought. In short- yes it can and it was.
Dropping down to 25 metres on our first dive was just the start of the spectacular marine life. Endless species of fish nibbling at the coral, sharks swimming about you in that distinctive shark like way and turtles, turtles, turtles. Some would be sitting on the coral and would peer up at you, others would drift gracefully past- quite a juxtaposition to how large and slow they are on land.
Our second and third dive also had the endless array of fish, sharks and turtles. However, on dive number two we were also lucky to spot some Barracuda circling around the coral. Hundreds and hundreds of them swimming together, turning this way and that, as though they had been rehearsing for hours. Swimming towards them, we managed to get ourselves in the ‘eye’ of the Barracuda cyclone. Everywhere we looked all we could see was Barracuda swimming quickly past, glancing at you and then showing their teeth slightly. Lying on our backs, seeing the sun’s rays sparkle into the water with them swimming around us was a truly breath taking moment.
Leaving the white sand of the island and the underwater world of Sipadan, we again thought how lucky we were to see all that we had in just one short day. Another unforgettable moment.
Words alone don’t really do these experiences justice. But if we had to sum it up, I guess it would be- Borneo excites as much as it surprises.