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M A L A Y S I A   II   ( B O R N E O )

27.09.2011, 21:30   ---   Sipadan

Long time I had been waiting and then the time had finally come: Diving at Pulau Sipadan!!! This island has been voted among the top-10 dive sites in the world several times and is strictly protected since a couple of years ago. Only 120 permits are issued each day (for divers, snorkelers and also day-trippers), so there’s quite a run for them and usually they are booked out 2 months in advance. Luckily I had arranged my permit well in advance and didn’t need to worry about it any more. Of course it’s not possible to stay on Sipadan Island , the town Semporna on the mainland is rather boring and dirty and so I stayed at Mabul Island instead, only about 30 minutes by speedboat from Sipadan. Next morning I already left for my 3 dives in the underwater paradise – absolutely jaw-dropping!!! Never in my life have I seen as many sharks and turtles!! Seriously I stopped counting them, they were just everywhere, we had up to 6 sharks at a time around us, incredible! For the instructors here it is just so normal that they don’t even seem to notice them anymore, instead they happily point out a colourful nudibranch in the corals for example. And we even saw a hammerhead shark!! Well, it was quite far away in the deep blue of the ocean, but the distinctive shape was unmistakably recognisable in the beginning, a bit later we only saw a dark shadow circling around in the distance. And gigantic schools of fish… first a huge school of jackfish, a seemingly endless wall of fish and later on also a school of barracudas circling in front of us like a tornado. There was heaps of other cool stuff as well: Scorpion fish, frog fish, tuna, napoleon wrasse… and just all the common stuff like any other reef. :-) That were some really exciting dives and definitely worth the effort!!!

After relaxing in Mabul for a bit longer I went back to the mainland, spent a night in Semporna and took off again this morning. Annoyingly my phone-charger’s cable broke last week, of course the battery is flat by now and I have no alarm clock. So unsurprisingly I missed the only bus in the early morning. Instead I tried to make a move with the minibuses, a few hours later I got to the next town, found another minibus which dropped me off at the junction where I had to go a different direction and then I was a little stuck. Some dodgy locals offered me a highly overpriced ride, but we would also have to wait for 3 more people to go (that’s the way minibuses usually work, but chances for 3 more stranded backpackers around there were rather low). Instead I tried my luck with hitch-hiking and not even 10 minutes later I sat in the car of 3 funny dudes from Kuala Lumpur . First they took me along to the Gomantong Cave . Thousands of birds live inside (accordingly the floor is full of bird shit) and they build their nests with lots of spit, which is a Chinese delicacy apparently. So 3 times a year the locals harvest the nests with rickety ladder-constructions to sell them for a hell lot of money. Unfortunately the harvest season was just over, so neither could we see the nests, nor the harvesting-action… Afterwards the guys were so kind to even take me all the way to Sukau, even though it was not on their way, I’m staying in a wonderful guesthouse and tomorrow morning I’ll go on a boat trip through the jungle – given that I manage to wake up without an alarm clock… ;-)


01.10.2011, 19:00   ---   The man of the forest and his jungle-friends

Oh wonder, I did indeed manage to wake up on time! At 6 o’clock in the morning I sat in a little wooden boat with 4 fellow travellers and we started our cruise through the jungle. The orang-utans, which I had hoped for badly, didn’t show up though, but heaps of other monkeys instead, among others the proboscis monkeys (those funny looking ones with the huge nose), a monitor lizard, wild pigs, beautiful birds… it was great!
In the evening I joined another boat cruise with two others and in addition to all those monkeys we even saw a group of wild elephants this time, so cool! They hadn’t been seen in this area for 3 months, so even for the locals it was very special. In comparison to the African elephants they are much smaller, but also seem to be way more relaxed and friendly. We could get really close with our boat and they weren’t bothered at all. Just no orang-utans again…

Therefore I headed to Sandakan next to visit the “Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre” (SORC). They take care of abused and orphaned orang-utans and whenever possible they release them back into the wild. By the way, orang-utan means “man of the forest”. Most of the apes living here are kept in a huge rainforest-enclosure, where they get fed 2 times a day until they are independent enough to live on their own. Visitors can watch the feedings from a platform nearby and stroll through the enclosure via a boardwalk. On this short walk I was lucky enough to bump into a female orang-utan and had the chance to watch her from a short distance, fascinating animals! One of the rangers also showed me a group of wild monkeys (macaques), which had apparently sneaked into the enclosure from the nearby forest. But he stayed right next to me, armed with a stick, for the whole time as they tend to be aggressive sometimes.
Only the tracks through the protected rainforest, where the independent orang-utans get released to, are unfortunately closed for visitors at the moment, so again no chance for an encounter of a wild ape.

Today I was about to go to Kinabalu National Park, but I ended up being ill and spending all day in bed – extreme dizziness and fever, I could barely get up. In those moments one would indeed want nothing more than being at home and taken care of by mum, even the sea-view from the bed won’t make it any better.  ;-) But at least the hostel owner was so kind to get me some food and I’m already feeling much better, will hopefully be able to leave tomorrow!


07.10.2011, 8:30   ---   Last leg before Australia

Alright, a day later I luckily felt well enough again to finally make it to the bus and go to Kinabalu National Park . Next day I was about to go hiking, but realised I actually still wasn’t fit enough to head off on my own. Instead I just joined a guided senior-walk, was quite bored and in my condition out of breath even faster than the rest of the group. Summarized my Kinabalu-NP-exploration was rather semi-successful. The same day I took the bus straight back to Kota Kinabalu to recover and especially to have a doctor around in case I would get worse again.
At my hostel I bumped into Teresa again by chance, who I had met on the flight to KK, I relaxed a lot, went shopping a little bit, the first dengue-fever-suspicion luckily didn’t approve and after a few days I was completely fit again. Yesterday Teresa and I flew back to Jakarta (by chance she had booked the same flight again), after a somewhat rugged immigration (the dudes from the consulate in KK must’ve been a bit confused and set my visa’s day of issue on November) we spent the night at the airport, right now I’m keeping myself awake with lots of coffee at Starbucks and soon I’ll take off to West Timor. I’ll have nearly 6 weeks to explore Indonesia a bit further and island-hop to Bali – the last leg of this journey before finally arriving in much-longed-for Australia ! :-)

   

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