Monday, February 13, 2012

Lorna of the Jungle

After the one hour boat ride from turtle island we drove to the Sepilok orangutan rehabilitation centre. Some Malaysians want to keep orangutans as pets and often do not know how to care for them. It is now illegal to keep orangutans as pets and they will be taken away and put in the rehabilitation centre until they are ready to go back into the wild. Also any babies who loose their mothers or injured orangutans are brought to this centre.
From the rehabilitation centre it was a two hour drive to the jetty on the kinabatangan river, then another hour river boat to the Bilit rainforest lodge in the jungle where we were to stay for two nights. I must admit the lodge is pretty nice and probably a 5 star in the jungle lodge world (if there is such a thing). Yes I started on the regime of taking malaria pills.
In the afternoon we went for a two hour river boat cruise to spot animals in the wild. There is nothing like seeing orangutans in the wild, we even saw a mother with a baby. My only disappointment was not having an appropriate camera to take pictures. So I will apologize for the poor quality of pictures as these were taken from the river boat which really required a camera with a much better zoom lens.
Over the two days we spotted the following animals in the jungle:
Orangutans (only found in Borneo and Sumatra)
Proboscis monkeys (only found in Borneo and boy do they have an ugly face and long nose)
Longtail macaque monkeys
Pigtail macaque monkeys
Snake bird
Rhinoceros hornbill bird
Egret bird
Kingfisher bird
Bee eater bird
Serpent eagle
Storm stock bird
Yellow ring cat snakes curled up in a tree
Flathead and pinball milapede
Monitor lizard
Sambar deer
This was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to see these wild animals in their natural habitant. It was so amazing to see a mother orangutan swing from tree to tree with her baby. Female orangutans stay with their babies for about six years. The birds were so colorful and exotic. When we came upon the Sambar deer it had been injured and there was a group of men getting it into a boat and apparently were going to take it down the river to the clinic. The deer looked pretty dead to us so we figure it was going down river to be cut up for someone's dinner-hopefully not ours.
In the evening the lodge put on a lovely dinner with some of the biggest prawns I have ever seen. These are river prawns from the the kinabatangan river. The scary part is there are people living on the river banks and since this is such a remote location the sewage goes directly into the river. I tried not to think about that as I was eating the delicious prawns. After dinner the staff performed some traditional Malaysian dances and then got all of us up to do some line dancing.
After a good night sleep we were up at 6am to have breakfast and do another animal spotting riverboat cruise.
After we came back to the lodge Brian, Marianne and I opted to go jungle trekking with a guide. The trek was 1.8km into the jungle to oxtail lake. It sounded like a nice way to spend the rest of the morning and get some exercise. So on goes the mosquito repellent, leech socks and wellingtons for our stroll into the jungle. My first clue that this trek was going to be anything but a stroll was when the guide needed to check if there have been any wild elephant sitings in the area.
We walked out to the back of the resort and in to the jungle following our guide who by the way could not speak English. I figured we would spot the jungle trekking trail anytime -- nope there was no trail we were actually trekking through the jungle, no trail, no path just tree markings do the guide doesn't get lost. Now for your information the jungle is never dry and you with every step you sink deep into clay type mud that you can barely lift your feet out of. Of course the mud is full of leeches hence the leech socks and i certainly don't want to fall and get mud up my nails so I grabbed every tree in sight to keep my balance - however one needs to be careful what objects one grabs in the jungle as some have very large hard spike type thorns and other have crawly things. At the point where Marianne landed on her butt in the mud I did feel bad because Brian and I had talked her into a lovely stroll in the jungle and not this combat training exercise! This is truly the hardest physical activity I have ever done in my entire life. I kept thinking what it must have been like for those young men in combat not only trudging through this terrain but carrying packs on their backs and guns over their heads. And they didn't have a 5star jungle lodge to look forward too. It took us 1.5 hours to go the 1.8km (it usually takes me less than 15 minutes to walk this far). We reached oxtail lake and believe me it was not worth the walk although I think we were all too tired and thinking about the trek back to appreciate the scenery. The trek back took us about one hour so we figure they either took us on a short cut back, the guide got lost on the way in or we got faster at pulling our feet out of the mud. On the way in I kept thinking the only thing that could make this adventure worse is rain as we have no rain gear with us. Yes it rained on the way back - maybe we did trudge faster. We did spot elephant and wild boar tracks as well as elephant pooh but no animal sightings. When we got back to the lodge we were told the guide had not done the trek in 4 months as most people turn back when they see what the terrain is like! Guess they are smarter than us.
Off with the wellingtons and leech socks. I found one tiny leech on me and then another fat one in my boot. Marianne pointed out the reason the leech is fat is perhaps it has been lunching but I was confident this was not the case as I didn't feel anything. WRONG when I got back to my room and took off my jeans there was a significant amount of blood running down my leg yes the bugger had got me!
After a well deserved afternoon nap we went on another animal spotting river cruise but honestly I think I was too tired to really enjoy this one. Back to the lodge and an early night for another 6am call as we head back to civilization.

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