Looking back on today while writing this, I feel that it could have been one of the coolest days on the trip. We woke up, I had a few semi-nightmares at work but after sorting this, stuffing my fat face with fried banana and papaya, we got ourselves ready for The Rainforest discovery centre.
It is one of the natural rainforest in Sabah, sitting by a lake at the edge of the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve in Sandakan and used primarily for environmental education purposes. Today, it is a 3-in-1 park (i.e. wildlife, bird and plant) for nature lovers but we were keen to get some steps in and go for an explore in the hopes of seeing something cool.
It’s time for a wildlife immersion day! The first stop was the Orangutan rehabilitation centre which was established in 1964 to help rehabilitate orangutans which had been orphaned. Just like a human baby, the orphaned young orangutan (which would normally live with its mother for 5-6 years) needs to be taught how to cope in the wild, while its health is carefully monitored during rehabilitation. We had read up a lot about this centre as it’s a fantastic centre to help these wild animals but also as it is located in the middle of the jungle not only the inhabitants of the centre come to hang there. There is sometimes up to 40 wild orangutans who come here daily, and this is what I was most looking forward to witnessing.
The centre costs 30 Ringit to enter (10nzd) and then an extra $3 if you have a camera, which to be honest I think is bullshit as they actively ask you to take photos and share them all with them. However, we paid and entered the centre at 9am. We were able to see a lot of the younger orangutans in the nursery and as this was happening, we were called through as 2 curious adult wild orangutans had just came down to have a look. This is what I was most excited for!
We snapped away but mostly I was just fascinated to sit and watch these magnificent animals and how much they relate to humans (97% DNA match). From there we followed the group to the feeding platform and from here were able to see many more as well as a few other monkeys who came down to check things out.
On the way back to the car, this is when the magical happened as one of the adult males decided to follow up the whole way so we were able to snap some shots of him pretty close while he did his thing. It was such a magical experience!
It’s day 3 in Borneo and day 288 on our adventure and we are off to Sepilok. After stuffing our wee faces with the free breakfast at our hostel we hopped in the car for a 3.5 hour journey North to Sepilok – home to essentially ALL THE WILDLIFE and the world's most famous place to see orangutans in their natural habitat! Are you excited yet? I sure as hell am!
Well, let’s backtrack a bit as we still need to get there first, and I can tell you now the road is a bumpy one. The drive itself is immensely beautiful, driving through lush green jungle and rainforest but with that of course brings with it a shit ton of rain and massive pot holes on the road. Our wee car very nearly didn’t make it (ok, that’s an overstatement but with narrow roads and trucks, and lorries driven by locals overtaking at every blind corner it was me who nearly didn’t make it, I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO STRESSED)
At 1pm we arrived safely to our ‘Sepilok jungle lodge’ and as we were early, we went to ‘Banana café’ for some grub before check in. I am blown away with this place. Nestled within a tropical virgin Borneo Rainforest, this accommodation provides basic, yet amazing amenities for getting up close and personal to some of Borneo’s best wildlife, right in the garden. It’s also next door to the Orangutan rehabilitation centre which is a must do for the next few days.
We are staying here for 4 nights and it’s costing us $60NZD per night with breaky for a double en-suite and next to the pool which is a BONUS! Oh, and as I’m working every day, I asked that we have a room with WIFI as some don’t have it and boom, they gave us the room beside the router!
We spent the afternoon checking out the property and enjoying the pool with some beers and a good podcast before dinner which is working our about $4NZD pp per night so budget wise we are doing OK. It was nice to just relax for a few hours before we start packing a crazy amount of activities into the next few days. Sepilok is tiny so there really isn’t any shops or other things to do bar all the wildlife parks so I am stoked that we chose this destination.
This morning we got up early for sunrise and a beautiful walk along the beach before getting ready to leave for Ranau. This would be our stop gap in between traveling from KK to Sepilok and we were planning it to only be a place to sleep. However, it turned out to be such an amazing day!
The drive here was perfect. It took around 3 hours as we went the long way around down the side of Mount Kinabalu so we could check out largest peak in South East Asia as well as the picturesque mountain towns along the way. (kinda wishing, we had chosen to spend an extra few days here and climb the mount now but after Kilimanjaro just last week, my legs and rest of my body are still praying I don’t put them through anything like that for a long time).
We stopped in Nabalu for lunch and we are so happy we did. It’s known as the rest stop for those driving to Mount Kinabalu but for us it was the perfect spot to stop. It allowed us time to walk around the tourist town, taking in all the different stalls filled with fruit, veg, gifts, souvenirs and traditional musical instruments. We ended up stopping at a small café and Leo had a beaut lunch costing him just over $2NZD whereas I downed an incredibly strong coffee and grabbed some local fruit from the market to munch in the car.
This town is also the BEST photo stop if you are looking to get unobstructed views of the beautiful mountains and a glimpse of the huge Kinabalu. As the mountain is so big, it generally runs it’s own weather system so 9am or 4pm are the best time to visit when the clouds haven’t yet descended upon the mountain and the views are clear.
From there it was another 30 mins to get to Ranau. Ranau is a small town in the highlands of Sabah. Since the air is usually cool there, it provides a nice respite from the Tropical heat – apparently. We arrived and it was still roasting so don’t count on it! We checked into our accomo for the night ‘Ranau Backpackers’ and I have to say, ‘well done to me’ – it’s ace! We are paying $19NZD for a double room with private bathroom, A/C, wifi and free breakfast. I love it here, and if my bottle of water hadn’t burst in my bag the second we arrived I could have considered this the perfect day, but hey ho – not to worry. It’s so hot here things dry very quickly so there is always a silver lining to every cloud. The amazing art work on the walls of this hostel also were fantastic mood boosters and very inspirational…god I love it here!
Yes, that’s right we have arrived I Borneo, 1 of my top 3 destinations in the world and I am overly excited to be here. We grabbed a quick 2-hour flight from KL to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia’s 2nd biggest Airport costing us $300NZD return for both of us and bags!
Firstly, I should probably talk a little about Borneo as a lot of people have asked us, 'wait, where?' when I started rambling on about coming here.
So, it is the third largest island in the world and is compiled of sections of three countries - Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. It's well known for its rain-forests, orangutans and world-class scuba diving.
It’s also home to the world’s largest (and most pungent) flower in the world, filled with culture and delicious food and is home to the highest peak in the Southeast Asia region - Mount Kinabalu and it's an upcoming tourist destination and I wanted to understand why!
Upon arriving late last night we checked in to our $15NZD a night accommodation (it needs to mention as it was $15NZD so we literally got what we paid for), ate some beautiful Korean bibimbap and checked out the Filipino night market before having a terrible night’s sleep.
However, getting us this morning, we packed our stuff and hopped into a ‘Grab’ car back to the Airport to pick up our rental car. We were given a brand spanking new car which had done literally a few km’s from the garage to us and off we went of our Borneo Roady!
Our first stop would be ‘Borneo North Biostation' where we were spending 1 night, overlooking the Northern coast and staying in a beautiful little chalet. 3 hours from KK and about 30 mins from Kudat we knew this accommodation was right up our street! Compared to last nights’ accommodation this is costing us $80NZD with breaky but tomorrow night is only costing $18NZD so we like mixing it up!
Its great here, overlooking the ocean and filled with tropical flowers and life, it’s peaceful, tranquil and exactly what we need. After strolling on the beach all afternoon and eating the spiciest dish of my life ‘aubergine sambal’ We knew that this evening we had to go to the tip of Borneo – it’s literally why we drove 3 hours to get here!
The Northern tip of Borneo is where the 2 seas collide and is surrounded by beautiful white sand beach. Simpang Mengayau means ‘lingering junction’ as it is here that the South China Sea lingers and meets the Sulu Seas flowing from the east. We managed to fly the drone, snap some awesome shots and then chilled on the beach with ice lollies and juice. To be honest it’s been the perfect day, but we are exhausted! Borneo however, is truly beautiful from what we have seen so far, and I am just so blessed to be here!
Well, after a couple of seriously long flights and a stopover in Doha we have made it to Kuala Lumpar! As we are not here for too long instead of writing a day by day diary, I will just condense this into what to do in 48 hours in KL…as the city is amazing!
Firstly, when you arrive you have a few options to get into town, including metered taxi, bus, KLAI express train and ‘Airport’ Taxi, which is what we ended up going for as, being 2 of us it was cheaper overall (apart from the bus, but after 17 hours, I wasn’t keen)
The Airport taxi is easy as you just buy a token and take it to the taxi, show the address and boom, off you go! There is also the option Grab but I couldn’t get a good enough WIFI to order – it’s also great though!
We paid 84 Ringgit for the journey which took a little over 45 minutes to get us to our Air B n B – Casa Residency. We booked this one for 3 nights as it’s central, $30NZD a night with a pool and gym. WINNING!
So, back to things to do here. If this is your first time here I have written down a few cool things that we did and are worth checking out!
This to me is a 'must do'! Only 17km’s from the CBD, the Batu Caves are the most important Hindu temple outside of India, dedicated to Lord Murugan, an Indian deity. It has become a pilgrimage site for not only Malaysian Hindus, but Hindus worldwide from countries such as India, Australia and Singapore. It is a truly fascinating place to visit as the bright, vibrant colours from the temples juxtapose the massive limestone caves, making it a really interesting awe-inspiring place.
This was my second time here, once 7 years ago but being with Leo this time round and climbing the 272 (yup, 272) stairs to reach this cave was definitely worth it. There are monkeys everywhere and if you look closely inside the cave there is also squirrels as well as many birds.
Oh, and best of all…it’s free! **TIP** do this trip independently via the train as it only costs a couple of dollars each return whereas you can pay for a tour which can cost up to $30NZD and it’s very easy to navigate yourself!
TRY MAMAK (and then go back for more as it is so good)
Best way to describe this type of food, is delicious and makes your heart feel warm inside! I am being serious…Mamak food is my fav in Malaysia and is commonly prepared in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. Mamak, a Persian language term meaning "little mother" or "kind and compassionate mother" comprises of restaurants serving tasty, traditional food at super cheap prices, mostly for locals but anyone is so welcome here.
**Try the Roti Canai and the Nasi Goreng – delightful and all for a couple of dollars! In fact, the Roti with 3 sauces is only 33c! It’s effectively Malaysia’s treasure trove of delicious cheap eats**