Today, the second day of our Borneo Travel Adventure with Borneo Ethical Adventures we woke early, and with great anticipation, for we heading off on a trip to Semongghoh Wildlife Sanctuary to hang out with the Orangutans.
Orangutans Borneo – Must See!
I was so excited at the thought of seeing Orangutans in the semi-wild, in a natural setting, and close up that I could barely sleep last night.
It was a quiet and scenic drive to the sanctuary, around 20km and 45 minutes by bus from Kuching.
Once in the park we wound through a wooded jungle. There were massive giant ferns, and a thick understory with a vivid green canopy and lots of bamboo and we were left in no doubt that this was Orangutan country.
Borneo Adventure – Semongghoh Wildlife Sanctuary
For over 20 years orphaned and rescued Orangutans have been released into the reserve, and we were privileged to arrive at feeding time and watch the antics of a mother and baby, and some of the males as they came down from their nests to feast on bananas.
Watching these amazing creatures up close in their own habitat was amazing, Their sad eyes, so mournful when they look directly at you. Their funny antics and the way they protect their young was also fascinating to watch.
Our driver PE told us not to stand directly under them as they swing through the trees or we could get a very warm shower!
We were told they can live to be 60 years old and the oldest in the park is Soduku at 47 years old and the youngest is 5 months, while Ritchie is the park’s dominant male.
The reserve is home to a large group of semi-wild orangutans who visit the centre often daily. We met another dominant male dangerously close up and watched a mother and her baby swing through the trees.
There was a strict behaviour code, and to begin with we were issued with a warning which basically consisted of Death By Orangutan in 101 ways.
The park guides are strict about what you can and can’t do and where you can stand, and we were left in no doubt that this is not some kind of cheesy zoo spectacle where you get to cuddle an orangutan and take a selfie.
It’s pretty hard to describe the feeling you get when you gaze into the sombre eyes of a huge dominant male, drawn into the sadness of his face before watching him casually smashing open a coconut against a tree trunk.
It’s even harder to describe what it’s like watching a mother and her baby cavorting between branches, the mother ever watchful of her child, often hanging below it in case it falls.
Our cousins, these astonishing creatures and endangered – only around 3,000 of them remain in the Sarawak forests.
Orangutans Borneo are worth saving. Do visit and find out more about them and our precious rainforest ecosystem if you can. You won’t be disappointed.
Kayaking on the Sungai Sarawak Kiri River
Next up we drove deeper into the country to embark on a kayak journey along the Sungai Sarawak Kiri River.
It was so thrilling to glide down the river, stopping at really scenic locations where we could jump off the kayaks and swim – often with shoals of fish which appeared quickly and amusingly amongst us.
Talk about a natural wonderland!
The scenery was beautiful along our 10km paddle – we skimmed past king ferns, durian trees, bamboo, and incredible limestone pinnacles – limestone karsts topped with jungle mists, that jutted like beacons into the blue sky that was just beginning to threaten rain.
Highlights for me included the absolute peace and serenity of paddling down the river with only the slip slop slap of the paddles and the whirr of crickets through some of the most remote and exquisite jungle scenery.
Following hard on the heels of the magical kayaking excursion was meeting the village people at a tribal Bidayuh Village where we were treated to lunch, freshly cooked by one of the villagers. Wow, even in this remote location there were many traditional treats on offer.
What’s been brilliant so far?
So many things, but I have to mention that having Alison’s first hand knowledge of the culture and people and topography of this remarkable land has been wonderful. Alison was in fact Park Manager at Mulu National Park for two years and called Borneo home.
Her love and passion for the people and the country are evident and it’s lovely to be with a tour guide who not only has one eye on her group but also on the sustainability of tourism and the impact it has on the people and country.
The end of the day
Later on, back in Kuching, as the sky turned a fragile pink, the Kuching Waterfton Jazz Festival officially opened.
Street stalls, sparkling lights, delicious food stalls, a lazy river and a whole lot of jazz right along the waterfront just below the grounds of our hotel, The Grand Margherita.
As the sky turned a a pastel pink and streaks of lilac curse like fat veins above the other worldy Sarawak State Legislative Assembly building everything stopped, and the Muslim call to prayer could be heard ringing out across the river.
One of the challenges and delights of the Kuching Jazz Festival is the juxtaposition of East meets West and everything in between in a glorious fusion of inter cultural harmony.
It’s not that you have to love only jazz to attend this waterfront festival in Sarawak’s most sophisticated city, no not at all, but you have to love world music and being entertained, and delighted by the unexpected.
What others are saying
“I celebrate the wonderful opportunity I had to be part of this tour. Ali has a heart felt passion for the people and place. She is and was extremely generous in sharing this with each of us. To pin point a particular highlight is difficult given the breath of the tour from spending time in the relaxed city of Kuching through to experiencing the uniqueness of the Borneo jungle. I know when traveling the times when I have had the opportunity to connect with local people is always my most treasured memory. This tour contained many good memories of connection whether it was personal or through witnessing Ali in her interactions. My highlight is having the opportunity to witness the passion that the people we met have towards the sustainability of place and culture.” Michelle.
Part 1 of this story – Read Here: Borneo Travel Adventure Part 1