A Travellerspoint blog

The Katingan River aboard the Ruhui Rahayu

A Jungle Adventure in Central Kalamantan (Indonesian Borneo)

The flight from Kuching was a 3 parts and long just to go a short distance. We stayed the night in Palangkaraya, a city of 200,000 and were picked up in the morning by our driver and our guide for the next week, Jeni. It was a 4 hour trip to our boat, the Ruhui Rahayu, and on the way we stopped to visit Orangutan Island in Nyaru Menteng where we rode in covered canoes to look at the orangutans which came from the foundation in Palangkaraya. They are relocated to the island as they are unable to live with fully wild orangutans. They don't like to swim so they stay safe on the island. We had some excellent sightings.
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Next stop was an indonesian lunch then a ride to Bukit Batu, a pile of rocks you can climb to get a 360 degree view of the surroundings. It is flat here. A magor fire recently has damaged the landscape, sadly. While we were there we had the first experience of locals wanting their picture taken with us. Jeni told us we would feel like "Brad and Angelina" because the locals only see visitors (just one couple or a family) once a week, often less than that.

Back to the car and the ride to Kasongan where our boat awaited us. Not an easy feat to get our luggage aboard using the rudimentary planks but no problem for the awesome crew. We set out along the Katingan River and watched the village go by. All the villages along this river have these huge bird houses where the locals collect the nests for bird's nest soup. Thunderclouds were gathering on the horizon that evening when we enjoyed the best meal of our entire trip so far. There would be many more wonderful meals to follow. As we slept our first night we were awakened by the loudest thunder we have ever heard in our lives along with torrential rain. Ask Leo, I love a good storm but even I was a little scared!
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Day 2

After a delicious breakfast we visited the village of Baun Bango and the home of a Dayak warrior. I learned a dance and Leo hit another bullseye with the blow pipe.
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Later we took canoes and left the brown water of the Katingan and entered the black water of the canal of the black water lake Jelampangen Incredibly beautiful.
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We walked through the village and met a little girl picking mushrooms for dinner, then saw her later down by the lake. Late in the afternoon we took the canoes for a beautiful paddle on the black water of Jelampangen Lake and watched the sunset
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One last picture with the locals then back to the boat for dinner.
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Day 3 and 4
After another yummy breakfast we headed downstream to Karuing village where it was obviously laundry day!

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then we visited a rattan nursery just off the river bank. Not much there, just potted plants in the jungle. We then proceeded down a black water canal on our way to the WWF reasearch centre for wild orangutans located in Sebangau National Park. This is where we would spend the night in a rustic lodge before jungle trekking the next day.

We had dinner at the lodge and After meeting the WWF staff and watching some video they took of the wild orangutans in the area we settled in for the night. Deluxe accommodations included a thin saggy mattress on the floor and a squat toilet. The shower was a tub filled with brackish water and a plastic dipper. We did have toilet paper and towels though. No a/c and no fan and only about 35 degrees and 95 % humidity. Leo fell to sleep right away. I got about 2 1/2 hours. The following day was supposed to be all day trekking in search of wild orangutans. We were prepared for a rough trail but not for what we got. No trail! The WWF guide just motored ahead and I lumbered behind him trying not to kill myself in the process. My knee, still injured and sore with limited flexibility really hampered my progress. You take a step, and the next step is a foot lower, then you sink into water up to your knees, bending and twisting around trees and roots. It would have been hard enough just worrying about my bac,k but the knee really freaked me out. I didn't want to end up hurt in the middle of the jungle. Leo was afraid for his camera and lenses as well so we decided to turn back. It took over an hour to go just a half kilometre and we had 3 1/2 more to go just to half way where they thought there might be orangutans. We later learned that of the six previous treks with visitors only one resulted in a sighting so we felt we made the right choice, it was quite the experience
So the afternoon was spent playing dominoes with Jeni and Wawon back at the lodge and then we took a canoe down the black water canal to a little lake. It was all awesome and good until the propeller hit a log and they lost it. It took about 20 minutes to find it during which time we got torrential rain! I kid you not. You have never seen or felt rain like in the jungle of Borneo! A bigger canoe came and saved us. Watching this lady try to transfer from one canoe into the other from the water must have been a hilarious and very scary sight. Leo would have taken pictures but it was raining too hard. Needless to say we were happy to get back on the boat. I enjoyed my glass of wine that evening from my one and only bottle.

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Day 5
This morning we cruised for three hours to the village of Telaga which Jeni called the village of bird houses because they have the most of them. We would visit the village later in the day but in the meantime we took the canoes down a nearby black water river, of course always on the lookout for Proboscus monkeys. We didn't see any this time.

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Then later we headed down the nearby River Klarn, a heavily forested and very beautiful river. This time we were lucky to spot some Proboscus monkeys! Of course, it's easier to manoeuvre a canoe than it is a bigger boat to get a better look but our pilot did a great job and we had some really good sightings. Whilst cruising, the heavens opened up on us again on our way back to the village. Once we were moored, the little village boys were anxious to see us and played peek a boo through the rain plastic.
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Finally, our visit to the village of Telaga began. The children were out of school and so eager to see us. The village was preparing the streets for a paved road but it was not done yet and after all the rain it was very muddy. We had so much fun meeting all the villagers and kept collecting children as we went. We felt like the Pied Piper of Hamlin! The kids followed us across the planks all the way to the boat and we left with very enthusiastic waves goodbye.
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After our last dinner we took pictures with our wonderful crew.
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Last day
An early morning canoe for one last chance to see Proboscus monkeys. Borneo is the only place in the world to see these marvellous creatures. We were very fortunate to see them again along the largest of the black rivers we traversed. Leo even saw one swimming across the river! Jeni got super excited, exclaiming, a monkey swimming! A monkey swimming! I thought she was saying, "swinging" and was looking for moving branches so I missed the whole thing!
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Back to our starting point and the four hour drive to Palangkaraya. Next stop, Ubud on the beautiful island of Bali.
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Posted by ciannaloo 00:46 Comments (0)

Kuching, The City of Cats and Monkeys by the Sea

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We left the rainforest of Mulu and flew to Kuching on the west coast of Sarawak. If we thought it hot in Mulu, it was even hotter in Kuching. The name means "cat" and you see sculptures of them all over town. The first thing we noticed coming out of the airport were the beautifully manicured boulevards. Kuching is a very pretty, colourful city with lots of character. The river divides it north and south, the north being Malay and the south mostly Chinese. Each has its own city hall and mayor. There are three Chinatown areas in the south near the waterfront, where we stayed at the Ranee, a converted storehouse. A funky, elegant hotel with a nice mix of modern, antique and zen. High ceilings and and old elevator that you had to walk up ten steps to get to! The elevator then takes you to the first or second floor. Good food here
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Love the door handle!
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Steps looking down to dining area
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Along the waterfront
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The Malay city hall
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Miri cakes. They were everywhere
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The city at night
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We opted for a city tour next day instead of trekking around Bako national park. I'm trying to rest my knees a bit after all the steps at Mulu. After a pleasant boat ride along the river We visited a two hundred year old Chinese temple, the Sarawak museum, the Chinese cultural museum and the Chinese city hall with its gorgeous gardens. We also stopped by the mosque cemetery. We were joined by a couple of nice Swedish guys for the second part.
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Dinner was the best food we've had yet. James Brooke bistro on the river
Next day we shopped at the great market stalls along the street our hotel is on. Needed to find a cat to add to my collection. We also went to India street and Chinatown and had awesome ices on the waterfront, lychee and passion fruit.
In the afternoon we took another boat with a nice Belgian couple down the river to the South China Sea in search of Proboscus monkeys. They are on saylak island. We had some excellent sightings as they were in the lower trees right along the water and not way up in the treetops. We also saw a Malay Muslim village on the same island. Lots of pet cats there! Apparently no dogs allowed. We caught sight of a couple of crocodiles in the mangroves. Definitely do not want to go swimming there! After a beautiful sunset we went looking for fireflies and did see a few although not as spectacular as they were in KK. On the way back our guide caught sight of a whole flock of egrets sleeping in the trees. A great day
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Posted by ciannaloo 02:06 Comments (1)

Caves and Canopy

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We flew from Sandakan to Mulu after our lovely adventures with the "rangy tangs". The flight was propeller so we had a nice view all the way. We flew over Kota Kinabalu and could see from the air our first stop at Gayana. It looked incredible from the air.
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Some more aerial shots:
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As you can see, very dense jungle here in Mulu
Our room is at the Marriot, just a short shuttle ride to the park headquarters but because we had to change our flights we couldn't rebook as it was full. I'm glad we ended up at the Marriott as the bed was so comfy and boy was that a godsend after our adventures. The hotel is really beautiful but the food sucks! The food was really good at the cafe inside the park though, actually the only really good food we've had so far on this trip.
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Our flight was late so we missed our canopy tour the first day. Luckily there was a cancellation for april 2 at 7 am so we were able to get that one So we spent the remainder of the day around the pool and enjoyed the very pretty lounge here.

The next day was a long day two tours and four caves. You have to register and have a guide to visit the caves here. The first cave we visited was Wind Cave, named for the sometimes cool refreshing wind it receives. Not so on our walk! It was hotter inside than out as the air was completely still. First we took a 25 minute ride by sampan on the river followed by a 3 kilometre walk to the cave but that involved a LOT of steps and many of them very steep. I have knee issues and I paid for it big time. But the cave was very beautiful.
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After sweating buckets it felt good to get back on the water on our way to Clearwater cave.
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Back on the sampan and back to park headquarters where we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the cafe there. Then we began the walk to Deer Cave. The walk to the cave was less brutal than the first walk but my knees were protesting anyway! The entrance to the cave was similar to the other ones but once inside it opens up into a vast cavern, the largest in the world. Truly spectacular. Over three million bats live here and the evidence is everywhere in the form of guana. You would think it would smell awful but it really wasn't bad. Because it had just rained the night before all night long, there were beautiful streams of water coming down from the ceiling. It was quite magical and beautiful. Very "Jurassic Park".
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After leaving the cave we proceeded to a viewing platform to watch the exodus of three million bats on their nightly mission to hunt mosquitos. They consume 15 tonnes every night which is why we never saw a single one during our stay. They left the cave in waves, hundreds or thousands at a time. Wave after wave in snake-like formations. Then a large wave of what seemed millions of bats left, it just kept coming and coming for about fifteen minutes straight. Absolutely jaw dropping. We have never witnessed anything like it and sure we never will again.
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The next morning we were up bright and early to explore the canopy. Again, we had to have a guide. Having done a canopy tour in Monteverde, Costa Rica, I was expecting this one to be similar, with wide, sturdy metal walkways. Not so! This was very "Indiana Jones". Suspension bridges with Two six inch boards size by side, bouncing, swaying and creaking as you walked along. Only two people allowed on the bridges at a time, 4 people on a platform. By the second bridge I almost had a panic attack. I knew I had to get my act together as there were about fifteen of these things! Looking back I know that it was completely safe but my body didn't want to believe my brain! We zip lined over the canopy in Costa Rica much higher and I wasn't scared at all, go figure! I am still very happy I did it though. An amazing experience.
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Posted by ciannaloo 05:41 Comments (1)

Orangutans, Monkeys and Bears OH MY!

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After saying goodbye to beautiful Palau Gaya in Kota KinabAlu, we headed to the airport and boarded our flight to Sandakan then Sepilok where we stayed at the Sepilok Nature Resort. This place is very cool, set on a lake with lush rainforest all around. P1720238.jpgP1720240.jpgP1720257.jpgP1720258.jpgP1720272.jpg
We are just a five minute walk from the orangutan rehabilitation centre and sun bear conservatory. The orangutan centre rescues orphaned orangutans and teaches them to be self sufficient in the wild again. Orangutans stay with their mothers longer than any other mammal. In the wild, they are nursed for six or seven years and continue to stay with mum till their teens. At the centre, they stay in the nursery till six or seven then they are released into the rainforest where they learn all the skills they need by watching the older apes. They are fed twice a day a monotonous diet which encourages them to forage on their own.

We visited twice a day for two days and were very fortunate to get in three fantastic sightings. These are from our morning visit
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Then later we returned. There were several that came out to greet us before we got to the feeding platform
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Back to the resort for a drink and dinner and bed. We are up early here sun rises and sets around 6:30. The heat and humidity is pretty intense so we are really beat at the end of the dayP1720369.jpgP1720486.jpgP1720488.jpg

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Next morning we were not as fortunate and only saw one orangutan. We headed over to the sun bear conservatory. We saw a lot of bears! They are really cute. Very endangered. The Chinese and Vietnamese use their body parts in medicines so unfortunately there is a poaching problem even though it is illegal. They also get used as pets because they are so adorable when young. Of course when they get older they become unmanageable. All of the bears at the conservatory were once pets. The facility Is beautiful with walkways up in the canopy. Sun bears can climb higher than any other bear and you will often see them high up in the canopy.
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We got drenched in a rain shower after viewing the bears.
Our afternoon visit with our ginger apes proved much more productive and we saw many including a highlight of a beautiful mama and her baby. A wonderful day!
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Posted by ciannaloo 04:55 Comments (0)

Monkeying Around

Monday morning spent more time at the beautiful pool here. Nice long laps and usually have it all to myself.
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In the afternoon we took the boat to the jetty in KK and then met out guide Chi Chi who took us to the Klias River, about a two hour drive where we had a light snack before boarding a small boat.
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A few minutes after boarding we spotted a crocodile and it wasn't long before we saw our first Proboscus monkey. Borneo is the only place on earth to see these amusing creatures with their pot bellies and floppy noses. The males have perpetual "stiffies".
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We had amazing sightings of Proboscus, Silverleaf monkeys which are very rare and long tail Macaques. Our guide said it was an unusually good day. Once it was too dark for more sightings we got off the boat for a nice meal then boarded again to go in search of fireflies and were rewarded with the most amazing display of twinkling lights in the trees. It was truly a magical sight. Hundreds of fireflies!
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We were happy that we had such amazing sightings and no rain. It was then time for the trip back in a very bumpy van. We were glad to finally get into our comfy bed

Next day was a lazy day around the resort swimming eating and drinking around the pool
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Posted by ciannaloo 06:27 Comments (1)

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