Before we travelled to Borneo it’s probably fair to say we didn’t know much about the place. Borneo is the name of the island but separate parts belong to Malaysia and Indonesia as well as it including the whole of Brunei. We just visited the region of Sabah in the north east of the island that belongs to Malaysia.
Our main reason for going was to visit the various animal sanctuaries and in particular the Sepilok Orangutans. This was probably the wettest part of our trip so far. Elsewhere it has rained but generally for an hour a day at most and fine the rest of the time, the reverse was true in Borneo, particularly in Sepilok where we stayed for the first few days.
However we decided not to let this put us off and it may have actually helped us by keeping the crowds down at the various centres.
We spent one day at the Proboscis Monkey sanctuary visiting the odd looking and slightly angry seeming residents. It’s different from the other sanctuaries as it is primarily a profit making venture for the landowner rather than an attempt to preserve the monkeys. Palm oil is a huge industry in Borneo and vast swathes of rainforest have been torn down in order to allow the farming of the palms. This has destroyed the habitats of many creatures including the proboscis monkeys and forced them into smaller areas of remaining forest. The landowner here has decided that for the time being at least it is more profitable to create a tourist attraction out of this, than to grow palms on his remaining land.
The following day we visited the orangutans. This centre is for rehabilitation and aims to return orphaned and sick orangutans to the wild if at all possible. At the regular feeding times the orangutans start to congregate, we were lucky in that a number turned up. It’s actually regarded as a success for the centre if fewer appear because it means they are surviving without the need of this support. They actually make the meals the same every day to encourage them to go and look elsewhere. The orangutans we saw were so graceful, effortlessly gymnastic and seemed slightly bemused by our presence.
Across the road from the Orangutan Sanctuary is a similar, newer centre for Sun Bears. Many of these have been rescued from homes where their size made people think they would be cute pets. They are the smallest bears in the world and are about the size of a large dog. More Paddington than Hercules!
The rest of the time in Borneo we spent in the capital of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu or KK. This was a pretty featureless town with pretensions to being a resort. Due to allied bombing at the end of WW2 which basically flattened the place their is very little history in the city itself. We decided against the hike up Mount Kinabula as basically it seemed like a lot of work and we were feeling lazy – and wet!!