So, that’s it, we’re home! The last two days have been spent travelling.
We left Singapore early on Saturday morning, transiting in Doha for what was suppossed to be 90 minutes. This turned into 150 minutes due to a late arriving plane. Unfortunately, as it is Ramadan, the lounge did not serve any alcoholic drinks!
We eventually arrived in Stockholm at around 10 and it was almost 10.45pm (5am Singapore time) by the time we got to our accommodation, a converted 747, close to the airport!
We had an early start again today with a 7.45am flight to London. We were back home by 1pm.
We’ve had a fantastic trip – culture, adventure and wildlife and, of course, have met some great new people and enjoyed some great food and one or two Tigers!
For our last day in Kuala Lumpur we joined a tour to the Batu caves, about 7 miles out of the city centre. Of course, as with most toys, they never take you to the main event and we had two stops before we got to the caves.
The first stop was at a Batik factory near the city centre. Here we saw how they hand draw the designs and then colour them. The was, inevitably, a chance to purchase things!
Next stop was at a pewter factory, apparently the largest in the world. Here we saw how they hand make almost everything!
We then drove about 25 minutes to the caves, with our guide pointing out interesting, and not so interesting things all a long the way. When we arrived at the caves, it was very very warm and we had around 50 minutes to spend there.
The caves have also been turned into a temple, with all of the associated paraphernalia and, apparently, the tallest standing Buddha in the world.
There are 279 colourful steps to the top and there you can enter the caves. They’re not as spectacular as some that we’ve seen on this trip, but the addition of the temples makes them unique!
Typically of this dirty of temple, the bright colours and smell of the incense is a bit of an assault on the senses! By the time we got to the top of the steps we were both boiling!
There were also some very cheeky monkeys!
The journey back took around 30 minutes and we were dropped off at the KLCC where we had a couple of refreshing beers.
Then it was back to the hotel for a shower, final afternoon tea in the lounge and a late check out.
We checked our bags in for our flight at the train station and then got the express train to the airport. The flight was on time and we arrived at Singapore at around 8.30. we checked into our hotel at the airport and just had some time for a meal and drink before heading to bed.
We had a lazyish start with breakfast downstairs in the main restaurant and then caught the metro one stop to view some of Kuala Lumpur’s main sights.
We started at the Central market which is on an old art deco building and now houses loads of handcraft stalls.
Next we wandered around Chinatown and Petaling Street.
Next stop was the Sri Mahamariamman temple which is hidden in the middle of the urban jungle.
We walked on to the National mosque which can accommodate around 10,000 worshippers!
We were now almost back to our hotel and saw the faded glory of the old railway station.
Kayak Lumpur is exceptionally difficult to walk around on foot but we eventually found out way into the Sentral station, sort of!
We caught a train to the KL tower and, after a hot sweaty walk, find ourselves at the foot of it. We paid to go up and we hoping to have a beer at the top, but sadly, whilst they have a restaurant, you can only do there with a reservation. We did seem some alternative views of the city from the tower, web is a telecommunications building and the 4th tallest in the world.
By now it was gone one so we took a taxi back to our hotel and had a couple of beers there instead by the pool.
We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening relaxing and making use of access to the lounge so had afternoon tea.
I then had a swim in the pool and we had a beer by the pool before canapes and drinks on the lounge in the evening.
I have to admit that it was a struggle getting up this morning!
We had an 8am transfer to the airport where we waited in the lounge until our flight at 11.25am. the flight was uneventful and we landed in Kuala Lumpur just before 3.
We took the express train into the centre and found that it hotel, the Hilton, is within the Sentral train station complex.
Having checked into the hotel we found that our room, on the 30th floor was simply enormous! There is a dining area, numerous cupboards and storage areas and a large bathroom with a further separate toilet! Definitely moving to the luxury end of the trip!
We had afternoon tea in the lounge in the 33rd floor before heading out and getting the metro to the Petronas Towers. We spent some time taking photos at the bottom before booking tickets to travel to both the connecting bridge on the 41st floor and the observation deck on the 86th floor!
The views on the city were amazing although my legs did feel a little bit like jelly on the sky bridge!
When we went down, we had a drink overlooking the fountains in KL park and waited for sunset to be able to take some more photos and to see the fountain display.
We returned to the hotel at around 8.30 and had some food and a couple of drinks before heading to bed.
One of the few ‘travelling’ days today and, for a change, we had a lazy start this morning and didn’t have to meet until 10.30am. sheet a light breakfast we met to get a bus to the airport, stopping at the Sandakan war memorial on the way.
The war memorial commemorates the POW camp that was based in Sandakan, run by the Japanese and the was a really interesting, and somewhat graphic, display of the atrocities that went on in the camp and also the stoic attitudes of the prisoners, most of whom would die before the end of the war.
After spending around 45 minutes at the sure we got back on the bus for the short journey to the airport.
Our flight left on time at 2.15pm and it was only 45 minutes later that we were landing back at Kota Kinabalu. On the right hand side of the aircraft you could see mount Kinabalu!
We had a minibus to the Dreamtel hotel, where we’d started from 11 days ago.
Ed and I agreed stone washing then met Peter, Zoe and Hala to walk to the waterfront. We stopped at Edna’s to drop off a small amount of washing ( less than £4 for a bag to be washed and returned to our hotel by 9pm!) and then walked on. We looked around the fruit and fish market taking place at the waterfront and also the handicraft stalls before heading for a refreshing Tiger and to watch the sun go down.
From here we caught a taxi to meet everyone for a farewell dinner at which a cake was produced for Ed’s birthday on the next day!
To finish the night we walked back to the waterfront for some Tigers and ended up in an Irish bar where there was live music.
As we need to leave at 8am, we called it a night at 12.30 and walked back to the hotel with Hala leaving just a handful of the group to it!
We were up at 6am in time for a quick breakfast before or boat left for the mainland at 7am.
After a 45 minute return journey we walked back to the hotel where we had left our bags. We then had a 40 minute transfer to the Sepilok jungle resort where we’d be staying. We arrived just after 9.30 but couldn’t check in so we left our bags and headed for the orangutan sanctuary.
Here we first saw the nursery are before watching the morning feed where a few orangutans visited, including one who didn’t seem remotely interested in food, but was happy to be photographed! The weather was, again, really warm and humid and it seemed that we were just sweating standing still.
Having seen the feeding time we walked across the road to the sun bear sanctuary. Here we spent a good 45 minutes watching some of the different bears.
It was now time to head back and when we arrived we went straight to lunch. It turns out that the food at the hotel restaurant is very good!
After lunch we were able to check into our rooms. We both had a quick shower before walking back to the sanctuary to see more orangutan feeding. There were a fraction of the number of people there compared to the morning and it felt quite exclusive although the heat and humidity remained high! We also watched a short film about the sanctuary which is supported by a British charity.
At around 3pm we walked back to the resort and then headed for the pool where we enjoyed a couple of beers relaxing in the shade.
At 5.30, some of the group (who hasn’t been enjoying the Tiger beer so much in the afternoon!) met to go on a nightshade. Night walk in the jungle. We walked for about 20 minutes and arrived at the rainforest discovery centre where we walked up onto a canopy walkway and managed to catch a sight of a flying squirrel in the dusk.
As it was getting dark we walked into the jungle and spotted some smaller insects but nothing too exciting. We got back to the resort at about 8 and went straight for dinner. By 10 we were flagging after a day filled with animal sightings and the hot and humid conditions and so we had an early night.
After breakfast, we packed an overnight bag for our trip to turtle Island. We walked about 20 minutes in the morning heat to a small dockside area. On one side were old fishing junks, and on the other, the speedboats ready to take tourists to the islands off Borneo.
We hung around for a while watching the activity in the port before boarding a speedboat at around 10.30am for the 45 minute journey to the island.
The boat sped along with the wind keeping us cool. On the way we passed the Malaysian maritime ships and then lots of houses on stilts at the edge of the shore. The engines were going full pelt so it was pretty noisy but the views of Islands as we passed them was beautiful.
After just over 45 minutes we approached a small island which it turns out it’s going to be our home for the night. The boat landed on the beach and we stepped off into a bit of an island paradise.
We walked a short distance to the main reception area and were given a very brief overview of the turtle conservation. There is a board which shows the nightly activity and so we’re fully expecting to see some turtles land this evening.
We were given our keys and made our way to the chalets. They’re small, but perfectly functional and have power and air conditioning. (Although having didn’t a night there, the air conditioning is not great!)
We had about an hour before lunch and so we went to the beach and I went a swim in the incredibly warm waters. The island is pretty small and you could walk around out in less than 30 minutes. There are only about 32 people staying on the island so it feels a bit like an exclusive resort!
After a buffet lunch, I retired to the beach for another swim and attempted to avoid getting to much sun while Ed went for a wander around the island.
We all met up again at 5pm and had a couple of beers on the beech while we waited for the sun to go down.
There was a beautiful sunset as you could see clouds in the distance efficient were backlit by the sun going down.
We hung around on the beech until about 6.30 when we headed back to the centre to see the small display room explaining about the conservation principles. The island that we’re on is Malaysian, but there is a cross country conservation programme between Malaysia and the Philippines.
Each night, rangers track every landing and then transplant the eggs to a hatchery on the island. They are then released directly back into the sea once they hatch. We saw a short video on the conservation programme before going for dinner.
After eating we settled on for the wait for a turtle to land. At around 8.30 we had the call and were led to the beach where a title was already starting to lay eggs. When we saw this in Costa Rica, there were no photographs allowed but this is different in Malaysia. You were allowed to take photos as long as there was no flash used. Watching the turtle lay was a really special experience. As she was laying, the ranger scooped the eggs from the nest into a small bucket. We were told that whilst laying the turtles go into some sort of trance like state so would not have been aware of our presence. Once she had finished, laying 96 eggs, the ranger took time to measure her, check for damage and barnacles and to see if she had already been tagged. It turns out that this was a turtle who had not layed before so he also tagged her. We left her to return to the sea
The rangers will work through the night to do this for every turtle that lands and nests.
Next, we were taken to the hatchery where we saw how they transplant the eggs that had been laid. They are careful marked and protected and some nests are undercover and some more open as the temperature of the nest affects the sex of the hatchlings.
Finally, we were taken back to the shore where we watched as some hatchlings were released into the sea. They would have been laid around 60 days ago and, if they survive, will remain at sea until they are of breeding age in 15-30 years time when the females will most likely return to the same beach to lay. The rangers used a torch light in the sea to direct the hatchlings who would usually follow the moonlight.
Overall, an amazing experience. By now it was around 9.30 so after a nightcap we headed to bed.
(in the morning we discovered that there had been 32 landings and 20 nests that night with over 1,400 eggs transplanted and over 80 hatchlings released.)
We had a 5.30 alarm call to be up and away on the river safari at 6am. A quick coffee in the cafe area and we boarded the boat. It was light, although the sunrise hadn’t properly taken place.
This time we cruised up the river and managed to see a few more primates, a crocodile and some hornbills.
We returned to the lodges at just before 8 and had breakfast and then checked out, took the boat back across the river and boarded our bus. Just before we got into the boat we saw a monitor lizard which had attached one of the pet cats at the lodges and apparently eaten her kittens.
We drove for about 15 minutes and then stopped at the Gomantong Caves. These caves are where twice a year they harvest bird’s nests for both cosmetics and bird’s nest soup. The harvesting is now regulated by the government and its only allowed before the swiftlets lay eggs or after the chicks have left.
Before we entered the caves we spotted two wild orangutans in the trees next to the car park area. They seemed completely unbothered by our presence!
Hasif then explained some of the methods that the locals use to harvest the nests. The ropes and ladders all looked far too rickety to be climbing to the top of the cave 50m high! However, the rewards are worth it as the harvested nests sell for significant amounts of money.
We walked about 10 minutes along boardwalks to the entrance to the cave. It’s not really as impressive as the ones we’d seen in Sarawak, but they did have a massive entrance. As you approached you could smell the guano coming from the cave and there were hundreds of swiftlets flying around. We walked along boardwalks caked in guano and with cockroaches and sides scuttling around. There were three shacks set up in the cave that the locals use to sleep in to keep an eye on the caves. Not something that I’d want to do in a hurry!
We walked quickly on the loop of the cave and came back out just in time to see another wild orangutan sitting in a tree eating fruit. We stopped to watch it for 10 minutes before walking back to the bus. We’d certainly been lucky to see two different wild orangutans.
We boarded the bus for a 2 hour transfer to Sandakan.
On arrival in Sandakan at around 1.30pm we dropped off our bags in the room and meet up with Peter and Zoe to get some food. We ended up getting a taxi for the short ride up the hill to an English tea Room where we had club sandwiches and scones, with, of course, a tiger beer.
After eating we walked down the 200+ steps, no mean feat given that we’re all still struggling with sore legs, and headed back to the hotel.
We had some time relaxing before meeting up with the group at 5.45 to head to a roof top bar for a sunset drink and then some food, a bit later, in their restaurant in the floor below.
Finally, to end the evening, we had a couple of drinks at a waterfront ‘bar’.
We had an early start that, meeting at 7am to stay y or journey onwards. Overnight I’d been woken by an insect at the top of my duvet!
Our journey today will be about 5 hours in a small bus with an interior which is far too bright for early in the morning!
We’re following a similar route to that made by the asked forces during the war, Sandakan to Ranau, on the death march, forced by the Japanese.
After a short drive we stopped to see the Rafflesia flower, the largest flower in the world.
After another 20 minutes or so we stopped at the Sabah tea plantation for breakfast, which included some good coffee!
We drove on and soon we passing miles upon miles of Palm oil plantations. The plantations are not made by deforesting rainforests, but by using areas which have already been cut down for timber. They also provide the second largest income for Malaysia after oil.
At around 1400 we arrived at the river where we caught a boat across the water to our hotel for the night. The accommodation is in lodges set in the jungle with the dining area and small sitting area as the main part.
We had a welcome drink and then a buffet meal was served. We checked into our rooms and had about an hour free time before we met at 4 for a river cruise and wildlife spotting. We both took the opportunity to have a tiger overlooking the river.
The cruise lasted about 2 and a half hours and we were able to spot loads of monkeys (macaques) a crocodile and even an orangutan. We arrived back at 6.30 and then had tea at 7.
After tea we met for a night walk which meant that we needed to hire Wellington boots and leech socks. We spent an hour or so wandering around the jungle in the dark and did manage to spot a couple of different types of civet along with loads of insects.
As we have an early start for another river wildlife spotting trip at 6am, we just had one more beer and then headed to bed for 10pm to sort some photos, have a showerb to wash the grime of the day off and get some sleep!