And so I’m sitting down to reflect on Borneo in another slightly off the wall location – a local bar in Xi’An, China, where they’re miraculously showing the Premier League Liverpool match and so have our custom for Sunday night!
Borneo was a truly incredible experience for a self-confessed animal lover and was made all the more special as both sets of our parents came to visit and experience some of the excitement of South East Asia with us!
We flew into Kuching (famous for being ‘cat city’ with cat statues all around the streets which really helps with navigation!). The first couple of days were mainly spent exploring the city and stocking up on some much needed calories after Myanmar along with making the most of the more developed amenities on offer such as a laundrette! We were excitedly told the moment we arrived at our hostel that the giant Rafflesia aka the biggest flower in the world was in bloom, and since they only last for around 72 hours we rapidly set off on a forest trek to see this, followed by our first animal highlight of the trip – to see the orangutans!
We weren’t sure what to expect from a nature reserve which is one of the globe’s main rehab centres for orangutans but we were massively impressed. The orangutans truly live in the wild within the reserve and many animals who have been released don’t cross the path of a human again. Luckily for us, the orangutans who have been more recently re-introduced (or appreciate their food being served up for them!) do come to grab some fruit from the zone where tourists are allowed to stand quietly. It was really exciting watching the tree canopy start to move and waiting with anticipation for the apes to swing their way through the forest towards us. We were really lucky and saw the alpha male as well as a number of mums with their babies. The South Korean ambassador was there on the day and we’re still a little suspicious that things fell into place so well for his visit but it certainly worked out for us!
Next up we headed north to Kota Kinabalu to meet up with our parents and took them to sample how we’d been living with dinner at the local street fish market (hoping no rats would run over anyone’s foot in the process!). It was so nice to see them and to catch up on the last few months. We were very spoilt for a couple of weeks and had an incredible time staying on the beautiful islands of Gaya and Manukan in the TAR National Park exploring the rainforests, snorkelling with colourful fish, monitor lizard spotting, relaxing on the beach and regaining the stone or two we’d both lost with the amazing food on offer!
We headed on a boat along the Klias river to see wild proboscis monkeys and fireflies which were stunning. From there one of my uni friends joined us and we headed to Mount Kinabalu National Park to explore some of the incredible landscape on offer, complete with all of the wildlife including leeches, huge rhinoceros beetles and the biggest butterflies I’ve ever seen! It was amazing to be in the depth of the forest with such diverse wildlife and we all summoned some courage and walked the 30m high canopy ropeway just as a tropical storm came in!
Our time in Borneo came and went so quickly and before I knew it I was waving bye to my parents at the airport as they boarded for home and we waited for our flight to KL to connect to Manila, Philippines for our next chapter!
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