Kinabatangan, Sepilok & Sandakan Trip
26 March 2010 | Labuan
Wednesday, 10th March we were all up at 5am and picked up by a taxi at the marina at 5.45am to take us to the Inanam bus station where we were booked on a bus to take us to the Kinabatangan. It was a 20 minute taxi ride to the bus depot and as we were there in plenty of time we had breakfast at the bus station. Unfortunately that morning I woke up with what I called a headache from hell (migraine) and even though I had taken several lots of pain killers during the day there was no improvement so the 6 hr trip in the bus for me was spent mostly dozing. The bus took us past Mt. Kinabalu and we had better views of it than the day we went up there as well as passing through the outskirts of Ranau. The bus dropped us off at Kota Kinabatangan and then we had about an hour's wait for the Nature Lodge Resort bus to pick us up and take us to the resort we were staying at. However we were dropped off at a little village and then taken across the river by boat to the resort. We were given afternoon tea and then shown to our cabin - it was pretty heavily booked so the four of us were in a dormitory type cabin for six with the other two being a very nice young couple from
We had a 2 hour river cruise before dinner and saw one orangutan in the wild, probiscus and long tailed macaque monkeys, crocodiles and a variety of birdlife. After dinner there was a night jungle walk which I did not go on as I felt I needed to go to bed and sleep off the migraine but Don, Linda and Dave enjoyed it but there were no leaches even though they were all togged up in their leach socks!! They saw a tarsus close up which is supposedly very rarely seen. Next morning (Thursday) we had another river cruise at 6am and the same the following morning plus an afternoon cruise on Thursday and a another jungle walk that night which Dave and I went on but was not as good as the previous night and all we saw were a couple of birds. We were disappointed that we did not see the pygmy elephants but it is the luck of the draw as to whether or not you see them.
Don and Linda enjoyed the trip but we could have seen and done what we did in one night, two days instead of two nights, three days so for us it was a little disappointing as we have seen so much wildlife and been a lot closer to them. The day we arrived was actually Linda's birthday and so the staff in the jungle of Borneo managed a surprise for her. Don had gone over before dinner saying he was going for a beer and told the staff this was a special birthday, asking if they could do something with the candles and balloons (Don had them hidden in his luggage). After dinner out came a 'cake' made up of hot French fries piled under a disc made of white bread with the candles atop and small crust-less sandwiches forming the rest of the cake into a star!!. They apologized that they could not make something better at such short notice.
Linda is a Berthing Practitioner ( www.birthprep.com ) in the States and along with giving classes etc. writes articles about birthing practices in the various countries she visits around the world so one of the high lights of our trip to the Kinabatangan for her was talking to a couple of young women about the myths and practices for pregnant women, especially those who opt to have their babies at home, although most in the main towns and cities have their babies at a hospital. While we did the jungle walk the second night she was taken to see and talk to the local midwife. Linda has agreed that when she has written the article she will send it to me and I can add it to our blog and am sure the women at least will find it very interesting to read.
All the other tourists that were at the resort at the same time as us were young people, so we were by far the oldest by some 30-40 years!!
After the early morning cruise on the Friday, breakfast and the short boat trip across the river we went by the resort bus to Sepilok where they dropped us off at our accommodation - Sepilok Bed and Breakfast where we spent two nights. Had lunch there between going to the Rain Forest Discovery Centre with a walk through the beautiful gardens before lunch and then in the afternoon doing the sky walks over the rain forest which involved climbing up several towers and walking across high bridges above the rain forest. The B&B had a nice barbecue for all its guests the first night we were there which was an additional cost.
Next morning we walked the kilometre or so to the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary to catch the 10am feeding of these animals. We were there just after 9am and a couple appeared before feeding. We watched them for a couple of hours but they certainly weren't as close as what we had seen in Kuching. In these places it is always the luck of the draw and we just struck a really good day at Kuching.
After seeing the orangutans we decided we would get a taxi and go over to Sandakan, something we had not actually planned to do and so glad we did. Our taxi driver was great and he took us to see an amazing Chinese temple and the Sandakan Memorial Park which we would not have got to if we had taken a bus to Sandakan as both places were some distance from the main town.
The Memorial Park is the original Sandakan prisoner of war camp and commemorates the tragedies and atrocities inflicted by the Japanese between January & August 1945 when an Allied victory was in sight in the Pacific War and approximately 2400 Australian and British prisoners of war were held by the Japanese at the Sandakan POW camp. The POW's were starved, overworked, given beatings and punishments and forced over 1000 weak and sick POW's on three marches under brutal physical conditions.
In 1942 and 1943 the Japanese brought to Sandakan about 2700 Australian and British POWs, the majority of whom had been captured at the surrender of Singapore in February 1942. They were used as a labour force to build a military airstrip. The Allies eventually bombed and destroyed the airstrip at the end of 1944. Early in 1945 the Japanese decided to move about 1000 POWs 250km west to the settlement of
Ranau. On three forced marches between January and June approximately 500 prisoners died. The rest died at the destination camps. None of the 1400 prisoners held at the Sandakan Camp at the beginning of 1945 survived.
Of all of those who had been alive in January 1945, by the end of August only six, all Australians-survived. Two of the six escaped into the jungle during the second march in June 1945. Assisted by local people they were eventually picked up by Allied units. Another four escaped from Ranau in July and again with the help of local people, were fed and hidden from the Japanese until the end of the war.
Today the POW dead, whose bodies were recovered, are buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission war cemetery at Labuan. Those who could not be identified or who have no known grave are commemorated on Memorials to the Missing at Labuan and Singapore.
The taxi driver then dropped us off in the main part of town and we visited the market and generally had a look around Sandakan. Linda and I both bought several lots of material and Linda got conned into some Indians making her a dress out of one of the lots of material she bought. Created quite a laugh and we had to leave them to it for ¾ hr. The dress wasn't what we expected (10RM to make) but she gracefully told them she was pleased with it and we all agreed that it was just as well the material was only 5RM ($NZ2). She has since given me the material to do what I like with it!
Our driver picked us up again at 6pm and we went to a fabulous seafood restaurant for dinner and we would have had the most expensive meal we have ever had in Malaysia (still cheap by NZ standards) but it was fabulous - we all ordered something different and shared it. Our driver then took us back to Sepilok after our meal and we got there at around 9pm, after having a great day.
Next morning caught the 9.15am bus from Sepilok back to Kota Kinabalu, arriving back at the marina at about 4pm.
KOTA KINABALU - BRUNEI - LABUAN
On Monday, 15th March all four of us caught the 9am Sutera bus into town to do fruit and vegetable shopping at the market and were back at the marina by 10.30am, went and paid our berth age fees and at noon left the marina and headed the four miles over to Gaya Island where we enjoyed a swim and a snorkel during the afternoon. The next morning we went across to Sapi Island in the dinghy and snorkeled for over an hour and we saw numerous types of fish ....schools in the 1000s swimming along with the angel fish, clown fish and many others. The coral too was amazing likewise types we have never seen before along with huge brain coral, blue starfish...oh yes just to keep us on our toes some jelly fish. We up anchored at 10.30am and had a lovely sail down to Pulau (island) Tiga - a distance of 31 miles and we dropped anchor at 3.40pm.
We spent two nights at Tiga and on Wednesday we had a bit of a walk around the island and to see the volcanic mud pool that everyone talks about and is supposedly a must to get in to. We found an English couple in the pool and I was supposedly the only one that thought about getting in but once I found that there was a severe water shortage on the island and that you had to walk the 1.3km back to the beach to get rid of all the mud on your body, decided that I was not going to get in.
Thursday, 18th we up anchored at 6.40am and headed off to Labuan (the duty free island 20 miles off Brunei) and had another lovely sail - a distance of 36 miles and we caught a lovely Spanish mackerel en route which we enjoyed for dinner that night. It was the smallest Spanish mackerel we have ever caught but we stuffed it inside and did it on the barbecue and was beautiful and we still had enough for lunch next day. We tied up in the Labuan Marina for the night and then headed off on Friday morning across to Brunei. Anchored off the Serasa Yacht Club and then went by dinghy to check in with Customs, Harbour master, Immigration etc. at the ferry terminal. Went ashore for dinner at the yacht club that night.
At mid day on Saturday we were picked up by one of Allan Riches (Brunei Bay Radio, Intrepid tours) employees and taken into the city, picking up a Welsh lady (Maritsa Kelly) at the airport before Allan took over and he did the city tour that we had done when we were in Brunei previously so saw the Sultan's Palace, the Sultan's mosque, the Sultan's Memorabilia Museum, the water village where we had afternoon tea and we ran out of time to go to the museum. Allan lent us four 20 litre diesel containers and with our five we got 206 litres of diesel for $64 - 31cents a litre!!
Maritsa was filling in time in Brunei as she was en route to visit family in Perth. When she heard what we were doing she said that her best friend's sister and husband were sailing around Malaysia and had been in Australia etc. I asked if she knew the name of the yacht and she said "Three Ships". It is a small world, Fiona and Chris on Three Ships sailed around NZ with us down south in 2007 and we are hoping to meet up with them in Borneo later this year. They did the Indonesian rally last year so are a year behind us but we have kept in touch.
Finally got back to the yacht club at around 7pm and Linda and I decided we weren't about to cook dinner so had another nice meal at the Yacht club.
Sunday morning we dinghied over to the ferry terminal and went through all the same procedure again to check out to come back to Labuan. A cruise ship had arrived in and the harbour had several boats of Maritime Police (with guns & in camouflage gear) checking all the boats around the harbour and they came up to us, asking what our destination was. All the local boats were checked as well.
We are now tied up in the Labuan marina for a few weeks which is free, including power and water. Have the air conditioning going but can't use the kettle or microwave while the air conditioner is going as it blows the fuse.
Monday morning we all went to the market to stock up and had a look around the town and Don and Linda bought a few last minute things to take home. On Tuesday we hired a car (couldn't believe it, didn't sign any papers, no license check, no insurance charges) and did a tour around the island doing all the tourist sights. Went to the Bird Park which had a variety of birds, along with hornbills which Linda was dying to see and we did not see down in the Kinabatangan. Visited Peace Park which is a beautifully landscaped memorial built as a renunciation of war - a symbol of peace and harmony. A bronze plaque commemorating the surrender of the Japanese army is mounted on a stone slab near the entrance. Surrender Point is the historic spot which witnessed the surrender of the Japanese Army to the Allied Forces on 10th September 1945, which marked the end of World War 11 in Borneo. It was also here that SE Asia's the first war crime trials were conducted. It overlooks the South China Sea. Also visited the WW11 Memorial which is the largest in the country and the final resting place of 3900 war heroes from NZ, Australia, Britain, India and Malaya.
Went and had a look at "The Chimney" which was built in 1800 and constructed from red bricks imported from England and is 106ft high. It is believed to be a ventilation shaft and linked to coal mining but there appears to be no evidence of smoke or burning and there are at least 12 layers of brick beneath the surface so it has been thought that it might have been a light house.
We stopped at a little roadside place for lunch and had some delightful Muslim ladies cook our lunch and talk to us. Linda was in her element once again talking to them about birthing practices and confirming all what she had been told down in the Kinabatangan. It was the first time that they had had any Americans or NZers stop for lunch.
Visited a Water Village here - was a bit scary walking over the decrepit paths, with holes and broken boards over the water. Some of the inhabitants tried to sell us some fish but we gracefully declined. They look so poor but all seem happy enough and content with their lot. Most of the houses have their own boats.
As Tuesday night was Don and Linda's last night with us they took us to the Grand Dorsett hotel just up the road from the marina for dinner and we had a beautiful meal. Linda bought a NZ Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc wine from a duty free shop which we had a drink of before dinner as drinks at the hotel are an exorbitant price. For over 55's you get a 50% discount for lunches and 20% for dinners at night so all in all is very good value and fabulous food to boot.
We are now back on our lonesome as Linda and Don left at mid day on Wednesday and went by ferry from here to Kota Kinabalu and flew out at 1am on Thursday for Japan where they are spending a week with Don's sister who lives there. We had a great time with them and we all got on really well - I think we think the same way about things and the time seemed to just fly by. They loved it here and it was not what they expected and most of their friends thought they were mad joining up with a couple of kiwis whom they had only met for one day in NZ in 2006 through Rotary. We are really looking forward to having some more good times together in the years to come.
We had a Swiss couple who were in here for two nights on board for drinks on Wednesday night and they had come down from Japan after spending 18mths there, originally intending to be there for only 6 months. They reckon it was the best country they had visited so was very interesting. There was a method in Dave's madness in inviting them over I think as he really wants to go there so we shall see - just when I thought I had changed his mind about things!!!