Day 227: Monkey Business

Thurs. 28th March 2013

Proboscis monkeyDue to the full moon, the tides were such that we had to be at Kampung Bako by 8am or forget about catching a boat to the National Park until noon. So we were up at 6:20am and after a quick coffee in the room and cheese raisin bun from the 7/11 store (can’t comment on the taste as it was too early, but it did not touch the sides) we were ready for the off. It had been raining for most of the night and continued throughout our drive to the National Park ferry port. Not a good start and this is not the normal weather pattern as it is usually dry in the morning and rain later in the day, if at all.

Speeding to our adventureWe watched the boats on the water while we waited for Stacey our tour leader to sort the paperwork. The current in the river was strong and the boats fought their way to make any progress upstream. We were loaded four to a boat and headed off at great speed. What a fantastic start to the Borneo section of our travels. The mountains looked quite mystical with white fluffy clouds around them and soon the river opened out into the South China Sea and we continued around the coast. The park is on a peninsula but there are no roads to it and the only way in is by boat. The half hour journey whizzed by in no time and we were soon wading ashore (cameras tightly secured and dry!)

Snake photo taken by Simon, thank youBefore we had even crossed the beach to enter the Main Park Building we had been distracted by Proboscis monkeys, indigenous to Borneo. There was a large male (in all senses) sat in a tree eating and ignoring us. We shuffled around the monkeys trying to get the best photo spot through the leaves. They were great to watch, just sat there without a care in the world just eating. The long nose (even bigger than a Hornsey hooter!) is used by the males to make a hooting sound apparently to attract the females. We dumped our overnight bags, put on our walking boots and were off. Our guide took us around the park lodge grounds first to show us a group of small monkeys and the wild pigs that wander freely around. We also saw this stunning Waggler’s Pit Viper which uses the heat sensors on its head to detect prey as much as its eyes.

Termites on the marchThe walk proper began on a long boardwalk that has seen better days and very rickety. The procession of thousands of termites walking along the handrails did not give us confidence. After that I was very careful where I put my hands and where I walked.

Pincer powerThe one clawed Fiddler Crabs we saw in the sand by the sea were unusual and brightly coloured compared to mud skippers, which are difficult to spot. I had forgotten the problems of groups of twelve and having to play Chinese whispers to know what the guide is telling those at the front. After the boardwalk, the path turned inland and it was a scramble to the summit, with that and the humidity we were dripping with sweat by the time we reached the top. It was not even very high or long compared with some of the walks we will be doing later on this trip. The trees obscured any view but the breeze was welcoming and rock structure was interesting, where indentations from erosion of the solid sandstone made pools full of the recent rainwater.

Ant trap - Pitcher PlantBy now it was late morning and most of the wildlife was sensibly resting so we turned to studying the plant life and saw three different types of carnivorous plants. We descended along a rocky path/waterway until we reached an open space overlooking the sea and small bay with mountains in the distance, where we sat a while. It was then another steeper scramble to reach the beach and go for a very welcome swim in the warm South China Sea.

Looking forward to a swimAfter eating our packed lunch of noodles we all elected for the option of catching a boat for a different walk back to our accommodation, rather than retrace our steps over the summit. The boat took us passed some amazing rock formations on our way around to a different beach. It was only a short stroll back to base where we were able to check into our four bedded rooms. We are in a new block and each room has two fans and an en suite with a separate cold (well lukewarm) shower, just the right temperature in this heat.

Queen Victoria??Some of the group took time out for a snooze but for us it was on with the blog writing before heading up to the cafeteria for a cold beer. Luckily we did not get any more rain today and the walk along the beach to watch the sunset over the sea was beautiful. Supper in the cafeteria was quick and simple, being the usual noodles or rice but with added choice of cold chips. We had to be quick otherwise the macaque monkeys would appear from nowhere to steal the food, especially bananas – we saw it happen! Soon it was walking boots back on with long trousers in case any creepy crawlies went exploring for themselves, ready for our night walk. First we went to a small inlet to see fire flies and in the dark the surroundings were full of little lights flickering in the dark, an incredible sight but impossible to photograph.

Sunset over the South China seaNocturnal life - a kingfisher, not yet asleep but not going anywhereAfter that a procession of sixteen torches then headed off along the boardwalk looking for nocturnal wildlife. We were told to help the guide to spot any life so torch beams shone in every direction. Occasionally we would see the flickering beams of light in the distance from other groups also on the prowl. We were disappointed that the Kingfisher in a tree, that just froze in the torch beam so we could take photos, was the largest animal we saw. The tally at the end of the evening was a scorpion which fluoresced under UV light, two little birds, numerous spiders, a tiny frog plus other small creatures that we were too far from the guide to knows what we missed. The hour walk was nearer two and we returned to our rooms weary and soon fell asleep dreaming about yet another brilliant day we had just had. We did think the monkeys jumping onto the tin roof of our room may keep us awake, but luckily they too soon stopped and went off somewhere to sleep too.The sun going down over the sea

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