Day 245: Survivors

Mon. 15th April 2013

First prize on Survivor Island!We’re off today to Pulau Tiga – better known as Survivor Island after the first series of the reality TV show was shot there. Having never seen any of the programmes I didn’t know anything about the island but spending 24 hours on a tropical island doesn’t sound bad at all. There is, however, a bit of grumbling around the group when Stacey announces that it is a 6:30 departure. Haven’t we done enough of these early starts already?

Second breakfast while we wait for the ferryAt least we are able to grab some coffee and toast at our hotel before we load up onto the bus for what should be a 3hr transfer to Kuala Penyu where we will catch the boat out to the island. Its a bit of a mixed blessing when the bus pulls in to the small town at 8:30, just two hours later. Apparently, there is a new road that Stacey had been told wasn’t suitable for buses but now seems to be. As our ferry isn’t until 10am, this gives us an hour to kick our heels in Kuala Penyu – or, predictably, to go and find a coffee. Our black coffee comes with a half-inch layer of condensed milk at the bottom of it. Ah well, coffee is coffee and it disappears soon enough (it is also 1/10th the price of the Starbucks coffees we like).

Our cabinThe ferry turns out to be a speedboat (and not the half-sunken wreck that lies rusting just down from the little jetty) and we get whisked out to Pulau Tiga in less than half an hour. After a quick pose by the ‘Survivor Island’ sign we troop up to the main lodge to be welcomed with a soft drink and the news that we are the only people staying on the island. While the rest of us start having Castaway thoughts, Patricia says, “Let’s get naked and go skinny dipping” – but that’s Germans for you. More practically, it means that we are all upgraded to bigger cabins which just adds to the excitement.

Fortunately, it was more of the former than the latterWe’ve been promised that one of the must do activities is to go to the ‘mud volcano’ and wallow like buffalo in the gloopy mud pool. This is not a group that goes in for procrastination and so there is a chorus of “lets go now!” The briefing from Stacey is to wear just our swimming costume (with sandals for the walk there) and bring nothing else except a camera (to be left with Stacey who will be staying out of the mud) as everything will get muddy. Its just a 0.5km walk up a small hill to the middle of the island where we find the promised mud pool. It looks grey and uninviting and the ground all around is very slippery with the mud. Fortunately, there are ropes strung above the pool to help with getting in and out and for manoeuvring whilst in the pool.

Wallowing in the mudThere doesn’t seem to be a bottom as such to the pool. The mud just seems to get thicker and thicker without ever qualifying as solid so standing up is impossible and pulling on the ropes is the only way to get around. Its neither warm nor cold and impossible to sink we are all so buoyant that we can float with both arms and legs out of the mud or in a kneeling position. The only thing to do is to get thoroughly covered in the mud and then let Stacey work her way through the cameras so that everyone has some group photos.

We survived the mud volcano!The only way to clean off is to go for a swim in the sea and so, with muddy feet in our sandals, we squelch and slither our way back down the path to the beach. ‘Grandma steps’, so useful on our Kinabalu climb, are once again the order of the day as we struggle with slippery feet in slippery sandals on a slippery path. As we walk, the mud dries and shrinks and we all look like ghostly natives or a re-enactment of Lord of the Flies (but without the killings or breakdown of social order). The sea, however, is warm and with a bit of a scrub (and a check of all those little crevices) we soon get the mud off.

The concensus seemed to be non-venemous. I kept my distance anyway.The other attraction of the island is the wildlife and so, in the afternoon, we head off for a walk along the path that follows the shore to see what we can see. The path takes us along the edge of the jungle and across the mouth of a mangrove swamp on a boardwalk. Disappointingly we spot some other people – daytrippers – perhaps it is just as well that we didn’t listen to Patricia. We spy monitor lizards and more macaque monkeys but not the Hornbills that we really want to see here. Heading back to our cabin, I catch a flash of movement on the cabin steps and find that I’ve disturbed a small snake which very kindly poses for a photo (or many) before slithering off.

Who's a pretty boy then? Hornbill.Looking out over the mangrove swap towards the seaIts hard to be energetic in this heat and so we while the afternoon away relaxing and working on photos and the blog when out of the corner of my eye I glimpse some black and white wings flying around the side of the lodge. I’m not sure its a Hornbill and, most likely, it will have flown off by the time I put shoes on and get round there but I grab the camera and go check it out. Good call! One Hornbill turns out to be 5 or 6 flying from tree to tree right by the lodge and hopping along and up the branches looking for fruits. Although they are quite high up and sometimes are hidden by leaves and branches, they hang around long enough and move around sufficiently that I’m able to get some great photos. I spent a good 30 minutes just watching the antics of these magnificent, ridiculous, birds.

The end of another wonderful dayAs the sun sets, there are yet more photos to be taken. With jungle, swamps and beach, the sheer variety of landscapes and the ever-changing light just begs for pictures to be taken (which then need to be sorted, rated and tagged). At dinner, once again the conversation around the table is all about the things we’ve seen, the amazing wildlife and the memories we’ll keep of this fantastic island. We haven’t just survived on Survivor Island, we’ve thrived and loved every minute of it.


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2 Responses to Day 245: Survivors

  1. Jacqui Durrant says:

    Hi Janet and Dave

    So that’s what a hornbill looks like! Great photo! Glad you could actually see the birds we could hear as we trekked through Mulu with you!

    This day looks awesome, especially the mud bath! You must have glowing skin now 🙂

    It’s been great to read how the rest of your trip through Borneo is going. I have to give Janet a big congratulations for conquering Mt Kinabalu. I really hope Sarah made it to the top with you. Would you believe my knees are still a bit sore from the Pinnacles climb?!

    I for one am glad we came home after the first leg. We spent a week at home enjoying our bed, pillows, warm showers and clean toilets before returning to work. But surely you guys aren’t missing those things!!!

    Loving the blog
    Jacqui and Jon

    • Janet says:


      Glad you are enjoying the blog. We are still having a great time and have now reached Taiwan with Dave’s brother.
      Mt Kinabalu was very hard (and scary!) so I was very pleased to manage it. Sadly the altitude did not agree with Sarah so she was advised not to complete the summit climb, but she did do the tough climb up to the resthouse.

      Jealous of the home comforts!


      Janet and Dave

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