After winning one of our previous competitions, Raphaella was rewarded with a trip to the Orangutan and Tribes Tour in Borneo and whilst out there she was kind enough to put together a diary to keep us up to date with her activities! We hope this gives you a good idea insight of the trip and enables you to see just how much Raphaella enjoyed it, so sit back and enjoy!
Following my 13 hour flight and plush night at Basaga, Kuching, we headed over to the Matang Wildlife Centre for a tour of the grounds and the rescued animals that they provide sanctuary to, and this was followed by a talk about the horrors of the pet trade where orangutan’s mothers are shot dead and the baby torn away.
In fact Simanggang, an orangutan at the park, still to this day has shrapnel from a bullet and his mother’s bone in him. We were also told about the cruelty that comes with: using animal props for photos, visiting the tiger temple, the slow loris pet trade, the truth about the fates of lion and tiger cubs raised in volunteer programmes; they are sold to trophy hunters for a kill, and the painful truth of how an elephant's spirit is crushed before it is rideable. These are ugly truths but I'm glad I now know this and got to be a small part of this appropriate volunteering programme.
We made enrichment for the orangutans and sun bears today. We had to limit it to a small handful of treats for the orangs' because they're fat after being mis-fed before they came into the centre. This is Corrine, she was standing with her mouth open, hoping we'd throw the dog treats in! We also hiked to a waterfall, and took a dip to relieve the hot and sweaty mess that was me at 100% humidity in the rainforest. Oh and I sat on a poisonous caterpillar and it stung my bum!
We also got roped into a totally random Malaysian birthday party. The invitation was non-negotiable and our initiation was downing half a beer. From then on the free beers kept flowing and the karaoke going! All in all it was a really fun night.
Hopped in a boat to Bako National park for a night where we saw massive snowflake like jelly fish washed up on the beach, they'd sure make Elsa (from the Frozen film) proud. We got approached by some wild but habituated boar, saw a stunning vibrant pit viper, witnessed loitering macaques, and even some chilled proboscis monkeys!
We hiked through the jungle to a stunning beach riddled with hermit crabs and sadly some plastic too so we helped clean it. We later went on a night walk where we say flying lemurs!!! We also saw tree frogs, king fishers, a massive huntsman spider bigger than my hand, and a ton more critters and creepy crawlers!
Today was all about boat rides and road trips to make it to Telok Serabang, a.k.a Turtle Beach, where we released one day old green turtles. We also spent the afternoon playing catch in the sea which is where I: sliced my foot on a rock, DIDN'T get stung by a jelly, ate a ton, and in turn got eaten alive by sand flies!
Today we had a predawn wake up in the hope of catching the turtle and the rare Bornean terrapin poachers. Sadly early wasn't early enough. Then it was one short and bumpy boat ride so that we could go snorkelling in the coral reefs.
It was time for an early morning boat ride as we bid Turtle Beach, the village chief, and his lovely family farewell and headed for the adventurous Patawan.
Despite it being THE hottest day we'd had there (bearing in mind it's 100% humidity too,) we roused ourselves from the food coma that was lunch and trekked up the hundreds of steps to reach the carcasses of the villages old longhouses.
We also got to witness the treasures from the glory days of Malaysia’s historical head-hunters, and these treasures came in the form of skulls.
Today was a busy day. It involved: bamboo rafting, rice whiskey, a river bamboo BBQ, being chucked in the river by my fellow volunteers Dennis and Liam despite my best defence with my bamboo cup, and Henry, our raft operator aka the dark horse. He was in last place when cruising up the river for the whole journey, but once he tasted the win, that was it.
A 4 hour drive and a 1 and a 1/2 hour boat ride later and we reached Batang Ai where we met the Iban tribe. Next up was a quick pit stop at the market to stock up on food and some stunning rubber wet shoes for the river treks; truly a sight to behold, I'm telling you. Once we arrived at the longhouse, it's was spring cleaning time which meant spider patrol.
Oh and we made a bat friend to which we named Count.
We awoke at 3am to a loud banging noise which turned out to be just the locals hacking off some ice to keep their fish fresh for the market. When it was time to wake up properly we went out on some jungle treks filled with vertical slopes, leaches and jungle mess. On the way back Robyn and I took the lazy river route back to the longhouse for lunch. Never has garlic mash tasted so good after weeks of rice. Then it was cannon balls and backflips into a waterfall to finish up for the day!
Heavy rain all night meant a waterfall hike was out of the question. So instead we spent the morning patching up mattresses for the Iban tribe, with music buzzing in the background in our makeshift bucket speaker, whilst the rain stopped and the sun came out. Then it was on to trekking in the jungle in damp clothes from the day before, where I almost got eaten by a tiger leach, my friend Robyn fell so perfectly on her bum it was magical, and damp clothes + trekking + strong river rapids = everyone saw my bum cheek. RIP my Thailand elephant gypsy pants.
Boat rides to Pebble beach to swim in the river, having a bamboo cooked lunch, making a Jacuzzi, seeing frogs, becoming dinner for some sand flies, and riding the rapids whilst trying not to hit my bum on every rock. It was safe to say this morning was busy!
The last night in Batang Ai was spent at the Chief of the Iban tribe's longhouse for tea, rice whiskey, and hilarious games that required no English but a ton of fun and laughter, one of which included darts... with a blow pipe.
We did a lot today and it included: Batang Ai, a pregnant cat, the waterfalls, the jungle, the fireflies, frogs, mosquito, leeches, praying mantises, and the waving the generator goodbye before we started the 1 and 1/2 hour boat ride followed by the 5 drive back to Kuching.
We had a pit stop at Semeggoh Rehabilitation centre to see wild and semi-wild orangs before we were on our way back to Basaga.
Tonight was our last night in Malaysia so we hit up Monkey bar. We drank a bunch of cocktails with interesting names and even more interesting colours, like “The Illusion”. We danced the Macarena and belted out Mr. Brightside to which pretty much everyone in the bar stared and had no idea what we were doing!
One last morning in this incredible country. Breakfast was shared and goodbyes were said. A trip to the river front for last minute souvenirs and then it was a short taxi ride for a 1 and a half hour flight to KL, a 14 hour stop over, and then a 13 and a half hour flight home. It was time to step back out of the real jungle and return to the urban one.
As you can see, Raphaella had an amazing time on the trip and her words speak for themselves! If this sounds like something you want to do then why not check out the Orangutan and Tribes Tour for yourself? It currently has 10% off, so take a look and see if this is the trip for you!
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