30 July 2009

Monkeyin' Around Part 2 - Nosey Beasts

Of course this schnozz is impressive.....

Malaysian Borneo is package tour hell. For an independent traveler such as myself who is used to chartering boats and arranging trips by myself Borneo has been a rude awakening – everything here must be arranged far in advance, through a travel agency and paid way too much for.

And just my luck – I have headed from the lowest of the low season in Southern Thailand to the peak of high season in Sabah. That means that every single thing that we want to do is not just only possible with a package, it is also sold the fuck out. Full. “Finish” as the locals say. We can't just stroll over to the famous turtle hatching island near Sandakhan and try to hire a local boat to visit it – under Malaysian law it can only be visited with a tour. And that tour is 200 Canadian dollars. A DAY. It's also booked until October, consarnnit.

I am used to hiring my own guide, grabbing a share sawngthaew (pick up truck taxi with benches in the bed) and doing things independently and on the cheap. But that's just not possible in Malaysian Borneo, not if you want to catch a glimpse of the abundant wildlife for which Sabah is famous. That is how we found ourselves in a lodge surrounded by middle aged European package tourists, drinking expensive beers and eating bland buffet food.

When I think “3 Day Jungle Trek” images of small villages, local dishes cooked over an open flame (see how my brain goes right to the viddles?) and water splashed over my layers of sweat from a hand pumped well. Not so in sanitized Malaysia. Our trek consisted of 2 nights in a comfortable dorm, 4 boat trips and 3 small treks.

But, despite my irritation at being nannied while I traveled – it was really good.

Kinabatangan is located in the centre of Sabah and is home to a huge area of protected jungle. While a few of the elusive Orang Utans still roam in the wild here, the main attraction are the Proboscis Monkeys – strange furry primates with huge fleshy noses and thick unibrows. We declined a visit to the Proboscis Sanctuary near Sepilok due to its high entry fee (nothing can be done on your own here!) and were worried that we has missed out.

Umm...yeah. You guys kinda got me at a bad time....yeah.

We needn't have worried. Every one of those 4 boat trips (2 in the evening, 2 at dawn) was packed with Proboscis sightings. This strange monkey is endemic to Borneo and is endangered (surprise!) due to poaching and loss of habitat.

Thorough grooming? Anyone? Anyone?

We also saw a lot of long tailed macaques and silver leaf monkeys - they didn't seem to understand that they were not the stars of this show...

Let's just hug.

The Proboscis males are more impressive to spot, as they have the long flappy noses - but seeing a mummy and baby animal is always cute. I like how these guys are hugging.

Rough, ready and booted up.

Two of the three jungle walks were held at night when the animals and insects are more active but for some reason on the nights that we walked the wildlife was a bit underwhelming. We did get to wear rubber boots though, and as a homesick Vancouverite this was pleasant...

Artax, you're sinking! Come on, turn around, you have to! Come on! Artax! Fight against the sadness, Artax!

The boots, it turned out, were not just evening apparel. The mud that we slogged through during the day was almost over the top of them. The streaks of mud all the way to my waist and the leech socks (we passed many, but avoided getting sucked on) made for a lovely fashion statement.

The spider man is having me for dinner tonight.

The day trek was a lot more eventful than the night treks - we saw this guy right out of the gate.

I really do not care what breakfast cereal you eat.

Normally I do not get excited about birdwatching, and I find it strange when people do. (Birding? Why is that a thing?) But a Rhinocerous Hornbill is a different matter - this guy reminds me of exciting tropical Toucan Sam.

I'm just gonna relax here and watch TV.....

Despite the other animal sightings, the Proboscis monkeys were really the most fascinating guys on the trip. I love their big pooched out bellies (a result of gas, believe it or not) and huge feet - when they sit there up in the tree I think they look like dudes home from work, relaxin on the couch. They just need little pants.

Please stop poaching me.

Seeing all of these rare monkeys in the wild was a great experience, and even though it was expensive it was completely worth it.

While I relish the chance to get into a country, roll up my sleeves and get dirty, Sabah has been interesting. What the Kinabatangan trek lacked in small tribal villages and strange foods it made up for in nature sightings, friendly guides and a relaxed lodge. If I have to do a package, this was a good one.

I think the monkeys liked it, too.


Accountant Southampton said...

I'm jealous!

Accountant Southampton

The Reasonable Christian said...

Very nice. Congrats on being a blog of note! :D

Anonymous said...

nice. (real).

Anonymous said...

Let us know where you're on Java. I was born there. We lived there for some time. I still have contacts there. My father was the pastor of the biggest church in Indonesia.

Maggi said...

Love, love, love the reference to The Neverending Story!

Amy B. said...

The Neverending Story reference is priceless.

Dawn (dandy) said...

I loved this post.

Well, except for the Artax reference which mad me cry.

Dawn (dandy) said...

I loved this post.

Well, except for the Artax reference which mad me cry.

shajan said...

wassuup i follow youre blog follow my blog to
cool blog

mcgriddlez said...

the proboscis monkeys look like blue collar alcoholics in animal form.

Miss V said...

I'm 9 but I am sooo freaked out about those

Dr. O' said...

Love the pop culture references, just like jon stewart and more esoteric than dennis miller but much younger, hipper and well... younger.

abhi said...

Hi very nice post and the pics are really nice.

Congrats for being blog of note

Peckish said...

Your captions crack me up - those schnozzes (schnozzi?) are impressive.

Where to next???

Sabina said...


Aida said...

didnt know it was malaysian law, or perhaps the best way to "swindle" a tourist..haha i am from borneo, live in canada now.

there is a lot more in borneo than monkeys :) but glad you got to do what you wanted to do