From Kuala Lumpur we went to explore the Bornean rainforest around Kuching. Upon arrival we straight away went to Damai Beach to have a relaxed afternoon. And we sure did by sleeping on the beach for several hours and cooling off in the ocean. For dinner, we were craving western food so we went for amazing vegan burgers at the “Wrong Place” in Kuching’s famous Carpenter street.
Headhunters and Longhouses
The next day we went to see the famous longhouses of Annah Reis. Unfortunately the only way to get there is by taxi. After the hour drive there, we decided to have a guide to learn more about the history of these living communities. For 500 years, headhunting was quite popular in Borneo. Men would challenge a landowner for their property. The winner of the fight would claim the land and display the defeated head to scare away future challengers. Other reasons to take heads was when young warriors wanted to make a name for themselves. The natives built the longhouses to protect them and their families from intruders. Read more about the headhunters here.
After a quick stop at some hot springs where we spent more time in the cold river rather than in the hot springs, we headed back to the city.
Semenggoh Wildlife Center near Kuching
The next day we left Kuching with a public bus at 7.20 am to the Semenggoh Wildlife Center. This is a sanctuary for semi-wild orangutans who got injured or orphaned when very young. The aim of the center is to ensure the primates can live independently in the wild again. There are just two places in the world to see these monkeys in the wild, Borneo and Sumatra, so we had to take the chance to see them. Since food is sometimes scarce in the 650 hectare jungle, the 28 orangutans living here are fed by the rangers twice a day. But from November to May, there are more fruits growing in the jungle and in these months the orangutans generally don’t show up for feeding as they get enough by themselves. We arrived for the first feeding and ahead of all the tour companies so we could enjoy watching a mama and her baby for quite some time before the crowds arrived. We were amazed being so close to our close relatives in their natural habitat and watched the hour long feeding ceremony. The size of the two alpha males was impressive. After working in the afternoon and a cheap dinner we were ready for bed because the next day we had to get up early again.
We took the 7am bus to go to the Bako National Park set in the Bornean rainforest. Upon arrival with the bus we had to take a boat to the park headquarters. After registering our planned hikes we were off and on the way to the trail heads, we saw our first proboscis monkeys. Since we arrived so early we had the area to ourselves and could follow him quite a while. We know that monkeys are the closest animal to us but watching this one was a bit freaky. With their big nose and a body structure very similar to ours, the proboscis look like a human with a lot more hair.
We planned to do two trails: one focused on the flora of the park, and ending with a view of the beach, and one to spot more monkeys. The jungle was really humid but very beautiful. We arrived at the end of the first trail after only an hour walk and had a pretty view over a beach from our rock. Since we were good in time we added another viewpoint to our hike before heading back to the trailhead to see the monkeys. Motivated by the good pace, I jumped from a small rock and on the next step after my landing I twisted my ankle pretty bad. There was nothing to do than lie down in the shade for a bit and watch my ankle swell up to the size of a golf ball. Luckily, some people called two rangers and they helped me get down and applied a bandage on the injured foot. After making our way back to the hostel the swelling went down a bit so we decided to wait for the next day and not go to the doctor right away.
However, the next day the swelling spread, and the foot got all the bruise colors so we decided to go to a clinic. After we spent the whole day with the doctors and waiting for the results we found out that luckily nothing was broken but some ligaments were torn, so they gave me a cast for three weeks to immobilize the ankle. Our next destination would have been the Philippines but decided that without being able to snorkel, dive or even swim there is no point in going. So we changed flights to head back to Australia for some road tripping and we plan to go to the Philippines in January.