The Perayaan Village: We stayed with another one our guides, Valentine, at his long house for two nights. He is part of that Dayak tribe. In the village, we visited the school in order to help their English but also to try educate them about the jungle and their environment. Valentine was keen for us to get them talking about their favourite animals and plants. My group particularly liked “Row, row, row, your boat” and they did not for get to scream. I had a lot of fun at the school talking and getting to know the kids. We also had a little game of netball and although people say sport is international language… it would seem that was not entirely true. There seemed to be great confusion over who was allowed where but who am I to quibble.
Our second day in Peraya village we were pushed on bamboo rafts down the little river. Each raft had a pilot and co pilot plus some passengers from our group. We drifter down the river stopping every now and then for our pilots to go “shopping”. This meant pulling up to the river bank, where the pilots would get off and come back with handfuls of various plants. They collected bamboo shoots, ferns, lemon grass and fresh ginger! When we arrived at the lunch spot all the boat men set to work constructing THE most delicious lunch out of foods they ahd collected. Lunch was followed by tea or coffee brewed in the same style of bamboo tubes the food was cooked in!
Damai: we only stayed here one night in a cute cabin in the jungle. I don’t have much to report home specifically about Damai but we did see a flying lemur and it’s baby! I in fact spotted it within the trees when we were out on a casual walk. We had no idea what it was at the time but later found out it was a flying lemur!
Bako National Park: The national park had a little jetty from which we had to catch a boat to the main entrance only accessible by boat. This journey was in the rain and I ended up VERY wet. Although not entirely a bad thing as it led to me developing one of my finest inventions so far: the cagoule bag cover. As skin is water proof and electricals aren’t, I decided to sacrifice my body and create a rucksack cover out of my (annoyingly pants) rain coat. This came in very handy throughout the rest of this trip… The park had dorm accommodation which was right on the boarder where jungle met beach and we stayed two nights. Bako was the first place I witnessed that steaming forest thing…the amount of plants mean huge amounts of photosynthesis taking place causing huge amounts of water to be produced and released creating steamy clouds above the canopy.
This national park is found on on the tip of on of Malaysian Borneo’s southern peninsulas. The fact that it is costal and very tidal lends itself to the growth mangrove. For this reason this Park is famed for the Proboscis monkey(the orange ones with big tummies and elongated noses). Alvin took us on our first walk in the afternoon. We went over the hill to a beach and on the way we saw 5 proboscis monkeys and a group of silver leaf monkeys. The proboscis monkeys sat, contently in the mangrove roots while the silver leaf jumped and swung in the branches of tall trees. We were very lucky to have seen the silver leaf and on top of this the family had a small baby! Contradictory to their name the baby silver leaf monkeys are in fact bright orange! It’s as if their mums have dipped them in highlighter paint so they don’t loose them. We also saw various huge lizards and even a wild bore.
In the evening, in the mangroves, fireflies can be seen. Having never seen one before I was amazed when the trees were lit like they had fairy lights in it. They were pretty and blinking, like someone had pulled stars from the sky and put them in the trees. This was our first national park and although our time at Bako was extremely wet, the scenery and wildlife was still enchantingly stunning.
Batang Ai National Park: A four hour drive (driven at Bornean local speed: somewhat higher than that national limit…) from Kuching, is Batang Ai national park. It is a huge expanse of land right on the border with Indonesian Borneo. There is large reservoir created by a hydro dam which has taken over much of the land but an hour on a motorised canoe and you’re deep in the jungle. We were met at the peer by members of the Ivan tribe that we would be staying with. They took through the park and up stream to our longhouse where we’d be staying.
The main reason we visited Batang Ai was in the hope that we would be able to see a wild orangoutangs. In Iban culture if you’re going out looking for an animal you can’t use its name because they believe that their spirits will hear you and warn the animals to stay away. This lead to us calling orangutans “Hairys” for most of the time at Batang AiSadly although during our time we saw many nests, branches breaking and even the trees swinging, we never saw a wild orangoutangs. This didn’t make it any less special.
We also went on a walk to a waterfall where Christina- our guide Alvin’s wife- showed me how to climb up the fall to jump off into the pool. At the waterfall both Christina and our Iban guide both pulled out shampoo and proceeded to wash their hair. It was a wake up that this, for them, was an every day activity but such a surreal experience for us.
One evening we were taken in the tribes canoes on a night safari. This was a proper pinch yourself moment. The moon was so bright and big because it was a full moon. I also think because of how close to the equator Borneo is, the moon appears brighter. We didn’t see huge amounts of wild life but it was so special in every other way. One day we took a rest from trekking and were taken to a rocky bend in the river by the Iban. Here they cooked for us using traditional techniques. Rice was parcelled in large leaves which were folded and stuffed inside 3″ wide bamboo tubes. Once the tubes were filled with parcels they were topped up with water and lent over the fire to cook. All the vegetables were prepared then stuffed in similar bamboo tubes also to be cooked! The food was delicious and made all the better by its preparation. Lunch was followed by jumping off trees into the river and floating using our life jackets down stream. All in all this was a super fun day followed by an evening spent playing games with the tribe too! We played rope knowing games, hop scotch with wooden poles and blow pipe shooting.
Aside from our trip to Batang Ai there is a large amount of controversy surrounding the park and it’s running. Alvin our guide was a very passionate man and told us all about what has been going on in the park in recent years and how some of the major groups funding the park include logging companies… this was a huge threat to the park in that the companies clearly wanted in on the wealth of trees in the park. We witnessed some of the destruction first hand when we walked through an section completely stripped of all trees.This stretch was targeted because of the size of the trees making it good for sale however what makes a tree good for selling is often what would make a tree good for an orangoutang. The Iban currently part of court cases against the logging of their land but their inability to read and write makes it difficult for them to win. It is
sad that the people who call that land their home are struggling to control what the land is used for.
The issue is complex and I don’t understand very well but it was clear these people were being exploited. This is part of the reason Alvin chooses to visit them with the tour. In the hope that through the tour he will be able to educate the tribe and help them participate in sustainable industries in the future. Improving their quality of life at the same time by providing a reliable income.
I LOVED BORNEO. It truely was an experience of a life time and jam packed with moments I will never ever forget. If you’re someone with a bucket list of places to got, definitely throw Borneo on there too. That is if it isn’t already.