It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. We were either outside doing and seeing super cool stuff, or in our room waiting for the rain to stop. Some people might say that the rainy season is [i]not[i] the best time to visit a rainforest, but we say "hey, no line-ups".
Our first stop was at 'Scuba Junkies', an awesome dive resort on Mabul Island. As a family, we managed to log 56 dives in 5 days. Not bad for a bunch of amateurs. And man did we see some fascinating aquatic life. From giant grupers to miniscule sea shrimp, funky little nudibranches, octopus, ultra camouflaged crocodile and scorpion fish, deadly poisonous banded sea snakes, tons of turtles, big ugly eels, sunken boats, the fastest star fish in the ocean,....the list goes no.
Can you spot the sting ray?
A nearby island where we dove and stopped for lunch
Just enough time over lunch for some good old hermit crab races.
As with all of SE Asia, there is another side to life here on the tiny island of Mabul. Namely the locals. As we walked down the resort's private pier, we could look to the right for a view of our modest, but lovely resort, or to the left to see the impoverished village that housed the 'sea gypsies'. This was a group of people who traditionally lived in floating villages on the sea. Recently however, they decided to set up a more permanent village on the island. There must have been 10 children to every adult, and they lived in the water!
They may not have had $$ for decent houses, but they had some fancy boats
A little further along the beach and you'd come to a village of Filipino refugees. About 20 years ago, the Malaysian gov't gave them permission to live on the island, however they were not granted citizenship and therefor have no access to health care or education. A local dive shop owner built them a school and hired a teacher. Today, there are 80 kids in the class - but still only 1 teacher! It was crazy. Meg and I went there one day to meet the kids and teacher.
School of Hope
I'll be posting a picture in the staffroom at Selkirk School when I get back to keep all of us whiners in check. And of course, I'll be taking up a collection to hire another teacher.
This storeroom held most of the teaching supplies. Much of the material had been donated by well meaning foreigners trying to help, however all too much of it was inappropriate and virtually impossible to put to use.
After leaving Mabul, we headed to the heart of the rainforest, the Kinabatangan River. Life at the nature resort consisted of morning and afternoon boat rides in the rain, morning and evening nature walks in the rain, and crummy food. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. We saw....
Proboscus monkeys. The male's nose continues to grow for his entire life, because everybody knows that there is nothing more appealing to a female than a big honk'in nose.
Crocodiles, lizards, macaques, and orangutans that were too high up for our zoom. The most spectacular of all however, was the herd of about 15 pigmy elephants. These were a highlight to everyone but Meg who thought that 5 meters was way too close to get to a bunch of elephants, pigmy or not. I must admit that being in the front of the boat, thus the closest to the herd, was a little unnerving for the rest of us as well, but boy was it worth it.
When the driver pulled up on shore and shut off the engine, it just about put Meg over the edge. The only thing keeping her in the boat was the thought of jumping into the crocodile infested river.
If you look very closely, you can see a baby elephant hiding underneath his mama. It was so tiny, only coming up to his mother's knees.
After leaving the river, we went to Sepilok where they have an amazing orangutan rehab facility and sanctuary. With 70% of Borneo's rainforest logged and replanted as palm oil plantations, the orangutans are quickly running out of habitat. The Sepilok Sanctuary is built on the edge of some of the only remaining old growth rain forest. The orangutans are rehabilitated if necessary and then set free in the sanctuary. They are then free to return to the jungle, or hang out closer to the rehab centre where their diets are supplemented at designated feeding stations a couple of times a day. One of the feeding stations is accessable to tourists via a catwalk. If you're lucky, and you usually are, a handful of gingers will show up for a snack. On the day we went, a mom and baby, along with another single,dropped in for a bite.
Admittedly, after 2+ weeks of rain, we were ready to move on. We all agree though, that Borneo has definitely left us with some of our favorite memories.
Bali or bust...