Diving to see the turtles at Sipadan Island

At the lip of the plateau, on the reef wall where the hard corals are healthy here, a bright swatches of colour in contrast to the limestone plateau swept clean by the racing tides, as this is where the patterned disc turtle usually frolic. Get the close-up and personal look at the turtle’s wrinkled neck and hooded, dark eye.

The turtle likes to rest on its ledge and chomp on some soft coral. In the gentle current, the hawksbill turtle uses its beak-like mouth to munch.

Almost 1.5m long, not including a stumpy tail that curled under the rear edge of its carapace, the turtle are often spotted here.

You may see another species of turtle, a green sea turtle, a young specimen with an unmarked shell, its distinctively rounded edges as perfectly shaped as an Etruscan shield.

At Sipadan, you may see up to 12 sea turtles resting on the reef, gliding through the water as they became sublime. A tiny movement of a flipper would trim their flight as they swam, and silhouetted against the pale surface of the ocean they became perfect flying discs.

Meeting turtles underwater is not exciting in the same way that seeing a shark or a manta ray might be. But many divers say that seeing turtles makes them feel like crying. Even in the young animal, the skin around the neck appears cracked and worn and, improbably, the turtle’s eyes appear moist even underwater.

Peering at the world like an old man struggling to focus, the turtle somehow conveys a sense of calm. To swim at a respectful distance from a turtle, matching their pace without inspiring fear, is to fall in love, charmed by ancient eyes.

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center in the Malaysian Sabah District of North Borneo was established in 1964 to rehabilitate orphaned orangutans. The site is 43 square kilometers of protected land on the edge of the Kabili Sepilok Forest Reserve. Today, about 60 to 80 orangutans live free of charge in the reserve. 

When Sabah became an independent state in Malaysia in 1963, a Game Branch was established in the Department of Forestry for the Conservation of Wild Animals in the region.

As a result, 43 square kilometers of protected land on the edge of the Kabili Sepilok Forest Reserve have been converted into a rehabilitation site for orangutans and a center for the treatment of apes.

Today, about 25 young orphaned orangutans are housed in nurseries, in addition to those free of charge in the reserve. The center provides veterinary treatment for orphaned and seized orangutans, as well as hundreds of other wildlife species.

Many of the other animals that have been handled at the center include sun bears, gibbons and elephants. Recently rehabilitated individuals have a diet that is complemented by daily food. The additional food provided by the center is deliberately designed to be monotonous and repetitive so as to allow the monkeys to start foraging themselves.

Sepilok is considered by the Wildlife Department to be a valuable educational resource for educating both locals and tourists, but it is clear that education must not interfere with the restoration process. Visitors are limited to walkways and are not permitted to touch or treat monkeys.

In the wild orangutan, children live with their mothers for up to six years, while they are taught the skills they need to survive in the jungle, the most important of which is climbing.

At Sepilok, a friend method is used to replace the instruction of a mother. A younger ape will be paired with an older ape to help them develop the skills they need.

The establishment of protected areas minimizes the effect of deforestation on orangutans and far fewer young monkeys are the victims of illicit pet trade as a result of these ‘sanctuaries.’ Babies are often captured during logging or forest clearing or captured by poachers who kill adult monkeys to reach them.

Youngsters kept in captivity sometimes become ill or endure abuse, which in some cases leads to cruelty. Although some of the orangutans raised as pets can never be returned to the wild, some can be rehabilitated; it is a lengthy and costly process, lasting up to seven years, but one such center as Sepilok can be rehabilitated without doubt.


The Top 8 Birds in Kinabatangan River

1) Bornean Ground Cuckoo / Carpococcyx radiatus
As its name suggests, The Bornean Ground Cuckoo is a species of cuckoo in the Cuculidae family and is endemic to Borneo. 

2) Bornean Bristlehead / Pityriasis gymnocephala
Because of the bristly hair on its head, it’s no mystery how the Bornean Bristlehead got its name. 

3) Storm Stork / Ciconia stormi
The Storm Stork is the rarest stork of all and it can be found mainly in the lowland rainforests of Malaysia and neighbouring countries Thailand and Indonesia.

4) Helmeted Hornbill / Rhinoplax vigil
Not the most attractive of all birds, but nothing less of a marvel either, the Helmeted Hornbill is the largest Hornbill of its family. 

5) Bornean Falconet / Microhierax latifrons
The Bornean Falconet is also known as the White-Fronted Falconet. It is endemic to Sabah, Borneo and is arguably one of the smallest bird of prey in the world.

6) Bat Hawk / Macheiramphus alcinus
This predator of bird is a raptor and skilled hunter. As its name suggests, its diet consists mainly of bats, but not restricted to other preys like swallows and swiftlets. 

7) Peregrine Falcon / Falco peregrinus
A predator bird that preys on other birds, the Peregrine Falcon is the largest falcon of the Falconidae family. It’s legendary for its speed, spectacular stoops and catching its prey in mid-ai

Last but not least…

8) Rhinoceros Hornbill / Buceros rhinoceros
The Rhinoceros Hornbill is a large arboreal of the hornbill species and is known for its huge bill and casque, usually a red-orange-yellow colour. This majestic bird is the ‘state bird’ of the Malaysian state of Sarawak, which the native Dayak groups of Borneo believe is the chief of all birds.


Find the giant Rafflesia flower in Borneo

Gunung Gading National Park is the best place in Sarawak to see the world’s largest flower, the Rafflesia, which measures up to 75cm in diameter. The park is located 85km northwest of Kuching making it possible to visit as a day trip – buses run between Kuching and Lundu, about 3km from the park. Shady trails lead through dense primary rainforest, past waterfalls and streams, up to the summit of Gunung Gading. But while hikers who make the ascent are rewarded with fantastic views, it’s the park’s famous flower that attracts the crowds.


When is the best time to travel to Borneo?

Borneo experiences a sunny tropical climate throughout the year with temperatures averaging between 23° C and 30° C. But for an all round experience of jungle trekking,diving and golfing,tourists should avoid arriving during the rainy season from November to February when heavy showers lash through the clouds,spoiling the holiday mood. However,unpredictable rains could fall at any time of the year at any place making it impossible to judge the best season for visiting. Moreover,Borneo being a large island,the climate fluctuates at different areas on the island. In Kuching,the wet season is from November to February while the dry season is from June to August. At the same time,the wet season shifts a little in Kota Kinabalu as most rains happen in October. Therefore,tourist should be aware of the fact that Borneo gets heavy,occasional rainfalls even during the dry season. In addition,during the rainy season,it is not possible to dive or jungle camp.


Batang Ai, The Cultural Traditions & Rainforest of Borneo

Batang Ai is a special place where visitors can both experience the Borneo rainforest and learn about Iban cultural traditions.  The local communities have a vibrant living culture with a fascinating history that they are keen to share with the world.  The area is also home to the most significant population of orangutan in Sarawak.  These assets plus the abundant natural features of clear rivers, verdant rainforests and iconic wildlife make this a destination for the consummate traveller.  The Batang Ai region is also known as a model destination for sustainable community and nature-based tourism.

A vast area of rainforest has been protected via the 24,040 hectare Batang Ai National Park and the 192,800 hectare Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary, which abuts the 771,200 hectare Bentuang-Karimun National Park across the border in Kalimantan.  The proposed Ulu Sungai Menyang conservation area will add at least another 14,000 hectares of protected forest to this complex. All these areas have been declared as conservation sites, and form a globally significant biodiversity hotspot that provides valuable habitat for the endangered orangutan.  This area is also an important part of the Heart of Borneo initiative.

Batang Ai is one of Sarawak’s Iban heartlands with numerous communities dotted along the network of rivers that feed into the Batang Ai reservoir.  The typical dwelling for these communities is the longhouse: a village under one roof usually built adjacent to the river.  Rivers still provide the main access and the Iban in Batang Ai are expert boatmen, maneuvering their slender outboard-powered longboats through and around rapids and rocks.

Most of the ancestors of the Iban communities in Sarawak came from Kalimantan some 300–400 years ago.  They settled at Batang Ai and subsequently spread to other areas in Sarawak. Due to their relative remoteness, the longhouse communities of Batang Ai have retained much of their traditional character and charm.

The hydroelectric dam has effectively formed a lake and there are opportunities for boating or paddling from the main resort that is situated on edge of the lake. Many of the longhouses around the lake receive visitors and longhouse trips and overnight stays can be booked through local tour operators. The Iban communities in the Batang Ai area are still actively involved in farming and are, increasingly, turning to tourism to supplement their income.

There is a range of trekking possibilities at Batang Ai. The Batang Ai National Park has 5 established trails ranging in difficulty and distance from an easy 1.8 km to a strenuous 8.2 km. Borneo Adventure, the pioneer of tourism in Batang Ai, has had a long involvement with local communities and has developed a trekking trail network in the upper Delok river catchment. These trails pass through a mix of primary and secondary rainforest and include the Red Ape Trail, a trek through prime orangutan habitat.


Visit Sandakan, The Wildlife Sanctuary

Although Sandakan may not be the most glamorous of small towns, it offers travelers the perfect base to visit the many wildlife sanctuaries in the area, as well as trips to the Kinabatangan River. It’s also likely that you could be here for a night or two, which isn’t a great shame. Given the fauna on the doorstep, I noticed that Sandakan was refreshingly un-touristy. On the weekend, there was a nearby street market, a promenade along the waterfront with a number of small restaurants and a few amazing things to do. You can spend the morning following the Heritage Trail, which includes many points of interest in Sandakan, such as the Jamek Mosque, 100-step stairs and the Temple of the Goddess of Mercy.

Red footprints on the earth show the path of the road, and at tourist information you can take a map. I always enjoyed visiting the house of Agnes Keith, an American woman who lived in Sandakan in the 1930s and 1940s. She wrote a book about her experience of living in Borneo during the period called ‘Land Below the Air,’ which became popular when it was published in 1939.

You’ll find the English Tearooms next to Agnes Keith ‘s home. This is a small restaurant that’s great for a mid-afternoon cup of tea and a pick-me-up. The tea rooms are also available for dinner, and you can have a nice view of the lawn.

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