We were awake at 5.30am to get ready for a 6am boat cruise. Sunrise is just before 6.30am, and sunset is at around 6.15pm. We had the added excitement of Clare turning seventeen years old – what a place to spend your birthday!
Okay, a heads up for all of you – there are SO many photos that I can’t resist sharing in today’s blog post! Your scroll finger might get sore. I was so glad that we’d remembered to bring the rarely-used ‘real’ camera – Clare did a wonderful job with the zoom lens.
Groups of proboscis monkeys were still asleep in the trees. There were around eleven that we counted in one group. Like all monkeys, they are social and travel in groups, often family groups. Stella prefers to refer to them as ‘preposterous monkeys’.
And then we spotted more hornbills! Such fabulous birds! I am fairly sure that these ones are Malaysian pied hornbills, the most common. They eat fruit, insects, shellfish, small reptiles, small mammals and birds including their eggs. They nest in holes in tree trunks.
And in that next photo? It’s an orangutan! In the wild! Woo hoo!
These photos really are all over the place in terms of the time of day that each one was taken – one of the hazards on writing a blog post so many days after the event. My memory is becoming hazier, because we’ve seen so much more since! Anyway, the water levels were very high, so our planned post-breakfast jungle walk was changed to a boat trip down river to the village of Sukau, with a walk through the village to see what we could see.
That white building on stilts is purpose build to attract swifts to it (it has a recording of the bird call playing) to prompt the swifts to build nests that will later be harvested for bird’s nests to be sold for human consumption, especially in bird’s nest soup. Personally, I don’t see the attraction of eating bird saliva, but each to their own. Bird’s nests are very expensive to buy, as their harvesting and then the preparation of the nests is all done by hand and is extremely labour intensive.
Education is considered to be very important. This is a village primary school – there is a high school about 15 minutes drive down the road. While there are private schools that charge significant fees, there are also government funded schools to give as many children as possible the opportunity to advance themselves through education, no matter the family income. Sponsorships are available for children from poor families.
I am always fascinated by cemeteries (some of you many know that in one of my previous career incarnations I worked for a funeral director – I have spent plenty of time in cemeteries). There are many small cemeteries dotted around near villages or even near roadsides. You can tell the religion from the type of graves – the one in the photo below is a muslim cemetery. We’ve also spotted plenty of Christian and Chinese cemeteries as well.
I had also been wondering about what alphanumeric system was used for car number plates. The first letter is the state – in this case, Sabah. The next letter is for the city in which the car is registered – in this case, Sandakan. The numbers that follow are more random.
Our afternoon boat cruise was full of sights. The long-tailed macaques really put on a show – we were able to get incredibly close to them. There were large family groups of all ages – the smaller ones being particularly cute in their movements and interactions. The larger ones scare me a bit – you definitely don’t want to get them off side! Don’t stare directly in their eyes.
That’s a red leaf monkey in the photo above – there are plenty more photos of them to come in later blog posts, but this was our first sighting of one.
Some of the trees had these large drums in them, placed to provide nesting opportunities for hornbills. They were really big – I have no idea how they managed to get them high up into the trees!
That’s a hornet’s nest built on a dead branch in the river – we gave it a wide berth. If one hornet stings, the rest then attack as well. Very dangerous.
The monkeys are more active in the late afternoon, as they move from feeding down to their resting places for the night, higher in the trees.
There are a few places where ropes have been strung across the river. These are orangutan bridges, giving them a way of getting from one part of the jungle to another. Generally, orangutans can’t swim. Proboscis monkeys and macaques can swim, but considering that there are crocodiles in that river (yes, we saw one) why would you swim when you can cross a bridge?
It was fascinating watching this pig tailed macaque cross over! He’s huge, and looked very determined (and unhappy)! That’s a whole lot of baboon crossing a wobbly piece of kevlar tape, a long way up in the air.
Phew, he made it! There were quite a few times though when he appeared to slip and hung from the tape rather than walking along it. It was very impressive.
One more pig tailed macaque crossing to watch on our way back to the lodge as the sun set. What an amazing day! As always, our guide Mike did a superb job of spotting wildlife and answering questions about all manner of things. It’s definitely worth having a private guide who really knows their stuff. This was definitely a birthday that Clare (and the rest of the family) will always treasure.