Sepilok and Sandakan

There was a crocodile, and an orangutan, 
And flying eagle, and a silver fish. 
A bunny, a beaver, 
A crazy elephant. 
Nah nah nah nah nah nah, nah nah nah nah nah.
Scout Song

They were there waiting for me at the airport. I had a private tour! They first whizzed me off to the Sepilok to the Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre. There I found out that many orang-utans need rescued because of the palm oil industry. Their habitats are clear cut to make room for palm plantations, and the orang-utans end up becoming pests for the farmers. 

Warning, up next is a soapbox moment… For all of you vegans and vegetarians out there, this is how farming works. Land is clear cut, crops are planted, and the native animal species, deer, rabbits etc, become pests and are killed off, often orphaning their young to die alone. We need to change the way we do farming. 

So this conservation area helps rescue orphaned orang-utans, which means “men of the forest” They do a pretty good job rehabilitating them, but they have to teach them everything, such as how to swing on branches etc. 

There is also a sun bear rehabilitation centre beside it. 

We had lunch at a nice little restaurant, and then went to Sandakan to the river lodge. There are many of them, and they all seemed quite nice. At 6pm, we went out in the long boats for a sunset ride on the river. There are several boats and guides, and they signal the other boats when they find something, so that everyone can see. We did not get the chance to see a pygmy elephant, they are very rare, or a crocodile because the water level was quite high. But we saw all kinds of birds and five kinds of monkeys! We saw, long tailed macaques, pig tailed macaques, silver leaf moneys, orang utans and proboscis monkeys. Later we came back and they served me a lovely supper. At 6am, we went for a sunrise boat ride and then came back to a lovely breakfast. 

There was supposed to be some walks in the jungle as well, but there has been a lot of rain, and I was their only guest for that night. I was happy to just relax, as I had heard stories of the leeches that jump from trees and climb up your legs and arms, and it was one part of Borneo, that I thought I would just be ok not experiencing. We did lots of jungle walks in Mulu:)

Then we packed up about 11am and headed off to see the cave. It is the cave where they collect the swiftlet nests to make bird’s nest soup. We learned all about how the white nests are the preferred ones as they are made out of pure swiftlet spit, and of course the black nests are less preferred because they are mixed with feathers and have to have them all picked out and they need to be reformed into a nest shape, so that they can be made into bird’s nest soup. Yes, people think that bird spit soup is a delicacy.They are lovely delicate birds. The nests sell for more than gold, and the whole area is protected by armed guards. 

Next we drove into Sandakan for a great city tour, beginning with lunch at the English Teahouse. Fortunately for me, they were not serving bird saliva soup. We saw the Agnes Kieth house. She is an author who wrote about her experiences being and American woman living in Borneo in the 1930s to 50’s. We went to the Buddhist temple, which was of course, beautiful. 

Our final stop was at the Sandakan POW camp Memorial Gardens. It was a chilling. Out of 2700 Australian and British soldiers captured and detained at this camp, six survived, and only because they escaped with the help of the Malaysian local people. The Malaysian people were shot by the thousands if they were even suspected of helping a prisoner escape. They built the beautiful garden to commemorate the soldiers and civilians that died in and around that camp.