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Paul and Pete backpacking in Asia Follow us on our big adventures!

On-the-go- Borneo!

MALAYSIA | Thursday, 11 July 2013 | Views [609]

My journey to Borneo was so easy thanks to air asia having great deals on flights in Malaysia! I took 2 flights, the first from Kota Bharu to the capital Kuala Lumpur where I then connected to Kota Kinabalu in Malaysian Borneo. I was pretty tired on the plane and never really felt like talking to the chinese woman sat next to me who kept striking up conversations, but it paid off as she was getting a lift and dropped me at my hostel in the city for free! I checked in then headed out to the night market and bought some delicious local food (chicken wings!) for my tea.

 

Mount Kinabalu

The next morning I got up early and headed off to Kinabalu national park, about 1 and a half hours from Kota Kinabalu. Here, I had plans to climb Mount Kinabalu, south east asia's highest peak at 4095 metres! The itinery was a 2 day/ 1 night climb, not on the scale of our everest base camp trek but it still required a good level of fitness! I arrived and spent the night in a hostel at the bottom of the mountain in the park. The package I booked included several meals so I let loose on the buffet that evening and the same the next morning! The first day I registered and obtained my permit to climb, I then made mates with a couple of irish girls and we shared a guide together. Not that we needed one but a guide is compulsory for all climbers.
We set off around 8.30 a.m and reached our resting point and accomodation for the night 3 quarters the way up the mountain at 1.15pm, just before the heavens opened! The climb consisted mainly of steps and not a lot of actual walking, so it was like a constant climb. You certainly couldn't get lost it was either up or down! So I ate a buffet lunch and a buffet evening meal and was heading to the summit with a full belly! We got our heads down then we were up at 2a.m to finish the climb to the summit. After a little bite for breaky we left at 3a.m and we're climbing the mountain in pitch black with a sky full of stars and half a moon. The head torch certainly came in handy. We got to the summit at 5.30a.m and had to wait 30 minutes to watch the sunrise. It was freezing at the the top and my fingers were going numb with the cold. But it was all worth it as we were treated to a beautiful sunrise, loads of different colours mixing in with the morning cloud and slowly lighting up Mount Kinabalu and the national park. After a few photo's we set off for the descent. Constant step after step after step after step down. We finally got to the bottom just before midday and had a well deserved sit down. I grabbed a quick snack then jumped on the next bus to Sandakan, 5 hours north.

 

Kinabatangan River

I arrived in Sandakan absolutley exhausted, made worse by the fact my SD card had messed up on my camera so I couldnt retrieve any Mt Kinabalu photo's and the coach driver told me to get off saying we were in the centre when I was still a few Km's away from the hostel I'd booked! I grabbed a taxi that took me to Sea View hostel near the harbour. I was given a great reception by the local owner who sorted me some local food out straight away and I was upgraded to A/C free of charge! (Due to local malay girls in the same dorm but hey I wasn't complaining). In the morning I went down to the booking office of Crystal Quest who arrange all trips to the turtle islands national park. Here, you can watch turtles lay eggs on the beach every night and get to see hatchlings make it to the sea. This was right up my street but it was so popular that my best bet was to get a cancellation and there was none! So, plan B was a 2 day/ 1 night trip to the Kinabatangan river.                            Now this place was just teaming with wildlife! I booked a package that included a nights accomodation and 3 guided cruises on a small boat along the river. The first cruise was in the afternoon and straight away we spotted a group of probiscus monkey's up in the tree next to the riverbank. Next was probably the highlight of the trip, seeing the endangered Orangutan wild in it's natural habitat. He was alone up the tree taking things very slow! We got to see a few different bird species including the rhinoceros hornbill, they're huge with massive beaks! Every couple of minutes we were stopping and watching different species of monkeys swing from the tree's, it was like being in a nature program! We were slightly disapointed as we never got to see the pygmy elephants and I'd spoke to other travellers who had done the tour a few days before and had seen them.                                                                                                                                                              We had a buffet for our evening meal then went back out for our night cruise. This was the most enjoyable cruise as I wasn't expecting to see much but with our brilliant guide we seen loads. Our guide had a big flash torch and was scanning the river for any signs of life. He kept spotting birds half asleep on branches at the side of the river and we were able to get right up close them. We mainly found kingfishers but also spotted a few owls. I said to the guide it'd be great to spot a croc and within 2 minutes he'd found one, I was well impreesed! It was only a baby but we found a much bigger one a bit later on, between 2-3 metres long. They can be easy to spot as their eyes light up red when the torch is shined on them. We also found a reticulated python and a bull frog.                                                                                           The next morning we were up at 5.30a.m for our morning cruise, I was half asleep during this one and we mainly spotted loads of bird species, mainly hornbills but we also spotted a rare hadjutant and a water monitor lizard half way up a tree. We had some breaky after the cruise then I checked out and took a lift to Semporna where I planned to stay the night before heading to Mabul and Sipadan islands for snorkelling and scuba diving!

 

Sipadan/ Mabul Island

I found that there wasn't an awful lot to do in Semporna, so after visiting the dive office to confirm my reservation I let the rest of my day pan out by me either eating or using the wifi in the hostel. The next morning I was up early to the dive office. I booked with Uncle Chang's dive company as they were the only company that allowed 3 scuba dives on Sipadan island without booking a big package that included dives on other islands. I made the initial reservation before leaving England as the governmnent only allow 120 diving permits per day on Sipadan so places get booked up fast. It included a night's accomdation and food on Mabul island too. It was pretty pricey but Sipadan is well known as having the top dive sites in the world.
So the first day didn't start off as I imagined. I went to the islands by speed boat and it was grey, raining hard and very miserable. The rain finally went off about midday and I met a couple of swiss girls who I went snorkelling with. Despite the large amounts of plastic bottles and rubbish that had washed up on the beach the snorkelling was acually really good. It wasn't long before we found lovely coral, spotted a turtle, triggerfish, a barracuda and a pufferfish. This was just a little sign of the things to come for Sipadan. Later on we took a walk around the island which took less than an hour and we spotted some massive resident monitor lizards!
The next morning the excitement levels were off the scales. My first dive at Sipdan was at south point. Even before getting off the boat we spotted turtles heads popping out of the water, 2 turtles in paticular were attached and kind of in the middle of something! Also spotted a big Napolean wrasse. The dive started great, the water was so calm and clear with visibility over 20 metres. It wasn't long before we spotted schools of black tip reef sharks! Also seen a white tip reef shark amongst a million other fish. It was only after the dive I found out how deep we went ... 39.2 metres, my deepest dive yet!                                                                                                                                    Dive site 2 was definately my favourite. Aptly named: Barracuda Point. This surely has to be the best dive site in the world. Almost every direction you looked you could see turtles swimming. At one point I counted 7 at the same time, I must have seen over 20 during the whole dive! We also seen massive schools of jack fish and chevron barracuda, literally thousands of barracuda, it was unreal! Then sharks following the barracuda! Also seen a moray eel and a pufferfish, there was loads of cool stuff everywhere I looked. Then at the end of the dive we came across a big school of humphead parrotfish. All this along with amazing beautiful living coral helped me decide that this dive site surpassed the sites I saw during my 11 dives on the great barrier reef in Oz a few years ago.                                                                                       The third dive site was hanging garden, again we saw loads of sharks ... silver/ white/ black tip reef sharks, more turtles and an abundance of other marine life. The dives were expensive but worth every penny. I could have stayed and done it all again the next day ... and the day after!


I took the afternoon boat back to Semporna from Mabul then the overnight bus all the way back to Kota Kinabalu. I arrived in Kota Kinabalu at 5.30 a.m and stayed at the same hostel I did when I first arrived in Borneo. The staff were great and let me check in staright away and get some sleep. The last 10 days had been hectic so I decided I was gonna have a chilled day and just relax.. On my last day in Borneo I took a trip to Tunku Abdul national park which is a set of islands 20 minutes by speedboat from Kota Kinabalu. I decided to spend the day on Sapi Island and had another great day snorkelling and spotting some cool stuff like the snow flaked eel, a pufferfish and loads of Nemo's!

11 days just flew by in Borneo, it was ON-THE-GO constantly, I realised that I never slept in the same bed twice during my stay here!

Now Borneo is gonna take some beating but I think my next stop could come close. The Philippines!!

 

Tags: beaches, climbing mountains, islands, orangutans, river jungle cruises, scuba diving

 

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