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Lok Kawi Wildlife Park (5 50.95N, 116 4.15E)

Posted by Mei on September 16, 2011 Self drive in Sabah has been an incredible challenge for us even with nokia maps, GPS and tourist maps. I went on the net and found the Lok Kawi Wildlife web site. The map there was very woeful and I found a google earth map on someone's post, it looked pretty much in the same area (I did try to cross check this time). But alas many kilometers later we turned up at the Monospiad Cultural Village. Fortunately I remembered Chrissy from Naga mention that the Lok Kawi Park was not too far from there. We stopped and asked and were told to go up a road with a fairly steep hill. How I admire Chrissy and Jack for riding up there with their bikes and not loosing hope. Tony of Full Flight who was driving was getting impatient as it slowly dawned on him I had no real clue where it was. To Kevin's amazement we found it. Lok Kawi was interesting; some of the animals were gorgeous to watch. The Ring Tailed Lemurs looked like colorful stuffed toys. The Proboscis monkeys were playing in the water and even swimming to keep cool. However the Orang Utan enclosure was sadly lacking in decent shade or stimulation, and was very disappointing to see these very intelligent creatures huddling under a small shade net. We enjoyed the show which had Tony pit his strength against a 4 year old Orang Utan. Both were given a brown coconut and were told to husk it and get out the kernel. A thin segment about 1/16 was taken out to give both a sporting chance. The Orang utan used hands feet and teeth and pulled it apart before Tony, who bashed it against a tree stump to weaken it and tore up to 80% off before the Orang Utan won the contest. Orang Utan tearing apart a coconut


Posted by Mei on September 9, 2011


We went to Semporna by bus. It should have been conformable. Unfortunately the passenger across the aisle had a streaming cold. Divers cannot dive with a cold. Something to do with pressure equalization of the ears. We were trapped with this guy, hoping that if we caught a cold it would be a few days later. Then the dunny exploded. Or at least I think that's what happened as the odour of SH@# permeated the air conditioned bus. I asked Kevin if he could smell it. He said no, and looked at me in askance. I asked him to look around, there were people holding their noses looking pretty horrified.


We got to Semporna, It felt quite a rough and tumble town. We jumped on the dive boat to Sipadan. The boat had two 200HP motors pushing us along, the swell was about 1 m and the boat was flying. The trip was bone jarringly uncomfortable. There were four divers with one divemaster Jefri. That was great having a dive-master, especially with us novices. Kevin and I were quite undisciplined with our buoyancy. The first dive was a little stressful for me. For some reason there was resistance in my regulator when I was on the surface. Got a tad distressed trying to get enough air. I was ready to get out. The dive master suggested we descend. I held up my deflator and realized I had forgotten to inflate it whilst on the surface. Duh. As soon as we were underwater the regulator delivered the air easily. Then the slow descent except I couldn't descend, without swimming down; normally if you're properly weighted you only need to deflate and you sink like a rock. It was a struggle to keep to the dive-master's level. He had to pull me down with my fin. Once I got below 5m it seemed much easier (the buoyancy of my wet suit changes at different depths). With all this mucking around with the diving bits it was easy to miss the purpose of the dive to SEE Sipadan. Definitely should get more experienced with this diving gig so I don't worry about the peripherals.

Ascidians, Spidan, By Geoff Candy

Blue Tang, Sipadan, By Geoff Candy

We went to 20m. There isn't the huge variety of coral gardens compared to the surface. But there were many fish above us and it's strange seeing a turtle from below. We saw five turtles from a distance until we happened on a turtle with half it's shell, front flippers and head in this smallish ledge. It had just stopped not moving and err.. resting? It was all over beige in color.  We were so close we could touch it. We didn't though, although the turtle looked stuck and there was the temptation to pull it out and push it air wards. We saw about ten white tipped reef sharks. One rather large one about two meters long was lying at the bottom. The Italian couple we were diving with got the divemaster to take a photo. He then took one with us in it. He got us to creep forward to try get the money shot. Hmm is that the one with our heads in its mouth?

Longnose Hawkfish, Sipadan, By Geoff Candy

Sea Dragon, Sipadan, By Geoff Candy

We saw a school of barracuda swimming around in a tight circle. Maybe 300 fish, all about meter long. We were taken to another site with a big school of big eyed trevally. The divemaster showed us a little weedy sea dragon bout 50mm long. It was soo tiny we'd have missed it. A rockfish, well camouflaged. moray eels and lion fish. There were many varieties of fish I have never seen before. In short by the third dive we were in sensory overload. There appeared to be a lot of fish we had not seen before. All these beautiful pictures were taken by the Geoff Candy of the yacht Ketoro. Big thanks to Irene and Rolf and Sue, Geoff and Nicky Candy from Ketoro

The beige turtle, Spidan, By Geoff Candy

What are these fish called? Spidan, By Geoff Candy



Posted by Mei on August 31, 2011

Agnes Newton-Keith House

Terry and Suzanne had suggested we read the books by Agnes Keith.  “Land below the Wind” by Agnes Newton Keith describes the life in Sandakan before the war.  After reading them we definitely had to see her house.  This house has been restored by the Sabah Museum. It was an old colonial wooden house. It was very spacious with high ceilings. They certainly knew how to build for the heat. You could easily survive with ceiling fans. The property was surrounded by tall trees helping to keep the heat off the building. It was a lovely house. Within the house are photos and memorabilia of the former occupants. The President of the Sandakan City, and his wife invited the rally folk to his house. We had a slide show with a biologist describing the natural wonders. They are very aware they have a unique and special asset, in this biodiversity hotspot. The Sabah government is endeavouring to retain 55% of the remaining rainforest, to keep in trust for future generations. The party was great with the hosts singing decent karaoke. We couldn’t match them really.. singing a very flat Waltzing Matilda. It was a lovely night. We went to the Sandakan war memorial. The aussie govt spent a lot of money here producing the posters , documentary and upkeep of the place. But somehow it was not as moving as the Kundasang War Memorial.

Probiscos Monkey

Probiscos Profile

Probiscos Monkey

We visited the Lubuk Proboscis sanctuary. The sanctuary is in the midst of a palm oil plantation. It is a privately run tourist operation. If you want to see proboscis and silver leaf monkeys this is the place. They feed the Proboscis monkeys with salt free pancakes and cucumber and the silverleaf monkeys with long beans. I enquired why they didn’t feed them fruit and vegetables, the managers said the proboscis monkeys don’t like fruit and are vegetarian. If they feed them vegetables something they could get in the forest they simply wouldn’t come. Hence the pancakes.

Silverleaf Monkey baby

Silverleaf Monkey Hand

Macaque eating sugarcane

We visited the Rainforest discovery park. This was a truly interesting place run by the Sabah Parks and Wildlife. It had a very informative botanical gardens and trails through the primary rainforest. There were some seriously BIG trees. The canopy walk infrastructure was very solid and extensive. You never felt threatened in the least as it barely swayed. We hung about and actually spotted birds, colourful sunbirds and flying lizards. Tony and Pat from Full Flight had brought their mini binoculars and were great for spotting the little birds. The canopy and trails had information posters to help identify the birds. If we ever go back to Sandakan I really want to do the night walk to spot animals. The members of the Sandakan Yacht Club were really friendly and a lovely bunch of people. Terry and Suzanne left us from Sandakan. They had visited the Kinabatagan river. A river the other yachties were keen on entering. The shallow draft yachts (several multihulls and Rubicon Star) could enter from the northern entrance. Chris and Judy of Braveheart saw something that looked like a crocodile in the water, on further observation it turned out to be the top of an elephant’s head, and slowly the entire pygmy elephant was revealed as it walked out of the water.

Turtle Islands, and Pulau Langkayan

Posted by Mei on August 31, 2011 We sailed to Pulau Gaya just outside KK. It was pleasant pretty anchorage. We were doing a big jump that afternoon so we kept to the boat and didn’t bother with the dinghy.

Tigabu Family

We went to Pulau Tigabu and snorkeled around. This island has a maritime police presence, with pillbox and watchtower. The little village is very poor. There were a bunch of kids and their mother in one of the huts and we greeted them. I try very hard to get the intonation and greetings right. So much so they presume I speak Malay. WHERE was my dictionary??? We have begun to notice that very few villagers speak English. They invited us up and the mum got us some coke. The kids all understood some English, but refused to speak. But watched us grope around and massacre the Malay language. Their neighbour had a pet Macaque and she went for a swim with it. The monkey did the doggie paddle and also swam underwater.

Pulau Langkayan

We sailed to Pulau Langkayan. It is a very lovely resort island. It does cost a bit to land but it was worth it. Water was very clear and good snorkelling and a lot of places to do it. We went for a buffet dinner here and had a walk around the island. We were surprised to see some navy guys with a watch tower. As we sailed to the turtle islands Kevin, Suzanne and Terry saw some enormous turtles. There was one island with exceptionally clear water and we vowed to return and anchor there. We later found out that this island belonged to the Philippines.

Kota Kinabalu and the Kinabalu National Park

Posted by Mei on August 20, 2011 We had a few hectic days sailing to Kota Kinabalu from Miri. The rally welcome in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah was like the welcome in Kupang. Very nice and lavish, We were entertained by the Kandasan and Murut warriors. Kota Kinabalu is a big city with traffic jams (especially Monday). A real shock to the system. The Sutera marina is free for the rally days (but you must have insurance) otherwise it cost us about 90RM/day without electricity or water. The marina was lovely with 5 pools to choose from and gyms and saunas (if you really wanted one). The food at the marina was expensive, the city was cheaper. There is a shuttle for 3RM (return) to the city. The KK looks very buzzy. Terry, Suzanne, Kevin and I hired a car to have a look at the city and the Kinabalu National Park. We used the KK tourist map to drive to the Lok Kawi wild life park. It was no-where near the location on the map. Use the lok kawi park website for the map. It's supposed to be very nice according to those who found it. We drove out to the Orchid de Villa to see some orchids. If you're an orchid buff this is very good. I used google to locate the place and put it into my phone. It got us close; but without a road going down a ravine and up again it was hopeless. We backtracked and used the map provided by the Orchid de villa website and that was much better although the cartographer had no idea of scale or the fact we assumed a straight line meant a straight road. It cost 60RM per person (after complaining 80 RM was too much) for the tour with a guide that knew his stuff. It took about and hour and the half and we got a drink, snack and a cold towel. Apparently the orchids flower all year round although there are more during August. This place had the wild Sabah orchids and these were absolutely tiny. Apparently the lovely big orchids we usually see in the market are hybrids. This tour was amazing. Did you know that Vanilla was an orchid? Mt Kinabalu is in the Kinabalu national park. Kevin wanted to climb it but could not get anybody else to go with him. We visited the park in hope of seeing some birds, interesting plants and the rafflesia flower (huge flower, a meter across). We went for a walk through the botanical garden at the park and it was lovely, but didn't spot many birds at all. The park temperature was COLD, about 18 deg C, we wore wind proof jackets and Kevin wore a beanie. Terry and Suzanne barely felt the chill coming from one of the coldest Melbourne winters on record.

War memorial

Kundasang War Memorial

The most interesting place was the war memorial a few km past the park near a major intersection. Suzanne spotted the flags, and there it was. The place was fascinating and very moving. A Thai man spent a good portion of his life restoring it. There were gardens dedicated to the different nationalities involved in WWII that were on the allies side. The Sandakan to Ranau war marches instigated by the Japs were horrific. Over two thousand aussies and brits (only 6 survived) and 16% of the Sabah locals died directly or indirectly at the hands of the Japs. The descendants of the POWs left pictures and mementos of their loved ones in a very moving tribute. The futility of war roared through my head. To move on from such atrocities must have taken a lifetime. In the book by Agnes Newton Keith about the war “Three Came Home”; all the Japanese officers were stranded in Borneo after the surrender; in the end they either committed suicide or were hanged by the courts in Labuan.

Mulu National Park

Posted by Mei on July 3, 2011

Gunung Mulu National Park

We booked a tour to the Gunung Mulu National Park. Mainly because lonely planet said the cave sites were a world heritage site. I have been to caves before at Naracoorte (South Australia) and in Ha Long Bay (Vietnam). Both pretty amazing but.. if you’ve seen one stalactite and one stalagmite did I honestly need to see more? Deer cave was shown on David Attenborough's Planet Earth Series - Episode 4: Caves, and Kevin remembered it. I really wanted to check out the equatorial rain forest. Sarawak is loosing it’s forests so rapidly because the foresters are not practicing sustainable logging, i.e. if the forest grows at 12 5% per year and the loggers harvest 8% of the mature logs then the forest can still survive for generations. No indeed!@! They are clear felling the forest. Complete clearing of every blessed tree, for planks and woodchip. This is to prepare the land for palm oil plantations. The plantation guys and the government are grinning ear to ear because they get carbon credits on this crop too. As far as their avaricious minds work they are win-win all the way to the bank.

Palm Oil

Borneo is part of the Sundaland Biodiversity Hot Spot. Borneo in particular is in the heart of this biodiversity zone. Sundaland is only second to the Tropical Andes hotspot; the world’s most biodiverse area. What is interesting is that the areas that contain the highest quantity of biodiversity are the lowlands plains which the foresters and palm oil plantation owners salivate over. The mountainous area have less biodiversity but these are the areas chosen to be protected as national parks. Another horrible issue is that the indigenous people (Dayaks) don’t appear to have any legal right to the land that has been taken from them. Mulu has been established for about 30 years. The land mass is 544 sq km. It borders Brunei. There are only two ways there, by air or by river. The Deer cave is an enormous cavern. The deer were attracted to the cave’s salt lick constituted of batshit (guano) and water. There are 12 species of bats in the cave and the entire ceiling is black with bats hanging around. There is enough daylight to see this. The ground is thick with the guano. However the walkways were relatively clear and I was not shuffling in it. I was surprised and pleased to discover that batshit was not as stinky as dynamic lifter, I could cope. The interesting formations were well lit and the guides know quite a lot about how everything is formed, apparently every bump and curve can be scientifically explained. Unfortunately for us our guide was not informative. We did hear other guides talk knowledgably, and eavesdropped a bit.

Cockroaches on Guano

Deer Cave

The most amazing thing happened at about 5:30 pm (sunset at 6:30pm) the bats started to leave the cave as we walked out towards the entrance. The stream of bats resembled smoke leaving a cave. They would actually circle a couple of times always in formation and fly away (the circling allowed their eyes to grow accustomed to the light). The air was so thick and black with bats. The guides said there were three million bats and they took about an hour to leave the cave. These bats feed on insects. They fly in formation and once they descend into the forest they disperse. Each bat can fly about 100km and returns to the cave at dawn.

Deer Cave Bats 3

Deer Cave Bats 1

Deer Cave Bats 2

I wonder if the bats have some kind of air traffic control and what happens if they miss their slot. I noticed the flight path changes and is not too predictable from the cave entrance. Sometimes the flight path dips and weaves. Still it must be “easy as” for the hawks, “Oh No… bat again for dinner!!!” The bats share their home with swiftlets. The swiftlets stay in the cave at night and fly out at dawn. We didn’t really see them fly back in as they don’t do it en masse. The swiftlets are the little birds that build the nests for “birds nest soup”. The next day we went to the Clearwater cave complex (130 km of caves, imagine the dudes surveying it). Now that was interesting as we had to go there by sampan. The river was very shallow (low tide) at some spots and the guide in front had to pole us over the rocks. We wondered how long an outboard motor survived.

Trip to Clearwater

Trail to Clearwater

Canopy Walk

There was a walkway built against a cliff. All fascinating. Kevin and I with a guide from the park went on a canopy tour. We were between 25-35 meters high. The best time is dawn or dusk for the canopy walk. Our tour company scheduled 2pm. We saw a few butterflies and one bird. But on the other hand there were hardly any bugs. The bug time is animal feeding time. It was nice to take our time and look. I had expected the tropical rainforest to be incredibly dense. with barely any visible sky from the ground. But the rainforest in Dunk Island was denser then this forest. Turns out that because the base is limestone the trees are shallow rooted and can only last a 100 years in this area in Mulu.

Penan Nose flute player

Penan basket weaver

Penan Nomads

Kuala Terengganu to Miri

Posted by Mei on June 27, 2011 We got to Miri after sailing 650 nm from Kuala Terengganu. We sailed 75% of the way with the wind no closer than a reach. Most of the time the wind was SW. According to Captain Fin of the Miri marina the smart money was on those who sailed east as far as possible then sailed south for Miri, to maintain the wind. We saw a pod of 17 dolphins with speckles down the side. They swam on our bow wave like a cyclists taking turns in a pelaton. The journey took five days.

Kuala Terengganu

Posted by Mei on June 20, 2011 We're stuck in Kuala Terengganu waiting for a package from defender to be released by KL Customs. It arrived on the 9th of june. Today is the 20th and package has just been released. We are late, yes late for a rally date in Kuching. We should have got it sent to Langkawi and gone to pick it up. James and Sandra from Cilantro did that with a radar and got back with time to spare. We did the maths on the tax and duty, but not the time delay, that was an unknown. Oh well we'll skip Kuching and sail to Miri. Better angle.

Perhentian Islands

Posted by Mei on June 14, 2011

Snorkelling at the Perhentians Islands.

We went on a snorkel tour to five sites. The sites were on tiny little islets to the north of the Perhentian islands. Three sites were exceptional. The coral was lush and the fish life varied and we observed some seriously large fish. A school of six napoleon fish, looking like grey parrot fish with a humphead. These were about a meter long and 30cm thick. They cruised around taking teacup size chucks out of the coral. How they got any nutritional value to get to the size they are now is beyond me. The guide took us to a spot called shark point. I stayed in the boat, The last time I was in that bay there was no coral to see and I wasn't keen on seeing sharks. Wouldn’t you know it I spotted a black tip reef shark about a meter long at the next site. Saw some clown fish that were black instead of orange. Doing a tour like this is makes sense, just to utilise our time here. Normally we just cruise around in the dinghy, but nothing beats local knowledge. Duh! Why hadn't we done this before?

East Coast of the Malaysian Peninsula

Posted by Mei on June 11, 2011 The east coast islands are pretty nice and the snorkeling is getting better and better. The coral was lovely in Pulau Tioman (Pahang) although the fish varieties were sparse and the fish small. In Pulau Redang (Terengganu) the coral is nice especially around the wreck off the northern end of Pulau Pinang. There were many fish schools and some of the parrot fish were about a foot long. It was lovely to see the bigger fish again, and not just in the market. Saw three turtles surfacing, none yet underwater. The water clarity here is excellent. We went to the wet market in Kuala Terengganu and were sadly distressed to see turtle eggs for sale. They look like perfectly round ping pong balls. I didn't buy anything from these vendors. My silent protest. This coast is much more pleasant than the straits. At least you can swim everyday. There are two marinas on this coast. One at Pulau Tioman and Kuala Terengganu. Pulau Tioman marina is quite safe, decent breakwater, and snorkeling around the beach next to the marina was surprisingly OK. You can get the usual water and power. Toilet facilities I did not visit. Scared basically. Kuala Terengganu marina is in the river. Just follow channel markers in and there is no sand bar, the charts are not even close. The current can be swift at times. I believe they use VHF 67. The facilities here are excellent, gym, sauna, decent showers etc. Kuala Terengganu is quite fascinating. The china town (Kampong Cina) is just across the river from the marina. Just turn right at the wet market. It's the street after the esplanade. Just keep walking and you'll hit the restaurants. The interesting spot is the architectural Muslim theme park, all the great mosques in the world from the one in Alhambra in Spain etc. We haven't been there yet but peeked from the outside. I want to see it when we return in about five days time. We visited the crystal mosque and were allowed to enter into the mosque, even peek into the woman's section, silly me I should have just gone inside and snapped away. There they put on another full length white gown over their modest street clothes and the veil this time covered everything but their eyes. They looked like nuns, with their noses covered, remember the nun's story with Audrey Hepburn? We went to a traditional boat building yard. NO nails we were told. Unfortunately when we got there the techniques they were using had moved on to the iron age and had half inch bolts through the inch thick planks of Chengai. We didn't stop at Pulau Bidang the Vietnamese refugee camp in the late seventies. The bay is supposed to be full of sunken refugee boats. One yacht anchored and his anchor got caught. He dived down and was astonished to find it caught under the axle of a bus?@#$#@