Category Archives: Malaysia

Swimming in Shark Infested Waters

Swimming in Shark Infested Waters – SCUBA Diving with sharks, no cage

I went swimming in shark infested waters – and lived to tell about it!

We went SCUBA diving in the Semporna Archipelago, and sharks were everywhere!  This was only my second time seeing whitetip reef sharks while SCUBA diving so I was still getting comfortable with the idea of it. Eventually I got really excited to see (and photograph sharks – we saw a dozens of sharks per dive!

I’ve received tons of questions about diving with sharks, so I’ll tell you about it here. I’ll also attempt to dispel some myths about sharks.

Whitetip Reef shark - notice the white on the tip of his fin. Swimming in shark infested waters
Whitetip Reef Sharks get their name from the tips of their fin – see the dorsal fin in this photo. I was this close in Borneo!

Aren’t sharks dangerous??

This is the most common question I get when people hear my excitement about swimming with sharks.  The short answer: No. We’ve all seen the movie Jaws, but not all sharks are the same. The overwhelming majority of sharks are not dangerous (unless provoked).  These were reef sharks – people commonly refer to them as “vegetarian” sharks!  They’re just as scared of us, as we’re the same size as them. Whitetip Reef sharks are curious and will swim right up to you, but aren’t often aggressive unless provoked.

Sharks, Sea Turtles, Barracudas, & more!

SCUBA Diving in Sipadan in the Semporna Archipelago in Malaysian Borneo — It was my first time swimming with sharks – they were everywhere, and didn’t seem to care much about us swimming a few feet away. Sipadan dive photos below, including sharks, sea turtles, harlequin sweetlips, school of jackfish, surgeonfish, purple antihas, big eye emperors, yellow mask angelfish, triggerfish, butterfly fish, parrotfish, unicorn fish, and more!

Whitetip Reef Shark
surprise visitors during our dive – sharks!

school of Jackfish

1st underwater SCUBA Diving photo of me
1st underwater SCUBA Diving photo of me

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Harlequinn Sweetlips

A graceful Sea Turtle swims next to us during our SCUBA dive

A graceful Sea Turtle swims next to us during our SCUBA dive

(Press SL for Slideshow, FS for Full Screen):

Baby Monkeys in Borneo!

Baby monkeys – Long-tailed macaques

What’s the only thing more exciting than seeing animals in the wild?  Baby animals in the wild! Check out these photos of baby monkeys – baby long-tailed macaques:

Baby monkeys - baby long-tailed macaque hanging on to the mother long-tailed macaque in Borneo | Baby monkey in Bako National Park, Sarawak region of Malaysia, Asia

I saw these Long-tailed Macaques in Bako National Park, in Malaysian Borneo. This below photo reminds me of the photos of monkeys in Bali.

Baby monkey - Photo of a baby long-tailed macaque hanging on to the mother long-tailed macaque in Borneo | Baby monkey in Bako National Park, Sarawak region of Malaysia, Asia
notice baby monkey’s little hands and feet grabbing on

These baby monkeys were so adorable that we almost forgot that they’re wild animals.

Baby Monkeys in Borneo - crawling

Long-tailed macaques are the most commonly seen type of monkey in southeast Asia; I saw them all over, from Indonesia to Cambodia to the Philippines. Male members leave the group when they reach puberty, according to Wikipedia.  Long-tailed macaques are also referred to as crab-eating macaques

They are opportunistic omnivores and have been documented using tools to obtain food, according to the American Journal of Primatology.

Baby Monkey protected by the parent in Borneo - Baby long-tailed macaques in Borneo, Bako, Malaysia

Baby Monkeys in Borneo - Baby long-tailed macaques in Borneo, Bako, Malaysia

These baby monkeys in Borneo were cute, but there’s competition for cutest baby wildlife from my Asia trip.  My southeast Asia trip has already produced opportunities to see baby elephants in Borneo, baby monkeys (macaques) in Indonesia, and baby apes (baby orangutans). Which set of baby wildlife photos did you like best?

Asian Elephants in the wild

Facts and photos of Asian Elephants

Asian Elephants are incredible. So primitive, so old, and the baby elephants are so cute! We were on a river safari in Borneo when we saw a whole family of Asian Elephants (aka Asiatic Elephants or Elephas maximus).  After seeing them in the wild, I was really curious and learned some interesting Asian elephant facts. My photography is below, also with  Asian Elephant facts that I found interesting are below:

  • Elephants are the largest land animals living today. They’re massive!
  • If you thought human pregnancy was challenging – check this out. Asian Elephant pregnancies last 22 months, baby elephants can weight 260 pounds at birth.
  • At full size, male Asian Elephants can weigh up to 12,000 pounds (5400 kg)! Females weigh up to 9000 pounds.
  • Elephants typically live for 60 years in the wild (80 years in captivity).
  • Asian Elephants can be up to 10 feet tall at the shoulder. They’re much smaller than African Elephants in mass, but are taller.
  • They have up to 20 pairs of ribs and 34 caudal vertebrae (bones that make up their tails).
  • Asian Elephants have 100,000 muscles in their trunk!
    Asian Elephants have 100,000 muscles in their trunk!

Meet the Macaques

Malaysian Borneo – The monkey I saw most often on my trip through Asia was the macaque. Long-tailed macaques are not shy (although sometimes aggressive; be careful!) and that made for some wonderful closeup photos like this one (below) from Bako National Park, an island in Malaysian Borneo.

Macaque monkey in Bako in Borneo - some readers suggested this pic as a cover photo for the next Lonely Planet
Cover photo for the next Lonely Planet Malaysian Borneo?

Another travel photographer said this wildlife shot of a long-tailed macaque (the monkey in the above photo) should be the next cover of Lonely Planet Borneo (Travel Guide). Perhaps! I’m really flattered by the compliment, but I need to thank the photogenic monkeys that were so kind to pose for me.

Getting this photo:  Shots like this are challenging, because this monkey didn’t pose for me, and macro shots aren’t compatible with motion and you can’t predict eye contact from wildlife. You need to be in the right focus to have the monkey crisp with the background blurred so it pops. In contrast, I love the composition of the lower photo, but I had to use my zoom so the depth of field is much more flat.

Macaque monkey in Malaysian Borneo on Bako Island
Surprised, or hungry?

Pronunciation – yes, the correct pronunciation for this monkey is actually Muh-kok. [Giggle giggle]

Proboscis Monkeys: Up close

Borneo’s Proboscis Monkeys

I was fascinated by Borneo’s Proboscis Monkeys! It was a rare chance to observe and photograph an endangered species in the wild. Proboscis Monkeys seem so human-like!  Imagine a monkey with a distinctive huge nose and a pot belly. They often walk upright (rare for mammals) and sit like humans sit.

The proboscis monkey name, Nasalis larvatus, literally translates to “long nose,” and you can see why (below):

Rare Proboscis Monkey - relaxing on a low branch  | Bako National Park in Borneo, Malaysia
Rare Proboscis Monkey – relaxing on a low branch, in Borneo, Malaysia

A male proboscis monkey’s nose can reach up to 7 inches in length!

Sometimes Proboscis Monkeys seem so human-like!  This proboscis monkey was frantically eating as if he hadn’t eaten for days! Take a look in this video clip from my time in Malaysian Borneo:

Bako National Park also has bearded pigs, which greeted us upon entering the island. When we heard a typical pig sound later in the day, we were surprised to hear these honking sounds coming from proboscis monkeys.

Proboscis monkeys live on a special diet of leaves, flowers and seeds of vegetation found only in rivers, mangroves, and peat swamps
Proboscis monkeys live on a special diet of leaves, flowers and seeds of vegetation found only in rivers, mangroves, and peat swamps
Female proboscis monkeys have much smaller noses - Borneo, Sarawak, Malaysia
Female proboscis monkeys have much smaller noses – Borneo, Sarawak, Malaysia

Orangutans are much more closely related to humans, but the mannerisms of proboscis monkeys made me stop in my tracks and want to observe them all day. I did.

“Killing Where A Game Was!”

Chinese New Year is a time for family, similar to Thanksgiving in America. For some reason I (ignorantly) had assumed it would be a party holiday, so I made great efforts to get out of a jungle and into a “major” city. Thus, part two of our Chinese New Year’s experience was in the city of Kota Kinabalu.

After walking the city, we found exactly one bar with more patrons than bar staff.  There was a cover band there, but we quickly noticed they were consistently singing the wrong lyrics to nearly every song; not just the obscure verses but also the chorus as well.  The crowd didn’t seem to notice and even started singing along with what the singer was singing.  When the lead singer noticed us at the bar, he suddenly  looked visibly nervous, and would slur the words he was less confident on under his breath. Then in between songs he stopped by and asked us if we wanted to sing!