Category Archives: Malaysian Borneo

The Baby Rockstars of Mabul Island

This experience reminds me of what I love about travel…

Do you remember the first time you saw a photo of yourself?  Digital cameras are amazing but it’s something some people in the world will never experience. I’ll never forget my first such encounter with a group of kids on an island off the coast of Malaysian Borneo.

Wandering onto the end of the island where the locals lived, I stumbled upon some really interesting homes, and people, including this group of children. I crouched down to get to eye level and introduced myself to a few kids. I politely asked if I could take their picture, showing my SLR camera. Silence.

I scanned the group one by one, stopping at the shy boy on the far right. 1st Boy: “No!” I almost left at that point, but decided to be patient.

The Baby Rockstars of Mabul Island - Malaysian Borneo
The Baby Rockstars of Mabul Island – Malaysian Borneo

The middle one, a girl, just shook her head (4th photo down on this post). It was looking doubtful at this point. The third one just gave me a blank stare, so at that point I either wasn’t communicating, or wasn’t welcome. After the longest five seconds, I started to get up when the third boy nodded. It’s important to note that basic mannerisms are different in every country, so you always need to learn what they mean in that country, island, or village, or at least be aware that they don’t mean the same as in yours. In this case I didn’t know, but I ran with it.

At sunset, the monkeys take over

I just love this photo of a silhouetted macaque (monkey) on the dock of the island of Bako as the sun sets over the mountains in Borneo (Sarawak, Malaysia). It capped a wonderful day of wildlife photography.

At sunset, the monkeys take over. Bako National Park, Borneo, Malaysia

I’m always very critical of my work so I can improve. This isn’t a great technical photo (above) – the lighting and focus aren’t quite how I’d like them, but I just love it. Maybe you will too


Photos of these silhouetted macaque monkeys were from Malaysian Borneo, in the impressive Bako National Park.

Photos: Impressive Borneo Sunsets

After a full day of hiking and wildlife photography, I paused to appreciate the impressive Malaysian Borneo sunset, which kept getting better each time I looked.

The Borneo sun sets over the Red Sky - gorgeous panoramic vista - Sunset in Bako National Park, Malaysia

The sunsets from the island in Bako National Park in Malaysian Borneo was one of my new favorite from the trip. It was even better than the ones I saw in Mabul, and on the same level as the stunning views from the Dead Sea (and from the Dead Sea highway just after visiting) and the desert of Wadi Rum (both in Jordan). My favorite photos of sunsets from my trip will be found at this sunsets link.

Wow. Gorgeous. Like many photos, it was even better in person. After a day of hiking and photographing wildlife, I had just put down my camera to relax, but this view got more impressive every 5min, starting with about this point. I wanna go back!

What a View! Borneo Sunset in Bako National Park, Malaysia
I could look at that view all day

Beautiful sky in Borneo Sunset in Bako National Park, Malaysia

Panoramic Vista in Borneo Sunset in Bako National Park, MalaysiaBorneo Sunset in Bako National Park, Malaysia


Rainforests, wildlife, waterfalls, sandstone cliffs, & beaches in Borneo’s Bako

Hiking through Bako National Park turned out to be an unexpected highlight of my trip.  It’s a 10.5 square mile island with rainforests, secluded beaches with sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, jungle streams, and lots of wildlife (including about 150 of the aforementioned rare proboscis monkeys).

The coast line was beautiful – millions of years of erosion of the sandstone have created a coastline of steep cliffs with brilliant colored patterns formed by iron deposition.

Monkeys were everywhere – mostly Long-tailed macaques and silver leaf monkeys. And of course the highlight was seeing rare probiscos monkeys . We also saw lizards and bearded pigs.

 

Bako National Park also has nearly every type of vegetation found in Borneo (25 distinct types). In a couple of days of trekking through the jungle trails, you can see “Beach vegetation, Cliff vegetation, Kerangas or heath Forest, Mangrove Forest, Mixed Dipterocarp Forest, Padang or Grasslands Vegetation and Peat Swamp Forest,” according to the official site.

Consider this a sneak preview of the sunsets I saw in Borneo – the ones in the next few posts were even better!

Disagreeing with Nat Geo

Proboscis monkeys: “they’re graceful, they can swim, and they’re in trouble,” according to National Geographic. I agree with the latter two of those statements. They’re surprising good swimmers and deforestation is certainly endangering their species. But graceful??

After a few days of observing them in the wild, I respectfully disagree (at least with the few dozen that I saw at Bako National Park in Borneo / Malaysia).

This proboscis monkey (below) started to swing from one branch to another, not realizing it couldn’t support his weight and promptly dropped to the ground, bounced, and tried it again with the next branch. You’d think that years of evolution might help them in this area. They only have 10.5 square miles to explore, so I’d assume they’d get to know the terrain fairly well. Even worse, the larger proboscis monkey behind him followed his lead, with the same result.

[I’m going through the videos I shot and will post the live action demo then]

Proboscis Monkeys in Borneo: never seen monkeys like these

What’s a Proboscis Monkey? Since they’re only found in Borneo, you probably haven’t seen them before, so I’ll start with some photography from my trip to Bako National Park, in the Sarawak region of Malaysia in Borneo (full post on proboscis monkeys can be found here).  Like my orangutan encounter the day before (including baby orangutans!), I was just steps away from these rare creatures, giving me plenty of opportunity to observe and photograph. I did plenty of both!

After seeing what Probiscus Monkeys look like, and I was fascinated and wanted to learn more about them. I’ll share what I learned in the next posts, which will include proboscis monkey facts and proboscis monkey photos.

Orangutans in the Borneo wild

Bornean Orangutans and baby orangutans

I’m still buzzing from being just steps away from a couple of orangutans in the Sarawak region of Malaysia, western Borneo (semi-wild). Humans are close relatives, sharing more than 95% of DNA with humans, and you could tell. They’re rare and were fascinating to watch.

Orangutans are about four times stronger than humans, so this is the closest I’d want to be

I actually saw orang-utans twice earlier in my trip, but they were so far away that it just looked like shadowy ape-like figure in the tree with a slightly reddish/brown color. It was exciting at the time, but turned out to be just an appetizer for this experience.

Orangutan infants often cling to their mothers for the first 2-4 years

I went to Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, a temporary home for various endangered wildlife of Sarawak, especially orang-utans that were rescued from captivity. There’s no bars or cages – the orangutans come and go as they please, and they help train them with basic skills that they would have learned with the goal of re-initroducing them into the wild.  Visitors can have a chance to see them at twice daily feeding times. Since I already saw that earlier in my trip, I’ll skip to the good part.