Category Archives: Malaysia

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!

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.