Wednesday, 9 July 2014


Wednesday 09/07 - Tuesday 15/07

We arrived in Sandakan and found a great little Backpackers (Borneo Sandakan Backpackers) right on the waterfront which was the first place in Malaysia that offered eggs for breakfast! The staff were extremely friendly and informative and we then proceeded to make ourselves at home.

Sandakan is known for the abundance of wild life in its surrounding areas. We made various day trips to the surrounding animal centres.

The local bus driver who we got to know well
Similar to SA public transport, it was filled to the brim and then some so we had to sit on the floor in the front of the bus - we didn't mind though as we got personally serenaded to the sounds of Boney M on repeat!


One of Borneo's major attractions is its human-like species of Orang-Utans. These animals are under sever threat due to their decreased habitat and illegal possession by people. The centre was established to rescue these orphaned/caged orang-utans and rehabilitate them back into the wild.

A ticket to the centre enables you to view the orang-utans and wander around the centre for the entire day and we made the most of it and attended both morning and afternoon feeding sessions.

Morning Feeding Session:

Orang-utans all swung in from the forest for feeding time

Look at that cute face nibbling on some carrots in the corner

A squirrel scampered in to join the party but didn't manage to sneak away any fruit
Although orang-utans are solitary animals, baby orang-utans usually need to spend the first +/-10 years of their life with their mothers to learn all the essentials of life. Orphaned orang-utans therefore spend 6-8 years with a human handler at the centre. It is for this reason that orang-utans will pick up human habits for instance in the picture below, the young orang-utan is trying to hold onto the basket, just like 'Bob' does.

Monkey see, monkey's incredible to see how the rehabilitated orang-utan's behaviour so similarly resembles that of their handlers.
Fun fact: Orang-utans are not monkeys, they are the second biggest ape

After the first feeding session we faced a muddy, leech infested Bird walk...we were not wearing appropriate foot-ware for such a trail!

We had stopped to read an interesting bird information board and as we turned to continue on the trail we spotted an orang-utan casually sitting right in front of us!

Contemplating the meaning of life
To our additional surprise/horror, it began to walk towards us. We had been advised, by the handlers at the centre, to always keep a 2m distance and not to engage with any of the wild life.

However, it kept coming right for us and there was nowhere for us to retreat (especially in our slops) so we just stood still on the edge of the narrow path and it brushed right passed us!

Check out that gangsta lean
So close we could have reached out and touched it  [However, we did not take this chance as they are 3 times as strong as humans and this was a wise decision as we subsequently heard tales of them ripping people's faces off]
It then sat down just near us, drink some water and examine its nails...

... before proceeding down the path to sneak up on some more humans.

What a rare and incredible experience!!!!!!!

Afternoon Feeding Session:

Ooh...bananas on the menu

Fun fact: Monkeys/Apes open bananas from the bottom up

The orang-utans seemed much more playful in the cool of the afternoon than they had in the morning

This curious young orang-utan came right in front of the crowd for his personal photo shoot. He was quite a character as he was imitating our mouths moving and even made funny noises through pursed lips. A little girl in the crowd 'aped' this sound and the two continued to communicate! 

Orang-utan selfie = )


This centre had only opened earlier this year and we couldn't resist seeing the smallest bear in the world...almost small enough to be a real life teddy bear.
We were also lucky enough to catch the centre at one of its purposely erratic feeding times.

Before we were able to ascend the viewing platform, our way was blocked by a rather temperamental female orang-utan, Anne, who had just recently given birth and even the keepers were a little weary of.
Making sure that everyone reads the sign

Anne was lured away with food and we were free to search for some sun bears

These little black bears were difficult to spot at first even though we could hear their dog-like bark from a distance. Luckily there was a scope set up on one that was sleeping in the trees.

The more active bears eventually did make an appearance as they wandered around trying to find food.

This little guy was eagerly foraging for termites 
Amongst the cute bears there were some other deadly animals...

A baby pit viper in the tree - Malaysia's second most poisonous snake

A tiny scorpion on Joy's leg which she casually flicked off before we realised what it was

At feeding time the bears got super excited! The centre keeps its feeding times erratic so that the bears do not become dependent on humans for food.

This is the only boy out of six younger bears which are held in the viewing part of the centre. He was rescued from a restaurant where he was displayed in a cage all his life and got plenty of human attention. Upon being moved to the centre, he struggled to not be touched by the handlers and also to share their attention with the other bears. Being highly intelligent, he realised that whenever he was hurt, the handlers would have to come in and tend to his wounds. He therefore started intentionally hurting himself (cutting himself around his stomach) to get that desired attention. Since he was old enough to be placed in the open part of the centre, he has adapted to the new environment and become more integrated with bears as opposed to humans. Even though he had gotten a lot better, he still 'bares' the scars of human interference.

Feeding platform - sugar cane and fruit on the menu

Sun bears are thus called because of their markings on their chests which are said to be where the sun has kissed their skin. Each bear had its own unique sun spot

Cracking the hard outer shell of a fruit

Using every limb to get at the delicious juices of the sugar cane

Sun bears are also known as Honey bears as they have an extremely sweet tooth and would live on condensed milk if they could [In actual fact, one bears now living in the centre was fed on condensed milk for his entire captive life and as a result now has no teeth and can only be fed on soft fruit] The centre goes out of its way to ensure that they are fed a balanced diet and not given too much sugar. 

The three little bears

A thieving monkey coming to pick up the leftovers


The Rainforest Discovery Centre was set up to enable visitors to independently explore the wonders of a natural Rainforest.   

Rox appreciating the view of the central lake, which one can take a paddle oat ride on over the weekends

The Centre also provides an amazing canopy walk which is 300 metres long and goes up to 25 metres above the forest floor.

On the canopy walk way 

Joy practising her bird-watching skills (unsuccessfully)  

                                  Honey bee hive
This Mengaris tree is the tallest tropical tree species in the world and can grow up to 86 metres.  The trees in Borneo are even more special as they house the world's largest honey bee. 

                                             Bird viewing tower - yay stairs!!

    Walking under the magical  light streaming though the holes in the canopy 

Creepy crawlies - watch your step 

There were also many trails that we could take into the depths of the forest...
Tree swing - a natural place to rest 

One of the trails we took was to 'discover' the Sepilok Giant Tree -  the trails were not particularly well marked -some Americans we met actually got terribly lost trying to find the Tree and only by sheer chance stumbled upon it. It is no wonder that this the first 'big' tree we came across on the route, we cautiously took a 'just-in-case photo'  to ensure we had proof.
The second (maybe) Giant Tree
 If you thought that was massive - take a look at the legitimate GIANT TREE 

This impressive tree is 2.2 metres in diameter, has a girth of 7 metres, is 55-60 metres in height (the same height as an eighteen storey building) and is estimated to be 800-1000 years old.  


Sting-less bees have taken up residence at the base of the Giant Tree - after being so long it would seem like a solid investment to place a hive here 

We had a light meal at the Centre's cafe - and had a unexpected visit from a resident Orang-utan.

She couldn't stay long - as it was clearly also her lunch break...

Trying to keep our balance on the wobbly suspension bridge 

Superb balancing act - Suspension bridge selfie 

Mirror mirror on the floor 
We also took the opportunity to explore the Plant Discovery Centre and all the different plant species within

    The African section of the garden

Cacti be representing 
We found a little garden hut and decided to put up our feet for a moment and enjoy the views

Bonsai display 
Orchids - one of the only flowers actually in bloom this time of year!


Even though the Centre brags about containing 250 species of birds - we clearly were terrible bird-watches as we only managed to spot one measly bird - outside of the Centre and we couldn't even get a decent pic of it...
Hint - it's the red speck 

Storm that we got caught in


Be prepared to witness the most ridiculous designed animal in the world... 

Or at least that's what we had hoped - However: none appeared at the first feeding platform we attended 
Still hopeful until the end 
Luckily for us and the other tourists - there was PLATFORM B...

So hilarious to watch their noses move as they barbarically devour their food.

Rox already had the correct hair colour - all she needed was a bigger nose... after all the locals secretly nickname the Western tourists - 'proboscis monkeys'

My- what a big nose you have - all the better to attract a mate with 

For anybody sensitive about their nose size - at least it doesn't get in the way of eating your food (or does it..?)


The female proboscis monkeys with their young attached.

The dominant male proboscis monkey reminded us of a fat king who sits around all day eating and whose only role in life is to spread his seed upon his many wives...
And he certainly appears to have the correct equipment to do so (the big NOSE of course)

Posing for the cameras - Rox took some tips 

At first we thought this was a cute lady monkey sitting all properly with crossed legs...

But when 'she' started playing with her penis - IT WAS CLEAR THAT SHE WAS A 'HE'

Mother Suckling her baby 
We had lunch at the colourful cafe before heading back to the Platform for the second feeding session

Staring us down - nobody touch my food!
Our bird watching had obviously improved sum as we manged to spot a hornbill and take a take a semi-decent picture of it too!

The squirrel is the last in the pecking order to get to the food 
One last pose from the big guy before we had to leave

As we had seen all that Sandakan's wildlife and nightlife (in the form of karaoke bars) had to offer us - it was time to move on to Semporna to discover what the depths of the ocean had in store for us... 

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