Tag Archives: crocodile

Our final days, Part 2….Kuching, Borneo, Malaysia

Here is part 2 of our time in Kuching, Borneo, Malaysia. We have a flight tomorrow from Kuala Lumpur to Zurich, via Istanbul. But first we have to fly from Kuching to Kuala Lumpur – a short flight we booked on a budget airline. Rather than go to KL early, we decided to stay in Kuching until the last possible day as our flight to Zurich is not until almost midnight. We did this partly because its cheaper to stay in Kuching, but also because just the thought of having to take the bus one hour to downtown KL and then the monorail to a hostel and then back to the airport is exhausting. That’s how tired we are.

We need a break. Some might scoff at this and say we’ve been on vacation for the last 275 days. And while they are right, it is a vacation, it is also mentally and physically exhausting. We are both as skinny as we’ve ever been in our adult lives and even getting these blogs done can be grueling (but that’s mostly due to electronic issues and the incredible amount of time it can take to get pictures uploaded, in the right place and then captioned – oh, and that doesn’t count the edits I promptly receive from my father).

But that has not stopped us from enjoying the last few days we have in Kuching. We have wandered the streets: shopping, eating and soaking it all in. It’s a great small city, with friendly people, good food and free museums.

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Kuching is known as “Cat City” – so there are quite a few statues
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More cats
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Big elephant ears

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Mosque
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On ice

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Big & tiny bananas

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Mosque again
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Kuching Assembly Building

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Top of a temple

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On a whim, we decided to bus out to a crocodile farm. On the bus, we were the main attraction. Everyone wanted to know where we were going, and why. Good thing I brought the brochure. They very kindly guided us to the right stop, which we probably would have missed. Not realizing the bus would take over an hour, we arrived a bit late, but just in time for the afternoon feeding. Which was incredible. I have never seen reptiles this large, and while they are in captivity, many of them have large habitats. We watched as two brave men tied chicken pieces to a pulley system and hung them out over the water. Then we waited as salt water crocodiles from every direction started emerging from sunning themselves. The quick and agile ones were able to jump up for the meat, which was promptly replaced for the next croc.

A miss
A miss
Success!
Success!
Fighting crocodiles
Fighting crocodiles

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Camo-croc
Camo-croc

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Baby saltwater crocodiles
Baby saltwater crocodiles

Then we saw a mega-croc waddle up out of the water and begin harassing the men for chicken. This guy could have swallowed me whole and maybe Riki too. He was so big he couldn’t jump very high but the loud thomp as he smacked his mouth closed was incredibly impressive.

Mega-croc
Mega-croc
Mega-croc & brave men
Mega-croc & brave men

The crocodile feeding was followed by an Arapaima feeding, in another pond. Arapaimas are the largest freshwater fish and they can be up to 6.5 feet. They were eating chicken heads whole. I really wanted to ask somebody how many chickens they go through in day.

Arapaimas
Arapaimas

There were a few other animals there as well: bearded pigs, owls, macaques, eagles, deer, peacocks and porcupines, as well as some smaller lizards and birds. We had to rush back to ensure we caught the last bus back to town, as we didn’t want to get stuck an hour away.

Pretty bird
Pretty bird
Posing with the peacock
Posing with the peacock
Porcupine
Porcupine
Freshwater crocodile
Freshwater crocodile – note the skinnier nose compared to the saltwater ones
Buffy fish owl (formerly known to us as puffy faced owl - lost in translation)
Buffy fish owl (formerly known to us as puffy faced owl – lost in translation)

The rest of our days were spent shopping, comparing steam bun places and discovering Ramadan bazaars. Ramadan, a month of fasting for Muslims, has just begun. As Malaysia is a largely Muslim country, we have seen signs popping up in the past few days advertising food and bazaars. The vendors have brought out their tupperware and sell everything from curry to vegetables to a number of jello-esque bars we have yet to taste. Muslims are not supposed to eat from sunrise to sunset, but the food is for sale most of the day and we have delighted in getting curry puffs by the half-dozen for take away. The most I have experienced Ramadan before was working at a Mediterranean place in New Orleans and preparing for the large groups who would come in and order everything off the menu. Which is what you’d expect from someone who hasn’t eaten all day. Seeing it here, firsthand is just another thing we have been lucky enough to experience.

This is my last Asia post, but don’t worry, there is more to come. We have been preparing some final thoughts and wrap up posts. And since we still don’t know what we’re really doing with our lives, I’m sure there will be more adventures to report. Suggestions are being taken, as are job offers and life coaching.

Luck on a river safari….Sukau, Borneo, Malaysia

Sabah is the eastern most state of Malaysian Borneo. It is set up very well for package tour groups. Lots of companies offering transport, lodging and attractions for exorbitant prices. Since that is not really our style, we had a bit more of a challenge to figure everything out in the cheapest possible way from Semporna to Sukau.

We eventually found a reasonably priced bus from Semporna to “the junction”, which is a fancy name for an intersection with a couple of signs and a covered bench. The buses in East Malaysia are not the fancy three-across reclining ones like we encountered around KL and Singapore. They aren’t the worst though and the only hiccup on our 4 hour trip was the family of seven (yes, five children) attempting to buy just the two seats behind us (yes, only two). This resulted in a long delay when a large group boarded the bus an hour into our trip. The children were exiled to the aisle, slightly reminiscent of our hell-on-wheels Myanmar journey, except the person with their head on Riki’s seat was a cute, polite little girl, not a smelly, dirty, rude man.

When we were dropped at “the junction”, we walked in the appointed direction to find a minibus to Sakau. Except there was no minibus, at least according the man at the covered bench, who conveniently could take us the 45 minutes to “town”. Our driver loaded us into the most rickety little sedan I’ve encountered and sped off through 40 some kilometers of palm oil plantations.

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Sukau has a small slice of protected forest that boasts easy to spot wildlife along the Lower Kinabatangan River. The reason wildlife is easy to spot along the river: the palm oil plantations have pushed all the animals into a narrow strip of land. They congregate along the water, making boat trips popular up and down the river. We were there to spot the elusive orang utan (man of the forest). And if that failed, our backup was to hit up Sepilok Nature Reserve, where they have an orang utan rehabilitation center with a popular feeding program.

But we were incredibly lucky. On our first afternoon boat trip, we spotted an orang utan with her baby high in the trees along the river.

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Mother orang utan and baby
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Close up of the baby orang utan

We also saw many black hornbills, a small eagle, two types of macaque (long and pig tailed), AND the funny-nosed Proboscis monkey. These were my favorite, as they were very active and the females have cute pointy noses, while the males have fat, floppy ones. There are two types of Proboscis monkey groups – a male with his harem of “wives” and the bachelors. We only encountered the first group type, but were able to make out one of the shy males.

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Pig tailed macaque
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Lower Kinabatangan River
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Proboscis monkey – males have long, droopy noses but are very shy and we didn’t get a good photo
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Definitely a female Proboscis – between the pointy nose and the nursing baby, its a dead giveaway

 

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Black hornbill

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Eagle of some sort

Returning from our afternoon boat trip, we saw a small fishing boat on the side of the river with a man making a rather funny gesture. His hands were fanned and wiggling by his ears. This could only mean one thing – pygmy elephant. What luck!

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Pygmy means small, but other than his ears, this guy was pretty big
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Pygmy elephant

The fact that it is lucky to see one is very sad. According to our guide, there used to be many, many more animals along the river. The palm oil plantations have taken over and the wildlife has died or migrated elsewhere.

Later that evening, we went on a night cruise. Its much harder to spot anything at night, but our guide had a strong flashlight and wasn’t afraid to blind the wildlife. We saw some nesting swiftlets, who attach small nests to the side of the rock right over the water – a rather precarious situation.

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Swiftlets

We also saw the eyes of a baby crocodile. a puffy faced owl and some sleeping Proboscis monkeys. It was much tamer than our eventful afternoon.

The next day, we hit the water at 6 am for our combo river cruise and short trek. The monkeys must have been hiding, but we spotted another puffy faced owl and a crested serpent eagle, as well as a few other birds.

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“Puffy faced owl” though it must have another name
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Python
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Big monitor lizard
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Another python
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Lots of sticks and logs in the water
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The ferry

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As we entered the small creek leading to the start of our trek, we realized a large tree had fallen across the water and completely blocked the way.

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We backtracked and found another path, which connected to the other one. I was about to write the morning off, thinking we had used up all of our luck the day before – the guide was getting excited about common butterflies and cicada shells – when Riki spotted a lone orang utan headed our way. You know its good when the guide, who does this everyday, whips out his phone and starts taking photos. The orang utan made its way right over our path and stopped to eat some leaves about 10 meters above us. It made the most incredible sound – best described as a kiss squeak/grunt – which Riki has been mimicking ever since.

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Little orange bugs
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Green lizard
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Orang utan – means “man of the forest”
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Thorns

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Water hyacinth perhaps?
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Cicada shell

And our luck had not run out. On our final afternoon boat trip, we were spotting monkeys left and right along a small river. A mama kingfisher was guarding her nest, and when we got too close she flew off, revealing tiny chirping mouths.

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Other boats

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Macaque
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Baby macaque

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Another baby macaque
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Mother Kingfisher

 

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Baby Kingfishers

 

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But the climax of the day, and the final animal on our Sakau checklist was yet to come. While taking endless photos of monkeys grooming and playing right along the shore, we heard a loud crash just across the creek. Another loud crash and we saw the tail of a giant crocodile come down hard on the water, breaking a large branch.

We followed slowly as this 4-5m croc swam across the river with a bloody carcass, which our guide said was probably a monkey caught drinking at the water’s edge. Can’t get much cooler than that.

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Giant crocodile
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Back of the crocodile’s head – the pink part is the carcass

Despite seeing the orang utans in the wild, we decided to continue on to the rehabilitation center to see some more. We took a shuttle with a neighboring lodge to Sepilok, while stopping on the way at the only ATM in the area (and everybody and their mom was there to use it).

 

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Snake neck crane
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Kingfisher

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We got a bit too close for this guy

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