SABAH 2009

We turned around and continued into Sabah. The funny thing is that all custom officers sit in an air-conditioned office, can`t see who sits in the car nor do they come out and check the car! I expected them to be tougher than that in border control. Anyway, we have now been told that we need an entry visa for Sabah, which we do not have. We never saw anyone! So now we will see what happens when we leave Sabah on Tuesday for our flight to Kuala Lumpur and South Africa. We drove all the way to Kota Kinabalu as we were unable to find a hotel enroute from the border. This is the major tourist town in Sabah with tourists a plenty, especially Europeans and Japanese. All are here for two attractions: 1. Mount Kinabalu and 2. the monkeys at Sandakan (1-hour flight from Kota Kinabalu). We only stayed the night and after a walk around the night markets and a good feed of sate $6.00 AUD (24 sticks) it was time to go to bed after checking the emails. We are still trying to solve our insurance in Africa i.e. theft and damage or no insurance at all, except third party? We stayed at a five star hotel in Kota Kinabalu and only paid $69.00 including breakfast (low season). It was an early departure for the long drive to Sandakan. First a quick look at a beach resort 40 minutes north of Kota Kinabalu as we are told they have good deals i.e. normal rate 700 Ringgit, however on standby rates of 250 Ringgit including breakfast – it sounds good. No deals like this tonight, however, if we call them on Saturday night they may have some on Sunday night.

Off we went to Mount Kinbalu Sabah`s and Borneo`s highest mountain. Only one-and-a-half-hour drive to the turnoff, this is where we paid our entry fee. (Malay citizen pay 25% of what we poor tourists pay! I reckon we should do the same in Australia. The track up the mountain ends abruptly at 1899 meters. It is a one-lane track and to turn at the top, competing with 10 or more taxis, is a real issue with a large 4WD. As they say, `do what the locals do`. Park wherever you like and partly block the road. By the time we were on the platform, the mountain was in the clouds, but as we drove up we had a very good view. People run up and down this mountain in 2 hours and 40 minutes, while the fit and healthy walk up and down in 2 days. In the afternoon we continued to Sandakan, the town where over 1800 Australians were held in POW camps during WWII and we are told only six survived after they were marched to Ranau at the end of the war. In fact, more Australians died here than on the Burma railway line. Having driven through the jungle today it is hard to imagine how those Aussies must have felt while they were marched from Sandakan to Ranau. Many had no footwear and were starving. Next, we played tourist amongst another 400 tourists while looking at six Orang Utans at the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre. No doubt the people do a very good job at looking after endangered species but the whole thing was a bit of an anti-climax after seeing them in the wild in Sarawak. Today we booked in at the Jungle Resort for the huge amount of 170 Ringgit, including breakfast.

After the Sepilok Rehab Centre we spend four hours around the pool doing nothing. At 3pm it was off to another rehab centre. This time for the Proboscis Monkey. Really another anti-climax after you have seen them in the wild. We returned to Kota Kinabalu, but not before visiting the Kinabatangan river. The river covers almost 23% of the total land area of Sabah. The lower basin of the Kinabatangan River is the largest forest covered floodplain in Malaysia (4000 sq. km in total). It also contains some of the few remaining freshwater swamp rainforest and lakes in South East Asia.

The river is one of only two places known where 10 primate species can be found, and few are only local to Borneo e.g Proboscis Monkey, Maroon Langur, Borneo Gibbon and the Borneo Pigmy Elephant (which we did not see) the Proboscis Monkey with its pot-belly, long tail and outrageously bulbous nose are very hard to miss. The male leaders of the pack are usually found on the highest part of the tree. Another animal roaming the Borneo jungle is the Sumatran Rhinoceros.

It is one of the smallest of the five-remaining species of rhinoceros. It grows up to 4 feet tall and spends the day searching for leaves and fruit (we never saw one). Unfortunately, hunters threaten the survival of the species. We are told 25km south of Kota Kinabalu you can see the Sumatran Rhino, Borneo Pygmy elephants, Borneo Clouded Leopard and Malayan Tiger.

This zoo is managed by Sabah Wildlife and forestry. As we depart late this time but are not zoo people we did not visit, however it does help to raise awareness to endangered species. Very late that night we booked into the 4-star Imperial Hotel (170 Ringgit or less than 65 AUD).