Wednesday, 15 March 2017

SANDAKAN: Visiting Sepilok (Part Two)

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center
I heard stories that the idea of great movies were born when two American husband and wife adventurers traveled deep into the heart of Borneo and saw Orangutans for the first time in their life. It was in the early 1900's. This couple brought the tales of Borneo to Hollywood; thus Tarzan and King Kong were born! If those stories were true; wow! that is great! Despite these stories made it to the big time, the plight of the Orangutans and other animals in Borneo still remain the same; they are fast disappearing from the face of the earth! Only a ray of hope is left; the remaining clusters of forest reserve including here in Sepilok.

  
The Sepilok Rehabilitation Center is located 25km west of the old city of Sandakan. It sits right in the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve much of it is still virgin forest with a total area of 4300 hectares (10,600 acres). The trees here are huge. I am sure greedy loggers are putting their eyes on these trees and they are hoping one day they could get their hands on these areas. What about the animals? "Who cares!!!" That will be their attitude. With 10,600 acres; this is among the few areas left in Borneo with beautiful giant trees and the wild animals dwelling here.

Walkways to Orangutan feeding platform and nursery
I believe the pressure made by international committees, especially scientists and nature lovers as well as tourists dollars are the one that kept the North Borneo (Sabah) Government to remain rational. Otherwise all these would have been destroyed long ago. That is why it is expedient for more tourists and visitors to come here to maintain; if not to increase the pressure on the authority so that the remaining forests in North Borneo will not suffer destruction.

The Orangutan nursery center built in 2014

Back to the story of the Orangutan. Orangutan is a Malay word meaning Jungle People. There are only two places in the world that still have wild Orangutans; Sumatra and here in Borneo. In Borneo, it is considered a sub-species called Pongo pygmaeus and bear in mind that many of the wild animals in Borneo are always referred as pygmy; pygmy elephants, pygmy pythons, pygmy rhino and so on. Sometimes I can't believe it myself in our own backyard we have all these wonderful animals just like Africa; except they are all much smaller. However, I repeat again; many of the animals in Borneo are facing extinction (including the Orangutans) due to habitat destruction, poaching and also smuggling by pet traders. So sad!


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Sunday, 12 March 2017

SANDAKAN: Visiting Sepilok (Part One)


In my novel THE EURASIANS, I mentioned briefly about the plight of a female Orangutan displaced by the destruction of the Borneo jungles. Every time she waited for Sam (the American) to pass by and feed her some bananas. But thankfully, most of the Orangutans in Sepilok are protected and looked after properly. I was so relieved to see this female (picture above) ape not only managed to eat here peacefully, but also to care for her young. I was made to understand baby Orangutans are the most dependent to their mother's care in order for them to survive compared to other apes or mammals.

Visitors waiting patiently for the apes to appear
In my book, I also mentioned Aaron Johnson always bringing her daughter Susan to Sepilok to watch these red furry creatures. Yes! Sepilok Rehabilitation Center are full of visitors; mostly foreign tourists who waited patiently for the Orangutans to appear and have their meals. Do not despair if they are not around to come to their feeding platform. The wardens purposely fed them only bananas and watermelons so that they would get bored with their food. This is to encourage them to forage for wild fruits and not to be too dependent on the center.


Fortunately for all of us, a few did dropped by for their meal. The warden frantically cried out and whistled so that more Orangutans would appear just to amuse us but it seems only a few of them were interested dining here. But even watching those few was awesome enough to make everybody happy and satisfied.



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Tuesday, 7 March 2017

SANDAKAN: Another launching at TSS Sandakan Branch


The most special moment for me with regard to my novel, THE EURASIANS was launching it at The Sabah Society in Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu) on October 5, 2016. But here was another special moment which I consider it another maiden launch; giving talks about my book at Sandakan. The Sabah Society Sandakan Branch (TSS Sandakan) was so kind to invite me to give talk about my book; that was why I traveled all the way there.

Presenting my books to Dr Robert Ong

Signing books for my fans
As a token of appreciation, I gave three books to TSS Sandakan. Receiving the books on behalf of TSS Sandakan was Dr Robert Ong, their Vice Chairman. My dad and Robert's dad used to serve with the police throughout the 1960's. But it was Eyen Khoo (3rd picture on my right) who took the trouble inviting me to TSS Annual General Meeting on February 25, 2017.

The Sabah Society Sandakan, just like TSS Jesselton gave me a wonderful reception that I will cherished this moment for the rest of my life. Promoting my book here is so significant that I considered this also as a maiden launching. Introducing my book here is so meaningful because one third of the story in my novel revolved around Sandakan, and all the early chapters of The Eurasians were devoted to this historical town.

THANK YOU TSS SANDAKAN!

By the way, The Sabah Society is a non-government and a non-profit organization, founded in 1960 by a group of enthusiasts eager in recording and preserving interesting aspect of history, culture and nature of North Borneo (Sabah) which might be lost due to the effect of modernization. For more information click THE SABAH SOCIETY,  TSS Sandakan can be contacted at ss.sandakan@yahoo.com 



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Saturday, 4 March 2017

SANDAKAN: Along the way!


Sandakan is about 330 km from Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu), and it takes about 6 hours to travel there from the North Borneo (Sabah) capital. It was early in the morning, and just about 600 feet above see level, we saw the jungle covered with mist and it was so beautiful. The weather was indeed comfortable and cool. How I wish this scenery (like the above picture) could be experience all the time and all the places all over Borneo.


At Nabalu Town (Pekan Nabalu), we stopped to see the majestic Mount Kinabalu towering. It used to be green because it was once covered with forest; but now it looks white; maybe due to the exposed granite; because the vegetation had been wiped out by the earthquake in 2015.  Nevertheless it still look beautiful.



At Nalapak, we stopped over at the LUANTI FISH SPA. We saw more visitors coming here compared to 2015 when we first visited this place. The cooperative which runs the spa had to limit each group only 10 minutes to be around the river because many more tourists were arriving by the hours.


This place is considered halfway between Jesselton and Sandakan. I couldn't remember the name of this place, but 25 years ago, this place used to be covered with thick jungle. Unfortunately, now the forest had been cleared giving way to palm oil. But not only here; all along the road before reaching Sandakan, tall straight trees which was common and abundant are now all gone; except for a few clusters of forest reserves. That too, who knows how long will it last.

Traveling by vehicle was fun as we saw different scenery; going deeper and deeper into the heart of North Borneo. I had not traveled by car to Sandakan for quite some time and the views were breathtaking but equally disappointing. I am really sad because not much efforts were made by the government to maintain the jungle which in turn created stressful situations for the wild animals as their wilderness shrank year by year.



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Thursday, 2 March 2017

SANDAKAN: Oriental Darter or Purple Heron?


In my previous post, I mentioned the bird (above picture) might be Oriental Darter and I was so confident it is. I got few comments for that posting. Cepiauctambaguz said this is a Purple Heron. Noralip B. Hassanudin even sent me these pictures;



By looking at those pictures, indeed the bird is a Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) which is widespread all over Europe, Asia and Africa. As I mentioned before, the Oriental Darter and other Heron birds are so similar. A non-expert like me will not be able to tell the difference.

Thank you very much for correcting me.



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Wednesday, 1 March 2017

SANDAKAN: On our way


While on our way to Sandakan from Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu) early in the morning, just after the sun rise in the east, I saw a flock of birds on the top of a dead tree. It was so magnificent that I had to take pictures of them. I am not a bird-watcher, and I don't know much about them; but I believed these birds are Oriental Darters (anhinga melanogostar).


Oriental Darter is also known as Indian Darter and they are commonly found in tropical South Asia and also Southeast Asia. There are plenty of them here in North Borneo (Sabah) since we are part of Southeast Asia. I always thought that Oriental Daters are related to herons but it seems there are more closely associated with Cormorant, another water bird. Oriental Darters are efficient hunters and they hunt fish by diving into the water and stabbing them with their long beak. Oriental Darter has long neck and they like to bask in the sun.

SO BEAUTIFUL!




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Thursday, 23 February 2017

MIRI: The second largest city in Sarawak


Miri is the second largest city in Sarawak with a population of 230,000 people. It was founded in 1910 when the Royal Dutch Shell discovered oil in this area. It is located in the northeast of Sarawak just right next to Brunei in the north. I find the city very symmetrical and  a bit clean; just like Jesselton, except for the cleanliness.To me, Miri is much cleaner maybe due to the fact that they don't experienced massive influx of illegal immigrants.



The main economic revenue for Miri and Sarawak is petroleum, followed by timber and also tourism. Since 2014, the Malaysian currency had been depreciating and lately it was RM4.30 to USD1 and RM3.00 to B$1 and since then thousands of Bruneien had been flocking to Miri every week. That is why their shopping malls are also impressive (like the pictures above). Every month, the Bruneien will find the things in Miri getting cheaper and cheaper as the Malaysian currency depreciated without any end in sight. For Malaysian, especially for people like us from North Borneo; well! it is just like cities and towns around Malaysian Borneo.


Miri is the gateway to the famous Gunung Mulu National Park but it is very far away. A taxi driver told me, "why do you want to visit Miri? There is nothing much to see here." He told me he brings his family to Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu) every year because North Borneo (Sabah) to him is a sightseeing paradise. "The best place I can take you is the Luak Esplanade (picture above). The Hawaiian Beach used to be beautiful, but the sandy beach are now covered with scrapped metals and hardened cement!" So sad! What a nice name for a beach. At the Luak Esplanade, it was a trip worth it; because of the wide beach and wonderful sunset!



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