Tag Archives: East Malaysia

Kinabatangan River Safari Tours

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We were sitting in the main “tree house” lodge having our breakfast when we began to browse through some of the “tours” of the Kinabatangan River that we could take from our resort. Tom and I had mostly stayed away from the big-tour-bus-fanny-pack type of tours during our trip in Malaysia as we were trying to get the most authentic experience out of our time there. We wanted to eat as the locals, do as the locals, and just enjoy Malaysia’s rainforests, and all of it’s extreme beauty. There were so many companies to choose from when trying to do a jungle safari by river. How could we decide which would be the best? I asked the lodge worker (a native malay) which one she thought would be “the most fun” and she recommended going on a tour with a fellow by the name of Osman- with Kinabatangan Discovery.

We decided to make the trek to the river (about two hours from our lodge near where we spent time with the orangutans!) to do the river safari. Tom asked me if I wanted to do more than one “river tour” instead of making the two hour trek for just one boat ride. Of COURSE I DID! Our lodging was right on the river where we stayed one night at Sukau Greenview lodge before catching a flight to Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur. Everything was arranged from the lodge we had been staying at Paganakan Dii including transportation to and from the river for us. We ended up deciding on a sunset tour, after dark river tour, and lastly the sunrise river tour. I had told myself that I didn’t expect to see any wildlife at all so that I wouldn’t be disappointed…but our three river safaris ended up being so much more than just a simple boat ride (It probably helps to have a husband with an incredible eye to spot wildlife!) All of our cruises were uniquely AMAZING, but our favorite was the sunset tour- when we saw the most wildlife, and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

Let me back up for one second. Palm oil plantations are a big deal in East Malaysia. It’s a pretty big industry as Malaysia is the world’s second largest producer of palm oil, and is the world’s largest exporter of the oil. With this industry, sadly, comes the destruction, and clearing of land for the plantations. So while, the plantations have disrupted the ecology of the upper section of the Kinabatangan River… the mangrove swamps as well as parts of the lowland river have survived, remain in tact, and are now protected. The river is said to contain a huge part of the wildlife in Borneo. Home to all sorts of crazy cool looking birds, monkeys, crocodiles, snakes, orangutans and even Pygmy Elephants. So three river tours, hundreds of pictures, and one awesome (non commercial) tour guide later. I present you with one of most gorgeous places on Earth. The Kinabatangan River in East Malaysia:

The start of our trip...

The start of our trip…

Gorgeous rainbow.

Gorgeous rainbow.

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Egret birds

Egret birds

Grey Eagle

Gray Eagle

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Probiscus Monkeys- aka "Dutch man"

Probiscus Monkeys- aka “Dutch man”

I couldn't get over how it was sitting like a HUMAN!

I couldn’t get over how it was sitting like a HUMAN!

Macaque Moneky- saw tons of these guys!

Macaque Monkey- saw tons of these guys!

Little blurry, but I love this shot. They were jumpin/ swinging on the vines.

Little blurry, but I love this shot. They were jumpin/ swinging on the vines.

Little alien baby Macaque

Little alien baby Macaque

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Crocodile. Bit hard to see, but he was big!

Crocodile. Bit hard to see, but he was big!

Silver leaf monkey :)

Silver leaf monkey 🙂

Yellow ring mangrove snake

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Pretty sunset pictures

Pretty sunset pictures

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Our digs for the night

Our digs for the night

Peaceful breakfast on the river before our last river cruise...

Peaceful breakfast on the river before our last river cruise…

Tom spotted this guy up in the tree with his momma (who was hiding behind the branches)

Tom spotted this guy up in the tree with his momma (who was hiding behind the branches)

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Can't get enough of these guys...

Can’t get enough of these guys…

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Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary- Malaysia

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Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary- Malaysia

After the big hike up Mt. Kinabalu we headed East on a big red double decker coach bus. I was exhausted from the hike, and caught some sleep while Tom watched a movie. The bus ride was about 4 hours as we trekked to our next destination Sepilok, Malaysia. Known for the Orangutan Sanctuary. It was late at night when we were dropped off at a small round-a-bout in the middle of no where. We waited for our “tropical retreat” shuttle to come fetch us in the dark after using the bus driver’s cell phone to tell them we were at “mile 14” round-a-bout. I was pumped we were literally in the middle of no where!!! Even in the dark we could see that massive palm trees covered the terrain.

We stayed at Paganakan Dii Tropical Retreat ( I will write about this fabulous place later!) and we were ready to get some rest  pass out from our 9 hour hike, and the 4 hour bus ride East.

In the morning (after our delicious breakfast) our resort had a shuttle to the Orangutan Sanctuary which was started in 1964 as a place to rehabilitate orangutans back to health. It was a short 15 min ride to the place. We bought tickets, and walked out on this long wooden path to a platform in the jungle where two feedings per day take place (one at 10am and one at 3pm.) We decided to stay the whole day to watch both feedings, eat lunch, and walk around. The entire place is about 10,000 acres of protected rainforest for the orangutans to live, and roam freely once they are healthy enough. I read in lonely planet that although 1,000’s of people each year come to view the orangutans there is a chance (since they are essentially wild) that none will show up to the platform to feed. At the 10am feeding there was about 10-12 orangutans that came (and LOTS of little short/long tailed macaque monkeys) The 3:00 feeding turned out to be a bit less “tour group-y” but less orangutans. We did see TWO momma’s with little babes hangin on to them that came to the 3pm feeding so that was really neat!

There was a sign that read “SILENCE PLEASE” …if I had to guess I’d say about 200 people gathered around to wait quietly to view the orangutans. Sure enough as it neared 10am the monkeys, and orangutans begun to peek out of the jungle in our view. Slowly, with the help of ropes/vines they made their way over to the platform to snack on bananas/milk.

It was fascinating. Seriously, fascinating.

I don’t think I blinked for the entire time… while Tom snapped some AWESOME pictures.  The second feeding Tom was able to just sit, and enjoy as I snapped a couple good ones. 😉 I knew this post was going to be a tough one. HOW do I choose my favorite pictures of the orangutans when we took SO many incredible pictures. I am going to post a bunch, because I just can not stop staring at these precious little orange furry fellas.

If you want more information on visiting the sanctuary go here!

Here they come!!!!!!

Here they come!!!!!!

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Macaque Monkey

Macaque Monkey

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threebig o

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Having a snack!

Having a snack!

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;p

;p

Macaque monkey

Macaque monkey

LOVE <3

LOVE ❤

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Those EYES!

Those EYES!

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Hey little guy

Hey little guy (one of my favorites)

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You can see where we observed from in this one :)

You can see where we observed from in this one 🙂

Tom and I walked around and snapped a few more pictures before the next feeding.

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Ready for 3pm feeding!!!

Ready for 3pm feeding!!!

Just a few more for ya because I HAVE TO…

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Momma

Momma

Momma Love...

Momma Love…

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I LOVE this shot.

I LOVE this shot.

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Strollin’ the Streets of Kota Kinabalu- Night Market and Gaya Street Market

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Strollin’ the Streets of Kota Kinabalu- Night Market and Gaya Street Market

One thing I love about Korea is the outdoor open air market we shop at. I have said it 100 times, but it might be one of my favorite things about Korea. So, naturally I was excited to explore markets of Malaysia! In Kota Kinabalu we found that the night market sold lots of fresh food! It’s as fresh as it comes 🙂 After asking the lovely ladies who worked at Lavender Lodge (where we stayed) for some tips on where to go, we grabbed a city map, and explored. I loved that in Kota Kinabalu (even though it was a “city”) it was small enough you could walk around/through/across it- easily in just 30 min.

While Gaya street market also sold fruit and other delicious food items this market was more of the souvenirs, clothing, live animal type of market. Just about everything could be found at Gaya Street!

Here are my favorite shots of us strollin the streets of Kota Kinabalu…

Lots of little street vendors :)

Lots of little street vendors 🙂

I have no idea what we ate, but it sure was delicious. I would say it tasted like a cross between a pear and an apple. With "plum powder" sprinkled on top. (I saw the label on the package, but I had no idea plum powder even was a thing!)

I have no idea what we ate, but it sure was delicious. I would say it tasted like a cross between a pear and an apple. With “plum powder” sprinkled on top. (I saw the label on the package, but I had no idea plum powder even was a thing!)

Night Market in KK

Night Market in KK

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Always lots of veggies. :)

Always lots of veggies. 🙂

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The night market is right along the water. Made for a really pretty sunset.

The night market is right along the water. Made for a really pretty sunset.

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Exploring more of the port.

Exploring more of the port.

Love this guy and this photo!

Love this guy and this photo!

Gaya Street market the next day!

Gaya Street market the next day!

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Selling freshly ground coffee beans. yum!

Selling freshly ground coffee beans. yum!

More coffee for sale

More coffee for sale

Butterfly made from feathers

Butterfly made from feathers

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Crazy hat.

Crazy hat.

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...and even animals for sale.

…and even animals for sale.

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Kota Kinabalu- The Gateway to Malaysia’s Rainforests.

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Kota Kinabalu- The Gateway to Malaysia’s Rainforests.

We arrived after a day of travel from South Korea to the quaint little city of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Admittedly we had no idea that Malaysia is separated into two regions (two islands) BUT the part we mainly visited is known to tourists as “Sabah” or “Borneo” and to locals as “East Malaysia” and to Midwestern U.S folk: the boonies, the sticks, or middle of no where. We found ourselves loving the Malaysian rainforest!

Our last two days were spent in Peninsular Malaysia at the country’s capital: Kuala Lumpur. First things first though.

There is so much to say and so much to share, but I thought I would try to first keep it simple, and secondly keep it short. (Both extremely difficult after so many incredible adventures.) To say we had the trip of the life time is definitely an understatement. From the people we met from all around the world who had incredible travel stories where they are making travel a way of life, to the food, and the beautiful islands, wild life, and rain forests… I can’t tell you how many times I would just sit back in awe of where we were, what we were doing, and how we got to the place (path) that led us to cross paths with Malaysia. The trip just kept getting better and better.   Kota Kinabalu was where we spent two days and two nights eating REAL Italian food with a table for two in the bay, getting in 3 AWESOME scuba dives in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park with a cool little company called Scuba Junkie, taking a boat with locals over to Manukan island for a day at the beach,  and visiting Kota Kinabalu’s famous Gaya Street market where you could buy everything from an animal to souvenirs! Kota Kinabalu was where our journey in Malaysia all began. You’ll also see pictures of the places we stayed at…where almost all of the places were either eco friendly, or had amazingly helpful staff, and most of the time they had both. Tom has been quite inspired by a man named Rob Greenfield who’s blog he has been following, and reading. Rob’s blog has begun to in small ways positively affect the way we travel, and live life.

We always tried to do two things:

1. Keep it affordable!

2. Seek adventure.

I’d say we achieved them both, but maybe pictures will tell it better than I can. Most of the photo credit certainly goes to my awesome husband Tom…and now without further ado I bring you my very favorite photos of our first two days before we climbed Mt. Kinabalu, and the explored the rainforests! I give you Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia through our eyes…

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We devoured our meal so quickly that we forgot to take pics! It had been so long since we had Italian food. Eating at Gusto on the bay.

We devoured our meal so quickly that we forgot to take pics! It had been so long since we had Italian food. Eating at Gusto on the bay.

Our digs for 2 nights in KK. We loved staying here because of the incredible staff!

Our digs for 2 nights in KK. We loved staying here because of the incredible staff and the bang for our buck! We had our own cozy little room.

Getting ready to scuba dive off the boat!

Getting ready to scuba dive off the boat!

Tunku abdul rahman marine park for some diving.

Tunku abdul rahman marine park for some diving.

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Stop between dives on Sapi island!

Stop between dives on Sapi island!

This guy wanted to hang with us for lunch!!!

This guy wanted to hang with us for lunch!!!

Heading out for more diving.

Heading out for more diving.

Gaya Street Market

Gaya Street Market

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Rambutan- SO amazingly delicious once the skin is peeled off. Inside tastes and sort of looks like a grape 🙂

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We bought a big bag of Durian- known in Southeast Asia as the “King of Fruits.” It has a thorny outside and is known to smell like onions (we didn’t smell it) but it tasted like custard and almonds to me. Pretty delicious! Tom loved this one.

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Dragon fruit or Pitaya was pretty delicious as well. We had a great time buying fruit and tasting it. All of which we had never had before in the States. It was really this bright neon pink!! It didn’t stain the hands/ mouth as much as I thought it might.

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This cutie was working the market stall all by herself! She was tiny!

Island exploration to Manukan Island

Island exploration to Manukan Island

Saw another one of these guys... looked like a dragon!

Saw another one of these guys… looked like a dragon!

Beach bummin for the day.

Beach bummin for the day.

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A storms a brewin' just as we caught our little boat back to the mainland.

A storms a brewin’ just as we caught our little boat back to the mainland.

Up next more pictures of  exploring Gaya Street Market as well as the night market in Kota Kinabalu, and the continued journey through Malaysia as we headed East to climb a mountain, hang with the orangutans, and even manage to get in 3 river safaris to check out the rainforest wildlife.

In the meantime I’ll just be here pretending we are still travelin’ and trekkin’ through Malaysia 😉

Next stop: Borneo, Malaysia.

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Next stop: Borneo, Malaysia.

Malaysia.

A country I had heard of, but knew absolutely nothing about. A place where when I began to research I found has the  highest point between the Himalayas and New Guinea (Mt. Kinabalu-13,436 feet above sea level.)

A country full of culture, delicious food, rain forest trekking, river safari tours teaming with wildlife, stunning scuba diving, and magnificent night markets.

How could we choose anywhere else?

I am beyond excited.

This is what I know:

1. We decided on East Malaysia also known as Borneo, Malaysia because of our desire to hike, explore the rain forest, and scuba dive. First: We fly into Kuala Lumpur- Malaysia’s capital. Then we’ll catch another flight to East Malaysia.

2.We will be doing 2 or 3 scuba dives here (not sure which islands yet!  There are 5 in Tunku Marine Park):

photo from etawau.com

3. We will be attempting to climb Kota Kinabalu in ONE day- the tallest point between the Himalayas and New Guinea at 13,436 feet above sea level. We found the inspiration to hike in one day here. If you are a new reader you can track our hiking treks on Tom’s blog.

photo from the theplanetd.com

4. We will visit the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary- Where orangutans are rehabilitated back to independent wildlife living. Can’t wait to see these amazing animals 🙂

photo from sabahtourism.com

5. We will be taking a river safari down the Kinabatangan River- to hopefully spy some Pygmy Elephants ( we would have to be really lucky!), crocodiles, birds, and maybe even a proboscis monkey.

photo from insabah.com

6. Visit the night markets! In both Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu.

photo from junesapartment.com

–This much I know.

I know we are so excited to head to Malaysia in just 5 short weeks!  We are going into the trip with an outline of a plan. Hoping for the best…expecting the worst. We will have a some what flexible schedule, but embarking on this adventure with the idea that the BEST adventures are the ones that aren’t planned, and the understanding that ANYTHING can change in a second.

Here is to an incredible adventure ahead with my husband… Off of the beaten path!