30 April 2011

Tales of Borneo: On the river

So we explored the jungle via boat for the next three days, going out on the river four times a day: at sunrise; late morning; late evening and sunset. In-between each expedition we had a couple of hours to rest, eat, and enjoy the jungle atmosphere.

If it hadn't been for our guides, I don't think we would have spotted much. It was incredibly difficult at first to try and identify silhouettes in the tree-line from up to 200 meters away. Here are some of the wildlife we came across.

From top to bottom: a long tailed macaque poses on a branch, crested serpent eagle overhead; tern on a fishing perch.

26 April 2011

Summer food

Lamb burger with sweet potato chips on the side, bathed in beautiful late evening sun. Nom-nom-nom!

PS: Is there anything worse than chopping onions? Yes; grating onions! My poor eyes...

24 April 2011

Tales of Borneo: Kinabatangan

We spent the next couple of days exploring the rainforest by river. Had it not been for our guide and pilot, I don't think we would have seen anything in the first day at all! Highlight of the day was spotting a troup of Bornean pigmy elephants right before we returned to the lodge.

From top to bottom: a crested serpent eagle takes off from it's perch; an intermediate egret mid flight; bornean pigmy elephant.

Tales of Borneo: Bilit

After Sepilok, we took off on a two hour drive to the village of Bilit, on the banks of the Kinabatangan river. Along that particular stretch of the river are several rainforest lodges which provide a base for visitors to explore the river and its wildlife. Due to heavy rains and flash floods the couple of weeks prior to our trip, some of the roads were quite treacherous, and the pier at our lodge was actually underwater. None-the-less, it was exciting to be staying in the jungle with the rainforest, and wildlife, just outside the window (and in the room sometimes too)!

From top to bottom: flooded pier; boardwalk into the jungle; the flooded Kinabatangan river.

19 April 2011

Tales of Borneo: Sepilok

After a comparably smoother return journey to Borneo, we took a short drive to the Sepilok Orangutan rehabilitation centre. With a nursery and adjoining forest reserve, the centre helps to raise and release orangutans back into the wild. The main attraction is feeding time, when bananas and milk are provided for the orangutans. The centre stress that the food provided never changes, as it will force the orangutans to find food in the wild, ensuring a balanced diet and that essential survival skills are learnt.

Below is Ringo, one of the males in the sanctury, and an unknown mother and baby.

From top to bottom: Ringo perched on a high-wire; portrait of a macaque; orangutans eating bananas; lunch on the go.

PS: The free food on offer attracts a huge number of macaques, who squabble over the leftovers. In order for the orangutans to get their share the park keepers scare the macaques away with long sticks until the orangutans have their fill.

18 April 2011

Tales of Borneo: Selingan III

There are usually turtles landing every night to lay their eggs, which also means there are hatchlings to release back into the sea every night as well. As before, lights were an issue because the hatchlings follow the reflection of the moon out to sea. When the time came, there was just one park ranger standing knee deep in the water waving two torches at the turtles. It still didn't stop one of them crawling the wrong way and over my foot (It was soft and squidgy)!

At the end of the night we were given a tip that sometimes turtles land late to lay their eggs, and can still be seen after sunrise the next morning after the beach is reopened. Unfortunately we didn't get to see late arrivals, but the sunrise was stunning.

From top to bottom: fresh hatchlings waiting to be released; hatchlings climbing on each other; blurry shapes scuttling towards the surf; a hatchling crawling out to sea; sunrise on Selingan.

PS: The light was so dim from the two torches I had to rely on manual focusing during the main event. Every single shot I took was out of focus!

17 April 2011

Tales of Borneo: Selingan II

Selingan is famous as a nesting site for Green Sea Turtles, and that's what we were there to see. After a short museum exhibition and video, we were sat in the island's main house, along with all the other visitors, and waited for the turtles to start landing.

The beaches on Selingan are strictly off limits to guests between the hours of 6pm and 6am, to ensure that nesting turtles are not disturbed. Park rangers wander the beaches at night recording nesting sites and harvesting eggs to transplant into a sanctuary. Each night the rangers select only one nesting female for the island's visitors to observe. Once the chosen female is settled and well into her egg laying, the visitors are escorted from their 'holding pen' out to the turtle to observe the process. Lights and flashes are prohibited during this time so as not to disturb the female.

Once she has finished and is covering her nest, the lights are turned on for a few quick photos, and then she is left to it as her eggs are transplanted to a sanctuary on the island.

From top to bottom: waiting around for the turtles to land; a nesting female illuminated by someone else's focusing beam; the female having finished nesting, and the park ranger who was collecting her eggs; portrait of a green sea turtle; turtle egg sanctuary; artificial nest for the eggs.

PS: Green sea turtles are fascinating creatures. Their name comes from the olive-green coloration on their shoulders, and the male/female ratio of a nest depends entirely on the temperature of the nest during incubation. Salt glands behind the turtles' eyes secrete fluid, making the turtle look like she is crying during nesting. For more information visit the wiki on green sea turtles.

15 April 2011

Tales of Borneo: Selingan I

So we arrived at Selingan around mid-day and had the rest of the afternoon to explore the island. That didn't take long, half and hour of along the beach and you'd find yourself back where you started. Having said that, the small island was nice as it was not crowded. The beach was shared with only four other people the whole afternoon. Wandering around the island we were exposed to signs of the wildlife we would see later that night.

From top to bottom: A skink pauses briefly in the undergrowth; turtle tracks left in the same from the previous night; near deserted beaches; footprints being washed away.

14 April 2011

Tales of Borneo: Getting to Selingan

Right, so I recently took a trip to Borneo and have a mountain of photos in return for lugging all my gear around the country. I figured now is as good a time as any to start publishing them.

First up, we spent the morning buying supplies in Sandakan after flying in from Kota Kinabalu. We were headed for the island of Selingan, one of a trio in the protected Turtle Islands national park, famous as nesting grounds for the Green and Hawksbill turtles. More on the turtles later.

From top to bottom: Chinese New Year decorations in the streets of Sandakan; a crowded residential street; fishing boats in Sandakan harbour; arriving in Selingan, after a one hour fast-boat ride on boats not designed to go that fast.

PS: As a result of the boats going faster then their intended design, we literally took off from a couple of waves on the way there. It was much like an incredibly noisy one hour roller coaster ride.