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Travel and diving in Malaysia Borneo Sipadan

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Travel Story, scuba diving in Malaysia Borneo Sipadan, Kapalai and Mabul, jungle tours in Tabin and Sukau Wildlife Reserve

Where is Malaysia Borneo, Sipadan - Kapalai - Mabul- Tabin and Sukau?

map maleisie borneo, sipadan, mabul, kapalai

About Borneo:

The name Borneo is derived from the independent State of Brunei. Borneo is the 3th largest island in the world (only Greenland and New Guinea are larger). The acreage is approximately 743.330 km2 and the island boasts more than 20 million inhabitants. The Mountain Kinabalu is the highest point, measuring 4095m.

The north of Borneo belongs to Malaysia. There's also the small independent state of Brunei. The province of Sabah is situated in the north-east and Sarawak in the north-west. The southern part of Borneo belongs to Indonesia and it's official name is Kalimantan.

At the north-west of the island of Borneo you'll find the South Chinese Sea, facing north-east; the Sulu Sea, in the east the Celebes Sea, south-east the Makassar Strait and south of that you'll find the Java Sea, at last south-west the Karimata Strait.

The tropical rainforest in Borneo is the oldest in the world. From the sixties, the forest (especially the lowlands rainforest, that houses most species of fauna and flora) has been capped at a very fast pace. This means that there are just a few small pieces of pristine lowland rainforest left. These pieces of pristine lowland rainforest lie mainly in the national parks of Borneo. Since 1980, sadly enough, 80% of the forest has been used for timber extraction or burned down for palm oil plantations.

Due to the heavy precipitation (more than 2500mm per year) Borneo has a very large diversity of flora, with more than 9,300 different plant species. In the low lands, you can find e.g. the dipterocarp-trees, a family consisting of hundreds of types of very popular hardwood. The dipterocarp trees are the largest rainforest trees in the world and can grow up to 90m.

In terms of fauna, Borneo is well known for its orangutans, dwarf elephants, proboscis monkey or long-nose monkeys, Sumatran rhinoceros, which is nearly extinct and many other animals. Every year, new animals, as well as plant species get discovered, both on land and in the water. Since most of the animals reside in the dense thatched roofs of the rainforest, it's difficult to fathom the ecosystem fully and more and more species will probably be discovered within the upcoming years.

Travel Story scuba diving in Malaysia Borneo Sipadan - Mabul - Kapalai, jungle tours in Tabin and Sukau Wildlife Reserve:

In most of the top-10 lists of best dive sites in the world, Sipadan island is listed. As avid divers, time to organize and book a trip to Malaysian Borneo.

Sunday 27 September 2015 and Monday 28 September 2015

Flights from Brussen - Zaventem Airport to Dubai to our final destination Kuala Lumpur

After an hour delay, we fly in six hours from Brussels to Dubai, with Emirates Airlines. Here we have four hours of transit time, and despite the fact that it's the middle of the night, all shops in the airport are open. There can be shopped at blast. From Emirates, we've received a voucher with which we can pay for a simple meal. Nice gesture!

The Dubai Airport is immense, which is why we need a small hour to get from terminal A to terminal C.

At 4am, we take off towards Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia, where we, after seven hours, safely land. Our suitcase roll as one of the last ones of the luggage belt. Always a critical, thrilling moment!

The centre of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia is about 70km away from the airport. Of course, you can opt for public transport to get into the centre, but a taxi is so much more comfortable after a long journey.

In all travel books and also at the airport itself, it's strongly advised not to take any random taxi on street, because many tourists get ripped off and pay a way too high price. That's why it's safer to purchase a taxi ticket at the arrival terminal, with one of the 'official' taxi companies. This way you're certain of a fixed and correct price (100 RM for 2 persons and 2 large suitcases).

After an hour's drive, we get dropped off in front of the WOLO hotel (45 EUR per night per room), that is centrally located in the lively Bukit Bintang district. The WOLO hotel is decorated in a contemporary style with a few very original eye catchers in the lobby. Even the lift is thought of, as it makes you feel like you're at a mini dance festival! The rooms are provided with all comfort and the shower is lovely. However, one small disadvantage; the very hard mattresses. Which caused us back pain, the next day.

After we've dropped our luggage in our room, we decide to explore the surrounding area. We follow our map at a venture for adventure and accidentally reach the vicinity of the Petronas Towers. These world-famous twin towers are connected by a 58-meter-long glass bridge, on the 41th and 42th floor on 175 meters above the ground. You can buy a ticket to walk over the bridge and have an amazing view of the city, but as Kuala Lumpur is bathed in a thick layer of fog, it doesn't make much sense to spend our money here.

Since our eyes are getting tiny of the long journey, all we actually want is to catch up on some sleep. We go for a quick bite at Brasserie Tous les Jours, situated just below our hotel. Here you can find tasty sandwiches, delicious pastries, various ice coffees and other sweets. We treat ourselves to a few pastries and after this last sugar kick, go straight to the room, where we lay our tired bodies on the harsh mattress.

City trip in Malaysia Kuala Lumpur with the Petronas Towers attraction

kuala lumpur petronas towers

Pictures - Photos of a city trip in Kuala Lumpur with with the Petronas Towers attraction 1

Tuesday 29 September 2015

Exploring Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia

After a limited but tasty breakfast, we want to explore Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia at bit more. However, Kuala Lumpur is an immense city with a tangle of streets, you impossible can cross on foot and the public transport doesn't immediately seem the preferred means of transport. Therefore, we choose for the ultimate tourist transport and buy a day ticket (45 RM per person) for the hop-on-hop-off bus, which ticks off the 40 main attractions of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and even stops right in front of our hotel.

We drive through Chinatown and Little India, see a lot of skyscrapers, some beautiful mosques, other national buildings one of the largest indoor ships in the world. However, nothing really provokes our interest, which is why we remain on the bus till the Petronas Twin Towers crosses our way again. Here we get off, as we'd want to take some great shots of this architectural jewel. As well as yesterday, today the city is covered in fog and smog, so paying a visit to the crossing bridge on the 42th-floor once again, doesn't makes much sense.

We go in one of the towers and instantly get into a mega shopping centre of up to six storeys high. At the rear of the towers we arrive in a cosy park, where we strengthen our inner man at an inviting terrace. This is one of the few green sites that the large city of Kuala Lumpur knows.

Then we take the bus back to our starting point, where we no longer are able to resist the siren voices of the many shopping centres, in the district of Bukit Bintang of Kuala Lumpur. All major brands such as Chanel, Dior, Gucci, etc. have here at least one shop which literally bursts of bling-bling. Great to look at, but unfortunately unpayable! We limit ourselves to the purchase of a Puma and Desigual shirt, because of the favourable rate (1 EUR = 4,9 Rm), slightly cheaper than in Europe.

At dinner time, we opt for an atmospheric restaurant in the same shopping area, where we can enjoy a nice dinner while we simultaneously mercilessly check out passing by pedestrians. We conclude the evening with a delicious dessert in, yet again Tous les Jours.

City trip in Malaysia Kuala Lumpur with the Petronas Towers attraction

kuala lumpur petronas towers

Pictures - Photos of a city trip in Kuala Lumpur with the Petronas Towers 2

Wednesday 30 September

Flight from Kuala Lumpur to Tawau in Borneo, followed by a long drive and speedboat trip to Mabul Island

We start the day painfully early, because we get picked up at 4.00am by a taxi (150 RM - including surcharge for the night rate) that takes us back to the airport, where we with the low-cost airline Air Asia, will take a domestic flight to Tawau in Borneo - Malaysia.

At 7.00am exactly, we take off in Kuala Lumpur and land in Tawau, three hours later. Here, our luggage rolls of the luggage belt immediately. When leaving the airport, an employee of Borneo Divers already awaits and guides us to the diving school on the nearby island Mabul. During the drive to the port town of Semporna, we see nothing else than the extensive palm plantations for the first hour. Apparently, the production of palm oil is big business! Next, we take a fast boat to Mabul Island, where we arrive three quarters later. The next 6 days we will stay and dive here with Borneo Divers.

The crossing from Borneo to Mabul island and the Lodgement at Borneo Divers

mabul island malaysia

Pictures - Photos The crossing from Borneo to Mabul island and the Lodgement in Borneo Divers

The first thing we notice in the resort on Mabul Island, is that there are near enough just Chinese tourist walking around. Given that the vast majority of them only speaks little to no English, exchanging diving experiences in the afternoons is going to be a hopeless task. A shame!

After arrival at Borneo Divers we get a brief explanation of the house rules and the operation of the diving school. Of course, there are also the necessary formalities to be put in order and the signing of classic documents relating to liability. Then we may take place at the buffet for a late lunch. Here too, it's immediately noticeable that the kitchen's mainly focused on Chinese taste buds. Fortunately, there's spaghetti on the menu!

Then it's time to inspect the room. The interior is quite simple, but the mattress is soft and the air conditioning works perfectly. What can one spoiled tourist want more! The bathroom however is dilapidated and very impractical in use. The shower is not shielded from the rest of the bathroom, so you continuously should be careful to not splash the floor and toilet. There also is only a small sink and no storage space or basket for your toiletries. A renovation is definitely required!

This late afternoon, we immediately dive in for the compulsory check-dive. Fortunately, the house reef of Borneo Divers is interesting enough to still have a fun dive.

Diving on the island of Mabul in Borneo Malaysia 1

diving mabul malaysia borneo

Pictures - Photos of diving in Malaysia on Mabul Borneo 1

The dinner buffet start at 19.00pm and advised is to straight away go there, as the food goes fast and latecomers can be unlucky when some dishes are already gone. Even now, the focus is on the Chinese kitchen. Steak with fries we should therefore not expect!

Since we've had a long day, we decide to go to bed early. Tomorrow awaits our first dive on Sipadan, so we must be fit.

Thursday 1 October 2015

Diving on Sipadan Island

At 6.45am, we are first at the breakfast buffet and yet again, mainly Chinese dishes! Even the Viennese sausages and ham have a sweet and sour taste. Very unfortunate, but great for our diet! Fortunately, we can ask for fried eggs.

The Lodgement at Borneo divers and the crossing from Mabul to Sipadan Island

mabul island malaysia borneo hotel miscellaneous

Pictures - Photos of the Lodgement at Borneo Divers and the crossing from Mabul to Sipadan Island

A little after 8.00am, we take seat on the speedboat for a 20-minute trip to Sipadan Island, a shielded underwater nature area, where only 120 visitors are allowed (40 RM a permit), per day. Borneo Divers guarantees one diving day (4 dives) on Sipadan Island at a minimum stay of 4 nights in their resort. Since we've booked five nights, we've been able to negotiate about a second diving day in this beautiful underwater world. For this extra permit, you'll have to pay slightly more (140 RM), but this magical place is 100% worth the money. Bear in mind, you must put through your request at competent authorities, at least three days in advance. Deciding to have an extra diving day at Sipadan, on the spot, is therefore no option!

Description of the diving and dive sites in Malaysia Borneo Mabul on the islands, Sipadan and Kapalai

Wednesday 30 September 2015

Diving on Paradise 2, the house reef of Borneo Divers on Mabul Island

At the end of the long jetty of Borneo Divers Resort you can easily step in the water via a broad staircase, which continues into the water. The dive starts on a sandbank. This is where they do all their check-diving as well. The visibility at Paradise 2 on Mabul Island is 5 to 7m. and about 17m deep, where you'll see some of the wrecks, which act as artificial reef. There are some turtles, large groupers, snappers, goat fish, lizard fish, butterfly fish, etc. When returning to the diving school, we come across barracudas and busting mackerel with open mouth. On 5 to 7m depth there's a small poor coral incline with some reef life.

Diving on the island of Mabul in Borneo Malaysia 2

diving mabul malaysia borneo

Pictures - Photos of diving in Malaysia on Mabul Borneo 2

Thursday 01 October 2015

Diving on Sipadan Island with the following dive sites: Barracuda Point, Hanging Garden and Turtle Cave.

In approximately 25 minutes we sail from Mabul to Sipadan with a fast boat (40 knots per hour). On Sipadan everyone must first log on and have a ticket that allows them to go diving or snorkelling. The protected underwater nature area of Sipadan only lets on max. 120 visitors per day, of which Borneo Divers may divide 14 tickets among its guests, per day. The Malaysian army also has an armed control post to protect tourist for possible kidnapping, something which unfortunately has happened in the past, several times.

Today we will dive 4 times, on 3 different dive sites. The visibility while diving is around 20m. The water temperature at the surface gets to a tropical 30°C or more, on a depth of 25m it still is 28°C.

Diving on Barracuda Point on Sipadan Island

Barracuda Point is diving on a coral plateau with sandy strips in between, that starts at Sipadan Island. The average depth is 4 to 5m where after a heavy slope of 30m depth kicks in. There are many, very large green turtles to spot, but also white tip reef sharks, schools of jacks and various reef fish. As the name of the dive site suggests, this place is known for its large schools of barracudas, but sadly, doesn't show up during our two dives.

Diving on Hanging garden at Sipadan Island

At Hanging Garden at Sipadan Island, we go for a drop off dive, down to a depth of 50m. Jacks, some white tip reef sharks, multiple green turtles and the classic reef fish are present. The large bump head that swims by to say hello, at the end, is the icing on the cake of this beautiful dive.

Diving at Turtle Cave on Sipadan Island

Turtle Cave in Sipadan Island is known for a cave where multiple turtles have come to die due to drowning. Turtle Cave is a drop off dive, with halfway through a cave where only diving in the opening is permitted. In the cave opening we find a school of jacks, hogfish, some trumpet fish and goat fish, but unfortunately no turtles. Later this dive, this is compromised with, as we, next to a few white tip reef sharks, see at least 30 green turtles, some of which are massive. Turtle Cave certainly didn't get its name for no reason.

Diving on the island of Sipadan in Borneo Malaysia 1

diving sipadan malaysia borneo

Pictures - Photos of diving in Malaysia Borneo on Sipandan 1

Friday 02 October 2015.

Diving on Kapalai Island and Mabul Island with the following dive sites: Black Ray Channel, Eel Garden and Ray Point

View from the sea of Mabul Island and Kapalai

mabul kapalai island

Pictures - Photos from the sea of Kapalai and Mabul Island

Today we make 3 dives on 3 different dive sites near the islands Kapalai and Mabul. These dive sites are known for muck diving with an overwhelming amount of macro life. The visibility is approximately 15m and the water temperature around 29°C.

Diving on Black Ray Channel on Kapalai Island

From Mabul Island we sail with a fast boat to the neighbouring island Kapalai, in about 10 minutes. Diving on Black Ray Channel near Kapalai means a mini drop-off of a few meters, descending into an oblique angle. The coral formations are very damaged. A little deeper, there are sandy tracks between the coral and the rocks. From 22m depth there's only a sandbank left, with a few boulders and chunks of broken death coral. At the top of the reef are many plants, which obstruct the sight for snorkelling. Kapalai is known for its overwhelming macro life, but unfortunately we didn't see anything of this sort. During this dive, we've only could photograph two nudibranchs, a flat worm and an orangutan crab. This dive site is certainly not worth repeating.

Diving on Eel Garden on Mabul Island

On Eel Garden the diving starts on a sloping hill, which slowly descends. Here as well, we'll be searching for macro life. On 20m depth, on the sandy soil, there are various sand eels seems to find and here and there a rock block in which moray eels hide. On the little bit of coral left, we find different types of nudibranchs. A few leaf fish, shrimps, blennies, etc aren't camera shy. This dive site is significantly better than that of the one near Kapalai Island, this morning, but I wouldn't dare to call this a place to be overwhelming with macro life.

Diving on Ray Point on Mabul Island

The dive site Ray Point consists of an oblique angle of sand with rocks and a little bit of coral. The deeper you dive, the more sand you encounter. On Ray Point on Mabul Island you'll come across little to no macro life. The name made us suspect to come across some rays, but that as well, was a disappointment. This dive site is definitely not recommended.

Diving on the islands Mabul and Kapalai in Borneo Malaysia 1

diving kapalai mabul malaysia borneo

Pictures - Photos of diving in Malaysia Borneo on Mabul and Kapalai 1

Saturday 03 October 2015

Diving on Sipadan Island with the following dive sites: South Point, Barracuda Point and West Ridge

Today we make 4 dives on 3 different dive sites. The visibility during the diving is with approximately 15m, slightly less than the day before yesterday, but at the last dive only 10m. The water temperature is with 28°C, somewhat colder than last times.

Diving on South Point on Sipadan Island

When diving on South Point on Sipadan Island we are well overwhelmed by the number of turtles and white tip reef sharks. Sometimes there are five turtles and a white tip reef shark swimming past, at the same time you're shooting a crocodile fish! The dive site consists of a sloping bottom with at the top, sand and coral (that's very badly damaged, from 10m) and many sandy places with green rocks. In the gaps between the rocks, you can find some hiding moray eels, lobsters and octopus. For snorkelling this wouldn't be the greatest place on Sipadan Island.

Diving on Barracuda Point on Sipadan Island

Again, we dive twice on Barracuda Point on Sipadan Island. The schools of fish, which sometimes consist of over a 1000, are very impressive. If approaching them very calmly, you can get surrounded and will be included in the group. The only thing you'll see at the diving is a wall of jack fish around you. A beautiful school of bat fish passes us regularly and gets very close, but the fish do not touch us. Of course, today's intention is to spot the huge school of barracudas, during these two dives, but unfortunately they, again, aren't found anywhere. Nevertheless, the barracuda must be somewhere in the neighbourhood, as a different team of divers had been able to take an impressive picture of them, three days ago (at 5am, though).

Barracuda Point is also a very good place to go snorkelling. Even when snorkelling you can swim between the jack fish, come across turtles on a regular basis and get the impression you're swimming in an aquarium.

Diving on West Ridge on Sipadan Island

For drop off lovers, diving on West Ridge on Sipadan Island is a must. From a depth of 4 to 5m the drop-off starts with many white tip reef sharks, turtles, and macro life with various nudibranchs. Unfortunately, I mounted my wide-angle lens and not my macro-lens. The coral at the top is beautiful and is full of reef life.

If you are not afraid to snorkel on the edge of a terrible deep drop off West Ridge is definitely recommended for snorkelers. There are very many turtles to spot a few white tip reef sharks, and of course the exuberant many reef fish.

Diving on Sipadan Island in Borneo Malaysia 2

diving sipadan malaysia borneo

Pictures - Photos of diving in Malaysia Borneo on Sipadan 2

Sunday 04 October 2015.

Diving on Kapalai Island and Mabul Island with the following dive sites: Mandarin Valley, Ray Point and Lobster Wall

Today we make 3 dives, on 3 different dive sites near the islands Kapalai and Mabul. These dive sites are known as muck diving with overwhelming macro life. The visibility is about 8m and water temperature around 28°C.

Diving on Mandarin Valley on Kapalai Island

Mandarin Valley is diving on the house reef of a luxurious holiday resort on Kapalai. We dive on a very soft sloping sandy bottom, without any coral or vegetation to be found. At a depth of 10 to 20m there's a type of artificial gazebos, of which the upper half is open and the lower half filled with rocks. It hides multiple fish, but the life here in general, is miserable. The visibility is very bad for this region. There's also a wooden tower, with at the bottom a shield and some rocks. This dive site isn't worth repeating, as even snorkelers probably won't have a good time here.

Diving on Ray Point on Mabul Island

Unfortunately, today we go diving on Ray Point again. This time the visibility is even worse than the previous time, but at least spotted some nudibranchs.

Snorkelers that follow the edge of the reef, get to see many species of coral with corresponding reef fish. A solitary turtle could be spotted too.

Diving on Lobster Wall on Mabul Island

Lobster Wall on Mabul Island is a drop off dive site. Some nudibranchs, as well as an orangutan crab, a moray eel, langoustes and an octopus are the highlights of this dive. This is the best dive location of today, but still not really recommended for to go diving.

For snorkelling this place is less favourable. There's less coral, but more sandbanks. The visibility also isn't always as good, but the colourful reef fish are abundant.

Diving on the islands Mabul and Kapalai in Borneo Malaysia 2

diving kapalai mabul malaysia borneo

Pictures - Photos of diving in Malaysia Borneo on Mabul and Kapalai 2

Monday 5 October 2015

Crossing from Mabul Island to Borneo Direction Lahad Datu to the B&B Bikes & Tours

Today we leave Mabul Island and crossing back to Borneo.

At 9.30am we need to check out, as the following (Chinese) guests are impatiently waiting to take the room. At 11.00am, we take the boat back to the harbour town Semporna, where the employees of Borneo Divers have organized a large taxi with air conditioning to take us to Lahad Datu (250 RM). The ride of 159km takes a bit over two hours and leads us again, along giant palm tree plantations and a lush green landscape.

The Lodgement at Borneo Divers and the crossing from Mabul Island to Borneo

mabul island malaysia hotel borneo divers

Pictures - Photos of Lodgement at Borneo Divers and the crossing from Mabul Island to Borneo

Around 15.00pm. We arrive in the B&B Bikes & Tours, which was strongly recommended by our local travel organizer. We're immediately warmly welcomed by the Swiss Simon and his Malaysian wife Tisha. Our room with air conditioning (250 RM per night) is very spacious and has two double beds. Also, the bathroom is very tidy and we have a privateé stairs to the cosy garden with swimming pool, sun loungers and shaded seating area. In the garden, there is a banana tree, mango tree, lemon grass, peach tree, pineapple plant, papaya tree, etc. They can put together their own fresh fruit salad, every day!

After we have taken a seat in the garden, Simon and Tisha offer us some warm muffins and a refreshing homemade ice-tea. Delicious, with such hot and thirsty weather!!!

At 19.00pm we take seat at the dinner table and are spoiled with a delicious home-cooked Indonesian meal, which consists of various dishes. Simon and Tisha have done their utmost to spoil our taste buds. Also, the atmosphere isn't forgotten, as they've paid lot of attention to this romantic candle light dinner in the garden pavilion. After our stomachs are more than satisfied, we are presented with a very nice dessert, made from a combination of ice cream and homemade crumble. Delicious!!!

The lodgement at B&B Bikes & Tours in Borneo Lahad Datu

borneo b b bikes tours lahad datu

Pictures - Photos of the lodging at B&B Bikes & Tours in Borneo Lahad Datu

Tuesday 6 October 2015

B&B Bikes & Tours in Lahad Datu to Tabin Wildlife Reserve

Breakfast is served at 7.00am and once again we're pampered with a healthy juice (celery, pineapple, star fruit and apple), oatmeal with bananas and some honey, a Taco with melted cheese, tomato and spicy potatoes and last, but not least a sunny side up, fried egg.

At 7.45am, it's time to thank Simon and Tisha for their delicious cooking and great hospitality, because the driver of Tabin Wildlife Reserve is right on time to pick us up. As we mainly drive along bumpy gravel roads, it takes 1.5 hour to traverse the distance of 44km to the wildlife park.

Upon arrival at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, we're friendly welcomed by Rachel, our tour guide for the upcoming two days. At 11.00am, we get an informative presentation about which animals we can expect to see here: pygmy elephants (which, nevertheless the name, still can grow up to 2.5 meters high), macaque monkeys, various cats, but especially a lot of birds.

From 12.30pm we can join the lunch buffet, that's significant better than on Mabul, but doesn't provoke a 'wow' -effect. Dining in the open air, we catch our first mosquito bites. A clear message here: lubricate with insect repellent, with a high ET-concentration, regularly.

After lunch, we spend our free time on our private terrace with a view on a small stream. Except for a few birds and a lizard which has caught a frog, we see very little movement in the dense forest in the background.

The hotel at Tabin Wildlife Reserve

borneo tabin wildlife reserve hotel

Pictures - Photos of the hotel at Tabin Wildlife Reserve Hotel

Around 14.30pm, we may take a seat on the table for tea-time, where we're treated to a sandwich and a few slices of fried banana. Tasty! As we slurp our teas, we suddenly see and hear a big smack, as something drops down from the ridge of the roof right on our table. What a shock! Fortunately, it's a scattered gecko, which had forgotten to use its suction caps.

Around 15.00pm we make our first steps into the jungle and go for a stroll at the mud volcano, a place where several animals will come to lick the salt stone. Unfortunately, at the moment we arrive, there's nothing to see and also on the way here, we didn't see much, apart from a few rhino birds (horn bills) and other birds. According to our guide Rachel, it's because of the very high temperatures (+34°C) and with the dense forest vegetation, allowing the animals to easily conceal.

During our way back, we regularly hear the threat of an approaching storm, but fortunately not even a drip is coming down. Nevertheless, we don't keep it completely dry, because when we arrive back in the lodge at 18.00pm, we literally, can wring out the sweat of our t-shirts. Fortunatly, we have an amazing shower, providing us with a refreshing kick.

After dinner, there's a night-game-drive planned, at 20.15pm. Together with Doug and Vicky, an older couple traveling from San Francisco, we step in the 4x4 pick-up truck and thanks to Rachel's eagle eye, we see among other things, a civet cat (which is rather a marter-like animal, than a cat), an eating squirrel (red giant flying squirrel), a pair of owls, a leopard cat and a python, in the middle of the road. Since we're far away from the inhabited world, it's pitch black, which makes it possible to enjoy a stunning starry sky, and the many bats flying around. Around 22.00pm we return at the lodge and time has come to search for our beds.

Jungle Tour in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve 1

borneo tabin wildlife reserve

Pictures - Photos of the Jungle Tour in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve 1

Wednesday 7 October 2015

Morning walk and jeep tour in Tabin Wildlife Reserve

An early rise today, as we start our morning walk at 6.30am, looking for, literally, early birds. Unfortunately, the animals don't feel like it today and remain well-hidden in the dense foliage. When we, after 1,5 hour, get back to our room we spot a couple of giant squirrels jumping from one to the other tree. Still, a beautiful ending to this rather disappointing morning walk.

After breakfast, we jump in the 4x4 pick-up truck at around 9.00am and go for a 2-hour ride through the incredible nature. Due to the dense vegetation, it's yet again very difficult to spot any birds or other animals and we've already accepted that all we should do is enjoy the stunning green scenery, until, all odds are with us. Out of the blue, an entire family of rare bearded pigs decide to cross the road, right in front of us. A little later, a herd of macaques (pigtail) do the same. At least 30 macaques, willingly pose one-by-one for a photo. Awesome!

After the lunch, we take time to catch up on some sleep and at 14.00pm we're expected for our 'jungle herbal foot soak'. For 20 minutes, we soak our feet in a tub of hot water and 'healing' herbs. Afterwards, we don't notice any difference, but in the meantime, we've been able to exchange travel tips and information with other the tourists.

Next activity on our well-organized program is a 'dusk drive' with the pick-up, which the starts at 16.30pm. We follow the same route as yesterday during the night tour, but this time are less lucky spotting animals. We don't see much more than a solitary macaque monkey, some rhino birds (horn bills), a flying squirrel (red giant flying squirrel) and an owl.

Around 19.15pm we get back to the lodge and call it dinner time. Subsequently, there's an evening stroll on our program, but give it a pass, because we're fairly tired and probably only get so see some insects.

Jungle Tour in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve 2

borneo tabin wildlife reserve

Pictures - Photos of the Jungle Tour in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve 2

Thursday 8 October 2015

Taxi ride from Tabin Wildlife Reserve to the Sepilok Forest Edge Resort

No more activities on the program for today, which means a sleep in. Whoopee!

After breakfast Rachel hands us a 'mud certificate', on which our palm is immortalized with volcanic mud on paper. After, we watch a promotional DVD about the various holiday possibilities in the province of Sabah on Borneo. The images we get to see of the diving on the island Lyang Lyang, are lovely and very promising. Perhaps an idea for a next trip?

After we've organized our luggage, we leave our beautiful room at 12.00pm and enjoy the delicious lunch buffet, one last time. While we're eating, the sky unlocks and we're all treated to a massive shower, accompanied by thunder. Now, we know why they call this a tropical rainforest!

Around 13.30pm our driver is ready to take us to Lahad Datu ready and we leave this secluded resort with mixed feelings. The green area is absolutely stunning and overwhelming, but by this dense vegetation it's also very difficult to spot any animals. So, if you go to Tabin Wildlife Resort, it's better not to have set expectations, so the disappointment won't be as big.

Jungle Tour in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve 3

borneo tabin wildlife reserve

Pictures - Photos of the Jungle Tour in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve 3

After a bumpy ride of 1,5 hour, we return to the small airport of Lahad Datu, where the next booked taxi already awaits, ready to bring us to Sepilok (300 RM for ca 160km). The driver speaks hardly English, has only a few teeth left and a heavy foot. After all, he does his job and after three hours driving fast, we arrive at the Forest Edge Resort Sepilok. Along the way, it started to rain heavily and the grey sky, doesn't bode well for tomorrow.

The Sepilok Forest Edge Resort is a little remote and further from the main road, so consequently, a little harder to find. The rooms though, are Pico Bello and the bathroom is furnished very originally. For us, Sepilok is more of a pit stop and a place to sleep, but it seems like a nice area to spend some more time.

Sepilok Forest Edge Resort

borneo sepilok orangutan rehabilitation centre

Pictures - Photos from the Sepilok Forest Edge Resort

Friday 9 October 2015

of the Forest Edge Resort Sepilok the Sepilok - orangutans playing Orangutan Rehabilitation Center and at Sukau for Rainforest Lodge

At 8.45am are picked up at the hotel, by employees of Sukau Rainforest Lodge and make a first stop at the Sepilok - orangutans Rehabilitation centre, where young orangutan orphans are held and taught how to survive in the wild. The animals have a safe haven, but the domain isn't shielded, so if the animals feel like it, they can go into the free nature, whenever they want.

First, we get a very nice and smooth presentation of a passionate worker, who explains more about the operative, the importance and the operation of the orangutans rehabilitation centre. Subsequently, we get to see a touching video, about the reception, rehabilitation and final release in the wild of some orangutans. Lovely!

Then it's time for a short walk on a strictly defined wooden footpath, that leads to the feeding platform. Each day at 10.00am and 15.00pm, the caretakers put down some fruit for the animals that haven't found any food themselves or are simply too lazy to search for it themselves. Although, we only get to see one orangutan, he retrieves and presents his best pendulum moves and knows how to entertain his audience.

Then we pay a visit to the nursery, where the youngest animals get taught how to act in the wild nature. Most of the monkeys are orphans and have never received a proper example by their parents. Some young orangutans continuously hang around on the ground. Although, for their own safety, it would be better to stay and relax in the high peaks of the trees. The guardians therefore, patiently, put them back up the platforms, time after time. Just so that they learn that they shouldn't stay on the ground for too long. Some animals are playful and devoted to the carers. Literally, because one clings to the leg of a co-worker and let her play 'taxi'. Very amusing!

When leaving the orangutan nursery, one of the younger animals, which freely move on the domain, is approaching us curiously and comes closer, very close. Too close, according to our guides and guards, and therefore warn all tourists to move and comply as quickly as possible. Orangutans, however small and young they are, are six times stronger than human, as well. Even if they are generally not aggressive, they're wild animals. In the end, this 'close encounter' was worth it.

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

borneo sepilok orangutan rehabilitation centre

Pictures - Photos of the Sepilok orangutans Rehabilitation Centre

After lunch, we drive for half an hour with the bus, to the port of Sandakan, where we at 13.00pm take a speedboat (50 knots) to, Sukau. A tiny village in the tropical rainforest on the shores of the long Kinabatangan River. It's a very nice tour of 2.5 hours through mangroves and lush greenery. On the road, we immediately spot a group of proboscis monkey or long-nose monkeys, five orangutans (one of which a baby, still depending on the belly of the mother) and as highlight of the day; two elephants. Wow!

Cruise on the long Kinabatangan River in the rainforest of Borneo to the Sukau for Rainforest Lodge 1

borneo rainforest kinabatangan river wildlife

Pictures - Photos of the cruise on the long Kinabatangan River in the rainforest of Borneo

Our luck quickly fades, as a quarter of an hour before we arrive at Sukau Rainforest Lodge, it starts pouring down, as never before. Like a magic trick, our rain ponchos appear from our backpacks in a record time, but cannot prevent us from getting wet. Semi-soaked we go into our room.

Sukau Rainforest Lodge has won several awards of e.g. Trip Advisor and it's indeed a very nice jungle hotel, topped off with authentic decoration. The rooms are spacious and functional, the shower is phenomenal (with hot water with solid radius), but unfortunately there's no air conditioning. We only have a fan to cool off our heated bodies. We'll be sweating our tits off, tonight!

At Sukau Rainforest Lodge on the shores of the long Kinabatangan River in the rainforest of Borneo

borneo at sukau for rainforest lodge

Pictures - Photos at the Sukau for Rainforest Lodge on the shores of the long Kinabatangan River in the rainforest of Borneo

At 16.45pm, everybody is expected at the boat platform for a first river cruise on the Kinabatangan River. It's still raining a bit, but miraculously a few minutes later, bone-dry and even the sun slowly creeps through the clouds. The weather here is extremely unpredictable! During this trip, we spot a very large lizard lazing on a branch, a group of crab-eating macaques (long-tail macaques) and again a herd of proboscis monkey (long-nose monkeys) which, because of their long nose, make some very funny noises (Oh-Oh!)

The dinner buffet opens at 19.00pm and is by far the best buffet of the whole trip. Our taste buds and stomachs are richly spoiled.

At 20.00pm we take part in the optional night cruise (60 RM per person) on the Kinabatangan River and this time, we see total different animals such as a baby crocodile, a dormant kingfisher, two large black and yellow boiga dendrophila (mangrove snakes), two owls, a python, a frog and a few felines including the rare flat headed cat. We couldn't have wished for a better ending of this great day!

The wildlife during a night cruise on the long Kinabatangan River in the rainforest of Borneo

borneo night kinabatangan river cruise wildlife

Pictures - Photos of the wildlife during a night cruise on the long Kinabatangan River in the rainforest of Borneo

At night, we notice quite a few mosquito bites. Regularly lubricating with insect repellent, with a high-ET-lubricate factor, in this environment is definitely a must.

Saturday 10 October 2015

A river cruise on the Kinabatangan River from the Sukau Rainforest Lodge to spot animals in the jungle

We get up painfully early, this morning. At 6am we start our first river cruise on the Kinabatangan River. The natural light hasn't yet fully come through yet and there's a mysterious fog on the water. Though, the temperature at this hour of the day is lovely!

We spot a lot of birds, such as the soenda stork, several Indian crested serpent eagles, a colourful stork-billed kingfisher, elegant large great egrets, a dollar bird, a cute bee-eater, different types of rhinoceros birds (horn bills), a rare Indian oriental billiard and a proud falcon.

In addition to that we also see a group of proboscis monkey or long-nose monkeys (including a mother with her little one), some long-tail macaques, a family of silver langur monkeys and as icing on the cake, four orangutans (including a mother with her little one). Certainly, a successful start to the day!

Cruise on the long Kinabatangan River in the rainforest of Borneo to Wildlife spotting 2

borneo rainforest kinabatangan river wildlife

Pictures - Photos of the cruise on the long Kinabatangan River in the rainforest of Borneo 2

At 8.00am we return to the resort, where the breakfast buffet on the veranda awaits. With a nice view on the Kinabatangan River and still crisp morning, we discuss the cruise and enjoy the delicious food. In the meantime, a local lady, on about 20 meters further washes herself in the brown river water. We're painfully facing the reality that anno 2015, still not everyone has the luxury of clean tap water.

Around 10.30am we go for a guided walk from approximately three quarters along the landscaped walking trail behind the lodge. We get an explanation about the local flora and what at the time, was mainly used by the local population. Afterwards we've got a few hours of 'spare time', which we mainly spend relaxing in the cosy lobby.

At 16.00pm we make way to the ship, for our second cruise on the Kinabatangan River today, hoping that more interesting creatures pass our lens. Soon, we see a crocodile, but this afternoon especially the monkeys are very active. Next to multiple long-tail macaques we come across group of proboscis monkey or long-nose monkeys. Among them, also mothers with their little ones, which obviously always results in some great shots. At dusk, we find a tree in which six rhino birds (horn bills) are throwing a party, continuously flying from one to the other branch. Wat a great spectacle! It's unfortunate that the orangutans and pygmy elephants don't show up. Tomorrow is our last chance to see them. Fingers crossed!

Cruise on the long Kinabatangan River in the rainforest of Borneo to spot Wildlife 3

borneo rainforest kinabatangan river wildlife

Pictures - Photos of the cruise on the long Kinabatangan River in the rainforest of Borneo

At 18.00pm we get back at the lodge, time to gradually move and pack our luggage, s we're flying home tomorrow.

Sunday 11 October 2015.

From Sukau Rainforest Lodge to the Rainforest Discovery Centre in Sepilok and to Sandakan by plane to Kuala Lumpur

As our flight of Sandakan to Kuala Lumpur doesn't depart until 17.40pm, we still have a large part of the day left, we can spend in Borneo.

After breakfast, we set off at 9.00am for our two-hour trip to the inhabited world. With a speed of 54 knots, we race past a number of groups of macaques and long-nose monkeys, but only at the last group of long-nose monkeys we make a short stop, for a last chance to admire and take photos with these cute animals.

Cruise of the Sukau Rainforest Lodge on the long Kinabatangan River in the rainforest of Borneo to the Rainforest Discovery Centre in Sepilok" meaning

borneo rainforest kinabatangan river wildlife

Pictures - Photos of the cruise of the Sukau Rainforest Lodge on the long Kinabatangan River in the rainforest of Borneo to the Rainforest Discovery Centre in Sepilok " meaning

Once arrived in Sandakan, we get dropped at the chic Sheraton hotel for a lunch on the 13th floor with view over the sea. Subsequently, we get some time to explore the local Sunday market, but we prefer to relax at the pool to enjoy the cool sea breeze.

Around 13.00pm we leave to the Rainforest Discovery Centre in Sepilok, where we go on a canopy trip on the high trail, between the tree tops. Normally, you can spot birds and other small animals, but on this hot afternoon, most birds hide in the dense foliage. The only thing that passes our lens are a few squirrels, an eagle and a rhinoceros bird. However, we get to see some magnificent views of the amalgamation of lush green forest.

The Rainforest Discovery Centre in Sepilok Borneo

borneo rainforest discovery centre sepilok

Pictures - Photos of the Rainforest Discovery Centre in Sepilok meaning Borneo

At 16.00pm we get dropped off at the airport of Sandakan and the hellish trip to Belgiumë can kick off. Our first flight, of 3 hours is with Malay Sian Airlines to Kuala Lumpur, where we have more than 5 hours' transit time. Next, we fly with Emirates Airlines to Dubai in about 6.5 hours, 3.5 hours later we're on the last 6-hour flight to Brussels, where we land on a Monday at 13.25pm, tired as. Within the past 36 hours we've haven't seen one decent bed. You need to give in to visit the most beautiful places in the world! No pain, no gain!

Video diving - scuba diving in Borneo - Sipadan - Kapalai Mabul - with white tip reef sharks, turtles, reef fishes - white point reef sharks, turtles, reef fish

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Useful information about Malaysia Borneo Sipadan - Kapalai Mabul - Tabin and Sukau:

Medical information about Malaysia Borneo Sipadan - Kapalai Mabul - Tabin and Sukau


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Decompression Room - Hyperbaric Chamber and emergency numbers - emergency contacts in Malaysia - Borneo:

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The time difference in Malaysia - Borneo vs. Belgium:








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