Thank you to Kate Kuchnowska of Western & Oriental for writing this wonderful blog about her once in a life time experience in Borneo.
Borneo holidays are all about nature. I love nature of course, but North Downs in Surrey are wild enough for me. However my travel companion had a very different idea. She did treks in Columbia and Ethiopia, she travelled Zanzibar on her own, she wanted to see real jungle with undiscovered tribes and leaches 5 inches long.
“No way” – I protested – “I’m not trekking for a week, I’m not sleeping outdoors and I’m definitely not discovering monster leeches!”
As a result of a compromise we booked an overnight tour to the jungle lodge at Kinabatangan River. We were picked from Sepilok and after about 3 hours of comfortable journey we arrived at our accommodation. We hardly had time to drop our bags and enjoy a cup of tea before we were taken to the boat and rushed up the river.
15 minutes later we came face to face with a family of pigmy elephants playing at the river bank. Seeing elephants in the wild was one of my life-long dreams and here they were, jumping, dancing, pulling each other’s tails and generally having fun only 10 meters from our boat!
My friend looked at me: “Are you crying?” “Yes” I mumbled, embarrassed. They were so beautiful, so funny and I waited for them more than 20 years!
Finally the animals disappeared in the forest and we proceeded with our tour up the river to see proboscis monkeys, monitor lizards, birds and crocodiles. My friend was particularly excited about the crocodiles, but they were obviously not hungry this day or went hunting somewhere else. We have met local people rowing slowly through mangrove forest instead.
Dusk started falling slowly. “I think the elephants may be in the village” – announced our guide – “Shall we check?”
The village was spread on both banks of the river. The elephants were rather noisily enjoying their dinner of bamboo shoots. We joined 2 boats with local families, kids excited about seeing elephants and parents not sure if they should watch the animals or their children.
It was getting dark. In front of us the sun was setting over the rain forest, on the left we could make out shades of the elephants, on the right fog started rising from the jungle and spreading to the river. Everything went quiet, waiting. Suddenly from the village mosque the muezzin started calling for the evening prayer, his melodic voice ringing above the river, the village and the ancient forest. “Magic” whispered my friend, and magic it was indeed.
The special moment didn’t last long. By the time we arrived back for dinner the air was full of mysterious noises. We were given a pair of wellies and a torch each and we went for a night jungle walk – the adventure I dreaded even to think about. The mud was ankle-deep, vines and branches were hanging everywhere and you had a feeling that unknown, but terrible danger was waiting to happen. I glanced at my friend, she looked ecstatic!
“Oh God” – I thought – “if I survive this walk I will give my ex-boyfriend second chance. He was always removing tree creepers from my way, I hate them!”
My friend must have seen how pale I was, as she put a hand on my shoulder and whispered “You will be fine. I will hold the vines for you, ok?” So she did and off we went, me holding my breath and trying not to see anything around me and her obviously having one of the happiest moments of her life! The forest was dense, dark, humid, noisy and believe me I didn’t want to know what is hiding in it, but I survived!
After a good nights sleep and another boat ride at 5am there was a time to decide where our Borneo holidays would take us to next. Well… we went to Brunei for 2-night jungle trip with the ex-headhunters tribe.