Welcome to Allan and Heather Bantick's diary

of our trip to Borneo in 2010


Sun 24th Jan
Drove to Edinburgh and stayed overnight with family

Mon 25th Jan
1330 Heather's sister Maeve very kindly drove us to Edinburgh Airport for the 1620 BMI flight to Heathrow Terminal 1 where we wheeled our stuff to Terminal 3 to recce the Royal Brunei set up for next day. Back to Terminal 1.  Grub at Weatherspoons then the shuttle bus H8 to the Comfort hotel for the night

Tues 26th Jan
Up at 0430 and down to Heathrow at 0630 to check in with 40 or more other SAGA travellers most of whom were not on the same tour as us but having a static holiday at our first destination, Tuaran Beach Resort
Took off 30 mins late at 1040 for the 5.5 hour first leg to Dubai where we had to leave the plane, walk the length of the terminal building, go through security, then walk all the way back and get on the same plane. Look on the bright side - it was a chance to stretch our legs. Meanwhile the plane had been cleaned and a new crew installed ready for the 7.5 hour flight to Brunei

Weds 27th Jan
On arrival in Brunei we were taken for a city tour, visiting the Big Mosque and Museum of Royal Regalia.
Brunei has 400,000 inhabitants and 1.2 million cars. That's 3 each. Except that the Sultan is a collector and has 4,000 of his own. On the other hand children can't have any so .....

Brunei is Tax Free - no VAT, no Income Tax etc. Petrol is 20p and diesel 3p per litre. There is no poverty. Downside - no freedom of speech, no alcohol (not officially anyhow) and no night life.

The Big Mosque in Brunei

We had to take our shoes off in the Mosque and Museum. No photos were permitted at the Mosque and photos only in the first hall at the Museum. All the ladies plus any gents in shorts had to wear a robe in the Mosque. In both places there were lockers for cameras

We were told the Sultan's brother Prince Geoffrey is a bad lot and is in exile. He blew 8 million USD of public money on buying himself the Dorchester Hotel and sundry casinos and the like. The Sultan booted him out. The Sultan has had 3 wives. The first one is the main wife and was an arranged marriage. The second was an air hostess but the Sultan divorced her and married a pretty TV presenter. He has 12 children plus a bump - not sure which wife has the bump.

Lunch at the Sheraton Hotel then back to the airport for our short flight to Kota Kinabalu (KK). We got there at 1745, changed some money and were then bussed to Tuaran Beach Resort.  While on the bus The Independent newspaper phoned me to talk about beavers but I was hardly in a position to speak to them so I arranged for SWT staff to pick it up. Got to Tuaran at 1930 for a briefing, happy hour and dinner before crashing into bed exhausted

Thurs 28th Jan
Up early to discover there was a view of the sea from our window.


0730 I took the camera for a walk to the beach and after breakfast repeated the exercise with Heather. Lovely spot but so far no wildlife to speak of apart from a handful of small sparrow-like birds

1030 briefing. Today was mostly to ourselves but there would be a walk on the mangroves at 1630 and a Mock Wedding in the evening.  We had a pizza each for lunch at the Pool Bar (far too big, should have shared one) then slept the rest of the afternoon.

The mangrove walk was good but only 4 of our group of 15 turned up, however that turned out to be a good thing in the narrow confines of the boardwalk. Our guide Terence told us the story of how the route for the boardwalk had been devised and how it had been built.


We walked as far as the river and heard about the local small-clawed otters.  Terence told us "They are in those mangroves right there".    On the way back we planted some mangrove seeds to help save the planet

Planting mangrove seeds

A mangrove shoot planted by a previous group .....  and the nearby swamp

It was hot and sweaty and thick with mozzies in the mangroves but I loved it.  We got back to our room in time to shower and change before the Mock Wedding. It was very colourful and a bit of fun and we took loads of pictures before heading off to pay our bill - it was to be a very early start next day.   It took more than half an hour to sort the billl out because the invoices had not been brought up from the bars. They tried very hard to under charge us but eventually all the papers were found and we were able to go to bed. I think their system could use some tweaking

It took ages to pack.  We needed 5 bags; one with spare gear in to stay at Tuaran (to be picked up when we got back next week) and two each to travel with us. Trouble was, we'd only been here a couple of days and the sweaty gear was already mounting up

Fri 29th Jan
This was moving day to Libaran Island. We were up at 0300, bags out at 0415 and ready to go 0445. Pity the bus was half an hour late.    Never mind, we still got to KK airport in good time for our flight to Sandakan where we visited the Memorial Garden and heard for the second time (we were there in 2006) the harrowing stories of what happened there to the Aussie and UK soldiers.

A Buddhist Temple came next then coffee and pancakes in a cafe, a visit to a village on stilts and an indoor marketplace where we bought a football to add to our small collection of gifts that we were amassing to give to the children who were to dance for us next evening.

Outside the Buddhist Temple and a boy throwing pancakes around in the cafe

We had lunch at the Sabah Hotel which was quite plushy but our vegetarian was not impressed with her limited options. I took myself off for a walk to spot wildlife but there was nothing about    I slept through the afternoon visit to a supermarket where more goodies were obtained for the children and we then headed for a river where two boats were waiting to take us out to sea to Libaran Island where we were to spend three nights .

The fast cruise to Libaran Island and the reception committee

We were greeted by our hosts which included some dogs who were delighted to see Terence. Evidently he was a regular visitor and spoiled the dogs.   I had another sleep (severe lack the last few days) before Heather dragged me out for a beach walk before darkness fell. Terence was out too and had found a snake (species unknown) and we then found a hermit crab - wildlife at last


The evening began with its usual briefing intricately woven with Terence's amazing anecdotes and little known facts. We went into dinner with a passable idea of what tomorrow would bring.   The Libaran bar had a 3-for-1 deal going on wine and I plucked up courage to ask if I could have one glass now and two tomorrow. No problem, they said, but I wondered if anyone would remember our deal next day.

Back at our cabin Heather sorted out our mosquito nets and we fell into bed

Sat 30th Jan
Up at 0500, early enough to deal with messages.  After breakfast we all walked to the nearby village. The dogs came too, giving rise to mayhem each time we crossed territories belonging to other dogs. Terence reckoned that our dogs had fathered most of the puppies around here anyhow so no doubt felt they had special rights.  It got hotter and hotter so we cringed a bit when told we were going to visit the local blacksmith. It turns out he doesn't actually have a forge. Terence then showed us how to split a coconut shell to make hand brushes but warned us not to try this at home. As if we would.

Further on we came to the school which, it being Saturday, was shut. Terence gave the low down on the education system including disciplinary measures, which tended to be of the traditional variety.   Don't ask and don't get me started.   Anyhow, the school seemed to us much better provided for than many others we have seen on our travels.

The school on Libaran Island

We strolled back to base along the beach getting much too hot so we bought cooling drinks at the bar
Lunch at 1230 and I was pleased that the guys at the bar had remembered last night's deal with the wine. We then had time to chill before our trip to a mangrove forest later.

Once again I slept and did not want to wake up but off we went in two boats to the mainland to look for wildlife along the Lalasun River which runs through a huge mangrove forest. The first thing we saw was a mud skipper

Next we came to a village where a wedding was in progress and we were waved ashore to join the party. Most of us managed the climb up steep steps into the house where the bride and groom sat stiffly on display. We paid our respects, noting that he was quite old and she quite young which Terence thought suggested a second marriage. Our ladies imagined how wife number one was feeling - probably quietly seething at what would be going on later
The band was pretty good and had an impressive array of back-line gear, albeit old and battered, including Fender, Peavey and Marshall.

The village and the happy couple

They played Clapton's Wonderful Tonight for our benefit but the singer was so nervous he froze on the words. We accepted the host's offer of fruit drinks (with some trepidation because the water in it could have come from anywhere including the river) but politely refused the offer of food. Not wishing to outstay our welcome we clambered back down the bank into the boats.

Soon we came upon two troupes of monkeys. One group was of small, grey animals but the others were the much larger proboscis monkeys. Neither group stuck around long.  We tied up to the bank for Terence to tell us all about the high value of mangroves while the crew served tea, coffee and small donuts. A kite flew over while this was going on.  The light began to fail so we headed back down river towards the setting sun and bounced across to Liibaran Island on a choppy sea just in time to get showered and changed before going to the lodge for the briefing, dinner and an evening of entertainment from the locals.

After the briefing we were joined for dinner by a New Zealand couple and then the revels began  First the young men formed a drum group and played a few sets, during the last of which other men performed martial arts dance sequences.  Then the young girls began their performance; three Malay dances and a line dance    We were then expected to get up and join in which we dutifully did but the music went on and on so we were soon expiring in the heat.  At last it was over and time to distribute our gifts among the children. Our football had been spotted early on by a girl in red and she made it known to Heather that she would really really like it. When it came time for the children to choose dance partners she tried hard to grab Heather to cement her claim to the ball but was thwarted for the first dance by her best friend (who she now hates). Long story short, she got the ball. It was 2200 by the time we got to our hut.



Sun 31st Jan
Up at 0600 and worked on typing this diary into the Blackberry in the hope of saving time when we got home next week.   It worked remarkably well.   At breakfast some of our companions said they had found sleeping difficult in this heat and I was slightly relieved to hear that I was not the only one feeling tired.   Bit of a problem at breakfast - nobody's fault, but everybody chose scrambled eggs today so they ran out and it took ages for more to be made
First event today was a snorkelling session so Heather and I selected our equipment from the available stock before heading back to our hut to pack a bag.  At 1000 we set off for a 20 minute boat ride to Bakkungan Island, one end of which is on the Phillipine/Malaysia border. We were deposited on a beach and it eventually transpired that half of the group would go for a ride in a glass bottomed boat and the rest could please themselves until it was their turn in the boat.   We went snorkelling, wearing shirts to avoid the sunburn we got last time we snorkelled in Borneo. It was shallow and rocky with an awkward onshore swell and a strong cross current making it very difficult to get in and out of the water and hard to make progress against or across the current. We saw quite a lot of fish plus some bright blue starfish and some small clamshells.

There was a shout so we struggled out of the sea and quickly got rid of our equipment as the others were waiting for us in the glass bottomed boat.   It was a bit of a let down because the glass comprised just a few small windows in the hull so anything we saw was just a glimpse as we drifted past. Nevertheless the trip gave us some ideas for our next snorkelling session. The current was just as strong where the boat had been but the water was deeper and there were more plants and corals. Soon I found a way to cheat the current.   A line of small buoys had been fixed 50 metres or so from the beach and parallel to it, joined together by a rope. I swam to the buoys and easily hauled myself along the rope against the current until I had gone far enough, then let go and drifted down the current back to the start. Bea joined me for a second run and Helen came with me for the final turn before we were called to pack up ready to leave.

Back at Libaran Island lunch was ready and the afternoon was at leisure until tea and a batik demonstration at 1600.   The batik man showed how it was done then most of us had a go so that together we built up a patterned batik cloth.  Somebody actually bought it.

Making the batik and the finished article

That was good, which is more than can be said for the next activity; watching Andy Murray losing to Federer in the final of the Australian Open tennis.    The evening briefing was well up to Terence's high standard of information overload but we got the gist of it in the end.  Dinner was a BBQ but only if you liked cremated fish and other sea food. Normal food was also available.  Back at our hut we discovered that our snorkelling had gone a little too long; we both had sunburnt bits despite the shirts - the backs of our legs, top of my head and Heather's neck

Mon 1st Feb
Up at 0700. My head was rather sore but Heather advised leaving well alone to heal naturally. Savlon would be administered later if necessary.  Early lunch at 1100, paid our bill and away in the boats at 1200. Halfway to Selingaan Turtle Island we came across two green turtles mating. They were not amused by all the attention and dived out of sight.

On arrival Heather and I set off to walk right round the island. We started along a stretch of sand where clearly turtles had come ashore to lay eggs, then passed the designated snorkelling area where some of our companions were already at play. In view of our over exposure of the previous day we thought it wise to abstain. At the end of the island a large area of lumpy dead coral was exposed by the low tide and the choice was either to walk across it or turn back because the shoreline comprised dense vegetation. We braved the rocky coral and the going was a bit awkward but easier than it had looked. At last we came full circle to the beach where we had arrived and it was a short step from there to the main lodge where we rewarded ourselves with ice cream
Back in our room Heather ministered to my sore head and then we sat outside and read until our next appointment; coffee and a briefing at 1600. We also started filling in our SAGA questionnaire - it wasn't easy
The afternoon briefing went on for an hour during which Terence gave us a lot of fascinating information about the turtle conservation work in this area.

1900 we met at the lodge for a turtle video and then went in to dinner.  After that it was a question of waiting in the dining room hoping there would be a radio message from one of the four beaches to say a turtle had landed. People chatted, played cards, sent text messages, worked at their puzzle books and dozed to kill time.
Nothing happened until 2300 when they announced that a green turtle had landed at the snorkelling beach. Still we were not allowed to go to see her until she had dug her nest and begun laying, at which point she would be in a trance-like state and less prone to stressing out.   At 2340 at last the call came and 25 of us followed the ranger onto the dark beach. The turtle was laying eggs into the large pit she had dug and one of the rangers was kneeling behind her where he could reach down and transfer each egg into his bucket. In the end there were 73 eggs.  We had prepaid 10 RM (about £2) for the privilege of taking photos which we duly did. Flash was not permitted so we had to do the best we could by torch light. I took scores of pictures with 2 cameras and prayed that there would at least one decent shot. Eventually we left the turtle in peace to finish her job, relax for a while and make her way back to the sea.


We then went with the eggs to the hatchery and watched the ranger bury the eggs and mark a peg with the date and serial number of the nest and the number of eggs. This was already nest number 133 of 2010 - and we were only one month into the year. To finish off, a cylindrical nylon net was placed around the nest to keep predators out and to keep the hatchlings together when they emerged.

Burying the newly laid eggs in a protected nest

Finally that evening's hatchlings were put into a plastic basket and carried down to the beach where they were released within a few feet of the ocean's edge. Our presence kept predators away while the babies made a dash for the relative safety of the sea. One set off in the wrong direction but was soon steered back on course by a wall of kindly feet. Sadly, even this highly protected start in life will not save most of these young turtles because there are so many predators waiting for them in the deeps.

The hatchery with its protective nets and a basket of newly hatched turtles about to be released

Nevertheless this project is thought to be having a beneficial effect on turtle numbers. How could it not?. A much higher percentage of eggs hatch and a much higher percentage of hatchlings make it to the sea than could possibly be the case if left to nature. Detailed records are kept and much is now known about the ecology of these animals except for the so-called lost years between the hatchlings entering the sea and the point at which they turn up as sub-adults about twenty years later

Tues 2nd Feb
Up at 0445 in the hope of seeing a turtle that was still making its way back down the beach. Nobody is allowed on the beach until 0600 so we timed our walk so that we reached the sand exactly at that time. Sadly it was to no avail - there were no turtles to be seen so we consoled ourselves with the thought that we had been very lucky the previous evening.

Turtle beach at dawn and the tracks of a turtle returning to the sea a short time before

We boarded our boats for the final time at 0720 and cruised to the mainland for 0800 where a coach was waiting.
First port of call was the Sepilok orang utan rescue centre and wildlife reserve. Those wishing to take pictures paid for their tickets but we didn't bother because we had plenty of photos from our previous visit in 2006. We all marched off to the viewing area where one orang utan was already waiting for food. Gradually more arrived and they performed splendidly, especially when the rangers turned up with bananas and milk.

We went back to the main centre where a video was to be shown at 1100 but Heather and I passed in favour of ice cream in the cafe.  Next stop was a supermarket for Terence and the driver to buy themselves some food; the rest of us had official packed lunches.   At 1345 we arrived at Gomatong caves. Again we had to buy camera permits at 30 RM each which is triple the price of most other places. I paid up and in the end was glad that I did
1400 we walked down the boardwalk to the cave entrance. Inside was another boardwalk and handrail, all slick with bat droppings.


Terence told us all about the place with its valuable bird nests and the lengths the staff go to protect the nests from thieves. Some of our group hated the place with its stench and slime but we did not stay long. I managed to get a nice shot of a cave rat.

A cave rat and a serpent eagle

Back at the car park a few of us joined Terence for a walk along the road to look for wildlife.   We did quite well with a small white falcon, a young serpent eagle, ravens, a bat hawk and some civet poo. 

At 1745 some of us ventured back to the cave to watch the bats fly out. It was amazing, like smoke coming out of a chimney and to add to the spectacle 3 bat hawks turned up and we saw 2 of them each catch a bat.

The bats and one of the bat hawks

On the walk back I went with Terence to see a wild orang utan settling down in its nest for the night - he had already shown some of the others.   At 1825 we left to go to the Sukau River Lodge for a couple of nights. The journey took half an hour and it was dark when we arrived. A boat was waiting for us on the Kinabatangan River to take us the last few hundreds to our lodge where welcome drinks were waiting.   Over dinner it transpired that the same 3 for 1 wine deal was on offer as at Libaran Island except that you had to drink all three there and then; you couldn't carry some forward. Never mind; Heather helped. In bed by 2200

Weds 3rd Jan
Up at 0610. We were supposed to wear leech socks today but I had mislaid mine - never used them before so I would have been content to go without. However, Terence had a spare pair so that was fine.   0830 we set off upstream in a boat to try to get to the oxbow lake but were warned that due to the recent floods we might not make it. We would also attempt a jungle walk. 

The swollen Kinabatangan River and the lodges at Sukau

Progress was slow due to the strong current but there was plenty to see. We spotted 2 monitor lizards, a serpent eagle, 2 black hornbills,an oriental darter, a black eagle, a Storm's stork and other birds whose names I cannot remember.   After about an hour we reached the creek that leads to the oxbow lake but the entrance was so choked with driftwood that it was impassable.  

We saw a monitor lizard before our failed attempt to reach the oxbow lake

Plan B kicked in and we went downstream a little way to where a tiny track meets the river.  Once all ashore Terence gave us a safety briefing including what to do if he became incapacitated and we had to find our own way out. He also cut some sticks for those who wanted one but they were so long I think they were more of a hindrance than a help in the tangled confines of the jungle. Heather had her own ski stick which she was accustomed to so she managed OK. I took up the position of back marker to try to help keep the group together but the pace was so slow it was hardly an issue.  There were a few halts to examine interesting plants and other jungle features such as camphor and elephant dung - yes they have Asian elephants here.

From the comments I overheard now and then not everyone was happy in the jungle but Heather and I just loved it
The GPS I was carrying performed better than expected because there was the occasional clearing where it had access to satellites so we would have found our way back to the boat sooner or later had there been a problem
After 40 minutes one of the ladies stubbed her leg on a sharp stick and bled enough that it would be difficult to deal with in the jungle so Terence thought it best to turn back. This met with general approval because several of the group had had enough of the jungle, thank you very much, especially so as the leeches had now found us. On the return walk we all watched each other and any leeches daring to climb legs were pounced on without mercy. More elephant dung was found and I think we used a slightly different route than outward but we got back to the boat unscathed.  We then tried another approach to the oxbow lake but it was choked with dense plants so we gave up and enjoyed coffee and cakes that the boatman spirited from somewhere in the boat. 

We got back to Sukau River Lodge at 1200 where there was just time to wash out Terence's leech socks before lunch.  Heather and I took a short walk after lunch as far as the boardwalk and local flooding would allow. We saw a couple of reddish-brown squirrels and when we got back to the chalet there was a pied hornbill and a long tailed macaque in a nearby tree.

At 1600 we got back in the boat for a dusk ride along the tributary beside the lodge. It was brilliant. We saw hornbills, Storm's stork, kingfishers, long tailed macaques, proboscis monkeys with young and a python that was digesting something big - probably a monkey.

A proboscis monkey and very full python

Later we learned at the briefing that the programme for the next few days was to be different from SAGA's original to the extent that the full day in the Mount Kinabalu Park was not going to happen.  We were to spend the whole of the next day travelling and visiting war memorials instead of going to Poring Hot Springs, the next day would be at Poring Hot Springs instead of Kinabaluand Park and the next day we had to go back to Tuaran beach so would only get part of the morning in Kinabalu Park.  I was looking forward to a chance to explore the park further so was not at all happy that it should be dropped in favour of yet more visits to war memorials.  From the mutterings I heard I think some of the other guests shared my view that there was a time to mourn the war dead but this wasn't it, especially as these visits to memorials were not on the programme we had signed up to and paid for.

Thurs 4th Feb
Up at 0500. Bags out and breakfast at 0630 and away in the boat at 0730 for the short run to the jetty where our coach was waiting. We drove for a while and then stopped to buy drinks and visit a loo at a strange cafe/zoo/palm oil facility.   There were fish, eels and a turtle in tanks and 4 lively black Prevost's squirrels in a cage
Terence walked us across the car park to the palm oil quality control centre and explained the growing process and the scale of payments received by the land owners from the big palm oil companies for various qualities of fruit.  He then told us about all the wildlfe that lives in the palm oil forests, including introduced species. Most animals receive some sort of protection because their activities benefit the trees. Terence claimed that WWF approve of all this and act as advisors. I and others challenged some of this saying the perception in the west is that no wildlife lives in palm oil plantations.    He also said no prime forests were felled for palm oil but I said that when we were in Sarawak in 2006 we were shown places where loggers were still clearing natural forests for palm oil plantations. Later on Terence backed down a bit and admitted licences can be applied for to do this, although they will not always be granted. I resolved to check with WWF when I got home to see precisely what the facts are.    

We stopped for lunch on a bridge on the road to Ranau with wide views in both directions over forested hills. Another coach carrying young people also stopped on the bridge but for rather different reasons - they had a shredded tyre and broken suspension at the rear end. We loaned them our jack so that the wheel could be changed which meant we had to wait for them to finish the job and return our jack before could move on.

Next stop was an evangelical church with memorials at Ranau where the death marches from Sandakan ended. A few kilometres further on we stopped at more memorials and a centre dedicated to the fallen where most of our group watched a video about the atrocities. Bea and I elected to visit the local shops and eat ice cream. We joined the others later at the memorial gardens; one each for Australia, Britain and Borneo.

It was only a ten minute drive from there to our accommodation at the Kinabalu Mountain Lodge, which is only a few hundred metres beyond the Fairy Garden Hotel where we stayed in 2006.   Snacks and drinks awaited us at the lodge where all our chalets overlooked a beautiful forested valley, the far edge of which formed the lower slopes of the majestic Mount Kinabalu itself. The view was truly stunning and we slept that night with curtains open so that we would be greeted by that panorama when we woke up.

Mt Kinabalu in the evening

Fri 5th Feb
Woke early and went out on the balcony to photograph Mt Kinabalu in the low early morning sunshine.

Mt Kinabalu at dawn

Speaking of sunshine we had had no rain on the trip so far and plenty of sun.   We set off on the day's trip at 0830 and first stop was at a vegetable market run by women. Customers come from all over the district to buy their veg and bulk orders are phoned in. All the same there was so much stuff it was hard to see how they would shift it all. We bought some tapioca honey crackers to share round on the coach.

We then drove the 20 miles to Poring hot springs where we spend the rest of the day. Half way there we saw a sign that said the giant raffelesia flower was in bloom so we turned off down a narrow road then up a steep track to a yard that the driver managed to squeeze us into without mishap. It's amazing where these buses will go. It cost 30 RM (about £6) to view the flower but not all of us bothered. On the way out of the yard the bus grounded with an ominous crunch but no great harm was done.

At Poring the first thing we did was watch a video about the biodiversity of the Kinabalu Park. The video was almost all about plants with the occasional insect, a frog and some fungus. No mention of birds or mammals at all. Sorry, but that's nonsense.  We then went to the canopy walk which involved a fairly steep climb to get to the start so a couple of our party struggled. Fortunately there was plenty of willing help on hand so we all made it to the start. It's quite good fun and lots of photos were taken, not to mention some video. You had to pay 5 RM (£1) to use a camera and 30 RM (£6) for a video camera. One of group began to freak out at the height we were above the ground but she managed OK in the end - I think I got the blame for making it sway.

Next was a walk to a waterfall. It took about 15 minutes, much of it uphill through trees. The fall was at a lovely spot and Heather and I were soon in for a dip. A few others followed. There were several pools, the deepest and widest of which was right under the fall so that's where we settled.  We were soon found by tiny fish that cleaned our feet and legs by nibbling at them. It was a strange feeling; a bit tickly and slightly weird but apparently recommended treatment for certain skin disorders. 

John's foot being nibbled

The water was very cold so after 20 minutes we joined the others among the rocks to eat our packed lunches; boxes stuffed with great food. We probably ate far too much on this trip.  At last we wandered back to the main centre where the cold swimming pool and hot tubs were waiting. Heather and I just swam but most of the others sampled the hot springs before joining us at the pool. Terence kindly looked after our valuables.  Bea went off to the butterfly garden while I went in search of a beer but failed to find one. When Heather came back Terence put us on the right track for beer (for me) and a souvenir shop (for guess who). Only downside - the beer was twice the price of everywhere else. No wonder the bar was empty apart from me - and I pointed this out to the bar staff. At this point it started to rain but it was only a shower lasting a few minutes.  On the way back to Kinabalu Mountain Lodge we stopped for half an hour at a fruit market and eventually got back to our room at 1800.  

Sat 6th Feb
Up at 0500 after a good night's sleep and out for an early bird watching walk. There were only five of us plus Terence and we didn't see many birds but it was a beautiful morning and an enjoyable walk.  After breakfast we went back to Kinabalu Park to visit the gallery, see the mountain garden and walk some of the trails.   It didn't start well. The gallery was locked and they couldn't find the guy with the key so after waiting 40 minutes we gave up and headed for the garden. . There was a small gallery at the garden so we had a quick look round and Terence found a book by the guy from WWF who had briefed the wildlife guides about palm oil - Dr Geoffrey Davison.


We walked in the garden for approx 90 minutes with Terence explaining about some of the plants. He claimed he was no expert but seemed quite knowledgeable to me.   


At 1145 we split into 2 groups; a trail-walking group and a non-walking group. The non-walkers were sent down to a nearby cafe and told we would be at least 45 minutes. We were in fact only 24 minutes - I don't think Terence likes walking very much. Anyhow it was a very nice walk along narrow paths with a lot of uphill at the start and quite uneven and muddy in places.  Great.

A pleasant 24 minute walk in the forest

Back at the Kinabalu Mountain Lodge we had lunch, finished packing and set off at 1400.   Just before we left we were slightly mystified by a letter box on a building near the lodge entrance intended for messages for the Tourist Police.  Good job we'd been behaving ourselves.

We had 2 stops on the way back to Kota Kinabalu and Tuaran Beach. The first was at a souvenir market where a few tee shirts and some ice creams were bought. The second was at a pottery where we were treated to a demonstration and a tour of the factory. Very interesting indeed. The souvenir shop was the best we'd seen all week and we spent spent spent

Hand painting some pots

We got to Tuaran Beach in time for a briefing and to get our gear sorted out before dinner. We stayed up until midnight to watch the Liverpool derby on ESPN but fell asleep before the Man U game

Sun 7th Feb
Up at 0645 and away at 0830 for an Otter Search excursion. The trip was not strictly speaking for our group so Heather and I had to fork out 50 RM (£10) each for the privilege.  It was a 30 minute drive to a river where we boarded a bamboo boat. Actually it was a rough wooden raft on empty plastic drums with an outboard motor at the back and varnished strips bamboo nailed on top of everything. It was brilliant. It even had a thatched roof.
No otters were found but we saw at least 4 monitor lizards, 2 kite eagles (!), several kingfishers and a bee eater.  Also saw some of the locals fishing in the time-honoured sustainable way.

The bamboo boat and some locals fishing

We got back for lunch at the Pool Bar and in the aftenoon Bea swam in the pool and I slept in preparation for tonight's midnight Chelsea v Arsenal match.   Chelsea won.

Mon 8th Feb
Awake at 0630. Got up and started to pack. No problem getting everything in.  1500 bus to the airport for the 35 hour journey home. We tried to book our bags all the way through from KK to Edinburgh but no dice. It all worked out very well anyhow and we got home on 9th Feb in time to watch Man City beat Bolton W 2-0.

A thoroughly enjoyable trip.   Slight criticism - the trip title "Borneo Rainforest Adventure" was misleading.  In the two weeks we spent less than a day actually in a rainforest and by no stretch of the imagination could you describe any of the activities as adventurous.  One of our fellow guests thought "Borneo Experience" would be a better title and Heather and I agreed.


To contact Cairngorm Wildlife on any aspect of our work

please email Allan Bantick or Heather Bantick

or write to us at
Cairngorm Wildlife, 23 Craigie Avenue, Boat of Garten
Inverness-shire PH24 3BL Scotland