Permai Rainforest Resort, Borneo

From Kuching, we moved to the village of Damai (less than an hour drive) to stay in a cabin in the trees at Permai Rainforest Resort . The resort is the real deal. It’s located right in pristine Bornean rainforest so you are sharing the resort with all kinds of wildlife: monkeys (macaques, silver leaf and proboscis), river monitors, snakes, birds, flying lemurs, and of course all kinds of insects and lizards. The resort faces the South China Sea where the Irrawaddy dolphin can be found. And just a few minutes boat ride away is the mangrove forest of Kuching Wetlands National Park, home to crocodiles and the endangered proboscis monkey. The resort’s accommodations include numerous cabins, ten treehouses and one campground and they are all by no means fancy but they offer a rustic comfort in spectacular surroundings.

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Looking at the resort from the South China Sea (you can see a bit of treehouse #2 and #3 peaking out at centre left).

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One of the cabins

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Our treehouse (#10)

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View from restaurant

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Natural jungle pool

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One of two private beaches at the resort

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Sunset at the beach

 

The resort also offers a multitude of activities that we took full advantage during our three-night stay. We signed up for a night walk in the forest, a daytime boat trip that included dolphin watching, a visit to a turtle hatchery and snorkelling and an evening boat cruise to the mangroves of Kuching Wetlands National Park.

During our night walk we saw numerous insects and lizards including giant stick insects, a huge cave centipede, and several blue-eyed lizards. Sadly I didn’t bring my camera so no photos to share. But here are some wildlife we saw during the daytime around the resort:

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Can you spot the flying lemur? It was on a tree right in front of our treehouse.

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One of many lizards we encountered. Not sure what kind this one is.

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Horseshoe crab just cruising the shallows at the beach.

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One of many river monitors we saw.

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A cute little leaf snake hanging out on a tree by the resort restaurant.

On our daytime and evening boat trips we saw all of the animals we hoped to see with the exception of the sea turtle. We saw several dolphins but these were even more difficult to snap a photo of than the pink dolphins in the Hong Kong harbour. And we saw proboscis monkeys and crocodiles in the mangroves but it was impossible to photograph them due to camera capabilities, distance of proboscis monkeys from eye level and speed that the crocodiles move. You’ll just have to take my word for it that we saw them all.

Here are some photos from our activities nonetheless:

 

 

 

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Mangroves of Kuching Wetlands National Park

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A fishing village located in the mangroves.

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Nightime in the mangroves. There were fireflies everywhere but this photo just couldn’t capture their magic.

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During our dolphin watching trip, we cruised by this protected “bird island” full of migrating birds.

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Satang Island. Privately owned but the owner allows the national park service to run a sea turtle conservation program there.

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Old sea turtle tracks leading from the water to the site where she buried her eggs. 

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The national park staff dig up the eggs buried by the sea turtles and transplants them to tubs for their protection. When they hatch they are released to the sea. There are 140 Hawksbill turtle eggs in this red tub. 

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Walking the lovely beach at Satang looking for evidence of sea turtles.

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Hiking the trail at the resort. There were challenging parts like this one that you climbed with the assistance of ropes. The little guy did great!

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Tree in the forest on the trail.

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Right by the resort is the Sarawak Cultural Village where you can see traditional homes and crafts of the areas indigenous tribes. It is also possible to homestay at the village in one of the traditional homes. There were demonstrations of some of the tribes’ practices.

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Playing music on a traditional instrument that has been modified for electric capabilities. Unfortunately I cannot recall which tribe this musician belonged to now.

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There were also activities at the village like this one where you could shoot a real blowpipe. Marc got 2 out of 3. Pretty impressive!

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The cultural village also had a show two times a day demonstrating traditional dances. This one even picked up a heavy trough with his teeth while he danced.

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Tribal person in traditional hunting outfit getting dart ready to shoot from blowpipe.

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Guess who he picked out of the audience to shoot a dart out of his blowpipe?

Our time in Borneo was incredibly memorable. Yet there’s so much more to do and so much wild to explore. It just means we will have to return! For now, onwards to Indonesia…

 

 

 

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Bako National Park, Borneo

The second day trip we took from Kuching was to Bako National Park, the oldest national park in the state of Sarawak. The park can only be reached by a 30 minute boat ride from the village of Kampung Bako, which is about a 45 minute drive from Kuching. We took a taxi but there is also a bus that runs to the village.

Bako is a great park to visit as it offers a variety of eco-systems to explore: beach vegetation, cliff vegetation, heath forest, mangrove forest, mixed dipterocarp forest, grasslands vegetation and peat swamp forest. Of course, it goes without saying that the wildlife is spectacular. In the first 10 minutes, we saw a Bornean bearded pig and several monkeys. Bako certainly has way more to offer than can be covered in a day trip. And it’s so humid that you can only likely manage to hike half of the distance that you would under less humid conditions. If we return to this part of Borneo, we would definitely spend more time here and utilize some of the accommodations the park has on offer, from chalets to a campground.

Here’s a little bit of Bako for you:

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Coming into Bako

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Lots of beached jellyfish

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Telok Assam (beach that greets visitors upon arrival at Bako)

 

Bako’s greeter:

 

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Macaques everywhere doing their thing

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Hide your food!

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Tide was very far out early in the day but by the time we left these trunks were all half submerged.

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Lots of climbing in the beginning of the hike we chose

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Roots like a plate of spaghetti

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Biology lesson

 

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Beautiful patterns made all over the beach by industrious crabs

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Sitting under some cool rock formations

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Coastal Bako

 

 

Semenggoh Wildlife Centre+Bamboo Rafting, Borneo

Several day trips into the wild of Borneo are available from Kuching. We decided to spend our first day visiting Semengohh Wildlife Centre to hang out with wild orang-utans for an hour before rafting down a river on a bamboo raft and foraging in the jungle for our lunch. Well technically our guides foraged and we just did our part by eating the most amazing meal of our lives. A girl’s got to do what she does best.

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Semenggoh Wildlife Centre and Nature Reserve. There are many plants and animals to see at Semenggoh but unfortunately it was only open to the public during orangutan feeding times. There were previous incidents where people were attacked by the orangutans so there is no longer unsupervised visits at the nature reserve. The orangutan feedings happen twice a day. There’s no guarantee they will show up as these are wild orangutans but we were lucky to see five of them.

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This mother and child didn’t disappoint

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Showing her/his agility

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He found the snail more interesting than the orangutans

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And insisted I take this close up of the snail

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The pitcher plants were cool and found all over the forest

And here’s a video of a really bored baby orangutan. I completely understand when the mother gets irritated by the baby’s antics and tries to move away:

From Semenggoh, we headed towards the river where our bamboo rafting guides were waiting for us.

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Putting together the bamboo raft

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Off we go!

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River through Borneo rainforest

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Periodically we had to get off and our guides had to haul our raft over rocks

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Peeling a bamboo shoot gathered from the forest (with a machete of course!)

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Fresh bamboo shoot for lunch

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Jungle grocery shopping

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Preparing the ferns to cook

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Our guides also made the children some toys from bamboo gathered from the forest. Dominic’s blowing a bamboo horn and Isabella is shooting red berries from her bamboo shooter.

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Almost everything used for making our lunch came from the forest, including the firewood and “stove”.

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Packets of food wrapped up in leaves stuffed inside bamboo tubes ready for cooking.

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Our lunch cooking. Everything you see came from the forest.

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The only items brought in by our guides was the meat and the metal grills to hold it.

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Our incredible lunch spread served in homemade bowls made from palm husks.

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One of the rare times I actually took a photo of my food before gobbling up the deliciousness.

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Swim up dining

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We even had tea (or coffee if you wanted), served in fresh bamboo tubes of course.

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Our rafting adventure ended at the homestay that ran our tour. The homestay was built based on a traditional Biduyah longhouse complete with a bamboo footbridge. Biduyah is one of the indigenous tribes of Borneo that our guides belonged to.

A little taste of what it was like on the river:

This trip was arranged through our hotel with a group out of Peraya Homestay who runs day trips, multi-day tours and survival camping for those who are so inclined. I don’t normally give a tour operator so much coverage but we loved our experience with Valentine the owner and his exceptionally experienced and professional guides. If you want to experience Borneo as it should be, you should definitely give Valentine a shout.

 

 

Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia (Borneo)

Borneo is the third largest island in the world and contains one of the oldest rainforests on our planet; which is home to many endemic plants and animals. It is divided administratively by three countries: Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. Before I started planning our trip to Borneo, I thought getting there and around would be complicated but it turns out that reaching Borneo’s natural treasures was quite easy. We used the city of Kuching in the Malaysian state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo as our launching point. Less than two hours flight from Singapore, Kuching is touted as Borneo’s most “sophisticated” city. Here’s what sophistication looks like for a city that is the gateway to one of the oldest rainforests in the world.

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The Sarawak River divides the city in two parts that is separately administered by two mayors.

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Nicknamed cat city. The city name of Kuching is possibly derived from the Malay word for cat “kucing” but its origin is unclear. However, the city has claimed the relationship to the felines by the many cat statues found throughout the city.

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I give to you evidence #2 of the association between cat statues and Kuching.

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The Sarawak State Legislative Assembly building

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Young hip Sarawak Malaysian people and art

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A sophisticated city in Borneo is still Borneo as evidenced by this large tree with impressive buttresses.

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Following the hornbill on the Sarawak River. Sarawak is the land of the hornbills but we did not see any actual birds during our visit.

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This is what sophistication looks like in a city in Borneo.

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Another example of Borneo sophistication

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Someone’s fortress of solitude

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A major mosque in the city. Almost half of Kuching’s population is Muslim.

I don’t know how other travel bloggers keep up with their writing while they are travelling but I’m struggling here. I usually write after the kids go to bed but I find that I’m ready for bed before the kids are most nights! With my brain already in sleep mode, any words that come resemble that of a toddler’s. Borneo. Jungle. Animals. So you’re going to get fewer words from me for upcoming posts but I’ll try to make up for it in photos. Coming up: orangutans and eating from the jungle.