Category: Borneo (Page 1 of 2)

Mulu National Park

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Home to some of the world’s largest cave systems, Mulu National Park is a must see for anyone visiting Borneo. Mulu is situated in the Sarawak half of Malaysian Borneo. Here it is on a map of Borneo:

Arriving in Mulu

I flew to Mulu from Miri with MAS Wings as that seemed to be the fastest and easiest way to get there. The flight cost less than 100RM. Mulu airport is tiny. Our plane was the only one there so it only took 5 minutes to get our bags. Outside the airport, local people were waiting in their cars to take tourists to the entrance to the national park for 5RM per person. It’s actually not too far from the airport to the national park entrance, so it’s possible to walk, although it may be difficult with large bags and the heat to contend with.

Once at the national park, I checked into the hostel, paid park fees and looked at the tours available for the next few days. I ended up booking tours for all of the show caves plus the canopy walk.

Show Caves & Bat Observatory

There are 3 tours of show caves in the national park: Clearwater/Wind Cave, The Fast Lane and Deer/Lang Cave. The first one I did was the Clearwater/Wind Cave. For this one, we met the tour guide at the park HQ at 8.45am. We then took a boat to a local village where it was possible to buy handmade goods from the villagers. We then took the boat to the caves. To get to the caves we had to walk up a few steps. The first cave we arrived at was Wind Cave. I thought perhaps it would be a little bit cooler in the caves but nope, it was still very humid, hence the reason I’m very sweaty in the picture below.

 

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A picture of a very sweaty me standing in the entrance to Wind Cave

We then went to Ckearwater Cave, where there is an underground river.

In the afternoon, we did the canopy walk. We’d booked it for 2pm and in all honesty it was far too hot at this time of day to fully appreciate it. I met people who did it near sunrise/sunset and they had a much better time.

In the late afternoon, I went to the bat observatory, in hope of seeing the bat exodus which occurs every evening from Deer Cave. I was lucky enough to see it and it was incredible. Over 3 million bats fly out of the cave taking around 30 minutes.

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Bats leaving Deer Cave

The following day, I went to the Fast Lane in the afternoon. Out of all the show caves I visited, this was the quietest as we were the only tour group there. It was possible to get close to bats in this cave. Our guide pointed out creatures in the cave like crickets, centipedes, spiders, crabs and swiftlets.

On my last day in Mulu, I went to Deer and Lang Caves, home to between 3-4 million bats. Deer Cave is huge and has a high ceiling, whereas Lang Cave has some interesting rock formations.

Tips for Mulu

  • If you’re on a budget (like me) stay in one of the homestay’s just outside of the national park. They’re cheaper and the facilities are nicer than the hostel in the national park.
  • Wifi can be purchased for 5RM/day at the park HQ. It’s not great wifi but will allow you to check emails/social media.
  • if you want to do any adventure caving, it’s recommended that you book in advance.
  • Restaurants outside of park HQ are a bit cheaper, although in general everything in Mulu is more expensive than the rest of Sarawak.
  • Don’t miss the Bat Exodus!

 

 

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In Pictures: Borneo

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Someone once said that a picture says 1000 words, so based on that quote, here’s my favourite parts of Borneo.

1. The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

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2. The Kinabatangan River

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3. Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

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4. Mulu National Park

5. Kuching

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When I return to Borneo I’d like to climb Mt Kinabalu, visit Bako National Park and scuba dive on the east coast.

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Kuching Cat Museum – An Odd Place

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As soon as I heard about the Kuching Cat Museum, I knew I had to go. Here’s what other travellers had told me about it:

“It’s a bit niche”

“Only go if you really love cats”

“A little bit bizarre”

It sounded perfect.

The Cat Museum is not within walking distance of the other tourist attractions in Kuching, so I took a taxi there. It’s home is in a weird UFO shaped building.

I walked into the UFO building, to find the entrance to the cat museum through the mouth of a giant cat head.

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Entrance to the Kuching Cat Museum

Entry to the museum is free but there is a fee of 3RM to take pictures on a mobile phone, or 4RM to take pictures on a digital camera.

The first thing I noticed was the giant statues of cats. They’re actually a bit creepy.

statues kuching cat museum

I moved onto the section about cats in Borneo. It was a goldmine of bad taxidermy.

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bad taxidermy kuching cat museum

 

bad taxidermy kuching cat museum

Next up, was the wall of 3D pictures of cats.

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All around was cat memorabilia in glass display cases. It was actually quite impressive how much cat memorabilia had been collected. Here’s one example of a display case. Notice Grumpy Cat in the bottom right corner.

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Other areas of the museum include; cats in literature, cats in theatre; cats in art and a cat food display (seriously).

You’d be mistaken for thinking that this museum was just a collection of cat memorabila; a few parts were educational. Like, for example, this poster which shows that you can tell the temperature of a room purely based on the way a cat is sleeping:

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The final part of the museum consisted of pictures of people with cat tattoos. Alongside this were the different kinds of cat tattoos available and their meanings.

Other notable mentions include: a room dedicated to a lady who collected cat memorabilia, the section about cat funerals and the wall of cat themed greetings cards and postcards.

The Kuching Cat Museum is probably the weirdest place I’ve visited so far on this trip. It’s a great way to spend 45 minutes in Kuching.

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THE KUCHING

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24 Hours In Brunei Darussalam

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brunei darussalam borneo Brunei Darussalam is a tiny country on the island of Borneo. When planning my trip in Malaysian Borneo, I decided that I’d actually really like to visit this tiny nation. Brunei is known for it’s oil wealth, so I realised that I wouldn’t be able to stay long on a backpackers budget. Here’s Brunei’s location, thanks to Google Maps…

Getting to Bandar Seri Begawan from Kota Kinabalu

There are a few different ways to get to Bandar Seri Begawan from Kota Kinabalu. I chose to get the bus. The price is 100RM and is ideal for travellers wanting to collect passport stamps as there are a number of border crossings. The border crossings are: Sabah – Sarawak – Brunei – Sarawak – Brunei which gives you 8 passport stamps in one journey. There’s one bus per day from Kota Kinabalu to BSB and it leaves at 8am every day.

Other travel options include flying or getting a boat. I met another backpacker in BSB who got the boat from Kota Kinabalu to Labuan then from Labuan to Bandar Seri Begawan.

Bandar Seri Begawan

For a capital city, Bandar Seri Begawan is pretty small, with around 400,000 people. One of the first things I noticed about the city was how clean and well-kept everything looked. Children’s playgrounds were in good condition, lawns were tidy and there was no litter on the streets.

The bus terminates close to the main local bus terminal. The manager of the bus company greeted us as we got off the bus and gave us information about the local area, including how we could get to our accommodation. We were staying in the Gadong area, opposite the Gadong Mall, so we got the number 01 bus. The journey took around 20 minutes due to rush hour traffic. We arrived at our accommodation, Easybox, to find that it was aptly named. The room was a box room.

We headed to the Pasar Malam (night market) which was less than 10 minutes walk from the Gadong Mall. It was possible to buy cheap food at the market. We then went to the Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, the largest mosque in Brunei. By this point, it was dark so the mosque was lit up and it looked incredible.

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The largest mosque in Brunei, Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque

 

The following day, we had time in the morning to look around the city a little more. We went to the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque and to the Kianggeh market. We also viewed the water village from the other side of the river.

Leaving Brunei

Fortunately, leaving Bandar Seri Begawan was much easier than entering. The bus collected us at the same drop-off point. The bus was running later than usual on account of it being Friday and the afternoon prayers taking place. The bus left around 2pm and we were in Miri by 5.30pm.

Like entering, it’s also possible to leave Brunei by plane, depending on your next destination.

 

Will I go back to Brunei?

Good question. I never say never but I’m not in any particular rush to go back. BSB is nice enough, and the people were friendly, but it’s a lot more expensive than neighbouring Malaysia. Maybe in a few years I’ll find myself back there, but there’s so many other places I want to visit first.

If I do return, I’d like to visit Ulu Tembourong National Park, the Royal Regalia Museum and The Brunei History Centre.

 

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Kinabatangan River – Wildlife Spotting in Borneo

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One of the highlights of my visit to Sabah was the Kinabatangan River Cruise. I’d heard from other people in the hostel that it was an amazing experience so I booked a 3 day/2 night trip through the hostel I was staying at in Sandakan, Harbourside Backpackers. Other backpackers and TripAdvisor reviewers had said it was a brilliant place to spot wildlife, something I was very keen to do in Borneo.

Getting There

I was picked up from Harbourside at 11.30am and the van collected other guests from various other accommodation in Sandakan and Sepilok. The drive towards the Kinabatangan River is unremarkable – mostly it consists of palm oil plantations. We arrived at the resort, Borneo Natural Sukau Bilit Resort, at 2pm. The staff gave us a welcome talk and checked everyone in, then at 3.30pm it was time for an afternoon snack.

Wildlife Spotting on The Kinabatangan River

4pm was the first of four river cruises planned for the next few days. We were told it would be at least two hours long. We were lucky enough to see an orangutan on the other side of the river before we even got on the boat! Once on the boat, we saw another orangutan, a crocodile, lots of macaques, proboscis monkeys and a python.

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Tourist boats on the Kinabatangan River

By the time we arrived back at the resort, it was almost 7pm so time for dinner. Dinner was served buffet style with fruit for dessert. Once dinner was over, we went on a night walk in the rainforest. I’d put on a raincoat because I didn’t want to get any bugs on my skin – fuelled in part by the number of cicadas around the accommodation –  but it was so humid in the rainforest. We saw frogs and sleeping kingfishers in the forest. I didn’t expect to see any larger animals simply because a group of people walking through the forest makes a lot of noise.

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Sunrise over the Kinabatangan River – worth a 5.30am start!

The next day I woke up at 5.15am for the morning cruise. I was fortunate enough to see the sunrise, which looked beautiful. The morning cruise departed at 6am. We saw plenty of birds and monkey plus a few crocodiles. We returned to the resort before 7.30am for breakfast which was an odd mix of egg, beans, and chicken nuggets. We had an hour of downtime before our trek to the oxbow lake at 9am.

Time for Trekking

For the trek to the oxbow lake, we had to get a boat across to the other side of the river. From there, we walked through the rainforest to the lake, our guide stopping us intermittently to point out different trees or insects. We saw stick insects, butterflies, and a pygmy squirrel. Once we were at the lake, our guide told us that we could put our feet in the lake and the fish would nibble at the skin on our feet, basically like one of those ‘fish pedicure’ spa treatments that used to be popular.

Once some of the group had had their feet nibbled, it was time to head back to the resort for lunch. At 2pm we went for a walk to the local village. Our guide told us some interesting facts about life in the village, including when elephants come by and take bananas from the trees. We headed back to the resort for afternoon snacks before getting back on the boat for the 4pm afternoon cruise. On this cruise, we saw plenty of monkeys again, as well as proboscis monkeys, crocodiles, and birds.

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Monkeying around

 

We returned for dinner before 7pm then got an early night in preparation for a 5.30pm start.

The next morning, we awoke to a misty river. This made the setting more sinister when we saw crocodiles on the morning cruise. Once the cruise was done, we had breakfast and packed our things before checking out at 8.30am. The driver was happy to drop us off anywhere between the Kinabatangan River and Sandakan.

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Misty morning at the Kinabatangan River

Final thoughts

I had a great time on all of the river cruises and it was fascinating to see all of these animals in their natural habitat. It’s s shame that there is so little rainforest left in this area due to the number of oil palm plantations. I would honestly recommend the Kinabatangan River to anyone planning to visit Sabah. I paid 350RM (roughly £65 depending on the exchange rate) which included all transfers, activities, accommodation, and food. I felt like this was a good price given how knowledgeable the guides were and the quality of the accommodation and food.

Edit: I actually loved this so much that I decided to go to Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, in search of orangutans and other wildlife!

Want to share your experience on the Kinabatangan River? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

 

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