Borneo, an island off the East coast of Malaysia. It’s the 3rd largest island in the world and the largest in Asia. There are 3 countries that divide Borneo up; Indonesia, Brunei, and Malaysia.
From Kuala Lumpur we took about a 2 ½ hour flight to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah in the northern part of the Malaysian Borneo (or East Malaysia).
We spent a week there relaxing, walking and exercising, reading, doing yoga, eating good food…well all those things we do most everywhere…and also got to float around in the ocean, explore the rainforest, mingle in the markets, and roam the malls.
The Proboscis Monkey, or long-nosed monkey, is only found on the Island of Borneo. They are on the endangered list. They live in the mangrove swamps. There are a few rivers that you can take a boat trip on in hopes of seeing them in their natural habitat. We went on the Klias River Boat Tour which nearly guaranteed we would see some proboscis monkeys, maybe some other animals, and an added bonus of fireflies. We were fortunate to catch some great views of the males and females there in the wild! Wow, just amazing to see. They are really unique looking. I unfortunately didn’t get any good pictures, but you can click here to see what they look like. So cool. We did see some other kinds of monkeys and a crocodile, too. And the fireflies were a bonus!
They give you dinner and then you head out again to see the fireflies. These particular fireflies only stay in the tress along the river, so the trees light up looking like little white blinking lights are scattered all over them. As I have shared before I am always in awe when I see fireflies, so this was very special. One of those magical moments again that only nature provides.
Malaysia has hundreds of islands off the West and East cost of Peninsular Malaysia (or West Malaysia) and there are lots of them off of the coasts of Malaysian Borneo (or East Malaysia). The islands off the East coast, near Borneo, are known for great diving and snorkeling. From Kota Kinabalu we took a 15 minute boat ride to Sapi. I videoed a short clip of that ride on Facebook live, which you can check out on my fb if interested. It was a fast, fun, and exciting motorboat ride!
What a gorgeous beach. Clear greenish water with lots of fish and a great swimming area. We spent time relaxing in the shade, reading, and floating around in the warm South China Sea waters.
Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Malaysia, was also on our list to visit. We quickly discovered climbing it was not going to be possible. There is a permit needed and you have to plan way (many months) in advance to get it. There’s a maximum number of 135 climbers per day allowed. You have to have a mountain guide and camping gear. And it was going to cost us almost $400 each. So, since we were not going to be able to climb the mountain we decided we would at least go to the national park around it. We found a day tour that included the trip to the national park, a botanical garden tour in the park, a canopy walk in the rainforest, and a visit to Poring Hot Springs.
In Kinabalu National Park we visited the Botanical Gardens. There are thousands of plant species (like around 4000-6000) which include 1,500 species of orchids. Our tour guide brought us on a 30 minute or so walk around the paths of lush green plants and trees pointing out various interesting flowers, including the smallest orchid in the world. That was a cool and refreshing break from the humid weather.
Then time for the hot springs, which were not exactly what I had pictured in my mind……those expectations can cause disappointment! So we didn’t spend anytime at the actual hot springs, but the canopy walk near the hot springs was by far the best part of the day. That was pretty exciting. We were in a hundred million year old rainforest walking about 200 feet about the ground on a suspended walkway. That was fun! Then we got to do another little hike to a waterfall and I got to see the rafflesia flower, claimed to be the largest flower on earth. And it happened to be in bloom! The rafflesia flower is only found in Southeast Asia rainforests. There is no particular blooming season, it takes 7-9 months to go from bud to flower and once in bloom it only lasts for about 5 days. So, it’s pretty lucky to catch it in bloom.
On this particular day trip, we ended up spending about 6 hours out of a 9 hour trip in the van driving around. Ugh…. The trip sounded nice, and well we did get to see some interesting things, but it was a little too long riding around in a van compared to the amount of time we were able to be outside of the van.
…. you never know until you try things out. Some tours are a winner, like the proboscis monkeys and fireflies, and some you feel like you could have skipped. Maybe next time we will plan ahead, spend the hundreds of dollars, bring our camping gear, and climb the mountain! ; )