2 weeks in Malaysia, split between 4 centres - Lang Tengah Island, Sepilok, the jungle around Kinabatangan river and Lankayan Island.
Population: 25m (UK = 60m)
Area: 330,000 sq km (UK = 245,000)
Famous for: Orang-utans (only other home is Sumatra)
Economies: 1) Electronics.
2) Palm oil.
3) Tourism. Cost of a can of Coke in a restaurant (the new standard!): 40p
Temperature in Sept: "Hot, but not mental" Local food: big plate of noodles: 90p Flight cost: £450
5 Airports, 3 planes, two taxi's, one bus and one boat later we arrived on the tiny island of Lang Tengah in the South China Sea. It's about 1 mile diameter and has 3 resorts on it. The extra airport is because we flew into one airport in Kuala Lumpur, but out of another. We only realised this while wasting time in the wrong airport, wondering why our flight wasn't on the board... Luckily the other airport was only a 20p bus ride away and we had spare time. Safety Steve says "always allow plenty of time for transfers..." (but only since the Costa Rica disaster!)
Days 3 - 6: Lang Tengah Island - Snorkelling and diving
We now have simple underwater digital photo (Olympus Mju 770SW) and video cameras (helmet-cam), so we spent most of each day exploring the reefs.
Anemone fish - 8cm long
Porcupine fish - 1m long
Black tip reef shark - 0.5 to 2m long
Baby hawksbill - 3 months old
The chap who ran the dive shop had 2 baby turtles which he was rearing for release when they were bigger.
Hawksbill turtle - 1m long
Moorish idol - 40cm long
Box Fish - 20cm long
A lizard eating a wasp
When shark catching turns nasty...
I managed to catch this shark, but it started attacking me
Unfortunately, Michelle was taking photos rather than video at the time but did manage to get a bit of footage...
Monitor lizard - 2m long
We flew back to Kuala Lumpur, stayed in the airport hotel and flew out to Sandakan in Borneo. The 2.5hr flight out to Borneo only cost £15 each!
We bought a ready made tour which looked after us for the next 4 days.
Sepilok orang-utan sanctuary
The orang-utan sanctuary is for orphaned babies whose mothers have been killed by people clearing their jungle home in order to farm palm oil plantations. They raise them for around 7 years until they're old enough to fend for themselves.
Palm oil is the generic oil that is used in lots of food. So it's mainly our fault for creating the market for palm oil. But if palm oil wasn't used, what would replace it? The actual problem is too many humans...
40 miles off the coast is a group of islands where green turltes nest.
You get to see one of them laying eggs, then once the turtle has left they dig them up and relocate to a place safe from being dug up by the next turtle or a hungry monitor lizard.
Then you see them release any babies that hatched that day.
It's interfering with nature much more than they do in Australia or Costa Rica, but it's only paying back the interfering with nature that the fishermen do by killing them. Practically all types of turtle are now endangered.
Day 9: Gomantong Caves
Birds nest soup is made from the dried spit of the swifts that nest in here. The floor is covered in poo, many metres deep. As you get close you realise it's alive with millions of cockroaches and long legged centipedes. You really wouldn't want to fall off the walkway...
Day 9 &10 - Jungle
3 hours south of Sepilok is the Kinabatangan river, surrounded by some relatively untouched jungle and wildlife is plentiful.
Orang-utans are however difficult to see and we failed.
Mother and baby proboscis monkey
Female proboscis monkey
Pygmy Borneo elephant - rare to see apparently
There's no telly to watch, so off we went to gather leeches and see creepy crawlies and some pretty sleeping birds
Scorpion - 20cm long
Leeches are fantastic. They hang on the ends of branches and can sense you passing. Then they leap onto you, sucker themselves on, bite you and drink your blood. It's painless and you don't realise until you die suddenly*.
*That sounded more exciting than "the bite bleeds for an hour then itches for a few days"...
Michelle in her leech proof coat
(despite it being about 30 'C!)
Centipede (10 cm long)
Frog (10cm long)
The next morning we hiked again. One chap got attacked by some wasps and got stung about 10 times. Me and Michelle had just pushed through the same bush so we were lucky they got him...
Day 10-13: Lankayan Island
It was supposed to be a dream island with diving 3 times a day. However, they managed to poison half the guests (and staff!) so on the second day I ended up sat side ways on the toilet with my head over the bath while my body purged itself with a worrying (but mildly amusing) level of violence.
On the second night, 4 guests got evacuated to hospital on the mainland which was 2 hours bumpy boat journey away. I expected to get better anyway so didn't bother. But I now only weigh 3 stone...
The vomitting stopped after 1 day, but it was 6 days before I could eat anything or was safe away from a loo. Fortunately Michelle got away with a lesser dose of poisoning (it seems unlikely she's tougher than me...!)
Barracuda - 1.5m long with big teeth!
Day 13-14: Sepilok Jungle resort
Weak and feeble we headed back to mainland Borneo and the Sepilok Jungle Resort (it's not really in the jungle - it's just a lodge in a small village!) for a few days recuperation before the 36hr long journey home.
Sepilok Jungle resort
Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary
Proboscis monkeys are also under threat from the palm oil plantations but one unusually eco-friendly palm oil baron has left a sanctuary of forest at the edge of his kazillion square miles of plantation.
Only the alpha male has the ridiculous large nose. He uses it for fighting off other males who try to take over his harem. They bash each other over the head with them - a bit like elephant seals. Probably. (This is just speculation, no one has actually seen it happen...)
Silver leaf monkeys
There were also many (I assume not-endangered) silver leaf monkeys and the ever present cheeky macaques that insisted on being fed first and then continued to do raids on the less aggressive probosicis monkeys' stash.
On our very last day, 2 things to be pleased about:
1) the reason we headed to Borneo in the first place, we finally saw an orang-utan close up almost in the wild. It was unexpected and we only got one fleeting photo chance.
2) I managed a whole piece of toast this morning... I'm still alive, but now only weigh 2 stone...