Orangutans, Sun Bears and Elephants in Borneo

Suzanne Lenferna

15 Nov 2017

Adventures in the bornean rainforest

I have arranged and been on many safaris throughout Africa, seeing some amazing places and experiencing spectacular game viewing, including a stand out trip to see the gorillas in Uganda. It was a family wedding in Melbourne that led me to research what opportunities for pursuing my passion were on that side of the world; living in South Africa makes it a long trip and therefore I wanted to make it worthwhile. I started my research 14 months before the trip and really looked into many options. I have planned many safaris myself and only used tour guides for the more challenging ones (such as Uganda), so it was quite difficult for me to hand over all the planning to someone else. I just had to decide where to go!

My choice of Natural World Safaris was, in hindsight, like winning the lottery. The trip was unparalleled in both content and organization.

We started in Sepilok Nature Resort, which is a real taster of things to come and a gentle introduction to the heat and humidity. Good, clean accommodation with all you need including a very good shower. The food was excellent and plentiful with choices to suit all palates. After a good nights sleep and a hearty breakfast, off we went to the orangutan sanctuary. 

Nothing can prepare you for these amazing primates. They are so elegant and thoughtful, with eyes that really do look human.

Such great work is being done to preserve this animal for the future, and it is a real success story with over 800 already reintroduced into the wild. The visit to the nursery was a joy; the passion for what they do shows on every helpers face and the little orangutans look with trust and love at these humans. We have all heard of the orangutans, but the lesser-known sun bears are next door and very cute, although their long claws remind you of how dangerous they can be.

From here we were off to the magnificent Kinabatangan River for a two hour boat ride to our next destination. We saw orangutan, crocodile and proboscis monkeys, and the trip went very quickly. Our guide was superb, knowledgeable and spoke excellent English, as with all the people we met on this trip.

The Sukau Rainforest Lodge is a real gem on the riverbank. The villages you pass on the way up and down the river have no road access, so everything is by boat. We had two nights at this lodge and it was great. The accommodation once again was spotless, the food plentiful and good, and the service was incredible. What a great bunch of people, whose sole job is to make your stay a great one - and they succeeded!

We were very privileged to see a herd of 30 or 40 pygmy elephants grazing on the banks of the river and then we saw them cross, it was a splendid sight!

On the third day we headed out on the river to a jetty, where we were collected by a vehicle to take us to the Danum Valley.

The following four days were an experience that every member of the human race should have. You drive for three hours, gradually leaving humanity behind. The first section is secondary forest, where the Malaysian government finally put a halt to the logging and has a scheme in place to replant the trees. Then you get to the primary forest. 

Wow! It is like no other I have been to, it is so untouched by humans and is thousands of years old. You expect dinosaurs to come running out it is that prehistoric.

There are severe restrictions as to who can enter and everything is done so as to have the least impact on the forest and its inhabitants. I am a die-hard wildlife enthusiast but the animals play a secondary role to the magnificence of this rainforest. Trees 35 to 40 storeys high, orchids cascading for 50 or 60 meters, streams running though and birds and animals high in the canopy safely away from the biggest threat – HUMANS.

There is a completely man made walkway up to the canopy. This was daunting for me as I am very scared of heights, but our guide helped me all the way, including up a spiral staircase built around a tree about 20 storeys up into the forest! When you get there and look out across the canopy it reminds you of what the earth looked like before man started destroying our environment. It is breathtaking and beautiful, I could easily have spent another three days here. 

The only lodge in the forest is Borneo Rainforest Lodge and it is five stars all the way. Service, food, guides and rooms all of a very high standard. They have tried to lessen the impact in the area and be ecologically friendly, so the entire camp is run off solar power. People complained there was no air-con, but really a cold shower or a dip in the river soon cools you down and there are fans in every room.

Borneo is one of the cleanest developing countries I have ever been to, the toilets even in the most remote areas are kept immaculately clean. The standard of English is very high. The organization by Natural World Safaris and their in-country partners was without fault. At no time did we stand and think 'what next?'; there was always a smiling face, usually holding a board with Max and Suzanne, letting us know what to do. We took many flights without one delay and our luggage always came off quickly. 

I have already recommended Natural World Safaris to sixteen people on TripAdvisor!


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