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Weeks 18 - 20 - Malaysia & Borneo

(Kuala Lumpur, Mount Kinabalu, Sandakan, Semporna, Spidan & Mabul)

We entered Malaysia on a night boat and bus, stopping briefly for a night in Penang and then straight down to the capaital, Kualu Lumpur. Whilst in Kuala Lumpur, we spent our days exploring the sights, walking around the hectic streets of Chinatown and visiting the famous petronas towers and the menara sky tower. The petronas towers were an impressive sight close up and looked even better when illuminated at night. We went up to the viewing gallery at the menara sky tower and enjoyed the amazing 360 degree views of the city from 420m high, the views stretched for miles on end!
In the evenings we had some cheap and tasty meals in Chinatown and little India. Little India was not as bustling as we had anticipated but Chinatowns lantern lit streets had a good atmosphere in the evenings.

We decided to move out of Penninsula Malaysia as we had planned to fit a lot of things into to our time in Borneo. We flew from KL to Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of the sabah province of Borneo. We stayed here a night or so and then moved up to stay at a mountain lodge at the foot of Mount Kinabalu. The lodge had a great view looking out on the the hills and mountain and was completed isolated and very peaceful. After a night of relaxing here we set off the next dy to the kinabalu park headquarters to begin our mountain climb.

On the first day of our climb we ascended 6km up steep steps and slippery tracks in very humid conditions until we arrived at our lodge at Laban Rata, a small collection of accomodations two thirds of the way up the mountain. We were late to leave but first to arrive here wet and tired and in need of some good scran.
After topping up with some great buffet food we got an early night ready for our early morning start the next morning to see the summit at sunrise.
We got up at 3am and grabbed a quick bite before setting off again up the mountain in the pitch black, climbing up more challenging terrain where you had to use a rope to pull your self up the steep slopes. As we moved further up the rope, the temperature dropped rapidly and the trail got steeper and steeper, often having to climb up rocks on your hands and knees alongside the rope. The climb to the summit took a couple of hours and we got to the summit a little too early as we had to sit for an hour in the freezing conditions waiting for the sun to come up. However, it was well worth the wait as the views of the sun burning off the couds and rising behind the mountain were sensational and we fought off plenty of trigger happy Japanese and Chinese photo enthusiasts to get some cracking snaps at the summit sign and the mountain backdrops.

The climb down was quicker and less taxing but we paid for our quick pace the day before with some jelly legs and wobbly knees on the steep descent down.
We finally reached the bottom and gorged ourselves and more buffet food before having another nights rest at the same mountain lodge.

The following day we got a bus to Sandakan where we had a couple of days chilling at a nice hostel and hobbling around the town. We used Sanadakan as a base to visit the Orangutans and rainforest discovery centre at Sepiloc and the Kinabatangan river.
The Sepiloc Orangutan Sanctuary was a great experience to see the orangutans close up and learn about the work the sanctuary does to raise orphan orangutans in a programme to rehabillitate them back into the wild. We got some fantastic photos of them swinging around and enjoying feeding time.

We then booked onto a 3 day, 2 night trip for a Jungle experience at the Kinabatangan river. This was a 3 hour bus ride away into a jungle area where we stayed in cabins on the river front called nature lodge. The 3 days consited of river cruises, trekking and night walks.
As soon as we arrived we dumped our bags and went on a river cruise in search of wildlife. Just 10 mins journey down the river we encountered our first sighting in the form of Borneo Pygmy elephants! This was an extremly lucky sighting and our guide told us this was the first time he'd seen them in 5 months. We were able to see them just metres away and get some great photos. We saw the elephants in the same place on every cruise we went on over the 3 days which was great.
Whilst on the trip we also saw orungutans in the wild, lots of macaques, probiscus monkeys, a cobra, yellow ringed cat snake, monitor lizards, hornbills, eagles and kingfishers.

We really enjoyed this trip and in particular the boat cruises and we thought it was great value for money at just over 60 quid for the 3 days with food and accomodation.

A couple of days later we moved down to semporna which was a bit of a dump but was where we would get our boat to Mabul island, the island where we would be staying to do some diving at the world famous Sipidan island which is renouned for being one of the best dive sights in the world.

Mabul island is a tiny island with lots of dive centres built on wooden stilts on the coast, and we stayed on one of these.
The Island was beautiful and although being relatively small, it had about 2-3000 inhabitants, two thirds of which were children and each parent having on average 10 kids!
You could walk around the whole island in under 20 minutes and we walked around it on a couple of evenings and the place was built up of tin shacks surrounded by kids playing in the streets and kids playing football.
Their way of living was very basic and a complete contrast to some of the luxury holiday resorts on the otherside of the island. It was nice to see that even though most people were very poor, they always seemed happy and very friendly.

On the first day we got a boat to do our diving at Sipidan Island where only 100 people are allowed permits to dive there per day. On the way we were informed that there was a mix up with our diving permits and we had to pretend we were two Lithuainians and a Russian called Zameta Naidil, Danila Ustinor and Geidrias Pavimes!

The Sipidan Island was the picture of paradise with deserted beaches with jungle in the background and the diving itself lived up to it's reputation. We went on three dives, 2 of which were to the infamous Barracuda Point.
As soon as we jumped off the boat on our first dive there were lots of turtles and huge bumphead fish right underneath us and we were instantly amazed at the marine life and clarity of the water. The diving got better and better and along with hundreds of colourful tropical fish we saw lots of huge green turtles, lots of reef sharks, barracuda, bumpheads, huge schools of jackfsh and small barracuda and big parrot fish. It was amazing to be inside the big schools of fish and swim feet away from turtles!
During one of the dives, whilst looking for barracuda, we were caught in a strong downwards current and we were quickly swept from around 18 metres down to over 26 and ended up away from the coral wall in the deep blue where the only thing we could see was each other and walls of blue around us!

The next two days were spent diving around Mabul island where we were staying and a nearby island called Kapalai. This wasn't as impressive as the Sipidan but was a great area for seeing smaller marine life and here we saw green turtles, frogfish, blue spotted stingray, seahorses, lobster, maoray eel and loads of small tropical fish.

We loved our experiences diving here and we definately want to do more diving in the Philippines, our next destination on our trip!

Much Love,

Danila, Zaneta & Geidrias!

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Posted by Ben-Rob-Josh 22:57

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