Granite Mountains to Steamy Jungles

Destination: Sabah, Borneo

My personal account – by Marika Martinez

It is getting harder to take a breath in rhythm with my footsteps, at the point of not wanting to move another step in an upward direction, with shear exhaustion gripping my body; I stopped and turned around in the semi-darkness. The morning light was starting to filter through the rolling clouds in shades of orange against the dark silhouette of the rocky outcrops.

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My head torch was still lighting the steep granite of the final stage to the summit that I had begun to ascend almost 4 hours before at 2:00am. It is very cold with the wind whipping against my face, sending shivers through my body. At this point there is not another soul in sight apart from my mountain guide who has patiently guided me up the steep, rough rock face to the summit plateau. The sheer beauty of daybreak against the backdrop of the view far below was enough to spur me on to the top, about another 400 metres. The top was the summit of Low’s Peak, the highest point of Mt Kinabalu at 4,095 metres. On the other side of the summit is Low’s Gully with a spectacular depth of 1.6 km straight down. At the peak I was elated and at peace with the world, having achieved my first mountain climb.


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Mt Kinabalu is one of South-East Asia’s tallest mountains. It rises four kilometres straight up from the rainforest of Kinabalu Park, which was declared a World Heritage Site in 2000 by UNESCO.  The granite massif is still growing at an estimated rate of half a centimetre a year. The mountain and its surroundings feature a huge variety of flora, and is one of the world’s most important biological sites. Mt Kinabalu boasts a high level of species which are only found within Kinabalu Park and are not found anywhere else in the world. It has over 800 species of orchids, over 600 species of ferns (of which 50 are found nowhere else) and is the richest place in the world for the Nepenthes Insectivorous Pitcher plants (five of the thirteen are found nowhere else on earth). The parasitic Rafflesia plant, whose flower grows to almost 1 metre in diameter and is the largest single flower in the world, is also found in Kinabalu.

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It is believed that the name of Mt Kinabalu is derived from Aki Nabalu – meaning ‘the revered place of the dead’, in the local Dusunic language. The local people farmed the slopes of the mountain, but the last 2,000 metres or so of the granite outcrop was the domain of the spirits, dreaded in all Bornean societies. Local porters and guides performed religious ceremonies on reaching the summit, where chickens were sacrificed to appease the spirits. This ceremony continues today by the local guides on an annual basis.

The long journey to the top had actually begun the morning before when our group of 11 adventurous women from as far a field as Esperance, Perth, Brisbane and Sydney, started the steep climb from the base at Kinabalu Park from where the lofty peak could be seen. The track winds over steep and rough terrain for 6km, which took up to 8 hours of uphill slog to Laban Rata at 3,250 metres, our overnight resting spot.  It was from here that the final 2.7km ascent to the summit began at 2am. By the time I reached the summit, we had all spread out over a considerable distance and not everyone made it to the top.

However we were not done yet, as we still had another 7 hours of downhill to get back to the base of the mountain. The downhill was very hard on the legs, by the end of which we were limping along on sore knees and weary muscles. Relief was in sight in the hot springs of Poring, where we spent the next day recovering.

The mountain was absolutely inspiring, however there is far more to Sabah than just the mountain. The people of the region are friendly and beautiful; they welcomed us with genuine hospitality. We travelled by four-wheel drive vehicle to the village of Kiau Nuluh, which is set among the lush green forest on the mountainside. The Dusun people number around 1,000 altogether with another three nearby villages. Our reception was delightful with a special performance by the mothers group and a dance by the local children. With a spectacular backdrop of the surrounding mountains it was a wonderful afternoon with many smiling faces.  In the evening we were treated to the most delicious dinner as special guests of the village. The array of food cooked by the women was amazing, and all from local produce of the village. Then came the very potent rice wine, which soon melted away the shyness of our attempts at both the Malaysian and English languages. The locals all loved the opportunity of talking to us and practicing their English. There were laughs and singing all around and into the night. Some of the men of the village were our guides on the climb up the mountain.

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Our group then travelled to the community of Batu Puteh along the Kinabatangan River in eastern Sabah.  This indigenous rural community has had a millennia of traditional reliance on the rainforest for food, medicines, everyday commodities, as well trade with the outside world.

We spent the night in a rough jungle camp located a 20 minute boat ride up the river. Strange sounds through the darkness startled us on the night jungle walk, which revealed the native Civet Cat near our camp. Having spotted an abundance of bird life, monkeys, orangutans and crocodiles along the river, we enjoyed a hot meal and a good nights sleep to the sounds of the jungle under the stars in our hammocks.

One of the highlights of our trip was to see the ancient green turtle lay her eggs on Selingan Turtle Island in the cool of the evening. Some 44 turtles came to lay their eggs on the island that night, with each turtle laying up to 100 eggs each. It takes one to two hours for the female to complete her egg laying process, from sourcing a nesting site to returning to the sea when all is done. It was a touching experience to witness this miracle.
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Selingan Island is one of a group of uninhabited islands straddling the Malaysian and Philippine boundaries lying within the Sulu Seas. This cluster of islands namely three main nesting islands – Pulau Selingan, Pulau Bakkungan Kechil and Pulau Gulisan, covers an area of 1,740 hectares and are protected for the sole purpose of conservation and preservation of turtles and other marine animals inhabiting the area.

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Wildlife in Sabah, Borneo

A Natural Beauty for Adventurous Souls

It is no surprise that the producers of the reality series, “Survivor”, chose Sabah when selecting a wild natural scenery for the 2000 debut. Situated on the eastern edge of Borneo, Malaysia, Sabah is simply a land of awe-inspiring natural beauty. Sabah is rated among the top destinations for nature and wildlife adventure. Get closer to Sabah Borneo Wildlife in the company of like-minded people with Women’s Own Adventure. The wildlife sights in Sabah include orangutans, turtles, bearded pigs, macaques, monkeys, crocodiles, pythons, marbled cats, rhinos and elephants.

The region has more adventure to offer than you can imagine. Embark on the adventurous ascent to the mystical Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in South-East Asia. The scene of the sunrise at the summit of the mountain will simply take your breath away! And, when you mix with the local Dusun people while experiencing the Miki Jungle Survival Camp, you will definitely become knowledgeable about ancient cultures and traditions of Sabah.

Wildlife in Sabah – Welcome to the Jungle

Once you mention Borneo, what quickly comes to mind is an amazing wildlife jungle filled with orangutans and varieties of animal species. Charles Darwin once said this about Borneo; “A great, wild untidy lush conservatory prepared by nature itself”. To different people Sabah Borneo stands for different things – “home to frogs that fly”, “an abode of fishes that walk on mud”, “a habitat of monkeys that dive and swim”, “a locale for plants that eat insects”…

The natural beauty of Sabah combined with its distinctive range of wildlife and plants make the location an irresistible lure to adventurous souls who want to closely encounter Orangutans, Nesting Turtles, Proboscis Monkeys, and out-of-this-world nature trails. You will surely experience memorable encounters with the wildlife and flora of Sabah.

Primates

You can only find Orangutans on Borneo and Northern Sumatra. These primates are notable inhabitants of the Borneo rainforest and constitute the largest lure to wildlife adventure vacations and tours.

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Reptiles and Amphibians

The several layers of the Borneo rainforest harbor hundreds of species of amphibians and reptiles. The rainforest is famous for its flying species, with flying frogs and flying lizards being the most abundant. Well, these reptiles and amphibians don’t literally fly, but leap and glide long distances. You can also witness sea turtles lay their eggs with a night on Turtle Island.

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Large Mammals

The Borneo rainforest also harbors large mammals, particularly elephants and rhinos. The specie of elephants here are the pygmy elephants – smaller, fatter, and less aggressive compared to the African elephant. Large cats such as leopards are also to be found in the rainforest.

Flora

There are over 15,000 plant species in the rainforest and a good number of them are only found in Borneo, the world’s richest rain forests. The most notable being the carnivorous plants; the Tropical Pitcher Plant (Nepenthes) and the and the giant Rafflesia, where the flower may be over 100 cm in diamater and weigh up to 10 kilos.

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Explore a mystical land on our journey into Sabah, a place teeming with wildlife and natural beauty. Join a group of women who share the same interest with Women’s Own Adventure. You’ll remember every minute of this unforgettable adventure!

Cultural and Historical Adventure in beautiful Sabah, Borneo

If you are a woman who enjoys adventure travel, this Women’s Own Adventure might be for you.

Explore a mystical land on our journey into Sabah, a place teeming with wildlife and natural beauty. Malaysian Borneo is one of nature’s most exciting playgrounds. From rugged mountain tops to idyllic islands, this land is a blueprint for true adventure. Pockets of pristine wilderness cover much of these Malaysian provinces, but there are also some fascinating modern cities and contrasting traditional villages to be explored. We visit remote communities where our local friends introduce us to their traditions and customs. You’ll remember every minute of this unforgettable adventure!

This special trip combines the best elements of a wildlife adventure, cultural interaction with the local people as well as an important moment of our history. This trip is fully escorted by renowned Historian Lynette Silver, author of the internationally acclaimed book ‘Sandakan – A Conspiracy of Silence’.

In 1942-43, over 2,500 Allied prisoners of war were transferred from Singapore to Sandakan, Borneo, to provide slave labour for an airstrip. Three years later, at war’s end, only six were left alive. The fate of the others remained shrouded in uncertainty and mystery until 1998, when Lynette Silver broke the conspiracy of silence which had lasted 53 years. Join her as she unravels the story behind Sandakan’s tragedy – one of world War II’s most deadly secrets.

Australian history and Australians at war in the Far East have been the passion of Sydney-based author Lynette Ramsay Silver for more than 20 years. Lynette, who has published a great deal of her research, has amassed comprehensive archival material on all her specialised subjects, particularly information on the fate of many hundreds of Allied soldiers and prisoners of war who died in Borneo (Sabah) in the Sandakan and Ranau POW Camps, and on one of the infamous death marches. Using data not readily available to the general public. Lynette is able to provide replicas of POW Death Records as well as other relevant information.

Lynette will provide expert historical commentary on the Death Marches of Australian and British POW’s during World War Two. She knows the Sabah region like the back of her hand, having travelled there extensively over many years. Experienced, local English and Malaysian speaking guides also accompany this trip.

The track cut for the death marches soon became completely overgrown and for sixty years defied all efforts to locate it. However, in August 2005, Australian investigative writer and historian, Lynette Silver, and Tham Yau Kong, Sabah’s premier trekking specialist, combined their considerable talents to identify the path taken by the prisoners of war. After sixty years, you too can now walk in the footsteps of the Death March heroes.

This trip offers a unique experience for those who are reasonably fit and with a spirit of adventure. The scenery is fantastic, and the historical and cultural experiences unforgettable.

You will also learn about ancient traditions, Homestay with the Dusun people, Get close and make friends with the amazing Orangutans, Witness sea turtles lay their eggs, Trek the Mt Kinabalu Heritage Walk, Be inspired by incredible views, Stay at the Sabah Tea Plantation, Enjoy scouring the local markets in Kota Kinabalu and spoil yourself with a massage and spa treatment.

Cultural and Historical Adventure in Sabah, Borneo
12days departing 31st July 2009
Price: $2,755 (land content only)
Package Price: $4,490 (including airfares and taxes)

– signing off, Marika Martinez – Women’s Own Adventure

Contact: Marika Martinez
Ph: 1300 883 475 or 0449 570 102
E: info@womensownadventure.com.au
W: http://www.womensownadventure.com.au/

In the Jungles of Borneo

The journey in Sabah, Borneo for our group of women adventure travellers is coming to a close after 14 days of adventures, challenges, new friends and exciting times. We have travelled by boat to our rough jungle camp on the Kinabatangan River where a P1000357night jungle walk reveled the Civet Cat near our camp. Having spotted an abundance of birdlife, monkeys and crocodiles on the river, we enjoyed a hot meal and a good nights sleep to the sounds of the jungle in hammocks.

The following day we were treated to a cooking P1000391class by the local village women where we enjoyed a sumptuous lunch and were entertained with a traditional dance. A homestay experience with local families really allowed us to appreciate the way of life in a small village.

P1000467One of the highlights of our trip was to see a large turtle lay her eggs on Turtle Island in the cool of the evening. Some 44 turtles came to lay their eggs on the island that night, with each turtle laying up to 100 eggs each.

Women’s Own Adventure and the group of 11 women on this journey have jointly adopted a baby orphan Orangutan from the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. These amazing creatures are fascinating to watch as they are rehabilitated back into the jungle. The wildlife experiences in Sabah, Borneo have been fantastic in a country that has very strong conservation policies.

– signing off, Marika Martinez – Women’s Own Adventure

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We climbed Mt Kinabalu

The summit of Mt Kinabalu at 4095 metres is the goal. Ten of us started the steep climb from the base at Kinabalu National Park from where the lofty peak can be seen through the fast moving P1000267clouds. The track winds over steep and rough terrain for 6km to Laban Rata at 3,250 metres, our overnight resting spot before the final 2.7km climb to the summit. The climb to Laban Rata took up to 8 hours of uphill slog. What a welcome sight was the lodge on the hill, with a hot meal and a warm bed waiting.

P1000279The final climb to the summit started at 2:30am the next morning (yes it was dark). We rugged up against the cold and climbed for up to 4 hours, I reached the summit at 6:45am to watch the beautiful sunrise. The view from the top was exhilarating and certainly worth the effort. To feel as though you are at the top of the world on a beautiful clear morning is absolutely fantastic.

P1000283 However we were not done yet, as we still had another 7 hours of downhill to get back to the base of the mountain. The downhill was very hard on the legs, by the end of which we were limping along on sore knees and weary muscles. Relief was in sight in the hot springs of Poring, where we spent the next day recovering.

– signing off, Marika Martinez – Women’s Own Adventure

Good times with the Dusun people

We travelled by mini bus and 4 wheel drive vehicle to the village of Kiau NuluP1000153h which is set among the lush green forest on the mountain side. The Dusun people number around 1,000 with another 3 nearby villages. Our reception was delightful with a special performance by the mothers group and a dance by the local children. With a spectacular backdrop of the surrounding mountains it was a wonderful afternoon with many smiling faces. The evening we were treated to the most delicious dinner as special guests of the village. The array of food cooked by the women was amazing, and all from local produce of the village. Then came the very potent rice wine which soon melted away the shyness of everyones attempts at both the Malaysian and English languages. The locals all loved the opportunity of talking to us and practicing their English. There were laughs and singing all around into the night.

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The next morning we enjoyed the wonderful hospitality again with breakfast and a beautiful view. P1000202A morning village walk was in store where we ascended to a high point that gave us our first view of Mt Kinabalu, the peak forming an awesome rocky outcrop that would regularly disappear into the clouds. This will be our challenge in 2 days time!

– signing off, Marika Martinez – Women’s Own Adventure

ARRIVING IN SABAH

Our group of 11 adventurous women from as far afield as Esperance in Western Australia, Perth, Brisbane and Sydney landed at Kota Kinabalu on Friday 22nd August, 2008. We spent our first day and a half exploring the local markets (always a favourite) where beautiful batiks and sarongs were bargained for. The early morning was spent taking a speed boat toP1000125 3 of the nearby islands while the water was smooth as glass. The first island was our very own with no other people on it. The sand is white and the water is the most gorgeous turquoise in the shallows, here we happily swam and floated in the warm waters. What a joy after the wet and cold of Sydney. After exploring and swimming on the third island the boat ride back to port felt wonderful with the wind in our hair, the salt spray of the sea on our faces and the sun on our backs.

P1000127 A little more time was spent exploring the local shops then for me and some of the others, a reflexology session was in order. An hour long foot massage…heaven. Tonight we are celebrating 2 birthdays, so there will be a special dinner with some local Lyche wine and a birthday cake. A celebration for us all!

The Malaysian people are friendly and beautiful. It is a joy to walk the streets and the markets without being harassed by street vendors.

Tomorrow we travel to the base of Mt Kinabalu and will stay in the homes of the Dusun people.

– signing off, Marika Martinez – Women’s Own Adventure