Sandakan, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia

DSCF7802As you stand by the one main highway outside KK National Park, you pray; a) for a bus to come along b) any bus as long as it takes you far away from the dreaded mountain!You have two real choices though left for Kota Kinabalu or right to Sandakan.

Sandakan it was, for a spot of R&R. It’s a straightforward little town notable for a cute-ish harbour, and a praiseworthy place called Fat Cat Bakery that sold odd buns topped with pasta, and $2RM choc moose. Odd but had to be done.

The main reason people visit however is to head off on Diving/Jungle River tours, or like me to head 25km up the road to cuddle Borneo’s most famous residents; an Orangutan. Well, maybe not cuddle as such, maybe just to appreciate them from a viewing platform.

After adopting Koya Heeramun-West from the WWF one xmas a few years ago, Paul and I have been the proud parents to the abandoned teenage Orangutan named Koya. She wrote to us, she sent a cuddly toy, she signed a pic. She told us Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre was where she lived. It would be rude then for me to come all this way and not visit.

Except I get to her gaff and no sign of her? Maybe she’s moved to the city? Maybe she’s checked out of Monkey rehab? Maybe she’s in witness protection and had to change her name?

We watch a nice little doc about the plight of the Orangs. Which to be fair makes a reasonable case against everyone’s normal winge that wild animals in semi captivity in centres like this are akin to an animal version of Guantanamo Bay. Nonsense.They do more good than bad, and you can’t have a whole tourist industry in Borneo that revolves around the cuddly orange fella’s without opening up controlled access to them to tourists. They are lounging around munching on hand fed fruit not jumping through fire hoops, and let’s face it Koya is obvs moonlighting elsewhere so they obvs have it made.

Now I tried to sugarcoat this next bit, as it kind of undermines everything positive I’ve just said in the above paragraph. Apols in advance.

As we gaze from the viewing platform in keen anticipation for 3pm feeding time, we see the most upsetting sight. A mummy Orang cradling her young baby, except he isn’t cuddling her back. He died the day previously. We all kind of gasp in horror as she looks so confused, trying to play with him and feed his limb body.

Since Orangs share 96.4% of our DNA (yes, I learnt this during the DVD) it was a truly awful thing to watch, a few of us had to turn our camera away. Yes they are wild animals, but they are so human like it’s uncanny. To be fair to the Centre they really do care. The girl who works with them day in day out was nearly in tears, and explained that although they could have taken her away, as to not traumatize tourists, the right thing to do was let her greave.

RIP little baby Orang.

It’s all reminiscent of the time I dragged Paul to Barcelona zoo on the basis that the world’s only white Guerilla lived there; Snowflake was his name. Except we get there to lots of posters, and a small plaque which breaks the news that he died 20 years ago!

Maybe I’ll give the wildlife a rest for a while.

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  1. Trackback: Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei | Little Anantasin

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An.an.tas.in : The Anantasin is the name of a shipwreck just of the coast of the Sensi Parasise, Mae Haad Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s one of my many favorite places.

Lit.tle: Just because it’s cute.

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