Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Another Weekend in Borneo

Although I rarely drink tea (and even then, only green Japanese or Chinese tea), we stayed Saturday night at Sabah's only tea estate, sprawling over the hills to the east of Mt Kinabalu. We had a marvellous swim in the river carving its way through boulders in the rainforest, and in the morning, I got up very early to see wonderful views of Mt Kinabalu (4,093 metres) and watched a big Crested Serpent Eagle.

Not too far from Sabah Tea Garden, the Poring Hot Springs are part of the huge Kinabalu Park, and although the bathing area has become a mess (how lovely it was 20 years ago, before the hordes of tourists), there is a fantastic orchid research centre. In addition, the world's largest flower, the Rafflesia, blooms in the surrounding forest and we were lucky enough to see one of these unreal flowers, about 80 cm across!

But the biggest surprise of the day was when we were wandering about the orchid garden and came across a female orangutan — completely free — who looked as if she had a hangover. These astonishing creatures lived wild in the Park, maybe some still do, but Jackie (as this lady is known) grew up in captivity. She normally returns to the forest every day and wanders back at night for a free banana or two from the Parks' staff, but last Sunday, she was sick so hid out in the Orchid Centre.

We went looking for orchids but came across an orangutan. Even after all these years, I find that Borneo still comes up with surprises.

No comments: