Second destination

March 23rd to 25th :
Location: Kinabatangnan Jungle Camp, Kinabatangnan River.

As much as we dislike leaving Lankayan Island, we needed to meet up with my classmates from All Saints high school graduating class of 1969 at the Sepolik Orang Utan Sanctuary. We are celebrating our 40 years class reunion. We are a group of 22, including spouses and significant others, heading off to the rainforest jungle. We are heading to classmate Robert Chong’s, Kinabatangnan Jungle Camp ( ), as he says “his own little piece of paradise”. His specialty is guiding bird watchers to view rare birds and all the birds of this rainforest, as well as other wildlife indigenous to this part of the world. He has a brilliant staff of guides to aid his guests in viewing pygmy elephants, orang utans in the wild,  (found only in the Borneo rainforest), crocodiles, proboscis monkeys, monitor lizards, hornbills, and countless birds. The guides have very keen eyesight and hearing and can spot small colourful snakes curled up in a tree overhanging onto the river from yards and yards away. Twenty two of us piled into 4 boats, heading upstream in hopes of catching glimpses of wildlife. Our enthusiasm, laughter and chatter gave warning to the wildlife warning as we approached. Following afternoon tea, Robert wisely sent the boats off in different directions. One for the serious birders, one for the photographers, and a couple for the “social” groups. His experienced decision netted us multiple views of wildlife. We shared our day’s photos that evening. Interestingly, some of the best photos were taken by the social groups! Way to go Vincent!!

Jungle Camp is a very rustic place, yet very comfortable, with running hot water (though not needed for showers), and comfortable rooms and beds. It can be compared to a rustic cabin/fishing lodge in northern Minnesota but without mosquitoes (at least during this time of the year). The heat and humidity can be quite intense, as I rediscovered during the noon excursion in search of crocodiles. As we headed to the usual haunts of the crocodiles, the breeze created by the speeding boat cools me. While we drift silently, the heat was the hottest that I have experienced in a very long time.

There is a dining hall/gathering area for meals, conversations, singing and just plain catching up. We reminisced recounting stories from our school years of our many escapades, much to the embarrassment of some. Observations of our physical changes were jokingly pointed out, accompanied with great howls of laughter. Surprisingly, the Caucasian spouses and significant others laughed along with us, due to the infectiousness of our laughter. The stories and jokes were told in English, but then due to the excitement and the descriptiveness of the Chinese language, the punch lines are delivered in Chinese. “Sorry, lost in translation” was the only explanation we can come up with for those who cannot understand Chinese.

The main claim to fame of our class of ’69 is for one particular classmate, Yau Man. He is the lovable “old geek” (self described) on Survivor, Fiji, season 14.  He is now residing outside of San Francisco with his family, wife Jennifer (my model with the umbrella), and two lovely daughters Penelope and Ione, and works at UC Berkerly. Besides regaling us with the experiences he encountered in Fiji, he also captivated us with his knowledge of things ranging from the workings of the internet to the super collider in France/Switzerland where physicists bombard particles to figure out the universe (he participated at the similar Fermi Lab). Yau Man truly is a wonderful teacher, as he took complex issues and explained them to us in a clear and understandable way. Now I will be able to view the programs on the History and Discovery channels with a better understanding! In addition, my wife now understands the reason for high and low tide. During our school years, there were 4-6 of the classmates who were constantly at the top of the class. Yau Man, Dr. Liew (Australia), Daniel (Toronto), Maggie (Edmonton) and Yee Sim (Kota Kinabalu) are the ones I remember, constantly juggling for the top spots in every test and exam. I told my mother that there is no sense in me trying to be the best in the class – I can leave that to them.

The food at the jungle camp was delicious, all fresh ingredients. The vegetables were picked from the wild, fresh fish, lamb, water buffalo and venison. There is a large variety of local fruits that are unfamiliar and “foreign” to the western world.  I don’t get to see these wonderful treats at my local grocery store and I am eating as much of them as I can. All thoughts of eating smaller portions were banished and put on hold until I return to the US.

Unfortunately the days are too short and time passes too quickly, it was time to depart. It will be hard pressed for me to explain the fragility of the rainforest. Yau Man has graciously offered to do the explaining in the next post.



2 Responses to “Second destination”

  1. Richard Lee Says:

    Its nice to travel with you through your beautiful pictures. At this time I do not mind nice hot weather!

  2. Peter Yong Says:

    Robert’s Jungle Camp is a must for all visitors as staging post for the part of Borneo which is Kinabatangan. A region where life moves at its own pace, the animal, the bird life & also the river. Leisure at its best. I know. I was there!

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