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KUCHING, BORNEO - MALAYSIA

Kuching's waterfront, life along the Sarawak River, Semenggoh & Matang Wildlife Center

semi-overcast 37 °C

After a week of traveling all around Bali, Indonesia I flew to Borneo. Where the heck is Borneo you ask? Its right above Indonesia. Its that big island on the map. Its made up of 3 countries. Mostly Indonesia, part Malaysia, and a wee bit Brunei. I visited the Malaysian part. I flew into Kuching, in the northwest part of Borneo and stayed there for 5 days.
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I stayed at the Harbor View Hotel, I forgot to take a photo of it, but it was really nice, I promise, lol! This was the view from my room. It was $43 CAD a night. They served breakfast in the morning, but it was not included and cost about $10 CAD. They also offered my favorite amenity ... free wifi :)
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My hotel was across the street from Kuching's waterfront. Its a long boardwalk that runs the length of the Sarawak River.
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Main street along the river with many shops.
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I spent alot of time walking along the waterfront. The place really came alive at night with vendors selling all kinds of food & souvenirs, street preformers & musicians. There were also great views of the giant golden temple across the river ... which is actually not a temple, but the government buildings! Fancy!
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I also noticed many Chinese temples everywhere! One right in front of my hotel.
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Chinese gazebo & lanterns along the waterfront.
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One of my favorite things to do was to watch the boats on the Sarawak River. You could pay for a ride along the river, or for a ride across to the other side. I passed though. Its the same view from land looking across as it is from a boat.
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Walking through the city I came across my very first mosque :) They are beautiful!
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I booked roundtrip transportation & admission to Semenggoh through the front desk of my hotel for only 50 Ringgit ($17 CAD), which is a steal of a deal considering my Lonely Planet guide said it would be 45 Rinngit just for the transportation one way! So the very next day thats where I went!
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My main reason for traveling to Borneo was to see wild orangutans! They only live wild & free in 2 places left in this world which is quite sad ... Borneo, and in Sumatra, Indonesia. Upon arriving at Semenggoh there is a small visitor's center with info on the orangs, and washrooms, but no snacks. No food is allowed in the area. You are given a guide who leads you through the rainforest to 2 different viewing areas. Wooden platforms have been built in the rainforest, and ropes attached to the platforms for the orangs to play on. The platforms are then piled high with bananas, coconuts & pineapple. And then we wait. And wait & wait. And then wait some more. Just to clarify, the orangutans in the following photos are 100% WILD, so they dont care how far you've traveled, or how much $ you've paid, or how long you have to stand there waiting ... they are wild, and free to do what they want. So they only show up if they feel like it.

Although it took awhile, staring up at the treetops, looking for any tell-tale sign of an orangutan, was exhilarating! My first glimpse of ginger fur leaping treetop to treetop made my heart skip a beat! This is why I love to travel! THAT feeling! Some women say men make their heart skip a beat ... for me its big hairy ginger apes, LOL!!
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Look at hose muscles!
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I ended up visiting Semenggoh twice ... this day, and again on my last day. On my second visit NO orangutans showed up :( But on this day ... 4 showed up! I didnt realized in the moment how lucky I was to see that many, until I visited again and didnt see any, and also spoke to others who had gone 4 different times and hadnt gotten to see any at all!
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Only 1 male showed up at the first platform. We watched him for awhile, and then the guide led us farther into the forest where the 2nd viewing area was. There were 3 orangs at this one! A mom with a baby clinging to her (!!!!!!!!) and another youngster a little older :) AMAZING!!
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This young one was a show off, lol! He'd swing across the ropes and then just hang there upside-down eating a coconut, watching us. He even knew how to smack the coconut against a tree hard enough to crack it open and then drink the milk out! Clever little guy :)
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Stuffing his face fulls of bananas :)
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Also at Semenggoh I saw this blue eyed lizard just chillin' on a tree!
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There was this 'highway' of ants (or possibly termites ... I dont actually know what a termite looks like) making their way along the path and up a tree!
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After a few wonderful hours watching these beautiful creatures, they disappeared back into the rainforest to do whatever it is the wild orangutans do :)

I then headed over the Matang Wildlife Center. I had read that it was a rehabilitation center for wounded & orphaned animals, but it looked basically like a zoo. But there was a vet clinic area where gibbons & macaques were being tended to.
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Although most animals were in cages, there were a few in open-air 'pits' with platforms that humans could then look down into the pit at the animals. The orangutans could 100% get out if they tried! The walls of the pit were only about 12ft high or so. If an orang can leap vast distances between treetops, then they could definitely jump over this wall. Maybe they dont realize freedom is on the other side??
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This guy looks quite bored in his jungle gym.
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Matang is located literally in the middle of nowhere! The views of the rainforest on the drive out (I just took a taxi) were stunning! So that being said, while walking the trails around the center, I was still completely in the rainforest where any wild animals could attack!
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I was by myself, no other visitors were at the center while I was there ... so every little sound made me jumpy! A leaf fell & landed on my shoulder and I nearly screamed, lol! After seeing this sign below, I was even more nervous! There was also another sign (which I forgot to take a pic of) that showed photos of orangutan attack victims!! The inflicted wounds were quite gruesome!
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I kept looking over my shoulder every few minutes to be sure a Clouded Leopard wasnt hunting me, lol! In the end, the only wild animals I encountered were this lizard and dragonfly, lol!!
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There was also a pit with a Malayan Sun Bear.
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I didnt take photos of all the animals, because some of the cages had just way too many bars to get decent photos. But here are some that I was able to get nice pictures of.
Buffy Fish Owl
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I dont remember this bird's name, but he looked like a grumpy old man, lol!
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Crocodile
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False Gharial Crocodile ... they are known for their long, slender snouts and razor sharp teeth!
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Although most of the animals were in cages, it was still awesome to see so many Asian species I'd never seen before! We definitely dont have these animals in Canada! There was a Clouded Leopard, Gibbons (the call of a gibbon is the coolest sound in the world!), hornbills, bintorangs (aka Asian Bear Cat), and Sambar Deer.

Well thats it for Kuching. Stay tuned for upcoming posts on hiking in Bako National Park, and a day at Damai Beach :)

Posted by ChantelleS 12:24 Archived in Malaysia Tagged rainforest water boat wildlife temple monkey malaysia borneo crocodile tropical orangutan Comments (0)

CHOBE NATIONAL PARK, BOTSWANA

Chobe River boat cruise & Chobe NP camping Safari. April 3rd & 4th, 2013

overcast 27 °C

I was staying in Livingstone, Zambia and had booked a 2 day \ 1 night camping safari in Chobe National Park in Botswana. Livingstone is approx 45-60min from the Zambia \ Botswana border. I booked it online prior to arriving in Africa through Kalahari Tours. It was $234US, and included pickup at my hotel in Livingstone, transportation to the border, an escort to help me through customs \ border crossing & get visas (if you know you will be exiting / re-entering Zambia during your stay, purchase a multi-entry visa for $80, rather than 2 single entry visas for $50 each), I was then introduced to a rep from Kalahari Tours on the Botswanan side and led to a ferry that crossed the Zambezi River, where I then met my Game Ranger who made sure I got on the correct safari vehicle. I'm sure if I'd attempted all that on my own, I would've been lost! Also included was a riverboat cruise on the Chobe River, then lunch at a lodge, and an afternoon game drive, tenting accomodation, all meals, and 2 more game drives on day 2 before being brought back to the border, and back to my hotel.

When taking the ferry from Zambia to Botswana across the Zambezi River, there is a point on the river where 4 countries meet ... Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe & Namibia. So for a brief moment I was in 4 countries at the same time :)

After a quick breakfast at a lodge, myself and others on the camping trip, were led to the river where we boarded a double decker pontoon boat for a cruise along the Chobe River.
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Elephants were absolutely everywhere! Every bend in the river was home to yet another herd of elephants. It was incredible to watch them coming out of the trees \ hills to drink from the river, and play in the water :)
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Adorable baby elephant!!
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I saw a total of 4 pods of hippos chillin' in the river! I LOVE hippos!
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Mama & adorable baby hippo :)
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More elephants ...
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Charging elephant
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Pooping elephant, lol!
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Cormorant
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Baby croc
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Nile Crocodile
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"Monster" tree
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I wish I had been on a smaller boat like the 1 in this photo ... look how close they got to these impalas!
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Fighting ellies!
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Sniffing the air for danger
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Another charging elephant
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After the 3hr riverboat cruise, we stopped for lunch at a lodge. Afterwards we switched to an open-air safari vehicle for a 3hr game drive through Chobe National Park.
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Giraffe snuggles :)
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Impala ... "Who's on my bum?"
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THIS is the photo I came to Africa to get!!! More than anything, I wanted to see a giraffe bending down awkwardly ... and I got TWO of them, plus the 2 matching giraffes in the background! I couldnt have choreographed it better :)
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A herd of giraffes is called a 'journey of giraffes'
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Adorable baby giraffe :)
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We got REALLY close to a herd of elephants! Uncomfortably close!
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Poke ... this little ellie kept bugging the other one to play
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Here he's nudging the other one, lol! He even ended up sitting on top of the other one! He just wanted someone to play with!
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Love this one!
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Peek-a-boo!
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My favorite elephant photo!
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Baby elephant trying to suckle
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Dung Beetle
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My game ranger, Sinka, holding a Leopard Tortoise
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Dragonfly on someone's hat
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Puku - a type of antelope I never knew existed! Looks very similar to an impala, but its bigger and furrier.
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One of the hi-lights of the day was finding this lion eating a warthog!!!!!!
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We were only a few feet away! So close I could hear bones crunching and guts squishing! Totally disgusting, yet totally awesome at the same time!
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We later came across a 2nd lion ... this one wasnt all bloodied up
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Traffic in Chobe
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Impala
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Around 5pm we drove down to the shores of the Chobe River to watch all the animals come for a sundowner. The first animals to show up were a troop of baboons.
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A young baboon playing with elephant poo
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Adorable baby baboon! Look at those big ears!
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Baby baboon playing with a rock
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Mama & youngster drinking from the Chobe River
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Then some giraffes showed up at the river
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Fighting giraffes!
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Chobe River
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Male kudu
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Egyptian Goose
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Sunset over the Chobe River
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After the sun set we drove to our camp. There were 8 tents set up in a semi-circle, and 18 camp chairs set in a circle around the campfire. I assumed supper would be hotdogs & hamburgers, but the game rangers-turned-cooks made us beef stroganoff, steamed veggies and dessert.
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Sleeping in a tent alone was scary ... it is NOT quiet at night! Nocturnal birds, animals & insects could be heard all night long!
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At 12:30am I had to pee. But since I was alone, I didnt have anyone to watch my back as I walked to the bush toilet, aka pit latrine. I shone my flashlight all around a few times, looking for any eyes glowing in the dark! When I didnt see any I quickly just peed beside my tent as fast as I could, and then jumped back in! And no joke, no sooner had I climbed back into my sleeping bag, I heard a lion roar!!!! I nearly crapped my pants! I was JUST outside and there was a lion nearby! The camp was not fenced, so anything could wander past my tent! I also heard an elephant trumpet, and something lumbered past my tent! I think I slept 1hr total, lol!
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Bush shower
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Good morning ... I survived the night!
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The morning game drive began at 6:30am. Unfortunately the 1st 3hrs were very quiet. We saw a few impala & warthogs, and lots of birds, but no big game til later in the morning.
Lilac-breasted Roller - Botswana's national bird
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Vulture
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Guinea Fowl, aka 'Chobe Chicken'
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Warthog
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Kneeling down to eat
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Ox Pecker eating ticks off of an imapala
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The excitement began when our ranger got a call about a male lion sighting! He put pedal to the metal and raced across the park to get us to the lion before he disappeared into the bush! We raced 'Dukes of Hazard' style, swerving around corners on the sandy roads, and flying over bumps, lol, it was so much fun ... and we got there in time. There was 1 male and 2 females relaxing by a tree. When we neared, the male went into 'pounce' position. That was a tad nerve racking cuz he was within 8ft of our open-air vehicle!
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There was a buffalo that the lions were following, but nothing ever happened. We were hoping to see some action.
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There was a herd of impala across the road, and every single one of them had their eyes on those lions! They were so focused on those lions that they didnt even pay us any attention! But whichever impala takes its eyes off those lions would probably end up their lunch!
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Impala bum
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Fish Eagle
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Nile Crocodile
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Martial Eagle eating a mongoose ... can you see the mongoose's tail hanging down?
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Warthog in a mud wallow
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He was enjoying rolling around in his very own mud bath
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3ft long Monitor Lizard
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Cape Buffalo & Cattle Egret
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We parked near the Chobe River and watched a herd of 250 Cape Buffalo swim across.
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There were 3 crocs lurking in the water waiting for a straggler! As the last baby buffalo crossed the river, a croc attacked and killed it :( The saddest part was that the momma buffalo stood at the water's edge mooing/calling for her baby long after the rest of the herd had moved on!
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Ox Peckers eating ticks off of a buffalo's back
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We came across this lone buffalo sleeping beside the river (not the smartest place for a snooze considering all the crocodiles lurking in the river), with a pesky cattle egret & ox pecker bothering him.
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Pied Kingfisher
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Beautiful Chobe River
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Thats all for Botswana! I then headed back into Zambia for a few more nights before flying to South Africa. That will be in the next post.

Posted by ChantelleS 16:00 Archived in Botswana Tagged boat wildlife elephant tree river africa safari animal crocodile camping buffalo lion botswana baboon impala kudu warthog Comments (0)

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