The Semengoh Wildlife Reserve is a twelve mile drive from Kuching and well worth the trip, Borneo has beautiful beaches in the more touristy destinations of the North, but the attraction for me wasnt sun, sea and sand. I joined a couple of tours arranged by the Bermibeh Travellers lodge (Ewe Hai Street) . They started early, and not being much of a morning person I skipped breakfast, but this was offered to me gratis by the great people at the Bermimbeh hostel while I waited for the vehicle.
On the first trip I didnt see any of these fantastic creatures, just lots of gruesome photos of the damage they could do to you if you do see them and let them get too close. ‘If an orangutan touches you, you always go to hospital’, our guide as the reserve told us. These orangutans are being rehabilitated into the wild and if they dont need to come to take the food laid out for them, it’s a good sign, they are doing well. They are orphaned or injured or have previously been kept as illegal pets and the aim is not to tame them but to help them as they fend for themselves. On my first visit we waited and waited quietly (and as usual in a group of people, some not so quietly) in the woods but they didnt come.
My next excursion was to Jong’s Crocodile Farm, also a short drive away. The significance of the word ‘farm’ didnt really sink in at the time, but the crocodiles that are fed for the (fairly scarce) tourists are in huge emerald green pools. I had the place almost to myself once a small group of Malaysian sightseers had left. Its a tranquil leafy spot with crocodiles everywhere. Inside an enclosure a huge tailless beast languishes in a solitary pen, apparently he was born this way and would be savaged by the others outside.
Jong’s is a pretty and surprisingly peaceful place, considering the thing to do is to wander amongst the largest and most aggressive living reptiles.
The Ibans are tribe of Dayak people native to Borneo, the villages and long house in the rain forest are a beautful place to visit. I couldnt help feeling at times that I was in a human zoo. Apparently headhunting has been phased out but the dried skulls in the rafters looked a little too authentic.
On my second visit to Semenggoh (these trips arent expensive, especially if you book them at somewhere like the Bermibih lodge, rather than a swanky hotel like the Pullman, and the entrance fee supports the centre) the guide started saying ‘look, look, over there!’ in an animated Attenborouesque stage whisper. And there they were, these magnificent creatures.