Borneo is a beautiful and unique place, a tropical island complete with sandy beaches, but also a land mass large enough to support enormous (and controversial) palm plantations and a massive expanse of jungle as well. It is an island rich in natural wonders from the awe-inspiring Mount Kinabalu to the Orang Utan and much more.
Borneo also holds a place in the national psyche of Australia, having been one of the theatres during the War in the Pacific where many diggers were killed in the infamous death marches.
My wife and I toured around the state of Sabah for a couple of weeks, taking in the melting pot of cultures and the wonderful diversity of wildlife; here are some photos from our adventure.
Strap on some hiking boots; let's go to Borneo!
Kota Kinabalu is the capital of Sabah, which has nowhere to go but up - literally! It is nestled between ocean and mountain, which keeps it to a narrow strip of land. In KK you can see the type of growth that is typical of South East Asia: haphazard developments and uneven infrastructure; traditional markets cheek-by-jowl with sparkling modern shopping centres.
Just outside KK, we visited the wetlands, which form an important part of the ecosystem. They teem with life, though apart from the tall white egrets it can be tough to spot anything.
Going from sea level to 4km up was a shock to the system, but well worth it. The approx. 8km hike to Low's Peak (4095m) was by turns tough, terrifying, breathtaking and gruelling.
The tough part is the seemingly endless steps; uneven, often slippery, and sometimes crowded with fellow climbers heading up and down (even though numbers are limited, it's a fairly busy hiking trail).
After a day of hiking we made it to the rest stop at Laban Rata, 6km in, where we had a short break sleeping above the clouds - before rising at 2am for the last part of the climb.
This part was terrifying: we were in pitch darkness apart from climbers' head torches, and this was also where the real mountain climbing began, using ropes attached to the steep rock face. I'm not sure if the darkness was a blessing or a curse... we couldn't see how big the drops were at this point, but we sure could imagine the worst!
It took around 4 hours to get to the summit to see the sunrise (pictured at the top of this page), and the sheer enormity of the landscape on the way was incredible.
Pictured here is Low's Peak. It's hard to appreciate the scale; the tiny coloured specks along the ridge are people!
On the way back down, the stark difference in the climate was evidenced by the fauna; only the most stubborn vegetation survived up here, and these were stunted, bonsai-like trees.
The gruelling part followed: there's only one way off the mountain, and that's the way you came. Downhill may sound easier, but it's hard work, especially when you're following up a massive hike and climb!
We visited the tropical island of Pulau Selingan (also known as Turtle Island), where conservationists work hard to protect turtle eggs from predators (human and introduced species). We were lucky enough to see a turtle laying eggs as well as a release of hatchlings into the wild.
We had the opportunity to stay with locals and take part in their daily life, including rubber tapping (pictured here), rice pounding and cooking local dishes.
And of course there is the wildlife... rather than trying to describe it, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy!