DERAMAKOT, THE BORNEO
At 5am, I woke up and realized in another few more hours, I will be without any source of communication with the outside world. I couldn’t think of another great way of getting a digital detox and at the same time, getting my fix with nature. Score!
I started my way with my trusted driver, Arman, to Telupid from Penampang at 6 am. Since it was a weekday, traffic was already building up and it took us nearly two hours to reach Tuaran where we stopped by for breakfast for the famous Mee Tuaran (Tuaran Noodle). It was absolutely delicious, especially when I already had it in my head that I was going to “roughen it up” in the forest for a couple of days.
We sped through Kinabalu area, it was quite chilly, but fortunately for us, it wasn’t foggy. Mount Kinabalu was awake and smiling at me, wishing me well on my wildlife expedition. I was happy (or probably senile for thinking a mountain can smile and wishing me well). As hours went by, I finally reached Telupid area at around 1 pm, thanks to Arman. I had my last meal (kidding!), at one of the cafes there and waited till 2 pm, where I would be transferred into Deramakot Forest Reserve. I was quite lucky to travel with 3 more travelers, all from the United Kingdom, and all girls. So it was like a girls trip for me (only I didn’t know any of them).
Welcomes you with the fresh air of nature in Deramakot
Seeing the fact that I knew a bit about Deramakot, and the driver who brought us into Deramakot was shy, I started talking to the other travelers about Deramakot and other places of interest in Sabah. Deramakot is the longest certified tropical rainforest in the world, since 1997 till today. Deramakot Forest Reserve is over 55,000 hectare, where 90% of the land is set aside for logging production, and the remainder is for conservation as well as community forestry.
What amazed me about Sabah Forest Department is their objective to lessen commercialized logging production, and they have made Deramakot as their “golden child” for this main project. Deramakot Forest Reserve practices Reduced Impact Logging (RIL) which is a collection of techniques combined together to minimize damage to potential crop trees, regeneration and soil to maintain its production capacity, as well as to protect the environment, as quoted from Sabah Forestry Department.
As we drove further in from Telupid, we passed by two massive Oil Palm Plantations. After a forty minute drive in, we were finally at the border of Deramakot Forest Reserve, it took us another one hour thirty minutes to reach the base where the Forestry Department had build several lodgings which were quite comfortable I might say. I was actually looking forward to roughing it up by building my night stays out of sticks and leaves, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers.
I got cosy in my room, which was equipped with water heater, a nice bathroom and washroom, an aircond, a closet with mirrors, and clean sheets. I was like hey, I feel like i’m living like a King here, because days before my trip, I was amping myself up that I was going to be camping in the wilderness, having wild animals come up to my tent, and sniffing out food (probability of me being food was there too!). The whole chalet had three rooms, and living room which you will have the privilege of sharing it with other guests. There were a few chalets scattered around the base, which definitely gives that privacy and feeling that you are in the middle of the jungle (especially at night when walking back to your room).
It was magnificent. The air while the vehicle cruise down the dirt road was cool and refreshing. There weren’t much animal sounds that can be heard during the night, but I was enjoying how our Guide, Mike, was spotting for animals through his “hawk eyes”. It was quite hard to keep up with him, after a few minutes following his spotlight hit each tree trunk along the way, I got dizzy, so I sat back and tried my best to hear for animal sounds instead. I did encounter a few “bug related incidents”, but not as bad as one guest who got her lip stung by a wasp.
The first night’s highlight for me was when I saw the Flying Fox; the largest bat in the world! I was amazed by it because of its size. It has a wingspan of up to 1.5 meters, that’s huge people! I wasn’t sure how big was the one I saw, but it seemed quite big from where I was which was about 30 – 35 meters away. I also saw a few Malay, Island Palm, and Small Tooth Palm Civet. The most enthralling one for me would be the Malay Civet (also known as Malayan Civet). They’ve got black spots covering their body and black stripes around their neck and tail. It was a beautiful sight, I nearly mistook it to be the endangered Sundaland Clouded Leopard (one can only dream right?).
Sambar Deer grazing in the middle of night
I also saw a few exciting animals such as the Sambar Deer grazing the tall grasses, Dark Eared Frog, Black and Red Flying Squirrel, and Slow Loris. Towards the end of the Safari, we had a short walk further up to look at frogs. The frogs were mating (only reason why people will walk on a really muddy dirt road filled with carnivorous insects [okay, none when we were doing our walks]) on top of trees! I’ve never heard of such a thing, but apparently they mate on top of trees so when the rain comes, the frogspawn will slowly fall from leaf to leaf, reaching closer to the ground. So by the time it reaches the ground, the frogspawn is ready to hatch into tadpoles! Oh how beautiful Mother Nature is.
We woke up early the next day to try our luck at finding more wildlife. We were greeted by very enthralling sounds of birds singing, and Gibbons greeting each other from afar. The sun was rising slowly from a distance and bursting high in the sky in between the old dipterocarp forest. As we rode deeper into the forest, we saw an Orang Utan! It was basically going from tree to tree in search of food. It amazes me at how serene these animals look and how they jive with other animals living in their habitat, yet, being the most intelligent species on planet Earth, we snatch this away from them and banish them from their natural habitat, slowly endangering them into extinction. How reckless and cruel can we be? Very, I should say.
My favorite bird that we came across was Rhinoceros and Wreathed Hornbill. The Rhinoceros Hornbill had a very striking bill and casque, which was red and orange in color. It has white legs and white tail with a black band across its tails. Its whole body is predominantly black in color. The Wreathed Hornbill, however, got its name from the wrinkled band formed at the base of its bill, each hornbill are able to have more than one band in a year. Distinct way to identify male or female is through the pouch below its bill; yellow for male and blue for female. All hornbills are categorized as ‘threatened’ due to major habitat loss.
We came across a very old and unused logging road and drove through it. The forest was denser here compared to the road we were at before. Before we know it, we were greeted by thick vegetations from both sides of the vehicle. We had to keep ducking in order not to get hit by some of the plants which were quite heavy in thorns! One was lucky enough to attach itself to my backpack which I clung on to very strongly, to the point where it was already outside of the vehicle’s vicinity! I laughed when it happened, but in my heart, I was also thinking that maybe this was Mother Nature’s way of telling us to leave them be. My bag got torn up of course, and I was cursing inside after that. Apparently, a guest had it attached close to his eyelid once; he bled profusely. Thank goodness my bag couldn’t bleed!
We also came across loads of elephant poop within this less-traveled-road. I was getting my hopes up of meeting a herd of them whilst being in the thick dense forest, but a part of me was also afraid. What if the elephants went on a rampage? What if we couldn’t turn the vehicle on time? The road was already quite narrow, and a probability of being stomped by an elephant was 50-50 if we were to encounter some angry ones along the way. Thank goodness for us all, the elephants only left their poop behind without having so much said hello” to us. Once the vegetation grew too thick for the vehicle to go through, Mike, our guide, decided to have the vehicle turn back to base camp. I was quite stoked of the idea trekking into the jungle, but the rest of the guests weren’t as much. So having to respect everyone’s decision, we made a turn back.
On the way out, after being hit several times by overgrown wild ginger and other plants (forgive me, my knowledge on plants aren’t much), one of the guest had a very weird looking liquid (I’m being nice here) from the top of her head, all the way towards her back. We were laughing of course, and we were about to gag as well after closer inspection, it really looked like vomit (imagine vomiting after having too much to drink on an empty stomach), but it was also quite starchy when touched. It was foamy, yellow to brown in colour, and had some white remnants in it. It was quite hard not to laugh and gag at the same time. After she had herself cleaned up (thanks to her amazing friends), Mike told us it was frog eggs, thousands of ‘em! Everyone literally got a bit of a “gift” that morning stuck to them in unimaginable places.
Fancy for a wildlife adventure in Sabah Borneo? Check out the video below:
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