Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Monkeys galore

Another early start this morning, as we’re off to Bako national park and need to fit in with the tides. The jetty the boats go from has a sign warning of crocodiles, but we don’t see any. Our boat is like the long-tail boats in Thailand but not so long. We’re grateful for the shade of the canopy and when we reach full speed outside the mouth of the river the breeze and spray are lovely and cool. We arrive at a beach as the water isn’t high enough to reach the jetty, and we have to remove our shoes and wade ashore.

The first thing we see as we approach the park office is wild boars – a mother and baby. They are grazing contentedly on the grass outside, although the baby has a deformed foot. With a brief stop to photograph them, dry our feet and put on insect repellent, Mas leads us off down the boardwalk. There’s accommodation here, both for independent travellers and groups, plus an education centre. At the camp site we find long-tailed macaques but we don’t get as close to them as we did at Batu Caves. Mas points out different types of trees, stingless bees, a small monitor lizard and blue crabs (which have only one claw), and Simon spots a (venomous) whip snake. Once we pass the place where the boat normally lands, the boards give way to jungle trails and we have to negotiate rocks and roots; it’s pretty hard going in some places.
At the end of the trail is a picturesque beach where some boats are moored – these will go to see a sea-stack as an option for those who don’t want to walk back, but after a brief paddle and a look at the mud skippers and hermit crabs we opt to walk back. We catch up with another group that has stopped to watch some silver leaf monkeys, including a mother and baby, but they are high in the trees and we only catch a brief glimpse. The arrival of a large and extremely noisy group of visitors may have scared them off.

We go to the park restaurant for lunch and the set off on another walk with the specific aim of seeing Proboscis Monkeys which are often found by the beach at the end of the trail. Mas can hear them, but we can’t see any. Our boat back is due to leave at 3, so we begin to make our way back. Back at the accommodation blocks we hear a flying lemur has been spotted by another group so we follow them. It’s pressed close against a tree trunk at around head height, but so well camouflaged that at first glance it just looks like a bump in the bark.
Mas is disappointed that he hasn’t been able to show us Proboscis monkeys and says he wants to delay our departure so we can find them. They’ve been sighted along our morning walk so we begin to retrace our steps. As we reach the landing stage there’s a commotion – a family of silver leaf monkeys is approaching along the wooden bridge above the mangrove swamp. There are several of them, all sporting grey mohawks apart from the baby which is bright orange. The pass quite close for us before disappearing along the beach.

We continue in search of the Proboscis monkeys and finally Mas spots them in the trees almost above our head. We can’t see them at first but once our eyes are attuned to looking through the leaves we realise there is a whole troop. We get a great view of the dominant male with his huge, red, pendulous nose. Mas is clearly delighted that he has managed to give us sightings of all the animals the park is renowned for, and the tide now being sufficiently high, we return to the jetty to await our boat.
On the way back, a bonus – the skipper spots some Irawaddy dolphins. We stop for a while to watch them and then return to the departure point and back to the hotel. We take the lift straight up to the top floor and order cold drinks before we shower and get ready for dinner. Tonight we are eating at Zinc, reputedly the 2nd best restaurant in Kuching (the first specialises in seafood). We enjoy European dishes and good wine for around the same price as we would pay at home, albeit expensive by Kuching standards.

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