Monkey Business : Kota Kinabalu
I thought for my first blog post I would share one of my favorite trips that Jared and I took here in Southeast Asia. Ideally for us, we like to leave the city behind and go somewhere that doesn’t require a long travel time. The location usually includes relaxation (usually a beach) so that Jared can unwind from the incredible hard amount he works, as well as something exciting for us to do– a new experience!
One long weekend we traveled to Kota Kinabalu on the island of Borneo in Malaysia. It had everything we were looking for- beautiful weather, gorgeous beach and an experience I will never forget.
The first couple of days we soaked up the sun, took a boat out to an island where I snorkeled and Jared scuba dived and we had lovely sunset dinners with our toes in the sand. There is a very large mountain located there, Mount Kinabalu, which is over 13,000 feet tall. We decided however that this wasn’t the trip to strap on backpacks and spend our time doing the trek, maybe next time.
The big highlight of the trip was the following. We went to an orangutan conservation and rehabilitation nature reserve. It was simply incredible. Orangutans are native to both Indonesia and Malaysia although now, they are critically endangered and are only found on two islands- Borneo (where we were staying) and Sumatra. Sadly, it is estimated that less than 30,000 still remain in existence.
The sanctuary we went to is almost 70 acres and is dedicated to the survival of orangutans in the wild. It mostly works with taking in orphans and the injured. The treat those that are injured and nurture them back to health and the babies are taught to search for food, climb trees and the other necessary forest survival skills. The program is designed to eventually integrate all of them back into the wild once they are stable and ready to do so.
The reserve allows a certain amount of people in per day. Guides walk you through the forest to feeding platforms where they feed the orangutans twice a day. The people are kept at a distance, but still have the amazing opportunity to observe. Otherwise, if they weren’t brought close specifically, they would be incredibly difficult to spot! You hear branches and see limbs of trees swinging, but other than that..they are chameleons in the wild landscape. Orangutans are known to be incredibly intelligent and are referred to as “man of the forest”. This intelligence is why the integration program has been so successful at allowing the orangutans to go back into their natural environment and survive on their own.
While watching them what we really noted was how similar they were to us! Their facial expressions, movements and even interactions with one another were incredibly human. The adolescents would pick on each other by stealing a piece of fruit away and then running, egging the other on to come and chase them. They would wrestle a playfully and were simply very sweet. We felt similarly when we got the opportunity to see a new orphan who was just brought in.
A baby of only four months was just brought to the reserve. Just as her older counterparts, she acted just like a child! She swung from the tree branch upside down, was very silly, and even seemed to make some cooing noises to us and she saw we were gleefully smiling at her every move. These orangutans are so lovable, the fight for their survival is just awful. Having the opportunity to see them in person, observe how they act and know that this conservation will hopefully allow them to be successful in going back out into the wild to live, was an enormously gratifying activity that we will never forget.
To see more of my orangutan pictures, please go to the gallery.