Posted by yachtcamomile
On the 15th July we left Turtle Island (Siligan island), without seeing the turtles, to go to Sandakan and onto the Kinabatangan river, hopefully we’d see some wildlife there. We were now in convoy because we are in the Sula sea which is one of the areas in the world that has pirates. Sazli, the rally organiser accompanied us on Out of the Blue II with some local dignitaries and asked if we could all arrive at the same time with our sails up to impress the local people – so much for keeping a low profile.
Sandakan sits on the entrance to a large bay. The mosque towered over the surrounding buildings. There was also a big water village where all the houses are built on stilts, I say houses but they are little more than garden sheds. One decent cyclone or tsunami would wipe the whole village out, and frequently does.
We went ashore to the local yacht club and spotted this little chap doing his rounds of the ‘beach’ looking for food or animals smaller than him, he was about a metre long.
The next day we had a whole bunch of jobs to do and headed into the town. As usual everyone was happy and friendly and greeted us warmly but this is one of the rows of flats in town where they live, it looked fairly grim but the people don’t seem to complain. I suppose they don’t know any different.
This sweet young girl runs the local laundry, it felt strange asking her to do our washing but she seemed pleased to do it. I’m sure when the rally arrived in town all the prices went up but it was still reasonable at MR31 (about £5.50) for a huge bagful.
This man was working out on the balcony, the light was bad inside, making clothing that would probably end up in a western shop somewhere
In sharp contrast next door was a huge mall complete with air conditioning. As Hari Raya was coming up every where was decorated similar to our Christmas, the children seemed excited. We couldn’t find out the significance of this house with Hari Raya but everyone was taking photos of it.
The following evening was the rally dinner in the Sandakan yacht club, which is opposite to where the boats are. The bar looked very grand with all the extra tables to fit us all in.
The yacht club has a colonial look about it like most of these places it was like an oasis. The pool looked lovely but sadly we don’t seem to have the time to use these pools, too busy trying to write and post blogs!
The next morning after our briefing on the next stage of our journey, most of the rally got on a coach provided by the local council to go and visit the Sepilok Orang-Utan rehabilitation centre. Established in 1964 it rehabilitates orphaned or injured orang-utans to return to forest life. We arrived at feeding time and were lucky to see several young orang-utans swing out of the trees onto the feeding platform.
Otang-utans are beautiful creatures and their name means ‘man of the wild’, they are the only species of great ape found outside of Africa. The males can weigh up to 144kg although there weren’t any big males at Sepilok. Sadly their natural habitat is slowly but surely disappearing, it was once said that an orang-utan could swing from tree to tree from one side of Borneo to the other without touching the ground but not any more. With hunting and habitat destruction it’s estimated fewer than 15,000 specimens now exist in the wild, very sad.
I could watch them all day but we moved onto the Rainforest discovery centre that has a series of towers connected by walkways giving us a birds eye view overlooking the rainforest. We saw lots of macaque monkeys, hornbills and a slow loris, going slowly, but all too far away to get photos of them. Back at the entrance they had the beautiful plant discovery garden, it was wonderful to look around a garden for a change instead of hardware stores and boat shops.
During our stay, in between shopping, buying fuel, finding gas fixing the watermaker and all the other 101 jobs, we found time to walk up the 100 or so steps to Agnes Keith’s house on the hill above the town. Agnes was an American who came to Sandakan in the 1930s with her husband, the then conservator of the local forests. The house has been turned into a museum with some wonderful photos of how Sandakan used to look.
In the grounds was an English Tea house serving afternoon tea – it would have been rude not to stop!