Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Waterfall To Call My Own

I took advantage of the long weekend to fulfill an innate and inborn affection of mine which is to discover an undiscovered waterfall and name the natural wonder after my name. Once in a while, the need to be self absorb is inevitable. Waterfalls are my kind of obsessions/fixation - second only to satellites.
As I peered into the map and calculated the distance, I realized that it would take me at least 6 hours to arrive at my purported destination.Furthermore, the map I was using was possibly 7 years old. All that did not matter to me because I was glad to be outdoors after 2 weeks of being bombarded by Blackberry emails. Imagine replying emails through the wretched device while watching the movie "Avatar" in a cinema.
No Blackberry emails here

Dawn is the ultimate best time to start any journey. In front of me laid a long beautiful stretch of mountain river with rocks on both banks. The awesome part about these rocks is that if you're agile and your hand eye coordination is excellent, you can actually move swiftly by hopping and stepping on the rocks as you go along. Of course, you must have shoes that has a grip like an eagle's talons in order not to slip.
Refreshing dip

On the move at dawn

For the guys at Action Asia magazine

Fished a little to mix it up

The sun was already high in the sky and so was I. The great part about river trekking is, whenever the sun becomes unbearable, a jump into the cold river water would just do the trick.

Salvatore Dali was here

Long walk ahead

Deep Pool

Thank God I'm a good swimmer because at two points, I had to swim across to the other bank as there were no path further ahead. Trying to swim against the river current with a heavy backpack actually took me 40 exhausting minutes.
Fast forward to the arrival of the waterfall after 6 gruelling hours.
Here are the pictures and videos.
Discovery of Aun Falls

Finally made it

Scrambling to the top

Tiny speck at the top of the waterfall


Check me out at the top

On the way back, I stumbled upon a double whirlpool. Very interesting.
Double Whirlpool Video

My temporary campsite. I did not like the canopy hovering above me

I camped overnight and the skies open up heavily by 9pm. My campsite was on a sandy island surrounded by boulders. Fears of a flash flood made me constantly check on a measuring pole but I've experienced camping by the river and heavy rain before so I wasn't too worried. Because of that, I slept like a baby until 430am when I was awakened by the luminosity of the pale moonlight. I love a pale moonlight.
My second camping site. Taken at 5am with the pale moonlight

My camp's backyard

Time to head out. One last dramatic David Caruso in CSI Miami(without the shades) glance

First ray of light bathing the rocks

Goodbye Tranquilodge

What an adventure!!!

Friday, May 14, 2010

No Wildlife Falls

I only reconnect my ASTRO when the satellite TV company is showing new seasons of Man Vs Wild. That was what I did last week because Mr Bear Grylls has a new season coming soon as promoted by The Discovery Channel. When I watch an episode of Man Vs Wild, I am sure to be outdoors during the weekend. This bloke just knows how to stir the core of my heart.

After a quick and detailed research on Google Earth, I set off to find an elusive waterfall in the wilderness. Nothing thrills me more than to discover a waterfall that is only known to the local Orang Aslis.
Mini waterfall

Loving the ruggedness

This time, I brought along a pair of binoculars . Spurred on by my wildlife abundant trips to Danum and Sukau, there were hopes of me catching a glimpse of wildlife or two in this Peninsula Malaysia secondary forest. It was a sunny and perfect day. No indication of rain nor storm approaching so in within 2 hours, I had passed through a couple of mini waterfalls.
Another mini waterfall

Nothing beats river trekking, the gush of rushing water through brooks, the clickety clack sounds of rocks when stepped on and the occasional gibbon calls.
Far more better than looking for a car park in Sunway Pyramid on a weekend no?
Cruising for a bruising

Finally, she revealed herself from a distance away - the waterfall that was featured blurrily on my Google Earth screen.
Arrived at the waterfall

To add to my satisfaction was a deep pool that was perfect for wading and swimming. In my opinion, a waterfall is not a waterfall if there's no pool to swim in.
No Wildlife Falls video

I cooked my lunch there and climbed up the waterfall to reach another mini waterfall.
I suspect a mega waterfall after this one

Seeing that it was quite tough to clamber over the slippery rocks, turning back and heading home became a preferred choice. Furthermore, my Timex watch indicated that noon was looming. There is most definately another waterfall beyond and from Google Earth, it is a mega one. Plans are underway to reach the mega waterfall with Malaysia's Ranking No.1 Waterfall Expert, Mr Lim Siang Hui [Check out his website] . Not to mention the Godfather Of Waterfalls, Mr Jan Stuivenberg [Check out his website], Malaysia's Version Of Ray Mears, Mr Keong Lye Choon [Check out his website] and the Godmother of Waterfalls [Check out her website]

For now, I will name this waterfall, the No Wildlife Falls for the obvious title

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

After Sukau


Believe or not, Langkawi is not the only place to have the mystical Seven Wells. A small town in Sabah by the name of Kunak has a similiar one. I went there very early in the morning because all the hotels in Kunak and Semporna were full due to the Regatta Lepa Lepa festival. Let me tell you this, sleeping in a Perodua Viva was not pleasant. I was sweaty and needed a bath so my destination to Kunak's Seven Wells in the early morning was very timely.
Calm and serene

The natural wells are located inside a palm oil plantation and there are no signboards leading to the place. You just have to ask whoever that's awake at that time.

The pools were positioned on a slight incline of a hill so when you get in one of the pools, you pretty much have your own infinity pool that overlooks a part jungle part plantation scenery.
I wished that my camera's timer had a 30 second option as opposed to 10 second otherwise you wont see the ripples.

After the refreshing dip, I went to the town of Tawau for some seafood breakfast. Only in Tawau you eat seafood for breakfast. My intention was not just consuming seafood for breakfast but also to enquire about Teck Guan Falls. Teck Guan Berhad is a cocoa plantation conglomerate and apparently, a 15 metre waterfall is located inside their cocoa plantation. When I arrived at their office, I was told I had to pay a sum of RM100 to enter their property because it was part of a tour to visit their cocoa museum and cocoa factory. Who in god's name wants to see a cocoa museum??
Despite my pleas to just view the waterfall, they ignored my request. Dissatisfied and irritated, i drove to their cocoa plantation and negotiated with the guard who manned the huge fortress like wooden gate.I tricked the guard into allowing me in by telling him that the tour manager couldn't join me as she was in Sunday church that time and had asked me to go on my own. I used God's name for my selfish benefits all for a waterfall.

Once in, I drove through the maze of cocoa plantation to reach Teck guan falls. Thankfully, there were signs leading to the waterfall.

Like all sabah waterfalls, Teck Guan Falls was just simply astounding. With foliage on both sides of the waterfall opening gap and suspended high in the air, Teck Guan Falls has just written herself in my top ten waterfall list.
Teck Guan Falls

Video of Teck Guan Falls

Because it was in a private property, there were no less than 5 people there that day and they all were the guard's marauding youth friends.
Always with my Moleskine

Wild Orang Utan encounters, wildlife in Sukau, Seven Wells infinity pool, seafood breakfast, swimming in Teck Guan falls - Just priceless.


I was in Sukau way before Sukau became a global tourist hit.
Circa 2002

April 2010

My accomodation was in Greeview Resort along the mighty Kinabatangan River.This resort was by far the cheapest among the other resorts. Their room was RM45 a day and the river cruise was Rm35.00. The rest of the resorts wanted to emulate Mt Kinabalu type charges which was the equivalent of Kryptonite to Superman. The river cruise started right after I checked in and within 8 minutes of the cruise, somebody spotted a crocodile. Everybody went "Where, where" , "Wo, wo[German]" "Ou, ou[French]", "Dove dove[Italian]""Mano gak nate tu [Kelantanese]"

There it was, with it's head on the same level of the water but when we came close, it submerged. We gasped in total amazement. We continued our river cruise and stopped by to see macaques or in Malay language, beruk.

Back in metropolitan Subang Jaya where I live, I can see macaques from my window and also in Putra Heights 5 minutes away. Macaques to us Malaysians are somewhat a pest. They steal your Raybans, snatch your bag, bite a toddler's leg and ransack your room. So, to be sitting in a boat for half an hour watching macaques was utterly unbearable to me. I understand that the US and European continent do not have the monkey/simian species but to stop at 4 different macaque locations was like being forced to watch Basic Instint 2 or Dean Cain hosting Ripley's Believe It Or Not.

Bro, I was bored looking at you too

Macaques eating grass

Macaques at third stop...let's go!!!

However, it's different with the endemic Proboscis monkeys Unlike macaques, Proboscis monkeys are way much cooler than their theiving cousins in terms of looks and the way they hang out.
Awesome view of Proboscis monkeys


Ex gymnast proboscis monkey

I had a Sir David Attenborough moment when one of my videos caught this proboscis monkey leaping from one branch to another

Hornbills of different species were flying constantly too. Watching them glide through the air was just breathtaking.
Hornbill perched on treetop

On the way back, we stopped by the river bank because we saw another boat with the engine turned off. They have just spotted wild orang utans in the canopy. Everyone was excited when they saw movement behind the canopy but I was totally composed because I had already spotted 2 wild orang utans in Danum Valley the day before. Yes, wildlife snobbery and superciliousness do exist.

I saw eagles, snakes and many more
Reticulated python which I tried to dislodge from the tree but was stopped by the guide

Yellow banded krait snake.No dislodging attempts

Orang utan

White belly eagle

After the boat ride, I checked out and headed to the Gomantong Caves 10km away for my purported biblical shaft picture.
As I was driving in, I saw :

What are you blokes looking at?

and they were looking at
Baby and mother orang utan

That meant that I HAD SPOTTED WILD ORANG UTANS IN 3 DIFFERENT LOCATIONS!! It was absolutely phenomenal but phenomenal as it may be, I had no one to share that moment with. Ladies, my number is 0132044720.

The most memorable one from Sukau would be :
Sukau sunset

Sukau sunset taken from a speeding boat.Nerves of steel

Friday, May 7, 2010

Danum Valley, Sabah


If you've travelled to Sabah before and visited the typical itinerary of Mt Kinabalu, Poring Hot Spring, Sabah Marine Parks, Monsopiad Cultural Village and Pulau Sipadan, this time you may want to return back to the Land Below The Wind to explore the unique and premier wildlife centre of Sabah - Danum Valley.

Danum Valley is located in a vast lowland forest with over 400 square foot km of untouched natural rainforest. To get there, the nearest airport would be in the town of Lahad Datu(Mas Wings). One could also fly to Tawau and take a 2 hour drive from there.

To gain access to the Danum Valley Field Centre (DVFC), you must first register with the Yayasan Sabah Foundation office in Lahad Datu. The Yayasan Sabah Foundation manages the conservation and environmental segment of Danum Valley. From there, you can either choose to use the organization's van transport (RM30 each way and availableonly on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday) or self drive to Danum Valley in which I chose the latter. A 4 Wheel Drive (4WD) vehicle is recommended as 90% of the journey is via 2 hour bumpy gravel road.

Once you've entered the junction road into Danum Valley, you begin to realize that you've driven yourself deeper and deeper into the wilderness. Electrical poles, zinc roof houses, organized farming and any signs of civilization made way for colossal trees, thick foliage, wild raging rivers and the vocal displays of the gibbons kilometre by kilometre. The entire drive inwards looked as though I crossed into a Jurassic period and time stood still without a single soul in sight. However, adequate signboards are positioned to guide you to your destination.

It was already twilight when I arrived at DVFC. The lone receptionist was waiting for me and after a brief information on the rooms, guides and restaurant, I finally checked into a suprisingly clean male dormitory. Dinner will be prepared at the restaurant which was located 15 minutes away from the dormitory. I have been driving for the past 4 hours and decided to walk. It is advisable to bring a powerful torchlight to Danum Valley because you may spot wild animals along the way. The Danum Valley forest are known to give refuge to some of the richest concentrations of animals in Borneo.

After 5 minutes of walking, I heard what sounded like the breathing of a living being nearby. With a rush of adrenalin through my body, I shone my torchlight at the direction and lo and behold, a herd of sambar deers were foraging for food. Like the idiom "A deer caught in the headlights", the herd just stared at the light and did not move a muscle. Only after I attempted to get near, did the herd walk away and back into the forest. With that first encounter with a wild animal, I couldn't wait until the next morning.

After breakfast, I opted for a 2 hour hike to the Tembeling Waterfall with hopes of another wild encounter like the previous night. In Danum Valley, it is compulsory to hire a guide (Rm20 an hour) when going on jungle hikes because many visitors have gotten lost despite the clear and wide trails. As an experienced outdoors person, I opted not use a guide and relied on a GPS. For the inexperienced, it is highly recommended to hire a guide because again, you're in Danum Valley and not Bukit Tabur, Selangor.

Along the trail, there is a tree top platform which measures about 30 metres in height with ladders firmly attached to enable visitors to reach the canopy. It takes about a good 5 minutes to climb yourself way to the top and that effort will be greatly rewarded by a 360 degree view of the surrounding pristine canopy top.

I stood there in awe of nature and a sense of appreciation that our country, Malaysia have such abundance in natural beauty. So, throw the London bound ticket away and embark on more local trips. I was absorbing the entire scenery when suddenly I heard the ruffles of leaves on a nearby tree. I peered closely for about 15 seconds and [sharp intake of breath], I hit the motherload of Sabah wildlife. Two wild orang utans were perched on a nearby tree , snapping of branches full of leaves to begin their nest building activity. Apparently, orang utans sleep on tree tops and only spend 5% of their time on the forest floor.

I stood there with my eyes fixated on the wild duo. The sun shone bright above revealing the distinctive reddish brown shaggy hair covering their entire body. I must say that watching a wild animal in their natural habitat at close range is invigorating. I spent the next 3 hours watching the duo construct their sleeping nest moving from branch to branch in a slow but agile manner. It was indeed a wonderful feeling that I decided to forgo my waterfall



Later that night, I went on a night drive cruise with my rented vehicle. Visitors can organize a night drive with the guides for RM120. The night drive is an anticipated activity for most visitors who come to Danum Valley because this is the time when all nocturnal creatures come out to hunt.

Endangered animals like the clouded leopard (extremely rare), leopard cat, civet cats, owls, sun bears, Borneon pygmy elephants, Borneon Yellow barking deers, porcupine and more would hopefully be crisscrossing the 10km road leading to the entrance of DVFC.

I set the car headlights to beam mode and slowly started the drive with 3 other excited foreigners I made friends with. In within 15 minutes, a yellow barking deer burst through the bushes a few metres away from the car, ran across the road and dissapeared to the other side. The sight of our first nocturnal wildlife kept everybody in an excited and energized mood. Then out of the corner, someone spotted a pair of eyes shining by the road. I shone my
torchlight towards the pair of eyes and with the light, we were able to see the black spotted markings of a leopard cat. This nocturnal creature stood still for a good 10 seconds and cooly walked back into the jungle. That 10 second glimpse of a wild leopard cat got all of us into a heightened frenzied rush. On that 2hour night drive, we saw another leopard cat, a marbled cat, a porcupine, a flying lemur(cogulo) and a borneon ground cuckoo.

The next morning, I drove out by myself to the observatory tower located 7km from DVFC to catch the sunrise. It was dawn and together with the whopping piercing calls of the gibbons, it was truly a sight to behold as I set my eyes on a neatly arranged spread of mist forming evenly in the valley ahead. Only the tallest trees stand proud above the white thick fog. As soon as the first ray of light breaks through the clouds, the entire valley was doused with orange lighted sunbeams. Add to that magnificent visual wonder was a pair of hornbills flying above it. To be honest, at that moment, I was feeling very emotional because this could probably be the most beautiful view I've ever seen in my life.