Despite being a relatively easy place to travel, Borneo is still very wild. The jungle is estimated to be over 130 million years old. There are a staggering amount of flora & fauna: Apes, monkeys, elephants, leopards, civets, bats, hornbills, kingfishers, lizards, not to mention a wild array of plant life….. you get the idea, lots of stuff lives here. Unfortunately the rain forests of Borneo are disappearing, largely due to palm oil plantations. Malaysia is the worlds largest producer of palm oil which is used for cooking & as biofuel. The problem with palm oil plantations is that they eradicate the habitat that the Orangutans & other species need to survive. In addition, palm oil plantations often are on the coastal lands where mangrove swamps used to be. Mangroves prevent river runoff in the form of silt & mud from running into the ocean, they are a natural filter & when silt enters the ocean it smothers and kills the coral reefs as well as the marine life dependent on the reefs for food & shelter. The palm oil business does provide hundreds of thousands of jobs, but the ecological damage is undeniable. In addition to wreaking havoc on the environment, the palm oil business, and big business it is, is also responsible for decimating local tribal populations. This is a monumental problem with no easy or clear answers. Hopefully, Malaysia will able to strike a balance between the economic benefit of palm oil production & protecting the amazing rainforests of Borneo.
I have spent the last week traveling in eastern Sabah in northern Borneo. First I visited the little hamlet of Sepilok, which is home to both Orangutan & proboscis monkey sanctuaries. I then made my way to Sungai Kinabatangan, Sabah’s longest river. The palm oil plantations have gobbled up so much of the interior rainforest which as a result have pushed a variety of jungle creatures to the rivers edge. Here you can see wild orangutans, monkeys, hornbills, monitor lizards, cranes & crocodiles.
I saw some wild orangutans, but they were to far up in the trees for a good photo, but a wild ape is thing of beauty.
Yesterday we took a jungle walk. In the mud. Lots & lots of mud.
next stop Sipadan, for more diving