What’s it all about?

In my last entry I’d just begun exploring Malaysia, starting in Kota Kinabalu. This week I visit more amazing wildlife and, even have a close encounter with a fellow ginger haired mate! If you love nature, then it’s definitely another blog that you’ll be interested to read! I’ll also be sharing my experiences of working in a hotel and how to adapt to the soft lighting.

Sandakan: Getting there

A few days after exploring Kota Kinabalu we were off once again on our adventures. By this point, I now had my packing down to a tee. Everything had its own slot and position and I could almost pack it without looking! We’d managed to save ourselves a little bit of money as the accommodation in Kota Kinabalu offered free airport transfers. Fantastic!

***TOP TIP***

Always ask about free airport transfers as in many hotels they do offer this!

As our transfer to the airport took us no time at all, it meant once we were there we could sit and do some work. There was WIFI available so I was able to connect to this and prepare for some lessons. I thought I’d be able to get some work done on the flight too, but after take-off we were only in the air around 10 minutes before I had to shut down my laptop as we were beginning our descent. This flight was only around 50 minutes long so it really was over quickly. Not the best for fitting some work time in!

Sandakan: Teaching

Though I often say how important it is to avoid working on a travel day, with such a short amount of travel time, it left plenty of time for me to be able to work the evening that we arrived in Sandakan. So, once we had landed, unpacked and got food, I had a short chill out before starting my work for the evening. It all seemed to slot in perfectly. As there was no time difference here, it meant that I was able to work in the early evening then after teaching I would head out for a late dinner. This was often followed by a movie before bed. When teaching and travelling you find that you occasionally have to try and adapt hours as necessary. I found that I wasn’t getting as many bookings, so by working earlier than I was originally, around 6pm, I was getting far more bookings!

The hotel WIFI was excellent. There was no capped limit and as we were in a more ‘luxurious’ hotel than others around, we had a great room to teach from too. Though we had the luxury and the good internet, we didn’t have the price tag to match. Everything here was so cheap! However, I had invested in a local sim that I bought from the nearest shop and got the shop owner to set up. So, if for some reason I did need to teether, I had a backup. The internet that this backup provided on my phone was also great. By having a local sim it meant I also had access to my WeChat and emails throughout the day.

One thing we hadn’t anticipated staying in hotel was a practise fire alarm. Always remember to ask at the reception of your accommodation if they have any practise fire alarms planned. That way you can plan around the noise and mayhem that comes with it. It also means you spend a lot of time standing outside the hotel so plan for lots of standby time. Luckily, they carried this out in the morning and I hadn’t booked in any classes.

Though our hotel room was flooded with light during the day, with it getting dark at around 6pm, it meant that often whilst teaching it would soon turn black! This meant that I’d go from being able to be seen really clearly to just having the dim hotel lighting which only lit up part of my face. The difficulty with staying in hotels is that often you find many of the lights and lamps are mood lighting and very atmospheric but, perhaps not the best lighting for teaching! However, I always made sure that I was well prepared and would readjust the furniture in the room and have the best light near me. Failing that, I would set up the ironing board in the bathroom – that light always seems ridiculously bright!

Sandakan: Fish restaurants 

Just a short taxi ride away from Sandakan you will find an abundance of greenery with tall green trees and plants all around you. To the other side of you, blocking the view of the sea, are masses of wooden houses on stilts. These don’t make for the prettiest of sights but within some of these houses are hidden gems. We found a local fish restaurant here that was lovely! The food was so scrummy! And the view, oh the view alone is something worth going to one of these restaurants for! You’re surrounded by water and in the distance a green covered island. Even though there was no air con, with the shelter overhead and the soft sea breeze gently cooling your skin, you feel remarkably comfortable.

Sandakan: Orangutans

You can’t come here and not book a trip to see the orangutans, well at least not in my eyes anyway! I’d been so excited about this trip, even before booking it!

Again, we were up early and off on a coach which only took around 35 minutes to reach the orangutan sanctuary. After downing lots of water and packing our bags and belongings into a locker, we were ready to begin the walk around the sanctuary and hopefully see some orangutans!

As we’d arrived at around feeding time, we were able to hover on the walkway and observe them eating from a distance. I couldn’t believe how fluffy they looked! It made for such a good watch and you really saw their characters come out. One orangutan would take his food from the others and when the small monkeys turned up the orangutans were greeted with lots of teeth and noises. After eating, one small female then went off to begin making her nest from branches and leaves. This making of the nest was not as delicate as it might sound and in-fact she was throwing lots of leaves and branches around.

We decided to leave the crowds and carry on along the board walk. As we did, we saw one of the rangers ushering us along, we weren’t sure why and then it all became clear. From out of nowhere a huge orangutan came out from the trees above and stood at the side of the board walk. This board walk was no more than 3m wide and I suddenly felt very scared. I knew it was a wild animal and its behaviours could not be predicted. I also knew that I shouldn’t look at it directly in the eyes…yet I found myself entranced by its eyes! Its eyes were so black and the cheek pads, known as flanges, were so dark that I was being drawn in. Slowly but surely, we edged past him and he stared back into my eyes. Once past, the orangutan took a slow walk along the board walk, making his way towards the feeding platform. He’d stop every now and again and just stare back us. My heart was pounding out of my chest! It’s at this point that I’d wished I’d have bought the GoPro with me. What an amazing encounter! Though scared, I was filled with adrenaline and felt so lucky to have got so close to these amazing animals.

Sandakan: Sun Bears

Across the road from the orangutan sanctuary was a sun bear sanctuary. Again, we’d timed this just right too, as we’d entered at feeding time. We made our way to the platform and watched as they chewed on the sugar cane. It’s remarkable how something so small, so cute looking, could potentially cause so much damage! They were no larger than the size of a big badger! The potential damage they could inflict was very clear, many of the bears had battle wounds and scars.

Unlike in the orangutan sanctuary, these bears are below you and you observe them from a viewing platform, so there is no chance of a near encounter with them (thankfully)!

Sandakan: Rainforest Discovery Centre

There are maps and suggested routes here but you pretty much take whichever route you please. We found it very quiet and most of the people we saw there were professionals filming for TV documentaries or taking photographs.

You could easily miss an animal, insect or plant here so you really have to look closely. We were lucky enough to spot a crowned hawk eagle hanging onto its kill, which we think was a rat!

The heat here is intense and you do need to take lots of water to keep you fuelled as you walk, however the sounds that you hear around you are fantastic! You can hear all sorts of birds and it sounds like it’s constantly alive! There’s rustling from one side to the other of you but it’s hard to see what’s made the noise. There’s life everywhere, even as close as underfoot! I found myself so busy watching the floor to avoid squashing any bugs and often would end up jumping from side to side to try and avoid killing any creatures. I even avoided squashing a cockroach. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of these creatures, but this black cockroach was just awesome! Most of the bugs here were definitely more scared of us then we were of them but there were some that were overly friendly and took to tasting us. I was glad I’d bought my citronella bug spray and kept this topped up on the regular! You can try to run from these hungry critters, but there really is no escape!

Obviously in a place like this it’s not guaranteed what you will see and what you see from one time to the next is very likely to be different, but we were so lucky with our finds here. At one point I had a small red bird fly past me like a rocket! Then there was butterflies too(as some of you may know, these are my favourites), which were awesome! There were so many different coloured butterflies and a variety of sizes. One was so big it was like a dinner plate and it had this beautiful leopard print colouring to it. It was so big it’s like its wings were flapping in slow motion. I even came across the friendliest butterfly I’ve met to date. It did not want to leave us alone! Every time I walked, it would follow, and when I wanted to take a picture it was as if it knew and it would wait patiently. We actually had to stop ourselves from playing with the butterfly and keep moving on through the discovery centre.

What’s up next?

Next week, I carry on my journey in Malaysia as I make my way from Sandakan to Semporna and Mabul. Find out about my work, and the difficulties I faced trying to work, whilst staying here!

As always, if you have any questions, requests or would like to send me a message, you can contact me at-  travellingteacher@iqbar.net