Location: Somewhere in Singapore, Singapore
This is it, the last day, and looking at my bank account, it hasn't come a day too soon ;)
We fly home today and we're really looking forward to seeing everyone.
Just one blog update and no more photo's.
Cheers & miss you all, love
Dave & Jo
Some Cool Links
To download the full range of bananacamel productions
To download a South East Asia travel budget planner
One of the funniest blogs ever, and 2 lovely people
Vik From Occasionally-Bob's Sister runs this site, take a look, it's great
Greatest dive site in the world
Location: Singapore, Singapore
This is the final blog entry for this part of our trip, tomorrow we fly home and from there we have a few weeks before we embark on the second leg.
Since leaving Malaysia weve done a few things, we had a weekend in Singapore to see The Cure, they were awesome, played a set that was over 3 hours long, cant complain about what they played or the length of the show.
Then we high tailed it back to Thailand to see if we could get another slug of wind, and get up on the kite board. I have to say that its not as easy as it seems, and when the wind started to blow at over 20 knots, my kite was just too powerful to use. But on the plus side I saw definite improvement, I just need some nice stable wind for another week and Ill be there.
We then managed to have a bit of nightmare with flights. On getting confirmation for our new flight date, we asked what our baggage allowance would be, they said 30kg each and with the Kitesurf wed easily use all of that. However on looking at the Qatar website it states that economy ticket holders only get 20kg, Jo called the airline and the conversation went something like this
Jo: Were travelling economy, Singapore to London and would like to confirm our baggage allowance
Qatar: It states the allowance on your ticket
Jo: I dont have the ticket I only have a print out, can you check your system.
Qatar: The standard amount is 20kg per person
Jo: How much is excess baggage?
Qatar: £25 per kilo
Jo So a kite surfing bag, weighing approx 30kg, will be £600 in excess baggage charges
Jo: Do you do any sport kit packages, where we can purchase weight up front?
This conversation is relayed back to me as Jo informs me that there is no baggage information on the print out we received from Qatar, filled with an impending panic because we no longer had the actual paper ticket and were due to fly in 3 days, I called Qatar and the conversation went like this:
David: Were travelling back to London on the 13th and we no longer have our paper tickets, is this a problem?
Qatar: You are on a paper ticket; you must present the coupon in order to get on the flight
David: We no longer have the tickets as we believed from our conversation last week that they were no longer valid
Qatar: If you no longer have the ticket the only way to get on the flight on Monday is to buy a new ticket, one way to London is £784 per person, would you like to buy a new ticket?
David: No, Id like the tickets to be re-issued
Qatar: You can have them re-issued but all tickets must come from London via Dubai and then through our re-issuing office in Bombay, this will take at least two working days. They wont be here in time for your flight on Monday morning. I can put you on a waiting list for a flight on the 26th August.
I have to say that at this point I was just thinking of myself, wondering if Jo would let us stay in Thailand so I could grab another week in the wind. It was a slim hope and upon relaying the news my hopes were quickly dashed, when Jo stated that on no account would we be staying in Phuket. Ho Hum. In all fairness it was a bit of an ask, there is very little to do on Nai Yang beach if youre not a wind junkie, and the beach is full of nasty biting sand flies, far more itchy than any mossie bites, so after a week reading by the pool, Jo wanted to do something else, and I dont blame her.
We got back to Singapore last Saturday (11th Aug) and raced to get the Qatar office before it closed at lunchtime, and just missed it. On the 13th when we should have been in the air we went to see them, we had been moved from a waiting list on the 26th to the 17th, hopefully just an extra 4 days in Singapore. There are plenty of worse places to be stuck for a few days, problem has been finding cheap accommodation, its all booked well in advance. And to stopping spending, we have found another shopping mecca.
Once again Qatar confirmed our 20kg weight limit, and not wanting to spend £600 just getting this stuff home, we took a trip to a local post office and posted back 30kg via slow boat, much cheaper.
That evening we received a call from Qatar confirming our ticket re-issue and confirming the flight on the 17th, yippee. We went to collect the tickets the following day and found that our baggage allowance was in fact 30kg, draining. Although taking another look at our stuff, we may still hit the 60kg limit, oops.
And what have we done with our extra days in Singapore? Shopped, weve cruised the endless shopping malls and shopped. Terrible, we took a break from shopping yesterday and visited Chinatown, awesome fresh noodles, and then off to Raffles in the evening to sample an original Singapore Sling, at £7 a pop we just had the one round.
And this is it the final day of our trip, its been amazing, but were really looking forward to seeing all our friends and family (And squeezing in a bit more kitesurfing). If you have a chance to take some time out and explore, do it, youll never regret it.
Location: Turtle Island, Malaysia
Movies - None
Photos - Malaysia - Saving The Turtle
Were on the home straight, there are very few things left on our itinerary, Turtles laying eggs is one of them. So were here on Turtle Island, having just witnessed our Turtle doing the business.
Turtle Island is a conservation area that encompasses three islands that have a near constant stream of Green and Hawksbill Turtles laying eggs on. In order to improve the survival rate of the young getting to the sea, the eggs are removed from where the mother leaves them and are transported to a hatchery, which protects them from predators. When the Turtles hatch they are transferred to the beach, where they run for the safety of the sea. Simple, and its what we came here to see.
Unfortunately for us it started to rain at 7pm and it hasnt let up for the past five hours, rain usually puts the Turtles off laying, but luckily one female did make the journey up the beach for us to see her laying. It was sort of cool and sort of weird, a bit intrusive for the poor Turtle, but apparently they dont mind. How they know this, Im not sure.
The eggs were then collected and we watch as they are placed in the hatchery. Finally we watch the babies being released. It was a great experience to see them, especially after all the Turtles we saw on Sipadan.
Weve talked to some people about this place and read some blogs about it, and the overall impression we had was, it was good, doing highly commendable work in improving the chance of survival of Green and Hawksbill Turtles, but overall it gets a big fat Could do better
We thought it was better than that, groups sizes could have easily have been shrunk down, but the guide rotated everyone so we all got to look. Our major gripe would have been around the encouragement of the guide to touch the baby Turtles as they make their way down the beach to the sea. Its just unnecessary. Overall it was expensive and the food and rooms are a bit shabby, but its a unique experience, and one I wouldnt have missed.
So there we have it, not the most interesting of stories, but we managed to get a couple photos of the different stages, so if youve ever wanted to see a Turtle dropping eggs, you can now.
Location: Sipadan, Malaysia
The Return To Sipadan
Movies - None
Photos - Malaysia - D&J Go Underwater, Malaysia - Underwater Again, Malaysia - Final Underwater
Its a strange thing to experience something so good, that it becomes necessary to repeat the whole thing all over again. That is what happened to us with diving at Sipadan.
We had Danum Valley booked before we started diving the first time we went there & wed been told that we couldnt extend our stay because at least the following nights accommodation was full, so we had to leave.
But as soon as we hit dry land, we went straight to the office and booked another 3 nights at their earliest availability. Luckily it gave us easily enough time to wander around Danum Valley for a couple of days and then get straight back to diving, and as luck would have it, Alan & Janine a couple wed met twice as we stumbled through the Philippines would also be there, perfect.
The diving this time was a far more relaxed affair, we knew what we were getting so the whole experience was better. The House Reef (which you can dive as often as you like for free) actually delivered some of the best dives this time, as we saw Octopus, Peacock Mantis Shrimp, Giant Moray Eel, Pygmy Seahorse and the most active Hawksbill Turtle Ive seen, which launched itself from coral to coral having a good munch.
Sipadan however produced some awesome diving again. The visibility wasnt as good as a few days before, but it didnt diminish from the experience at all. As you can see from the pictures, the day I hired a camera we saw a Manta Ray, with a wing span of at least 5 meters, it was just enormous. I was slowly ascending and had reached about 20 meters when I looked behind me to check Jo was okay, what I saw was three lunatic divers gesticulating madly and pointing down. All I could see at 20 meters were the white markings on the Manta Rays back. Slightly confused as to what I was seeing, I dropped a few meters to get a better look, as I descended it took a while for my eyes to take in the size of the creature below me, at 30 meters I stopped descending and took a couple of snaps, it was another 5 10 meters below me, and Id have never got closer, but what an experience, the best thing underwater Ive seen so far.
On the final day we decided to join the lunatic dive boat that was leaving at 5.30am, in search of a school of Humphead Parrotfish. When we failed to spot them in the shallow water at the beginning of the dive I thought wed missed them, but the dive was good anyway, its eerie at that time in the morning, the light is flat and the ocean is darker, almost purple. At the end of the dive we were just hanging around looking at stuff, when a solitary Humphead appeared and swam past, it was over a meter long, and about 50cm tall, so a pretty big fish, then out popped another and another. All a sudden there were loads of them, all huge, probably 200 in total and all swimming past us like they were in a military procession, no more than three abreast. I swam along the line to see where they were coming from, and eventually I saw a huge ball of fish, and out of the bottom of the ball was a steady stream of fish, either in pairs or groups of three. Each one was waiting their turn to leave in an incredibly orderly fashion, it was remarkable to see.
No pics this time, could only afford to hire the camera once, best to let others have a go. We have managed to source an underwater housing for our camera, we collect it when we get to Singapore, too late for this trip, but weve well and truly got the diving bug now.
Location: Danum Valley, Malaysia
The Hunt For Monkeys
Movies - None at the moment
Photos - Malaysia - Danum Valley Pt1 & Malaysia - Danum Valley Pt2
This was a real treat for us, many famous politicians and celebrities have been to Danum Valley to see the wildlife and with only one, rather posh place to stay, the price tag puts off many that travel around Borneo. At £400 per night, Im not kidding when I said it was a treat, but with a 50% discount as their walk in rate, and with all activities and food included, the price tag didnt feel too extortionate. (We only stayed 1 night but that gave us two full days in the valley).
The valley is 54 miles away from the largest town, and with a dirt road leading all the way, it takes two and a half hours to get there. This is where you travel through different stages of forest until you eventually arrive into primary rainforest, and this is where Danum Valley is located.
I have to say I wasnt expecting too much, weve been on the hunt for wildlife pretty much everywhere weve been and have had minimal success in finding any. A split second glimpse of a Gibbon swinging through the jungle canopy in Cambodia was probably the highlight of my wildlife spotting career. Everything else weve seen has been rather conveniently captured and but in a cage. Of course, we dont agree with anything being caught and caged for our entertainment and weve generally limited our activities to sanctuaries and wildlife reserves, but occasionally we end up somewhere that doesnt meet our lofty standards, and then we do what any self respecting Englishman would do, look slightly superior and refuse to partake in any activities, only taking photos to remind yourself how awful those places are, all without making a scene
But I digress, back to Danum Valley. There was little to see on the journey there, we stopped to look at some fresh Elephant dung, which proved that there are wild Elephants in the rainforest, and we saw some birds, hornbills by all accounts. I have little interest in birds, they are always so far away and too quick to get a good look at them, and Im too impatient to sit and wait, I need plenty of big slow moving wildlife, thatll pose nicely for a picture.
We arrived at the lodge at 9am and the humidity and heat left me lethargic and wet with perspiration, we dumped our stuff in our lovely large chalet which had gorgeous views across the river, and got ready to go monkey spotting. Now one thing that had me slightly worried was talk of leeches. Ive never thought of myself as a squeamish person, but the idea of a parasite imbedding its head into my skin and sucking out my blood, seemed like a bad thing to me. But we were told that you only got sucked if you went into the jungle, off the tracks. Wed been told about leeches on other jungle treks & survived without any contact, so I figured the chance of actually seeing a leech was slight. But just to be safe we wore long trousers and tucked them into our socks (I would learn later that its also a good idea to tuck your t-shirt into your trousers as well)
Wed also been told that there were wild Orangutans in the area, as well as Red Leaf Monkeys & Gibbons, so we set out in search of them. Within 5 minutes of walking we had our first sighting, way up in the canopy we could see two Orangutans eating leaves. The sun was directly behind them so we could only see their silhouette, not the best conditions for wildlife photography. We watched them for about a quarter of an hour as they ate and then as they swung through trees in search of more young shoots to munch on. This is pretty good going, wed had more success in spotting wildlife in the first 20 minutes than wed had in the past 10 months. We went on to see many other animals over the rest of the day, and we saw the Orangutans again this time building a nest. That night we went on a night drive, to try and spot some nocturnal critters. We saw fleeting glimpses of a few animals as they fled from the truck we were in, but the best one we saw was a Giant Flying Red Squirrel, as is soared from tree to tree.
The following day we got up at 6am ready for a dawn walk in search of Gibbons, Ive already done some time hunting for these guys, so I wasnt holding much hope of seeing any, anyway wed already seen Orangutans so Id figured wed spent all our luck the day before.
Luckily I was wrong, we heard them from the road, and throwing leech caution to the wind, we ventured into the rainforest. We ran after them for about 40 mins, and had loads of sightings, watching mother and baby swinging playfully in the trees, it was really cool. For me it was the highlight of the trip. We then managed to find a troupe of Red Leaf Monkeys, some of which were unexplainably white.
When we emerged out of the jungle onto the road we did a precautionary leech check, and lifting up my t-shirt I saw a 4 inch long leech, attached to the centre of my belly, it looked like an alien, one end attached, the other wiggling around looking for something to catch hold of. Im afraid I turned into a little girl, as I screamed get it off me, get it off me Jo did a sterling job, and I was soon leech free. I have to admit I was torn between wanting to film it and just wanting off me, Im afraid the later won.
Our final and probably the best sighting was on our return trip, all of a sudden a shout of Orangutan was heard from the front and the 4x4 came to a skidding halt. We looked out of the window and there was a large male about 2 meters up a tree, stripping the bark off and eating the soft fleshy underside. It was great to watch him and this time the light was perfect and we got some great pictures.
So that was all, we had one night and two full days, and saw more wildlife in that short time than in all the jungle treks and walks weve done in 10 countries over 10 months.