May 6, 2015

Mt. Kinabalu Botanical Garden

After casting several longing looks at Mount Kinabalu and its peak touching the skies we headed for a trek in Mount Kinabalu Botanical Garden. The botanical garden is home to several species of flora and fauna. While it was easy to capture several varieties of flora, the different species of fauna eluded me completely. The frogs were croaking nonstop but inspite of all my efforts couldn’t really spot one. As soon as I would approach the source of sound, it would go pindrop silence as if mocking at me ‘capture me if you can’. The rustle of leaves indicated the presence of squirrels but they were fast for me.

The leaves and flowers of course stood rooted in their place. I tried out the various settings of my lens to capture them in their full glory! The number of species is estimated to be around 4000 to 5000. This diverse range of species is attributed to several factors like: great altitude and climatic range from hot humid lowland to freezing alpine conditions, geological history of Malay region involving movement of several tectonic plates and many more such geographical reasons.

The Sungai river flows in form of gentle streams, producing gentle gurgling sounds, it felt really good to be amongst nature’s elements far from the hustle and bustle of city. Wish we had more time to explore the interiors. Some the plants had sign posts with information on them. The orchids and carnivorous plants were specially highlighted and kept within enclosures. I had seen a plain green pitcher plant in the botanical garden of Yercaud, but this one had designs on it. It was big, my fingers wouldn’t go a full wrap around it. Later in one of the roadside stall selling plants I saw these picher plants on sale. One would cost around 25 Ringgit.

One regret remains; I couldn’t see a Rafflesia flower in full bloom!


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Mount Kinabalu, Borneo, Malaysia

That is Borneo’s roof Mount Kinablu, standing majestically, in fact growing little by little at the rate of 5mm per year. Having a height of 4095m it is ranked 20th most prominent one in the world in terms of topographic prominence! This site also has the honor of being the first Unesco World Heritage site of Malaysia! The mountain is home to several carnivorous plants and beautiful orchids.

A legend around its name is interesting. The mountain is named after a woman called Kinabalu who died pining for her husband on top of this mountain. Her husband from China, who promised to take her and their children to his home in China couldn’t honor his promise due to his parental pressure. The woman would climb the mountain facing the South China Sea everyday to look out for her husband’s ship. The people of her hometown, touched by this devotion to her husband named the mountain after her. The mountain is a symbol of the everlasting love and loyalty that should be taken as a good example by women!

There are lots of Mount Kinabalu climbing packages offering a wonderful tropical adventure for those daring to go. The guides are good, so they say, with many of them having the experience of climbing the mountain several hundred times. You will be given the assistance of English speaking guide, if you ask for one. It would be wise on your part to be equipped with comprehensive map, a torch, whistle, lightweight bivouac bag, proper clothing (thermal, fleece, waterproof, appropriate footwear), and supplies of high-energy food.

I didn’t avail any of these, but there, standing and watching the cloud puffs wrapping up the mountain I hoped to return some day to attempt a climb on this mountain.


May 5, 2015

Sapi Island, Malaysia

Sapi Island or Sapi Pulau (Cow Island) as it is called in Malaysian language is a popular and attractive beach activities oriented island. Its almost white sand in the beach and crystal clear jade colored water stunned me. We went there on a Tuesday morning and found the beach teeming with tourists and locals, the population of beach lovers can be overwhelming on a Sunday I thought! It took us a cool 20 minutes speed boat ride to get us to the island from the mainland, city of Kota Kinabalu. The blues around was so pleasing, I was on a clicking spree.

We, from Tourism Malaysia were on a beach BBQ picnic package to the island. A very simple, small yet fun filled package I must say. It is a day trip excursion, where the visitors can be in the island for few hours doing some of the activities and a sumptuous BBQ lunch is included in the deal. An umbrella with table and chairs are provided to your group. Most tourists seemed to be availing this deal there. The entire area is shaded. Relaxing, and watching others in bold beach stunts can be an activity by itself.

For the beach activities there are several kinds of packages with combinations of different activities.Other than the fun activities there is a cute souvenir shop, a small cafĂ© and snacks shop, a komodo dragon garden (if you are lucky one of those might come visiting you, don’t panic, they are harmless. Don’t try to pet them because they can be aggressive while defending themselves.) And yes there are monkeys too, fond of visiting the tourists from the interiors of the island.

Camping is possible in the island, though you need prior official permission for it. During the low tide you can walk across to the neighboring Pulao Gaya (Island Gaya). I intend to do this if I ever get back there in future. The food that came with the package was too good and in fact more than sufficient quantity.


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May 3, 2015

My Orangutan Encounter

The rainforest of Borneo, Malaysia is home to Orangutans. Orangutans are large gentle creatures and you will be surprised to know 98% of their DNA matches with us humans. (Probably the other 2% is that of violent streak which is present in humans!!! You can read more about them here.) Poachers target these gentle animals, often killing the mother to catch the baby orangutans and later sell them as pets. The rainforest areas too have been declining due to ever increasing demand for timber. Net result the orangutans are facing extinction within next 10 years.

At ShangriLa, where we stayed for 3 days, I witnessed the daily interaction of an orangutan with his caretaker. The Rasa Ria Resort of ShangriLa has been working for rehabilitation of these orangutans. They bring in orphaned, injured orangutans. These precious creatures are looked after well, made fit to face tough jungle life and are then released to where they originally belonged.

There was a video show for all visitors showing the various stages of the orangutan’s recovery. It was interesting to see how from the day of their arrival they are taken care. Trained vets treat their injuries if any and diet plan made meticulously. Finally when the orangutans are completely okay they are let off to jungles. After a short nature walk we were taken to the feeding area of the orangutan. The resort has 2 of them. We heard the caretaker calling out to the orangutan. Moments passed, we were straining ourselves and looking around among the branches to spot it. It took a while for the orangutan to come!

 Ssshhh… all went hush hush, lest we disturb him. He came swinging in the branches. I was seeing one at such a close distance for the first time. Got a good position among the crowd, I managed to take a short video of it. Hope you will enjoy seeing him.



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Our World Tuesday

May 2, 2015

Faces of India - 211


 A sadhu outside a temple in Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu. As I zoomed into his face his eyes seemed so sorrowful that I didn't have the heart to continue focusing on him. I can't understand how people end up in this state. Is it really in a quest for peace of mind?

Faces of India, a series through which I intend to portray the various characters of my country whom I met during my travels. See more here.