Our eyes met with a mutual perception of each other and this turned out to be a very special moment in my life!
Dark brown with flecks of amber, a vision of understanding and that somehow there was a bond in our brains as we stared at each other. It was only when I was poked with a 4-foot palm branch that I was suddenly aware of the world again. This period of intense gazing had seemingly blotted out where we were. This is what happens when you come eye to eye for the first time with an Orang-utan!
Here the tables were turned. For it was myself in the cage. He was free to roam around the extensive island sanctuary of hi home. I was restricted to being behind tunnel of bars. Adam chose to visit me rather than the other way around! He was as keen to check me out as I him. My video camera then became a great point of fascination its furry microphone cover needed further investigation by him. And it was the palm frond stick that he used to try to evaluate this unusual object he had not seen before.
Intelligence was certainly there and also the close eye-to-eye contact that I had never experienced before was truly an emotional feeling. Being as our DNA is something like 97% the same, weighing up each other from a two feet away our brains were processing no doubt in similar ways for sure.
The 35acre island sanctuary is in the middle of a 7,000-acre lake and is home to around 24 orang-utans rescued from various situations around Malaysia and South East Asia from people’s homes as pets or poorly inappropriately conceived small cages in towns or city areas. These primates need a wide area in which to grow and be allowed to develop freely, as they generally do not live in groups. On the island it’s them that have the freedom of the place and not the human visitors! A short boat ride takes you a world away from a noisy lakeside theme park with numerous modern attractions to a sanctuary for both the wildlife and a quiet haven for us humans too!
Malaysia can offer a multitude of wildlife experiences like staying in their national park at a lodge hotel within Taman Negara. Here you are literally in the Malaysian jungle and where there are many ways of finding out about life in it. Boat rides from the hotel will take you at surface skimming speed through the sometimes shallow cascading and tumbling waters to an indigenous village where the occupants are still very much at one living off and in the forest. Using their skills passed down for generations and its plants and animals in order to survive the way their predecessors had probably for thousands of years. Still using blowpipes fashioned from a special type of bamboo. Skilfully crafting tiny darts using materials from the immediate jungle area and expertly having the ability to strike the tiniest of targets. In the case of demonstrating to visiting tourists a small toy bear! A sudden expelling of air from his mouth and the 6inch arrow like dart exited the 5foot pipe and flew silently across the village compound to strike the minute bear followed by a cheer from the tourists, like me amazed amazed at the skill. It was then easy to see that any larger mammal or bird would in fact be an easy target. If he could hit that tiny plaything then a monkey or squirrel would easily be in his capability!
Other boat trips are offered and include a chance to swim in the area of a nearby waterfall.
A sultry nighttime jungle walk on a raised walkway is very popular; with the plants, animals and insects being spotted and highlighted by torchlight. The knowledgeable guides will explain the numerous noises heard on the tour too. Jungle life also comes to you as playful visiting troops of Macaques chase around the roofs of the lodges in order to take short cuts to the various fruit bearing trees around the hotel grounds. Monitor lizards, harmless Skinks scuttle around leaf litter with large eyed Gekoes often seen nipping around on walls at night in search of small insects and moths.
Cooler areas of the country like the famed tea growing area of the Cameron Highlands has its own very special habitat too. Here cloud forest trees covered with slow growing moss provide a different and varied environment for plants and animals.
A visit to the Mossy Forest where an aerial walkway gives visitors access to the higher branches in the canopy and views back down to lower slopes where the tea plantations can be found.
Another two aerial walkways can also be found on the island of Penang. Here one is above a lush rain forest and the second one over the pine forested area. The pines planted when it was called the Penang Hill Station in British colonial times. Access to Penang Hill now is by a swift modern funicular that has you surging to the top in a few minutes as the cable and rail system allows the ascending car to be pulled to the summit by the descending one. There are numerous other theme park entertainments at the summit. However an extensive wildlife trail around the peak is what many prefer. It offers those two walkways as well as the chance to spot a whole host of its endemic wildlife. Not to everyone’s taste but some large spiders can be seen along with pitcher plants who’s insect catching cups are called ‘monkey cups’ here. Seeing giant black squirrels with their upside down feeding antics is a funny yet an intriguing sight!
All in all, the main peninsula of Malaysia offers not just these but a whole range of other wildlife parks and havens to visit. The bigger species like tigers and elephants are present and are spotted from time to time. Although for me that magic moment with the orang-utans was more than enough and will certainly stay with me forever!
Fact and info box:
Mutiara Taman Negara Resort: www.mutiaratamannegara.com
Hotel Istana in Kuala Lumpur: www.hotelistana.com.my
Areca Hotel Penang: www.arecahotelpenang.com
Sama Sama Hotel at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. www.samasamahotels.com
Strawberry Park Hotel in Cameron Highlands: www.strawberryparkresorts.com
Penang Global Tourism Penang: www.mypenang.gov.my
Asian Overland Services: www.asianoverland.com
Supported by Tourism Malaysia: www.tourism.gov.my
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Travel writer and photographer, Geoff has travelled the world in one way or another for 30 years. He is a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers Your Holiday TV
THE WILD SIDE OF MALAYSIA