Thursday, August 28, 2014

Explore Kuching: Semenggong Wildlife Reserve

We had some time to kill before heading to the Semenggoh Wildlife Center, we stopped by Kota Padawan to get rubber shoes for river rafting. We then walked to the local market and saw these wild durians or known as Buah Isu by the locals.

Basically, it is less pungent and smaller in size compared to durians; mini adorable durians with bright yellow flesh, I call them.
The texture is more sticky and it has its very own unique and sweet taste. Pretty good; do give it a try if you ever stumble across this exotic fruit in Sarawak.

And it's my first time seeing real pitcher plants too! Fun fact: The locals actually cook glutinious rice (Ketupat Periuk Kera) in these pitcher plants.

It took less than half an hour from Kota Padawan to reach the Semenggoh Wildlife Reserve. Now who's excited to see some orang utans?!

Semenggoh Wildlife Centre is one of the attractions in Kuching where tourists get to catch a glimpse of Orang Utans in their natural surroundings. Situated around 24km from the city, The Semenggoh Wildlife Centre is a sanctuary that was established in 1975 to care for the injured and orphaned wild animals from captivity and reintroducing them back into the wild.

Just a quick intro about the Orang Utans - Orang Utans means "forest people" in the local language; the name fits well given the primates' superior intelligence and human-like personalities. They are normally found in the rainforests of Borneo which includes Sarawak, Sabah and Kalimantan as well as North Sumatra. They are one of the world’s largest primates and are considered extremely endangered.

Upon arrival, you have to purchase a ticket from the booth near the entrance. For Malaysian, it costs RM5 per entry for adults, RM3 for children. As for foreigners, the tickets are priced at RM10 and RM5 for adults and children respectively. After getting your tickets, you will then need to walk nearly a mile down the paved path for about 20 minutes from the entrance to the Orang Utans area. We were lucky that we had our own van to drive us all the way down.

I was pretty excited until I saw this sign T__T 

Orangutans are extremely reclusive and usually the only opportunity to get decent photographs is during the organized feeding times. Therefore, the prime time to witness them would be during their feeding times which is at 9.00am and 3.00pm daily. However, there is no guarantees for Orang Utans sightings. Prior to the feeding time, the ranger gave us a short introduction about the wildlife center and briefed us on the rules and regulations. We were also informed that the orang utans was not in sight for the past few days due to the fruit season. After that, we were brought to a feeding platform which requires around 10 minutes of walk into the woods. As feeding time approaches, the orang utans will usually appear from the forest canopy and descend to the lower branches of trees near feeding platform. 

The tourists who are equally eager as us to see the Wild Man of Borneo. 

The ranger who prepared a bucket of fruits on the feeding platform was calling out for the orang utans but to no avail. After 15 minutes, I was prepared to leave with disappointment. Just then, we were informed that an orang utan was spotted in another trail. So Alyssa and I rushed over immediately so that we could get a closer view in front.
We hastened our steps yet it still felt like forever (it was around 15 minutes or so) to reach the Brooke's Trail. 

And look at that little critter! I was having a hard time finding it in the midst of the greens. 

It was quite hesitant to come down at first after seeing the crowd. This is Aman, the youngest independent orang utan in the center. 

They may look tame, but they can be pretty dangerous. As it was getting lower to reach for the fruits, it started to show some sign of annoyance. It was scratching its knees, wanting to pee on people. So the ranger warned us to take a few steps back and stay silent in order to not provoke it. 

The feeling was so surreal to see an orang utan from such a close distance without any barrier. Despite being drenched in sweat and drained from the long route, it was seriously worth it. We left after a while to let the other tourists to have a closer look at it. I was really lucky to be able to take these few shots. 

Besides Orang Utans, the center has other wildlife such as crocodiles in captivity as well.

Happy faces :D

That concludes my visit to Semenggoh Wildlife center; the highlight of my first day in Kuching. It was indeed a memorable experience to be able to see semi-wild orang utan enjoying his evening feast in the secure natural habitat, though I was hoping to see an adult orang utan. Nevertheless, I left the place feeling heartened knowing that these orang utans are actually in good hands and the fact that they did not show up for feeding time indicates that they are able to be independent and coping well on their own to survive in the wild. Semenggoh Wildlife Center is definitely a must visit if you're interested in seeing some Orang Utans in action (:

How To Get There
From Kuching city, take Sarawak Transport Company bus No. 6, 6A, 6B, and 6C which will stop near the Semenggoh Wildlife Center; always let your driver know where you are going when you board. The journey by bus takes between 30 - 45 minutes. The last return bus to Kuching is at 5pm. Visitors can also opt for taxi or minivan.

In case you haven't read my first post of the Kuching Trip, click HERE.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Explore Kuching: Orchid Garden

Just earlier this month, I had the chance to go on a short weekend getaway to Kuching, courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board. I arrived around 9.30am and was warmly welcomed by Deckson from STB and Billy from Borneo Exploration at the airport who will be our tour guides for the next 3D2N in Kuching.  We waited for another 40 mins till Alyssa arrived since she flew in from Miri with a different flight. Then, off we go to the Orchid Park before  heading for lunch. 

Nestled in vicinity of the historical Astana and Fort Margherita the Astana is the Kuching Orchid Park that serves as an icon of Kuching and also one of the city's major tourist attractions, offering both horticultural and botanical interests. It was actually my first time at the Orchid Park so I was pretty excited to see what it has got to offer. Little did I know that it is also located across the Sarawak River, so you can actually take a wooden boat known as the 'Penambang' from the Kuching Waterfront (costs only 50 cents per way!) and take a 10 mins walk to get to the garden. 

This is the first Orchid hybrid made in Sarawak called Vanda Taib, named after the former Chief Minister of Sarawak. 
Alyssa and I :D 
The Orchid Park is divided into two major areas, made up of the nursery and the display area, which accomodate a magnificent collection of 75,000 plants comprising of 82 genera and 700 varieties. The main attractions at the Orchid Park is the Sarawak's very own State Flower, the Normah Orchid (Phalaenopsis Bellina) and some other famous Bornean species orchids namely the Lady's Slipper, Coelogyne Pandurata - the green and black flowered orchid, Bulbophyllum Beccarii - the flower with stinking smell and the Vandal Dearei - a fragrant flowered orchid. 

The waterfall feature. 

And we even spotted a rainbow halo in the sky (':

And from where I stood, I can clearly see the grand new Sarawak State Legislative Assembly building.

And we saw more orchids of different colours and sizes along the way;

Such a lovely sight of this blooming water lily (:  

Since it was scorching hot outside, we went into the Cool House to enjoy some cold air to whilst checking out more unique orchids species and some native plants.

In the Cool House, you will be basically surrounded with lush greenery complimented beautifully with bold-coloured and striking blooms. 

And this my friend, is the Tiger Orchids

Overall, it was a great experience immersing myself in the orchid paradise filled despite sweating buckets throughout the visit, well I was wearing a cardigan on a sunny day anyway. Most of the areas are semi-shaded but still be prepared with a hat or mini electronic fan if you're planning to visit in the afternoon. I was impressed at how the park is pretty well maintained and clean; I guess you can even have a picnic in the park. It would be better if they have more information and specific labels for the different species of orchids. And hopefully, there will be more flowers planted in the years to come. If you are a flower lover (orchids enthusiasts especially) and photographer, this hidden gem is certainly a must visit. Entrance to the garden is free and the park opens from 9.30am to 6.00pm from Tuesdays to Sundays and even on public holidays; closed on Mondays. 

Guess where did we head next after that? To see the Orang Utans! Be sure to stay tuned for that post (:

Till then, happy midweek, guys!