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The"wild man of Borneo"

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Into Gomantang Caves

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Standing in . . . er, guano

SANDAKAN, SABAH TIN My flight had a layover in Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah.  While at the airport, I decided to see if I could spend a few days in Sabah at the  world renowned sanctuary for the orang utan.  I knew it was somewhere in Sabah.  I went to the Malaysian Air office.  I said I wanted to buy a ticket but I wasn't sure where it was I wanted to go.  The agent had a nice chuckle over that.   She told me it sounded like I wanted to go to Sepilok near Sandakan. 

I'd always heard of "the wild man of Borneo" but really didn't know where that came from.  In Malay, the words "orang utan" translated as "jungle man" or "wild man".  So, if you ever see a native in the movies (with a bone in his nose) screaming "ooga ooga!", you now know there is no way that is the actual wild man of Borneo.

The orang utans in Sepilok had been in captivity but were reintroduced into the wild.   Some of these critters were so tame.   They shook people's hands, grabbed at glasses, and managed to steal an occasional camera. 

A small amount of people could take a forty-five minute hike into the rain forest to see a feeding of less tame orang utans.  The hike itself would have been worth it all, but a few orang utans did eventually show up there, too. 

GOMANTONG CAVES, SABAH     In these caves, and a few like them scattered across Borneo, the swiftlets made the nests that were used in birds' nest soup.  The swiftlets shared the caves with millions of bats.  There was also a lot of guano collected and sold there.   I couldn't watch your step.  I knew what I was walking in, but I was glad that I never felt anything on my head. 

The trip reminded me of travel in Africa.  I rode in the back of trucks that I was way too tall to ride in.  I saw palm nuts that were used in just about every Liberian dish.  But, what I saw here that I didn't see in Liberia were lots of monkeys.  In one stretch of road I counted twenty-six of them! 

Copyright 1998 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.