In the summer of 2014 I went to Malaysia. The trip brought me to beautiful places on Borneo, Pulau Tioman and the Malay Peninsula. The places I have visited on Borneo are: Mount Kinabalu National Park, Crocker Range, Gunung Mulu National Park, Bako National Park, and Kubah National Park. On Pulau Tioman I stayed in the Paya Beach Resort. On the Malay Peninsula we just visited Kuala Lumpur.
I was not alone. I went there with my traveling buddies Jasper Boldingh, Jorg Schagen, Sander Schagen, Bart Misana, and Dieuwertje Smolenaars. I want to thank them all for the good company, finding animals and assisting with some photographs.
Part I was about Mount Kinabalu National Park and Crocker Range and part II about Gunung Mulu National Park. The third part of my report is about Bako National Park (Sarawak, Borneo).
Bako National Park is Sarawak’s oldest national park. The park contains a lot of diversity in vegetation and animals, packed in a relatively small area.
Bako National Park gave me a lot of great photo-moments. I want to show that Bako National Park is more than just about monkeys, with the Proboscis Monkey (Nasalis larvatus) as the main attraction. This place is special, because this is a typical area where the sea meets the land. The exact place where they touch each other are exceptional places to find animals. So I spent a lot of time on the beach and mangrove. I also did not forget about the jungle and rock-formations. It was an unique experience during my trip.
Mangrove forests are particularly found in tropical and subtropical regions around the equator. The typical look of a mangrove forest is trees ‘standing on stilts’ in salt water. During high tide the trees were standing in the water, and during low tide they had dry feet. Mangroves are rich in animal diversity and I found a lot of beautiful animals like mudskippers, Mangrove Skinks (Emoia atrocostata), Silvered Leaf Monkeys (Trachypithecus cristatus), and Proboscis Monkeys (Nasalis larvatus).
Robbed by the ‘Monkey Maffia’
When we arrived in Bako National Park we still had to eat breakfast. We decided to sit outside at the restaurant. After a short while Dieuwertje saw the monkeys arriving. They were Crab-eating Macaques / Long-tailed Macaques (Macaca fascicularis).I was excited, because I wanted to photograph wild monkeys. I decided to eat first. The monkeys could not wait that long and decided to visit us. It was not the honor of being photographed by me that attracted them, but the food.
One of them approached us and got our attention. The other monkeys approached us from behind climbing the wall. One of them jumped on the table and grabbed everything they wanted and left the table. They grabbed the chocolate cakes, muffins and other kind of cakes. Well the only thing they left untouched were the bananas. Monkeys eating bananas is so stereotype. Why eating bananas when there are chocolate cakes?
After this experience and observing how they robbed other people we learned how to act. You have to be alert, act very aggressive and a big stick is also very useful. Also for the monkeys safety comes first and then the food. When you do not carry any food with you they will not pay any attention, but when you do have food, be prepared. Do not think they can not open bags, because they can open zips. They can even open a can of Coca-Cola with their teeth!
A sign of intelligence and refinement is that they choose new tourists to rob. They recognize people and know who is new and unexperienced with their tactics. A new boatload of tourists was an highlight of their day.
The area around the restaurant was not the only place for their ‘monkey terror’. The people of the park warn people to lock the doors and windows of your room or house. We saw monkeys checking if the doors and windows were locked like real burglars.
The Proboscis Monkeys (Nasalis larvatus) are one of the main attractions of Bako National Park. When we arrived by boat we already saw the first specimen. They are not hard to see. They come very near the beach and headquarters so they are not hard to spot.
Proboscis Monkeys (Nasalis larvatus) are called ‘Orang Belanda’ and that means Dutchman. The monkey has a big nose and big belly, just like the first Dutch colonizers coming to Borneo. Most guides found it hard to explain why they are called ‘Orang Belanda’. The most political explanation was the orange color, but some of them referred to the nose (and maybe the belly). They all made clear that it was not racism. I believe the last part, but being Dutch myself I know the Dutch were not always the ‘good-guys’ in history.
This monkey specie looks very funny with the nose. Not just the nose looks funny, but also they way they behave is funny. A Proboscis Monkey was sitting on a branch, just eating leafs, and after a while the brach break and the monkey fell on the floor looking around as if he asked: ‘What happened?’.
Bornean Keeled Green Pit Viper (Episode II)
In Bako National Park I had the chance to photograph two specimen of the Bornean Keeled Green Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus subannulatus). The first one was high on the branches of a tree. The second one was in the low shrubs next to a trail. Jasper found this beauty. Even knowing where to look, this snake was hard to see. The snake was within one meter of the trail, but green on green is hard to see.
Bornean Keeled Green Pit Vipers are not very active most of the time. They can be on the same spot for multiple days. I took advantage of such a nice photo opportunity. I visited the snake two times to make a serie of photos. The snake was very peaceful and very cooperative when making photos. I could come within very close range. I even used my wide-angle lens for some shots. I was wearing gloves when using the wide-angle, because safety is important to me.
During daytime I walked around the headquarters, the jungle, the rock-formations and beach. I saw a lot of beautiful animals. The Long-tailed Macaques (Macaca fascicularis) in the jungle were very shy. They were probably not a member of the ‘Monkey Maffia’. They were just eating fruits from the trees. The Horsfield’s Gliding Gecko (Ptychozoon horsfieldii) was one of my favorites, but left too soon. I have a photo as proof.
Not all Crab-eating Macaques / Long-tailed Macaques (Macaca fascicularis) are robber or burglar and member of the ‘Monkey Maffia’ in Bako National Park. During sunset a group of crab-eating macaques / long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) are looking for crabs and shells along the shoreline. The monkeys were very peaceful and did not mind having people close to them. The combination of the beautiful monkeys and magnificent lightning gave me the opportunity to make some memorable photos.
Another mammal on the beach
The Crab-eating Macaques / Long-tailed Macaques (Macaca fascicularis) were not the only mammals that visited the beach in search of food. One of the Bornean Bearded Pig (Sus barbatus) who live around the headquarter visited the beach. I followed this animal for some photos.
We did not do a lot of night walking in Bako NP, because we were exhausted after a long day. There was enough to see during nigh walks. Especially when it was raining in the morning or afternoon. Amphibians really came to life after the rain. The Intermediate Sticky Frog (Kalophrynus intermedius) and Short-legged Dwarf Toad (Pelophryne signata) were my personal favourites.
During a walk to a lookout I asked some of the guides if it was possible to see Saltwater Crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus). I did not have a guide myself. They walk around and a question is for free. He told me that is is possible to hire a boatsman at the end of the afternoon. He will bring you to the mangrove swamp to see crocodiles. We made an appointment and so we did the trip. Too bad the tides were too low to enter the mangrove swamp. We combined the trip with birdwatching. We saw some beautiful kingfishers like a Stork-billed Kingfisher (Pelargopsis capensis). We did see one crocodile during daylight, but only a short moment. I have one photo as proof. When it was dark we saw two more, but just eyes and the sound. So the score was three salties!
- Asian Leaf Turtle (Cyclemys dentata)
- Collett’s Tree Frog (Polypedates colleti)
- Four-lined Tree Frog (Polypedates leucomystax)
- Intermediate Sticky Frog (Kalophrynus intermedius)
- Short-legged Dwarf Toad (Pelophryne signata)
- Swamp Toad (Ingerophrynus quadriporcatus)
- Asian House Gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus)
- Common Tree Skink (Apterygodon vittatum)
- Frilly House Gecko (Cosymbotus craspedotus)
- Kendall’s Rock Gecko (Cnemaspis kendallii)
- Mangrove Skink (Emoia atrocostata)
- Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)
- Water Monitor (Varanus salvator)
- Bornean Keeled Green Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus subannulatus)
- Bornean Bearded Pig (Sus barbatus)
- Crab-eating Macaques / Long-tailed Macaques (Macaca fascicularis)
- Proboscis Monkey (Nasalis larvatus)
- Silvered Leaf Monkey / Silvered Langur (Trachypithecus cristatus)
- Sunda flying lemur (Galeopterus variegatus)