Many of the people who visit Sarawak do so because of its rich biodiversity. Its heat and humidity make it an ideal environment for lush tropical growth. Much of the island was originally covered with dense forests and and despite the depredations over the last century or so of loggers, drillers and miners, a significant part of Borneo is still wild jungle inhabited by species of wildlife found nowhere else in the world.
So, even I have felt motivated to see something of Sarawak's rich natural world. We've made a couple of trips out of Kuching that have proved to be very rewarding. We visited Bako National Park - the first of Sarawak's national parks and accessible only by a most interesting boat trip along a river estuary lined with the elegant shapes of fish traps
and then along the coastline of the South China Sea.
At Bako, our tour included a walk along a jungle trail, across and around rocks, up and down small ladders, and criss-crossing tree roots. I was very hot and bothered and left the group about half-way through the walk to return along the track at my own pace. I was so pleased with my decision because as well as enabling me to potter along slowly, I was able to stop from time to time and really see the detail of the layers of plants that form the luxuriant vegetation.
And even better, once I'd arrived at the end of the trail and was sitting quietly in one of the resting places near the mangrove flats that edge the sea, a whole family of eight proboscis monkeys ran across the mud in front of me.
Seeing the rare proboscis monkeys is one of the main reasons for visiting Bako, so I felt very lucky to have seen the family procession across the mud. We later saw several of them up close in surrounding trees. They are apparently unable to digest sugar in any form and the leaves of the mangroves form the major part of their diet.
We had an extremely fortunate visit as not only did we see the proboscis monkeys in the wild but also saw silver leaf monkeys, a long-tailed macaque, wild pigs, green vipers, a flying lemur and the local squirrels. Having grown up short-sighted, I'm normally not very confident of my ability to see quickly-moving animals in the wild, so I was very pleased by all the day's sightings.
We also took a boat trip at dusk along the Santubong River to where it emerges to the South China Sea. In the afternoon light both the heights of the nearby mountain, Gunung Santubong, and the fishing village on the Salak River were magical.
The major objective of the trip was to see the Irrawaddy dolphins who are often found around the area near Santubong. The dolphins proved elusive, so we visited the nearby mangrove-edged coastline where we were fortunate to see more proboscis monkeys moving through the trees and pausing to laze as if they might never move again. The boat then made its way back to the dolphin area where there were wonderful moments, absolutely quiet, drifting on the silvering ocean as the sun set...
...and then we did see the dolphins - three of four of them - emerging and submerging and huffing. Their huffing breaths as they broke from the water were moments of great delight. It made them seem very immediate.
So, for someone who doesn't often venture into the natural world, I've had some very pleasurable times in the last couple of days. My guidebook quotes Charles Darwin's description of Sarawak as 'one great wild, untidy, luxuriant hothouse, made by nature for herself'. I count myself very fortunate to have been able to visit this particular hothouse.