The Wild Jungles of Borneo

The Wild Jungles of Borneo

» Featured Columnists | By Steve Winston | February 26, 2013 8:15 AM ET

Imagine yourself in the middle of the rainforest. An overhead canopy of thick tropical trees sways against a clear-blue sky. Droplets of moisture cascade down from leaf to leaf. The air is fresh and fragrant with tropical dew. The vegetation blooms in a thousand different techni-colors. And all around you, eyes are watching...eyes belonging to some of the most exotic species on Earth.   
You're on the island of Borneo, third-largest on Earth. An island so big, in fact, that it's part of three different countries - Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei.
Borneo is a giant living laboratory, a place where the wildlife and plant life hasn't changed in thousands of years. The rainforests here have remained untouched by the Twenty-First Century.
In Kinabalu National Park alone there are more than 1,000 species of orchids, and some 300
species of birds. From shoreline mangroves to mountaintop forests of oak, Borneo's varied environments provide habitats for animals such as the Sumatran rhinoceros, clouded leopard, Malaysian tiger, and monitor lizard. And its thick, deep-green forests provide some of the last habitats in the world for the rare proboscis monkey and the orangutan (which, in Malay, means "man of the forest.")
Borneo has developed an infrastructure for observing its natural and animal habitats, but without disturbing them. For example, the dense forest features amazing aerial catwalks where one literally gets a bird's-eye view of this still-primitive world. And well-marked trails lead to beautiful waterfalls and natural swimming pools at which you'll probably be the only visitor.   
Park rangers help guests explore Selingan "Turtle" Island, one of the most important sea turtle conservation centers in Asia. Here, visitors can watch as turtles crawl out of the surf and lay their eggs.
At the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, guests can watch orphaned orangutans being taught skills that will allow them to successfully re-adapt to the wild. It's a thrilling experience to hear the whooping of the apes as they approach, and to watch as they crash through the jungle treetops to feed at their eating platforms.
Now, it's easier than ever to see this primitive paradise. A Boulder, Colorado company called Asia Transpacific Journeys can take you to this island that time forgot, on 14-day adventures with renowned wilderness guide Gordon Marsh.
The journey winds through Borneo's great national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. Adventurers will explore massive cave systems filled with nesting swiflets; have a meet-and-greet with baby orangutans; and cruise remote rivers in search of proboscis monkeys and macaques. They'll also visit Tabin Wildlife Reserve, one of the largest in Borneo, and stop at a natural mud "volcano" that serves as a mineral- and salt lick for wildlife. They'll climb up an observation tower to view the forest canopy, the varied landscapes, and the brilliantly-hued wildlife and flowers below. And they'll go out on a night safari, to observe nocturnal wildlife and birds.
Adventurers spend their days in places where they may get wet, and may get muddy. But they spend their nights in sheer luxury. For example, one of the hotels in which they stay is Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa, Kota Kinabalu, where the pools are "infinity," the spa is world-class, the dining is sophisticated, and the views are to-die-for. Guests take dinner on beach platforms, enjoying seafood that was in the ocean an hour or two before, while watching the sun dip slowly into the South China Sea, splashing the waters in shades of orange and pink and lavender and red.
If you're looking for the adventure of a lifetime, you've come to the right place!

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