Day 85: Bintulu, Malaysian Borneo. We had another nice early start to the day. As we gathered our walking gear and packed our day packs, we found ourselves wondering whether our driver Mr Wong would show up as planned. If not, our plans to go hiking in Similajau National Park would have to be canned, and we didn’t have a Plan B.
We stood waiting in the guesthouse car park and at 8.00am on the dot, a black and red taxi pulled up – it was Mr Wong! And what a lovely man he is. We climbed in, happy that we had transport for our day out, and 35 minutes later we were at the gate of the National Park.
We registered at the park HQ, got a quick briefing on the different walking trails and repeated warnings not to go swimming, and to take care if we went near any of the beaches, as there are crocodiles everywhere. Oh joy.
We’d originally planned to walk the main trail all the way to Golden Beach, a 20km return hike, however the end section of the trail was closed for maintenance so we had to revise our plans and walk to Turtle Beach instead, a 13km return walk.
The walk was spectacular – and we had the entire jungle to ourselves, as there were no other hikers doing the main trail today. It’s pretty awesome to stop and realise you’re walking through the jungle in Borneo, and there’s absolutely no one else around. We walked through very dense vegetation, some more open areas with monster trees, and across lots of wooden bridges.
We walked over one bridge and as Lil was photographing the reflection of palm trees in the water below, we heard a loud splash and saw a decent sized crocodile swimming across the river. We were glad to be up on the bridge, and not on the sandy banks below.
We walked as far as we could on the trail, and once we got to Turtle Beach, we were planning to stop and eat our packed lunch. The crocodile tracks in the sand changed our mind pretty quickly. So we retraced our steps back through the jungle, did another 3km trail loop on the way back, and then headed up to a viewpoint where we stopped for lunch.
The viewpoint had a raised wooden shelter over the beach (as Lil commented, “this is nice and safe”) and we were able to relax and enjoy our lunch without worrying about crocs creeping up on us. While we sat, two huge sea eagles flew out of the jungle, the first swooping down from high to grab a fish from the ocean.
Crocodile attacks (and deaths) are very common in Sarawak – there’s even a forestry commission SWAT team that swings into action whenever an attack is reported. One recent article said the half eaten body of a man had been found – presumably it was his top half as the report went on to say there were no identity documents in his trousers.
After our late lunch, we headed back to the park HQ, had a quick trip around the mangrove forest, hung out on the viewing deck to see if we could spot more crocs in the river, then had a look at some of the information boards and exhibits in the park HQ.
Then, after coffee and a chat with a couple of the park rangers, it was time to head home. The lovely Mr Wong turned up as planned, and we headed back to our guesthouse in Bintulu. Despite wearing long sleeves and slathering on insect repellent, Lil managed to get a heap of mossie bites in the jungle, so we’ll be digging out some anti-histamines again.
Dinner was at one of the eateries next to the guesthouse again – we were way too tired to wander any further. Then another night relaxing on the sofa and getting travel plans in place for the next chunk of our adventure.
Tomorrow we head to Miri, a town about 210km from Bintulu. Let’s hope we don’t have to endure another 200km of roadworks and another crazy bus driver.