Malaysia: Wild, welcoming…and mysterious By: Ursula Maxwell-Lewis
It was the hornbills that did it.
Sleepily I open the casement window of my Sepilok Jungle Resort ground-floor room.
It’s 6.00 am. Only the sun, residents of the neighbouring dense foliage, and I, are stirring.
Suddenly, soundlessly and without warning, I’m virtually eye-to-eye with a pair of unscheduled visitors.
Cruising past my window, only feet away, are two stunning - and obviously curious - hornbills.
Unblinking, we momentarily stare at each other. Their unmistakable, ungainly, bright yellow and black bills transported by pairs of massive snowy-tipped black wings glide languidly past.
Rooted to the spot in amazement, I’m suddenly alert- and itching for the Nikon on my dresser.
Gracefully wheeling around, the pair returns for another brief peek at me - and vanish. Their images, however, remain secure in my mental traveling filing cabinet.
The Sepilok Orang Utang Sanctuary residents are more accommodating.
Merrily swinging from branch to branch, munching breakfast bananas and bamboo, my muscular, gangly, ginger-haired ancestors (if I’m to believe Charles Darwin), and I inspect each other.
Drenched by a sudden steamy tropical downpour, I huddle under a tree resplendent in a blue dollar-store plastic poncho clutching camera gear. I feel inordinately foolish.
The orang utans, raindrops glistening on their waterproof moth-eaten fur coats, view me rather morbidly. Presumably they wonder who let in the ugly interloper. My impression is they definitely think the neighbourhood is going downhill.
Sturdy wooden catwalks through the lush jungle provide secure footings for photographers and tourists. Carefully designed to protect and prepare the orang utans for their impending return to the wild, the stars of natures show frolic unselfconsciously. Sinewy arms and legs propel the orang utans overhead and around us. We are on show. It’s their turf. Fascinated, and humbled by nature, I watch the ape families casually swing, sway and play.
I travel deeper along my river route to Abai Jungle Lodge. We’re searching for the shy, illusive, treetop proboscis monkey clans. Instead we find a mating ritual. Where else, I wonder, can one witness nature’s living Christmas trees on a warm silent night? Here I sit in a river boat on a muddy North Borneo river mesmerized by thousands of twinkling fireflies decorate waterside bushes in secret mating dances. The lights are on in nature’s living room, I think.
Like peeping toms we rock silently on the river …solemnly watching. If there isn’t a God, there should be. Man hasn’t created these Malaysian miracles.
And…this is just the beginning….
Am I passionate about Malaysia? In a word: yes.