Kota Kinabatangan, Malaysia

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Kota Kinabatangan, Malaysia

While At Uncle Tan’s, Sex Isn’t In The Plans

Appreciating our experiences from July 2011

Without a doubt, our time at Uncle Tan’s deep in the jungle of Borneo was an impressive highlight from our trip. The quote on the brochure to this camp for big kids was about to be justified in every way. “The jungle is a green hell to some, but a lost paradise for many.” Uncle Tan’s was an adventure we had thoroughly looked forward to for months, fully appreciating the seclusion and solitude we were about to embark on. Nestled deep in the lush jungle only accessible by a forty-five minute boat ride along a river supporting a wide variety of wildlife, we had abandoned the vast majority of our usual comforts.Uncle Tan's Kota Kinabatangan, Malaysia

We once again hoisted our backpacks onto our shoulders upon coming to rest at the base of a flight of steep steps.  On a small wooden billboard at the top of the stairs, we took note of the fresh writing documenting the findings of the day. Orangutans? Crocodiles? Pythons?! Our giddy excitement became more and more difficult to contain. The friendly guides in charge of our safety and overall joyful experience led us along a wooden plank walkway raised above the jungle floor. We arrived at the entrance to our new sufficient accommodation, a three walled shelter with a sturdy roof covering three double mattresses flopped on the wooden floor with individual mosquito nets hopefully protecting its inhabitants. Needless to say, unless we were willing to brave an unwelcome audience, sex was officially taken off the table for the evening.

We had been searching for a rustic experience in the heart of the wild, and Uncle Tan’s had delivered the perfect answer. Should we find ourselves in need of a shower after surviving the intense humidity and excursions through the jungle, large barrels of collected water rested alongside the bathrooms, small containers with handles floating on the surface to assist in providing an adequate soaking. The small building next to it was home to our private stall bathrooms complete with manual flushing toilets and entertaining cartoon drawings depicting the process of carrying water from outside to properly dispose of any waste using nothing but sufficient water volume to freshen the bowl. Apparently it served as a necessary reminder not to leave floating logs as a welcome for the next occupant.Uncle Tan's Kota Kinabatangan, Malaysia

With electricity only available for a few hours at night by way of a generator located at the one large common area of the camp, never had our headlamps become more vital. The large tables inside the shelter effectively provided enough space for all those in attendance as well as the buffet style meals we would come to enjoy intimately with the other campers. I began observing small yet ingenious solutions to everyday obstacles delivered by the primitive way of life. Small cans of sweetened condensed milk rested in plates filled with shallow water to prevent ants from invading. Perfectly efficient baskets were flipped upside down to cover the food from the ever-present flies circling our meals. A large, thick container housed anything and everything campers held of value with any amount of scent to secure its contents from the eager rats hustling around at night.

It was in the jungle we learned a new appreciation for the indigenous people, not only those from generations prior but the people still living in various jungles around the world. Further enhancing our newfound gratitude for unfamiliar surroundings was the abundance of wildlife surrounding us. Every night exploration by foot increased our awareness of the unfathomable amount of enormous spiders we lived with, their eyes glistening in the light emanating from our headlamps and flashlights. Not a leaf could be ignored, nor the trunk of a tree before gripping it for support, unless we were willing to risk unsettling punctures.

Our days proved equally as memorable, filled with the sightings of rare birds, primates, snakes and adolescent crocodiles. It was immediately apparent our guides had surgically replaced their eyesight with that of a hawk, spotting photo worthy animals without effort from an incredible distance. As if the discovery of a python capable of strangling a growUncle Tan's in Kota Kinabatangan, Malaysian man and uniquely shaped proboscis monkeys hadn’t already seized our attention, our boat would come to rest on one of the shores. Our small group searched frantically for what the man at the front of the boat had spotted. We stepped off the bow of the weathered boat gingerly onto the river’s muddy edge, following him carefully to a tall tree. A random spider web clung to my face as I waivered from the trail ahead of my slightly, prompting me to jerk back and spit repeatedly as if biting into a cat turd instead of a Tootsie Roll.

We traced the imaginary line he had extended from his finger tip up a towering tree, finally realizing the object of his focus. There, in the middle of the jungle, we had found a wild, full grown orangutan folding leaves and creating a nest in the tree top. Not a single member of our group could resist the opportunity to stand frozen in awe of the sight. Before our three days and two nights would come to an end, we would find ourselves fortunate enough to observe wildlife we’d only seen behind thick glass windows at the local zoo. It was easy for us to conclude, we fit into the category of those describing the jungle as a lost paradise.


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