Friday, April 22, 2011

More Borneo

Heading out to the island for snorkeling - the water is so muddy because this is where the river empties into the ocean.
The second day of our visit to Kota Kinabalu Sara and I took a snorkeling excursion to an island off the coast about three hours away. We jumped in a van driving into the countryside swerving around cattle as they meandered on the roadway then hopped a motorboat for the Mantanani Islands.

We floated about looking at the tropical fish swimming amongst the coral below and then had a nice lunch at one of the stilted houses offshore from the Island. This was both our first attempts at snorkeling and we both enjoyed it. (So much so that I even purchased a prescription mask a couple days later to use on our final day out and about before we got to work at the conference.)

Now true to form we started out with a sunny morning but by three in the afternoon the skies had turned ugly and we raced a thunderstorm back to the shore just in the nick of time. This was pretty much the weather pattern for our whole visit to Borneo and we learned to get out and about on the motorbike very early in the morning (it was already well into the 80s by 6qm) and to be headed back to our room or within a short driving distance of it by two in the afternoon. Riding the bike in the rain wasn't the worse thing one could do though as it was warm - but the raindrops did sting a bit.

Notice the change of water color once we have got a bit offshore.
Later when we moved to the more posh environs of the conference hotel we found that the resort had its own set of islands that one could boat twenty minutes out to for some snorkeling. This is what prompted me to buy the prescription lens masks (which I got for less than half the price it would have been here in the states.)

It was during this little outing that two pretty amazing things happened. First off while we were lounging on the beach after an early morning swim about the reef Sara looks across the beach which was starting to fill up with visitors and says," Hey, isn't that Fiona?"

Sure enough we had run into the Australian couple again - this was starting to get a bit freaky. Here we were three or four days past running into them at the Sunday market and now they ended up on this same island (one of a half dozen or so they could have stopped at a short boat ride from the city) at exactly the same time we were there. I started to wonder if maybe this couple were a member of one of our karasses.

This small island had a sheltered picnic kind of area with a half dozen 55 gallon drum BBQ grills and just past noon they fired up those grills and started throwing some chicken onto them sizzling and wafting the aroma of cooked meat over the beach and into the jungle that started where the beach left off.

This is when the second amazing thing happened - as the aroma of the cooking chicken made its way into the jungle it enticed a dozen or so monitor lizard ranging in size from four to six feet long to come side-winding out of the lush green undergrowth and meander around the grills hoping for a handout. It was pretty boss to see these guys in a relatively wild state (the begging for BBQ chicken notwithstanding) when my only other chances to see lizards this big before this had been a couple specimens behind tempered glass in a zoo situation. I could have kicked myself for not bringing a camera that morning - but, that gives me reason to head back someday in order to record the monitor lizard BBQ chicken migration.

Well, Nick and Fiona treated Sara and me to some ginger iced tea at a Tiki hut and then we were back on the speedboat to get ready for our conference - play time was over and we needed to be ready for our sessions. After all - the whole reason we had the opportunity to see and do the swinging stuff we were up to was because EARCOS had been kind enough to invite us there.

Next up: Vietnam.

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