Any "Survivor" fans out there?
We've never watched it, but we can now say we've been to the island where the very first ever season was filmed. Our good friend Lizzy Ryan recommended we check it out; she particularly raved about the mud bathes...it was doable in 2 days/1 night which is what we had so we figured we'd roll out.
To get to Pulau Tiga you have to first get to Kuala Penyu Jetty which is roughly 2 hrs west of Kota Kinabalu. You take a bus headed in that direction and it drops you off at a big round-about; from there you have to thumb it the rest of the way. No sweat!!
We got to the tiny little town and found the office for Pulau Tiga Resort. It was closed and abandoned as we were early and it was a Sunday. We walked the town in about 30 seconds then settled on a Chinese restaurant where we got a steamed Bun for a lunch time snack and a 100 Plus soda to drink. After, we poked around some of the shops before we finally went back to the office to sit and wait for the boat that was meant to be arriving at 12:30.
12:30 came and went and there was no sign of a boat. We started chatting with a local guy who seemed to be waiting for the boat too. Eventually, he got his cell phone out and made a call out to the resort. Apparently, there was some confusion and they didn't have our reservation on file; but they quickly hopped in the boat and came over to meet us.
The boat ride was about 30 minutes. We arrived at a long wooden dock with a sign saying "Welcome to Survivor Island". The place seemed pretty quiet as we checked in and got our room, but we didn't think too much of it.
We changed and headed off to check out the island; particularly the mud bathes we'd heard so much about. It's a 1.1 km hike through the rain forest to the mud bathes. We got there and there were 2 German girls soaking in the mud. After a quick chat, we confirmed that the four of us were the only guests at the whole resort! And, this was the only resort on the island; meaning it was just us, the locals and the creatures of the forest.
The mud bathes were interesting. G got in first. They were tepid, thick, and smelled like sulphur. I've never understood the fascination people have in jumping into mud puddles that can be described with the same adjectives as a trip to the toilet, but maybe I'm missing something...
I was going to give it a miss entirely as I was plenty content to take a few photos and just check it out, but eventually G got me to get in. I guess it was nice enough in there, but the walk back was a pain and any enjoyment from the pungent muck was quickly forgotten. We were totally covered in sticky, stinky mud and had to walk the 1.1 km back to the resort to the beach to wash off. I couldn't wear my sandals as my feet were so muddy and slippery, so I ended up charging it bare foot. I had visions of stepping on a poisonous plant or a pissed off animal with a barb and some poison hidden in some sinister cavern of it's body; it's a rain forest after all...there's stuff there that'll kill ya.
Finally, after about 25 expletive filled minutes of barefoot hiking we made it back to the resort and promptly jumped into the ocean for a rinse and a swim. It was the beach we'd been warned about at check-in because apparently jellyfish and stingrays are common. As we were finishing up our rinse I felt a few little jellyfish stings; enough to be annoying, but not too bad. It added to the experience.
We passed the late afternoon playing some cards and noshing on a tin of Pringles, but refusing on principle to buy their insanely expensive beers from the "Survivor Bar". As the sun began to set, we took a beautiful walk down the deserted beach. There were monkeys frolicking in the sand with the setting sun behind them. It was a much more enjoyable walk then our mud covered jaunt earlier.
For dinner, we sat next to the German girls and the resort staff brought us out our food: Fish and Deer meat for me (yeah; deer...how frickin' random is that!!!!). G had painstakingly explained to them earlier that she was a vegetarian and, YES, that meant no chicken either (much to their bewilderment) so she ended up with the go to alternative for a vegetarian here: eggs with a few veggies for good measure. We chatted a little with zee Germans and then called it a night.
In the morning we had breakfast (more eggs) and then headed out for a long rainforest hike. We walked clear across the island to the beach on the opposite side and then along that beach for a while until we found the trail back across again. Along the way we saw monkeys, huge monitor lizards, all sorts of birds and along the beach there were thousands and thousands of hermit crabs. It was exciting to walk through the forest because you never knew what you'd see...in addition to the animals already mentioned we heard some unknown (but big) creatures scurrying through the forest.
We made it back in time for a buffet lunch with our German friends. They'd went on a morning boat trip to the next island over called "Snake Island" due to it's use as a Sea Snake breeding ground. They got screwed. They only saw one snake, and their 3 hour tour was less then 2 hours with a guide who was apparently about as happy to be there as person number 100 in the que at the DMV in Oakland. (that's like the RTA in Penrith for any Aussie's reading this)
Anyway, we were glad we'd taken our own adventure instead of shelling out more coin for a crappy tour. God knows we've had our fair share of those lately...
We were coming to the end of our 24 hour stay at "Survivor Island" and it had been a pretty fun time overall; save for the poo...err..."skin exfoliating and hydrating mineral rich mud báthe". We only had one final hurdle to clear and that was paying our bill. See, we'd been told it was 300 Ringgit (US$100) for the night, but it was slightly ambiguous whether that was for standard "double occupancy" (which would have been about right) or if that was per person. (which would be 2x what would have been about right)...
It was per person... Damn!! We murmured a feeble protest or two then reluctantly forked over the cash. Gulp...
My only solice was that I noticed they'd forgotten to bill us for the Pringles from yesterday's card session and although I am normally a staunch believer in 'Travel Karma' and thus exceedingly honest when it comes to billing and correct change etc. in this instance I decided that they could get bent on that one and I kept my mouth shut.
We retreated to the hammocks to read our books and wait for the boat to return us to Kuala Penyu to begin the journey back to Kota Kinabalu. Eventually it was time to roll and as we prepared to walk back down the "Survivor Island" dock like voted off contestants the woman came running up towards us.
Out of breath she panted: "The Pringles; I forgot to charge you for the Pringles."