Newsflash: Biologists studying the unique flora and fauna of the Borneo Jungle recently reported a highly unusual sighting of a bizarre nocturnal creature which is indigenous to the islands of Great Britain, fuelling speculation that backpacking badger's location had finally been discovered. Conflicting reports, however, suggest that backpacking badger is currently living an aquatic existence amongst a colony of rare dugongs (or sea cows).
So - for the past few weeks it's been all about good old mother nature as I've hopped, skipped and jumped from the Philippines to Malaysian Borneo to the vast immensity of the Indonesian archipelago. I've clocked a fair amount of underwater downtime, met some truly bizarre creatures and critters and have generally been stupefied by what goes on in the ocean - so here goes:
• Turtles, turtles everywhere... especially if that everywhere is Sipadan, one of Cousteau's favourite dive spots off the east coast of Borneo. These supercool customers glide effortlessly through the water, popping up sporadically for a gulp of air before leisurely returning to the depths.
• Welcome to the amazing world of the nudibranch - or seaslug. Doesn't sound that exotic really - but these teeny slugs are beautiful, extravagantly marked creatures which slug their way obliviously along the coral, their teeny tiny tentacles wavering wildly in the currents.
• Descending into what can only be described as a barracuda convention. Hundreds and hundreds of these silvery, mean-eyed fish swarmed right in front of us, round and round, circling and swiping through the water. Pretty impressive stuff…
• Now I do love to spot a shark. Not, obviously, one which might consider me their next meal, but reef sharks are where it's at. These confident, smooth operators cruise along the reef like they own it, as all the little fishies breathe a sigh of relief that they escaped with their lives… this time…
Leaving the Philippines behind, we embarked upon the next leg of the adventure: Exploring the fabled jungles and coral reefs of Malaysian Borneo...
When I imagined what Malaysian Borneo would have in store for me, I pictured exotic birds, dense, virginal rainforests and, of course, the beautiful orang utan. What I didn't imagine was the pretty shocking fact that an overwhelming and quite frightening amount of rainforest, which took thousands of years to grow, has been decimated to make way for palm oil plantations. I also didn't imagine that palm oil is loosely described on our food packaging as 'vegetable oil', and is basically a core ingredient in much of the stuff I eat back home… A fairly sobering thought…
Despite the rather depressing environmental situation, we did spot some pretty amazing creatures, including the hideously ugly hook-nosed Proboscis monkey, sly crocodiles lurking in the muddy shallows, all manner of vomit-inducing creepy crawlies and, rather luckily, a wild orang utan, who didn't seem to mind us at all as he nonchalantly munched on some fig leaves.
It's been all about the diving for the last couple of weeks, and my underwater pilgrimage has taken me far and wide, from oil rigs in Malaysia to coral-encrusted volcanic islands in Indonesia.
Current location is the exotic, remote and historically fascinating Banda Islands. More on that next time I promise! xxx