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Leisure - Island

Survivor Island - Mudcaked on Isle of Mystery

Entrance to the quaint resort

Entrance to the quaint resort

KOTA KINABALU: The excitement mounted as our boat cruised along the Klias River.

So far, we had been told by our guide that male proboscis monkeys sit with their legs akimbo, fully displaying their perennially-erect genitals. Females, in contrast, sit with their legs closed prim and proper like ladies.

Another interesting piece of information we had to digest was that their tails grow to be about the same length as their bodies, thus sharpening their trapeze act in the trees.

A group of proboscis monkeys watched us with unconcealed amusement as they frolicked in the mangrove trees, a flock of water birds glided back and forth, long-tailed macaques ogled from the riverbank. Suddenly, the guide whispered huskily, ”Crocodile.”

All eyes abruptly focused onto the still river expecting to see snapping jaws or even animals scurrying for safety on the riverbanks. But it was rather sedate -- nothing except for a pair of eyes above the surface of the water.

That was one of the highlights of a three-hour cruise, part of a tour package offered by the Tempurung Seaside Resort in Kuala Penyu.
Another highlight of the river cruise was watching slack-jawed as nature lit up a tree while darkness descended. It was a sight to behold. A grotesquely-shaped mangrove tree lit up like a Christmas tree as hundreds of glowing fireflies descended on it. A quintessential National Geographic moment.

It was a rather enlightening experience to newcomers, including a handful of foreigners. They listened with rapt attention as our wild-eyed guide regaled them with spine-chilling tales of how crocodiles remain fully submerged except for those goggle eyes that dart about like a periscope in search of unsuspecting prey.

We wound up the cruise as darkness enveloped us. By now, the guide was in his element as he informed us that intrepid adventurers could tiptoe around the thick foliage to gape at nocturnal wildlife such as leopard cats, shy silver leaf monkeys and more proboscis monkeys.

We were gallivanting at Kuala Penyu, a quaint coastal district famed for its sago produces, and notorious for its water shortages. Kuala Penyu is gaining a reputation as an eco-tourism site, thanks to its natural habitat and proximity to Pulau Tiga. For those with intermittent amnesia, Pulau Tiga hosted the international interactive television hit series, Survivor two years ago.

The resort, capitalising on the existing natural surroundings and improving infrastructure, and productive fruit orchards nearby, has created a three-in-one package to lure tourists.

One bite and you're dead.

One bite and you're dead. Our guide handling a sea krait (inset) lurking in rocky crevasses

A short weekend stopover would see the resort combining the river cruise, a trip to Pulau Tiga and a visit to a nearby fruit orchard, making it a wholesome tour package.

If you thought staring in the eyes of a malevolent crocodile was adrenalising, wait till you had a chance to squeal with delight rolling in a pool of volcanic mud -- the much-touted skin exfoliation and rejuvenation method that was a beautician’s main methodology until formulated creams rolled off factory lines.

It was raining on the second day of our stay there. My colleague and I missed the chance of meeting and getting acquainted with the orchard owner, a retired airlines pilot.

Apart from missing a chance to sample the fruits, we also failed to get a brief account on the wide variety of mango trees flourishing there.
Pulau Tiga is the largest of three islands in the vicinity, and the most well known. Its creepier neighbours are Kalampunian Besar (a sand bar) and Kalampunian Kecil or “Snake Island” where poisonous sea snakes nest under rocks, in crevices or on tree stumps. The snake is similar to its mainland cousins, but its bite is fatal.

The orchard visit was a disappointment, but things brightened up at Pulau Tiga. It took a bouncy 45-minute boat ride from the jetty at the mainland. Soon we were greeted by a large signboard with the legend “Survivor Island”. Neat publicity.

At the resort’s reception cum dining hall building, we welcomed by the friendly manager, Emlyn Yapp. We were promised a roll in the famous volcanic mud pool.

Much later however, after trudging up a jungle trail with a sandal sole flapping like sails, I wondered aloud if it was worth the tiring 1.5 km walk.

Along the way, Emlyn briefed us on the resort and the activities available. He said that Pulau Tiga is actually one big island with certain parts of it submerged by the sea, giving the impression that it comprises three islands.

“It’s common to see monitor lizards, Burmese pythons, flying squirrels and numerous species of butterflies and insects here but sometimes there are sightings of the rare species of birds whose names I just can’t recall,” he said.

Large parts of the island are marked with a path for jungle trekking. If the weather permits, it’s great for snorkelling.

Asked if “Survivor” shall be making a return to the island, Emlyn replied that the American production crew is currently filming on location in Thailand.

Added he, “I’ve heard some talk of another stint of the series here but nothing conclusive so far.”

On reaching the “health spa”, our group caught sight of two attractive South Korean women engrossed in caking themselves in mud. Mud volcanoes are believed to be therapeutic. Rolling around in the mud improves the complexion. That’s probably because it prevents the eruption of pimples.

American David Hendricks, whom we met at the jetty, soon joined in. For Hendricks, an undergraduate at a university in Canberra, it was his first visit to Sabah.

Monkeying around in the volcanic mud

Monkeying around in the volcanic mud as proboscis monkeys (inset) gaped on

Soon, three women in our group joined them. The tranquillity was finally broken with the arrival of between 15 and 20 other South Korean men who also came to test the therapeutic qualities of the pool. Laughter erupted in the volcanic mud. Soon, it became a blurry quagmire as each of the men tried to dive in to send mud splattering all over. After satisfying their craving for diving and getting soiled, they headed back to the resort for a dip in the sea.

Since the sea really looked inviting, I jumped in without a second thought. After a shower, I strolled around the resort and met one of the island’s local inhabitant. It appeared suddenly from the corner of a hut and eyed me cautiously. I photographed the five- to six-foot long monitor lizard, thinking how in the city, it would have ended up in a pot in no time. Before returning to the mainland the next day, we managed to visit Kalampunian Kecil or Snake Island to gape at yellow-lipped sea kraits. As we walked along the snake-infested beach, Emlyn warned our group to be very careful, since a single bite would be fatal.

Our guide caught a snake with his bare hands. We crowded round for photos. It was later released, and slithered back into the inky darkness of the rocky crevasses.

Soon, we were on our way back to the mainland, leaving behind an island of mysteries. Swinging in those trees, proboscis monkeys eyed us with open curiosity. Waves lashed the shore. In those dark and damp coral crevasses, sea kraits eyed a boat bobbing on the sea as another day drew to an uneventful close.

Source: Borneo Post

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Our Adventure to Pulau Tiga (Survivor Island)

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