Borneo, Malaysia

Our friend Cynthia asked if we would like to join her, her husband Monty, their son Zephyr, and his friend Nicholas on an eco-tour in the jungles of Borneo. Cynthia and Monty are among the most adventurous travelers we know so we were more than happy to piggyback on their vacation. It never would have occurred to me to journey to Borneo (indeed when we went to get vaccinations before our trip the nurse admitted she didn’t know which vaccines to recommend because “No one ever goes to Borneo!”) but it ended up being a fantastic experience. The kids were delighted, especially with their new, much older, way cooler friends. I was delighted with the food: lots of fresh tropical fruit, curry, noodles, spices, yummy things I love.

We traveled by boat from Sandakan to Selingan Island, aka Turtle Island, to watch a sea turtle laying eggs and hatchlings released into the ocean. This was definitely a highlight of the whole trip but one of the lasting effects was unexpected: I inadvertently turned my kids into coffee fiends. Dozens of turtles waded onto the shores of Turtle Island every night to lay their eggs, but the timing of when tourists would be allowed to watch a particular turtle was unpredictable. After dinner we had to wait in the cafeteria for a park ranger to summon us to the beach, and the summons could happen anytime between 8pm and 11pm. After several early mornings and long travel days, I was worried about the kids getting too sleepy; we had paid all this money and come all this way and I was damned if I was going to let my kids fall asleep during this once-in-a-lifetime event. Who knows if sea turtles are going to exist anymore when they grow up? I fear we will all be living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland by then. So, I mixed a half cup of coffee with plenty of milk and sugar for each of them and they downed their cups and smacked their lips. They’ve been hooked ever since and always beg for sips of coffee whenever they see me drinking it now.

After Turtle Island we visited an orangutan rehabilitation center as well as the Borneo sun bear conservation center, and then made our way to the Sukau Rainforest Lodge. The kids thought it was the coolest resort ever. Over the next few days we boarded multiple river cruises on motorboats in search of wildlife in the rainforest. We also went on lots of nature hikes and toured a stinky bat cave, sidestepping armies of roaches scurrying over layers of poop from thousands of swallows fluttering overhead.

Overall it was a wonderful adventure, enhanced by wonderful company: awesome friends, an awesome husband, and two awesomely intrepid little explorers.


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A former corporate attorney who is now happily retired and does whatever she wants.

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