The boat’s outboard motor roared as we skimmed across the South China Sea.
In the distance was a jagged peninsula covered in thick jungle. It grew larger as salt water sprayed over the bow. The jungle reached down to the sea, jealously hugging the sheer cliffs. Black rock peeked through the gaps, its scorched face hinted at a violent past.
The motor cut out as we approached a sandy beach. The boat glided silently towards shore before stopping. I grabbed my backpack and jumped into the shallows. The crystal-clear water danced with the afternoon sun as I waded towards my destination — the entrance to Bako National Park.
I’d come here for the simple reason that I wanted to see Proboscis monkeys in the wild. And it didn’t take long. As I walked up the beach I spotted a troop of them lounging in a tree.
The hilarious looking animals were eating fruit, their pot-bellies unashamedly on show for the whole world to see. With their massive noses, the Proboscis monkeys were like cartoon creatures. It was a look that many middle-aged men had perfected. All that was missing was a couch and a beer.
I left my backpack at the camp and then headed into the jungle, where more monkeys roamed in the canopy. The trail entered a mangrove forest and I saw bizarre fish crawling on the sand, a hint at mankind’s origins.
I arrived at another beach in time for sunset. The sky was heavy with blood, a wicked hue that was intoxicating to watch. It symbolised a place where nature carried out its deadly cycle, unimpeded by human hands.
I delved further into that mysterious world by taking a guided night-walk through the jungle. If the rainforest had been alive during the day-time, it rose to a whole new level in the darkness. From the shadowy depths crawled hideous centipedes, their chitinous carapaces glinting like steel plates. A flying lemur waited patiently in a tree as an enigmatic owl scanned the floor with its piercing eyes.
We reached a stream where soft-shelled turtles swam, their slimy bodies looked naked without any armour. Fire ants crossed the trail floor, devouring the body a large brown spider. A minuscule frog sat perched on a stick, its croaks matching its stature. But most beautiful of all was the venomous green viper that lay camouflaged on a tree-branch, ready to strike its next victim.
I rose early the next morning to find more Proboscis monkeys. But I was distracted by a new introduction — the Bornean bearded pig — a strong competitor for the most bizarre looking mammal in Bako National Park. It shuffled through the camp searching for food, a huddle of piglets in tow.
It wasn’t long before the last boat back to the mainland was leaving. I boarded it with much reluctance and watched as Bako National Park receded behind me. This had been a short visit, but totally worthwhile. And more adventures in Borneo awaited.