So what adventurous things does a “soon to be 52” year old woman do in Sabah, Borneo? The list is endless! But seeing I had only a week there, I managed to do 3 crazy things and have lived to tell the tale! If you ask my friends and family they will all be emphatic about the fact that I’m a totally non-adventurous non-outdoors person – I have never tempted fate and prefer to chill and read a book or listen to music. But all that has changed now with another persona emerging. Nobody is more surprised than moi!!
White Water Rafting
Xtreme Paddlers are the rafting experts at the Kadamaian River. After some very precise instructions, we donned our life jackets, jumped (or in my case gingerly stepped) into some dinghy-like rafts and set off into the great unknown (at least for me).
11 of us in 4 rafts with some expert paddlers to help us. Scared as hell, I cowered in the middle of the raft when we encountered our first scary rapid. Bumpy and buoyant on the water, I realised if I relaxed it was just fine. So I did that – chilled and looked at the wonderful rainforest and mountains around us. Laughed in sheer fright initially but then it became quite genuine.
We did some crazy 3-4 feet drops, raced over rapids, gently floated in some areas, got thrown around in some fierce places! Some of the bends in the river required quick and hasty paddling with the oars in order to avoid a tumble into the swiftly flowing river.
At one point, we went straight into a rock and got stuck. Managed to wriggle out of that – literally – as you have to keep jumping up and down in the raft to get it to dislodge. We made a couple of stops at some sandbanks on the way. Some brave youngsters in the group did body rafting ie. float on their backs a little way down the river and get hauled to safety by others.
It was heart-stopping, wonderful, wet (the water didn’t spare us and none of us got out dry), super fun and exhilarating – I’d do it again if I have a chance. I’ve done Grade 4 rafting in the Salt River (a tributary of the Colorado River) in Arizona years ago. I was terrified and hardly enjoyed it. This one was more leisurely and lasted for close to 2 hours and I had a blast.
Island to Island Zip Line
We took a speedboat from the jetty next to the Pacific Sutera hotel in Kota Kinabalu one balmy morning. Again with my heart in my mouth, I got into the boat and quickly put on my life jacket. Our boatman thought he was Michael Schumacher’s cousin and took us to the island at full throttle! Egged on by the rest of my team, he became the hero of the day when he tipped the boat from side to side – had to hang on for dear life but it was so much fun.
The Coral Flyer between the Sapi and the Gaya islands is 253 meters and boasts of being the longest island zipline in Borneo. It runs over the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park and has a fantastic view any which way you look at it.
We moored at Sapi island and then took a smaller boat to Gaya. We donned our gear ie. the harness and hook, took instructions from the operator and hiked up a bit to the take-off point. Waiting there for my turn, my life flashed before my eyes. Absolutely terrified looking across the waters, I wanted to turn and run. Then I thought to myself – my son is all grown up and lives in Munich, I’ve lived a good life and my Will is ready. So if push comes to shove what have I to lose?!
I decided to do it in spite of my knees knocking together (I swear I could hear the sound) and turning to jelly. Once the stirrup was attached to the zip line and young Mahira hooked on the other line (we did it in pairs), I got all brave and signalled to the guy to give me that push over the edge!
My travel.earth friends on the other side were cheering me on and that gave me comfort. Once I was off the platform, I remember screaming but a few seconds later I looked to the left at the city skyline and on the right was the azure blue South China sea and all was well in my world!
I was so calm as I zipped along to the other side. The finish was a bit bumpy as you encounter the stop posts that slow the velocity of your movement. It was a wow experience and for someone like me, totally amazing! I still had jelly knees for a bit but recovered in record time.
We then went off to the floating pontoon near the Sapi island. After strict instructions about safety and learning various underwater hand signals i.e., ‘I’m in trouble’, ‘All’s well’ and ‘I want to go back up pronto’, I ventured into the cold waters of the South China Sea.
Here I have to confess that I’m not the world’s greatest swimmer. I have a great fear of water and it may be due to some bad childhood experience. I walked down the few steps towards the diver who put a big heavy dome-like helmet on my head. It weighs about 20 kgs and I had to crouch in order to support myself.
The water was cold and I went brrrr! A diver took my hand and led me down some more steps. Once I was underwater I nearly went into a panic. But I saw there was a railing I could hold. Then it was a breeze – I floated down the steps a la Cinderella!
At the first junction, I could see some helmets on the lower deck through the corner of my eye. For some inane reason, I thought I had to swim down to them and told the diver I wanted to go back up, pronto! He then told me there were steps to go down, so I grabbed the railing and floated down to the lower deck. By then my ears had pinged and I swallowed rapidly to get rid of that feeling.
Someone stuck a dead fish in my hand and before I knew it there were hundreds of little colourful fish nibbling at it, right out of my hand! I saw Dory and Nemo and the others. Blue, yellow, orange, purple, zebrafish, red, black and every which colour. It was mesmerising and completely an out of this world experience – or should I say underwater experience!
I then floated up a few stairs and saw marine plants and stunning corals – great big ones and smaller ones gently moving and oh so colourful! After a very short 20 minutes, I glided up the steps and burst out at the surface with a huge smile on my face! And why not – I’d ticked off yet another item on my bucket list!
What I realised is that age is just a number – if you set your mind to it, you can do anything!! So onward ho and here’s to more adventures with the wonderful travel.earth team.