I don’t think there ever will be an article that can do full justice to the biodiversity in Sabah. And one of the best ways to experience what Sabah has to offer is by embarking on the Borneo Bayau river cruise. This cruise perfectly showcases the wildlife and vegetation along the muddy Sungai Wariuriver flowing through the Tamau district in Kota Belud. Borneo Bayau is located at Tamau, about an hour away from the capital city, Kota Kinabalu.
We were warmly welcomed by the sound of ancestral handcrafted bronze gongs, the backbone of traditional Sabahan music. The long drive to Kota Belud had my stomach growling, I was famished; Thankfully I was greeted with a spread of delectable dishes, all my favourites, prawns, beef and chicken wings, rice and noodles, my lunch was sorted. After lunch, we explored the jetty and spotted a few monitor lizards and birds. I was itching to get on a boat and start the cruise, but we were scheduled to leave only at 4.30 PM, and the timing would be perfect to view the crimson sunset that Sabah is famous for. While I was waiting, a sweet aroma wafted through the deck, and lead me to the source, Pinjaram. The chef was so elegantly frying up these delightful little bite-sized snacks. Versions of this dish exist in South India as well, one would be able to relate to a paniyaram, a very similar dish, either made sweet or savoury.
Finally, it was go time; I strapped on a life jacket and sprinted towards the boat as the rest of my team coolly followed. We started at the scheduled time, and the main objective of the cruise was to spot the famed Proboscis monkey. These monkeys love the mangrove trees growing along the river, making the cruise the most successful way of spotting a Proboscis monkey in its natural habitat. We had to stay as quiet as possible because these monkeys are extremely shy and do not like human contact. But unfortunately, we weren’t lucky enough to spot one during our onward journey. As we reached the end of the river, the sun began its descent into slumber. Our boat driver took us to a sandbar with a breathtaking view of the sunset, the number of Instagram worthy pictures we clicked were just innumerable. After the intense photography session, we headed back to the Borneo Bayau jetty for our dinner. On our journey back, to our pleasant surprise, we spotted a whole family of close to nine Proboscis monkeys, I think we must have unknowingly done something to please the forest gods. I was finally very content because we had completed our objective of spotting the Proboscis monkey. My next task was dinner of course; dinner was a lavish buffet with numerous Asian options including noodles, spring rolls, soups, salads, chicken, seafood, and meat. I ‘belted’ my dinner and waited for our next activity that I was really psyched about the Firefly experience. We got back on the road for a 15 min drive to another jetty, by now I knew the drill, stood in line for my life jacket and hopped onto a boat.
The boat took us close to a nearby island, I patiently waited for something to happen. The guide then took out a blinking flashlight and started waving it around in wavy patterns. Within seconds the bushes on the island lit up with thousands of tiny blinking lights. It was truly a fascinating treat to the eyes, few minutes in, the boat too was filled with the fireflies buzzing around blinking their tiny buts off.
It got me thinking about the kind of business ideas one can come up with, who could’ve ever thought of making money out of fireflies. This experience was one of the best things my eyes had ever seen. These fireflies definitely lit up my life and got me looking at the ‘bright side’ of things.