January 31, 2011

Garama Wetland FTW!

I became an 'accidental tourist' today and I am glad I was game enough for it because I was rewarded visually with nature's splendor!

If you are my twitter friends, you would know that I have been preoccupied with hosting my French 'helper' these past few days. She found me via www.helpx.net , it is a portal that connects farm owners who are willing to offer accommodation, meal and their hospitality, with budget travelers who are willing to work for farm owners in exchange for what the farm owners are offering.

My 'farm hand', Hélène, is a nature and animal loving vegetarian and a gifted artist. She decided to visit Beaufort and become my 'slave' because she wanted to see the Proboscis monkeys. 

Proboscis monkey: genus Nasalis larvatus. Locals in Sabah call them Rungui.  

Because I am an 'employer' who believes in rewarding worker for their hardwork :P, I pulled some string. Nope, I did not bribe anyone (I do not believe in bribing to get things done), just asked for some favors. My brother in-law hooked me up with a childhood friend of his who owns a boat and is willing to ferry us as long as we supply the fuel for the outboard motor; RM40/-. 

 Awang, soft spoken good friend of my brother in-law. Picture taken by Hélène.

So we started the drive from my home in Beaufort to Sungai(River) Garama at 4PM, stopped by the sole Shell station in Beaufort to fill up my tank and also bought RM40/- worth of petrol(RON 95) for Awang. Before I departed from the station, I made a last call to Awang to tell him that we were making our way to Sungai Garama (he was concerned that it might rain and told me to call him before I make the journey. It has been raining daily in our district for the past 2 or 3 months) and he gave the green light. 

We reached the vicinity of our rendesvouz around 4:40pm, a kind and polite local directed us to Awang's location. Look for Aljo Cafe he said and sure enough when we followed his direction, Awang emerged. 

We (Hélène, my mom, a relative of ours and myself) boarded Awang's fibreglass boat which can fit up to 15 people and headed out. About 5 to 10 minutes later, we caught up with 2 other boats ferrying tourists. They consisted of Westerners and Asian tourists. When we caught up with them, the children of the Asian tourists who sounded like they were either from China or Taiwan, were so excited and animated when they sighted the Proboscis monkeys. 

After a few minutes, Awang decided to leave the spot and let the other 2 boats of tourist enjoy their discovery and look for our own. 

A happy Hélène

An impressed me :P

The other tourists.

A visit to Garama Wetland is a MUST! The view itself is enough a reason to visit the place, the Proboscis monkeys and other wild lives there are a bonus. 

The waterway is lined with mangroves on both sides, Awang skillfully navigated us through the meandering and sometimes narrow waterway. I enjoyed it and I can only describe the landscape as surreal. It is like I was in another country.   

Farther downstream, I was pleasantly surprised that there are human inhabitants among the mangroves! Like houses in the marina, difference is, this is a river. Instead of a garage for cars, they have garage for their boats.   Rustic houses among the mangroves, again, very surreal.

We came across some young men fishing for prawn, waiting lazily in their boat. Awang chit chatted with them, he seemed to know them. 

About five minutes after our encounter with the young fishermen, we spotted our first group of Proboscis monkeys. 

According to Awang, these monkeys do not eat fruits. They only eat leafs, so if you think of dangling a banana to entice one to get nearer to you, forget it. To be honest with you, I think this specie look weird. Small head and big tummy! They look like human child with Vitamin D deficiency which causes Pot Belly. 

For some reason, they seemed to be afraid of bright colour. We were not wearing life vests which are in bright orange colour, when we approached them, they did not run helter skelter but when one of the boats that was ferrying tourists caught up with us, they got spooked! 

We encountered at least five groups of these monkeys. Awang told us that there is only one male in a group, I suppose he is the Alpha male. Awang said, generally, a group consists of eight female and one male Proboscis monkeys and he aptly called the male monkey the lucky monkey hahahaha.. 

One of the tour guides said that they can live up to twenty five years and Awang said that the Alpha male will chase away male offspring from the group. Hence, you will find a group of displaced all male juvenile Proboscis monkeys, bidding their time when they will overthrow the alpha male from a group.

Yup, we enjoyed ourselves! I recommend this tour. I envy those folks that live in that area. Nuff said, here is another picture of that ugly looking monkey that makes tourist go gaga. 


AngeL BeaR said...

waaaa......next time bring me along!!!

silicom creation event said...

hi, may i ask how much is the entrance fee for Garama Wetland? we plan to go visit proboscis monkey and fireflies.

Justin said...

Hi Thomas,

I don't think there is an entrance fee to Garama but you do have to get the service of tour operators to see the monkeys. Try this link http://www.oibtours.com/

Päivi Kannisto said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Päivi+Santeri said...

Hi Justin,

we saw your profile in HelpX. Would you be interested in offering us some chili picking?

Päivi & Santeri

Justin said...

Hi Päivi and Santeri,

When do you plan to come? Please message me via HelpX and we'll correspond from there.



Päivi+Santeri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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