I have nothing planned for today as far as sightseeing goes, but I go for a drive this morning. First stop is Hastings Rocks Beach, which is only a couple of minutes’ drive from where I’m staying, and offers a public access beach, a boardwalk along the beachfront, and easy parking. There are also lots of restaurants in the area, which I’ll make use of for dinner each day starting today.
I drive towards Bridgetown and get within sight of the cruise terminal when I visit Pebbles Beach along the Aquatic Gap, where there are also some hotels. As I drive back, I visit the Garrison area where the Barbados Turf Club Racecourse is located along with the Garrison historic buildings. (See banner image above.)
After I return to my vacation rental, I see a troupe of Barbados Green Monkeys roaming around the yard and feeding. After my previous encounter with hostile monkeys in Borneo, I am very cautious around these ones. They appear to be somewhat scared of humans, so they keep to themselves, which is reassuring. This afternoon I drive to the Massy Stores Supermarket in nearby Worthing to buy more food and beverages for snacks, breakfast and lunch.
I go out for dinner to Blakey’s Bar & Restaurant, which is beside the boardwalk on the Hastings Rocks beachfront. I order grilled Barracuda, which is the catch of the day and a new fish for me to try. It’s quite good, but it could use a bit more spice, since it’s a very mild flavoured fish. I also order a Martini, which is barely cold and not well-mixed. I should have known better and ordered a Gin and Tonic or beer instead, but I enjoy the meal and the sunset over the beautiful Caribbean was sublime.
I am up at 6AM and put my bag out to be picked up before I leave to have breakfast. The hotel has a self-serve super-automatic espresso machine, so I have two cappuccinos along with some fruit, yogurt, and pastries. I check out and board the bus by 8AM.
Everyone is onboard ahead of time, so we leave at 7:50AM for the one hour drive to the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary in time for the first feeding at 9:30AM. This is a private sanctuary for the monkeys operated by a palm plantation owner. Everyone in the group take fantastic photos and video of the monkeys, since they are only a few metres away from us. The monkeys are well-behaved, not aggressive at all.
After we have lunch in the highlands at the classic English Tea House & Garden, we drive to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, arriving in time to see the afternoon feeding. As always, our guides are well-organized and ensure everyone is at the feeding platforms ahead of the crowds, so our group all take some wonderful photos and video.
We then check in at the nearby MY Nature Resort. This is another resort run by the same company as our last lodge on the river. This travel company also supplies the guides and boats we have been using. This is a very nice resort, and thankfully the chalets are very roomy and have air conditioning, so it is much more comfortable to sleep at night.
Our guides conduct another night walk at the nearby Rainforest Discovery Centre, but again I pass on the opportunity since leeches are a very real risk at that location.
April 14, 2018 Saturday – Sepilok Orangutans and Sun Bears
After breakfast, we spend the full day at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, seeing both the morning and afternoon feeding of the organgutans. We also see the nursery, where young orphan orangutans are socialized, taught how to forage and build nests, and build up their strength. They are encouraged to explore the adjacent rainforest sanctuary, since there are no fences or barriers. For their own safety, they are housed in a nursery building at night. After about four years, they are released to a protected area if the staff are convinced they have the skills to survive in the wild.
We also visit the adjacent Sun Bear Conservation Centre. These small, cute bears encounter the same issues as orangutans – encroachment of human settlements on their rainforest habitat, poaching, and locals keeping them as pets. The CEO and Founder of the Centre is Dr. Wong Siew Te, who gives us a personalized tour. We are fortunate to see three of the Sun Bears come out of the bush and literally pose for us on a stump right in front of the viewing platform.
We start our full day in Brunei visiting the opulent Jame Asr Hassanil Bolkiah new mosque, where we are allowed to visit the inside of the men’s prayer hall after removing our shoes. The women in our group must also cover their heads and legs, and everyone has to check our bags, although we are allowed to carry a camera with us.
There is a very impressive Royal Entrance to the mosque with fountains, gardens and ornate gates, however the best photo-op I found was the Woman’s Entrance, where the symmetry of the golden domes and minarets is stunning.
We then travel back into Bandar Seri Begawan to see Masjid Omar Ali Saifuddien old mosque. I decide to not go inside, since our time here is limited. I walk out to the decorative cement boat that is situated in the middle of the lake beside this mosque, where I take some very nice photos of the mosque despite the midday Sun beating down on us.
We walk along the Jalan McArthur waterfront promenade to the jetties and board boats which take us across the Brunei River to Kampong Ayer, a Malay stilt village. After our return, we have time for a quick lunch at Franini’s Italian restaurant before boarding the bus to head out of the city. We make a quick stop for some retail therapy at a Starbucks in a mall, where I find some unique souvenirs of Brunei to take home with me before we continue on to see the Wawasan Brunei 2035 craft skills display.
Boats on the Brunei River take us past Istana Nurui Iman – the Sultan’s palace to see Proboscis monkeys in the mangrove at nearby Pulau Ranggu. We finish the day with another visit to the Jame Asr Hassanil Bolkiah new mosque at night, which is spectacular.
I’m pretty well beat by the end of this marathon day, so after we return to the hotel, I go downstairs to have a quick dinner of Nasi Goreng, and then I unwind in my room before bedtime.
I leave early this morning on the all-day Munduk Highlands tour of Bali. I deliberately chose this excursion awhile ago since it gets me away from the hot and humid coastal area. We drive out of the port of Benoa upcountry to the Sangeh monkey forest, with its towering nutmeg trees and temples. We watch dozens of resident Long-tailed Macaque monkeys frolic along the pathways. Some jump on tour group members, however they are much more friendly, gentle and well-behaved than monkeys in other areas. The cool of the shade in this place is wonderful. A couple of Balinese actors show up in full costume for us to take photos of. What a great touch!
We continue climbing up into the mountainous area of Bedugul to see the Lake Bratan area at 1,200 metres (4,000 feet) above sea level in the crater of Mt Catur. The Pura Ulun Danu temple is located along the lake shore, dedicated to the lake’s water goddess. While visiting the temple, we see local Balinese people in a funerary parade, and others are praying in the nearby temple. Decorative statues on the lakeshore are amazingly picturesque, as is the scenery in this old volcano. The climate is a bit cooler than the seaside areas of Bali, and yet the Sun is out.
We climb to the ridge line of the mountains and see the twin lakes of Buyan and Tamblingan, which are two of the largest lakes on the island. After taking a few photos, we descend a bit to have a nice buffet lunch at the Bali Handara Country Club, a local golf course with a view of one of the lakes.
En route back to the port, we stop at a so-called local fruit and vegetable market, but it appears to be mainly a shopping stop for tourists to buy t-shirts and other souvenirs. I stay on the bus, as do several others. There are peanuts, corn, and other food being sold to the local people as they drive by on the road.
While I’m away on my excursion, the ship leaves port around Noon, and anchors out in the bay due to tides being unfavourable for our proposed departure time of about 6PM. When my excursion returns to the pier, there are several hundred passengers waiting for tenders. Apparently the currents are too strong for the ship’s tenders, so the ship has contracted with two larger and more powerful tenders to move passengers back to the ship. The operation is slow and excruciating for us as we wait in the heat and humidity. At least these tenders are large, moving at least twice as many passengers at once as the ship’s tenders. They also have nine motors on the back, so there are no problems with powering through the tidal flow!
After my return to Canada, I make a point of funding some Indonesian villagers who need to buy pigs to raise and later sell. I make micro-loans through Kiva. Hopefully some of you reading this will consider doing the same. When the loans are repaid, you get to choose a new group or individual to support who needs a bit of financial help.