Kayaking in Borneo
Kayaking was not on my to-do list for my East Malaysian travels!
I’m not a skilled paddler as anyone who has read my book knows: the last chapter is about me having to be rescued while kayaking around Pulau Perhentian Kecil off the northeastern coast of West Malaysia .
However this is on a river, with a guide, so after visiting the orang utans at the Semonggoh Centre I’m back in the van with Nikki from SEABackpacker heading for a river and some rainforest kayaking – starting in the little Bidayuh village of Bengoh.
McKenzie, our Semadang Kayaking guide ( his father started this family run business) is waiting for us and with our life-jackets on we go down a few steps to where our boats await us: our Diethelm Travel guide is coming too and he’s happy to be out in the country. We all have our own kayaks: McKenzie points out to me they are New Zealand-made.
The water is low and a few times my boat scrapes the bottom as we glide down this bush-lined tributary at the start of our five-hour, 12-K trip. It’s not long before we reach the Semadang River which is where we may experience some grade 1 rapids – sometimes they are grade 2 but not this week! Grade one suits me just fine!
‘Look, there’s a crocodile’ say McKenzie – he’s teasing us. There are no crocs in this river and its a baby monitor lizard he’s pointing at. who ever says the bush is quiet and peaceful have never kept quiet enough to listen to the noise of birds in the lush vegetation. We see many including kingfisher, swifts, black and white wagtails, along with silent dragon flies and butterflies that hover around.
A couple of times we find rapids and both Nikki have our canoes spin around and briefly travel backwards but we stay on board! Our land-guide was not so successful and tipped out once. Mackenzie took these action shots – and gave us a CD with the photos at the end of the journey
Partway into our trip we stop for lunch in Danu village – a wonderful meal cooked by our guides sister. “She has been married for two years but no babies yet so she helps us ‘ he says.
As we wait for lunch we explore the village gardens with pepper and many herbs and fruits growing.
Lunch is great and provides my first taste of midin which I’d been told was a must-taste food. Pronounced “mee deen” it’s a jungle fern that only grows in Sarawak and remains crunchy when cooked. The thin, curly shoots are delicious and it’s often stir-fried with garlic, ginger, shrimp paste and chili – I’m instantly a fan.
Back on the water we pass more rainforest, sandy beaches and limestone hills that tower over us and all too soon we reach the family’s home village of Semadang. My back was sore from sitting in one position for ages but it was still sad to finish such a great journey.
At this end-point we meet their grandmother whose home is the base for this family company and its good to know that money is being left in the villages along the way . . . perfect eco-travel.