Borneo Day 14 – Sandakan

The tour is nearly over now and today we visited the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. Many orphaned orangutans are brought here and hopefully taught how to survive, so that later they can be released back into the wilderness. It is a long road though. Locals have been known to keep the baby orangutans as pets in cages, which is illegal.

Oranguatan means “man of the forest” and the orangutan is supposedly 96% human.

Firstly we saw a film about the centre and then we walked to a platform where we could see the orangutans feeding.

Our final port of call is Sandokan. Tomorrow we fly back to Kuala Lumpur for our flight to London Heathrow, if that volcanic ash has cleared.

Borneo was occupied by the Japanese during the Second World War and some terrible atrocities occurred. We visited a former prisoner of war camp, which is now a memorial and museum. Sandakan was also the start of the Sandakan death march where 6,000 soldiers, mainly Australian, but a few British were brutally marched to their death.

We did a city tour and then checked into the hotel. I haven’t seen a television for 5 days and even though I had heard abouit the volcanic ash, I was unprepared for the news about the volcanic ash. My company called me to say that it was doubtful that we would be flying home tomorrow and that they had provisionally booked the hotel rooms for us for an extra couple of nights.

At dinner, I saw my clients, who had obviously seen the news also and some of them were panicking about the situation. I tried to calm them down and advised them to relax, sit tight and wait and see. That is all we could do. I wanted to get home – today was my 28th day away without a day off and I was tired.

Anyway, we were having dinner and 8 clients, who were all at one table, were getting quite agitated with me about the volcanic ash situation. I think they wanted me to tell them that we were flying home tomorrow and of course, even though it is good to tell the clients what they want to hear it is not always possible.

I decided to lighten up the mood and sent a guitarist/singer over to their table and told him to say that the next song was from me. He played “Leaving on a Jet Plane” Luckily, the clients saw the funny side.

I also set some tasks for the clients, to kill time in case we did have to stay here in Sandakan for an extra couple of days. Find the cheapest fried rice in town, the cheapest noodle or beer. Who can get their laundry done the fastest, though it would have to stay the same colour. Humour helps sometimes.

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