After we were served snacks - mainly fried fruit like bananas that seem like they have been sitting out too long - we set out on a small boat in search of the famed Proboscis Monkeys that are unique to Borneo, and on the endangered list.
Not sure why we were expecting to be able to see the monkeys close-up, I think in our minds there was going to be a portion of the tour that would be walking through the preserve and being potentially in close range to the animals - but in reality of course as they are endangered, we stayed in the boat the whole time, and though we did see several monkeys - they were swinging from the treetops so we could barely see their silhouettes.
The below was about as close as we got to seeing their faces:
|Photo taken at gift shop at hotel|
It was still fun though, and entertaining to see the kids on the tour go bananas whenever they spotted a monkey (and were able to identify the butt color of each one via zoom lens or binoculars).
The fireflies tour was great - we basically went down the river in the dark, and periodically the tour guide would shine a huge spotlight on a tree that he suspects houses many fireflies, and for a brief moment we would question whether they are there - then seconds later, pinpoints of light burst into life all over the tree, so that it looks like lights on a Christmas tree - except the lights move around to create a magical, shimmery effect. Again it was too bad we couldn't see them up close, and no photo opps with this one either - but kind of a fun thing to do in conjunction with other activities at the preserve (we decided we wouldn't have wanted to drive all the way just for the fireflies).
Day 2: We also checked out the waterfront markets in Kota Kinabalu's city center. From produce stands to sellers of everything you can make out of coconut, to dried seafood and no-label secret recipe hot sauce at Central Market to handmade bags and accessories and anything you can bead, crochet or build out of shells at the Craft Market - this is ideal for anyone looking for local foods / goods and interactions.
Where we ended up buying the most souvenirs was at the Wawasan Plaza shopping mall near Api-Api center. There were stalls selling everything a tourist would want to bring home as gifts - hand-dyed sarongs, Kota Kinabalu tees, monkey-themed gifts, all kinds of keychains and charms, crocheted seashell 'windchimes' and much more. At one store, I scored 5 sarongs for RM100 or about $32 US!
The good news is, we discovered when wandering around Sutera Harbour Resort that they have a professional water activities agency on-site called Sea Quest, and among other offerings they run boats out to three islands at nearby Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park throughout the day, and will rent you the appropriate equipment from beach mats to snorkel / diving gear. The most awesome thing? There were boats leaving as late as 11:30am, 12:30pm and into the afternoon - they leave straight from the Marina Club in the resort, it's a 15 minute ride, and they take walk-ins. The total cost for one person to go to Mamutik Island with boat fare and full snorkel gear rentals was RM80 or about $26 US (inclusive of entry fee into the park). As a hotel guest at the Sutera you can also get a 'loaner' towel from the booth steps away from the Sea Quest counter. So convenient! Granted, the variety of marine life and quality of the snorkeling/diving experience at the Tunku Abdul Tahman Marine Park will not compare to that of Semporna, one of the Top 10 dive sites in the world - but it also doesn't take an hour plane ride and boat ride either - and is ideal for families looking for short half day excursions with minimal travel time.
We were already excited, at the pier to be able to see huge schools of fish swimming below (hard to see in this picture with my point and shoot...but you can roughly see their numbers and visibility up near the top right corner).
With Sea Quest, you book a spot on the return trip as well before you depart, but can change it if you like - just head to the pier to let their staff know 20 minutes prior to the originally scheduled departure time. Love the flexibility!
(You can also use the 'island hopper' deal to check out two of the three islands in one day - the boat stops by each island anyways like a shuttle. Next time we would like to try Manukan, which seems a little more resort like than Mamutik.)
feasting on the freshest creatures from the sea - it was great to cool down with a Super Ice-Cream Potong. There were tropical fruit flavors, of course, plus some flavors unusual for ice cream, like avocado, yam and sweet corn. Before tasting these frozen treats, I expected to like sweet corn the least - it didn't sound like something that would make a delicious ice cream flavor - but with that set-up, I'm sure you've guessed by now - yes, sweet corn turned out to be my favorite flavor of the bunch.
And those were some of the highlights of our trip!
All in all, loved Sabah for all that it had to offer - and there's so much more that we didn't see - hope that we will have a chance to go back again!