Byron Bay, Boy & Bear and Beaches…

Above is a video documenting my time in Byron Bay…I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Byron Bay a couple of times before and it’s so lovely there, so chilled out and relaxed.
We were heading to Byron to watch Boy and Bear, a great Australian band, play at the Beach Hotel. I’ve seen the band twice before in London and I was so excited to see them while I was here!
We had a really chilled out weekend, we walked to the lighthouse, chilled out on the beach and most importantly ate AMAZING food!

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The new adventure – my first few days in Brisbane.

After three plane journeys back to back I was finally in Brisbane, I have never been happier to see Jake when he collected me from the airport, it’s been nearly two years since I saw him so I was super excited to see him, I hugged him and instantly burst into tears, I couldn’t believe I was finally in Australia, that and I was really, really tired!

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For the first few days I just chilled out, it honestly felt like I was readjusting to being back in civilization! The noises from the road was deafening, so much so that for the first days I kept the windows and doors shut! It was weird suddenly being in such a built up area after living in the middle of the jungle for two months, the only noises I would hear there were birds or frogs (yep…one night I got woken up by frogs!)

Two days after I got here it was my 29th birthday! It seemed like it had come around stupidly quickly and I hadn’t really thought about it to be honest. In the UK the changes of the seasons get you acclimatised to certain times of the year…in the UK November is cold, dark and miserable – in Australia November is HOT, let me tell you that’s a bit weird to get your head around! On my birthday Jake woke me up so that we could have breakfast together before he headed to work, he also gave me my presents and I opened cards from home which had been posted to Jake’s house. I also had my lovely card from all my Sepilok family – there was definitely a theme with my cards and presents this year!
img_7069I decided to go into the city for my birthday so I hoped on the bus and was there in under 20 minutes. I bought myself a few bits, a new cruelty free shop had opened up in the city so I headed there and got chatting to the lovely woman who owns it. I also popped to LUSH so I could stock up on a few bits.
img_7118On the evening of my birthday me and Jake took the dogs for a nice walk in the forest opposite his house. Then we went out for dinner – Vegan Pizzas! YES PLEASE! We drove to a place about 10 minutes from Jake’s house and had the best pizzas, after eating rice and noodles for the last two months a big pizza was great!
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I’ve also been exploring the surroundings near Jake’s house by going on dog walks. Jake’s housemate has two beautiful black labs who have been keeping me company during the past week! There is a big forest just opposite Jake’s house so I’ve been going there with them, it’s great to walk around, although I did get lost in there on the first day with the sun beating down on me, with no water and no idea which way to go…I had visions of the film 127 hours flashing through my brain, what happens if I get bitten by a snake?! I have no sim card in my phone! How long can you last without water?! Why is no one else in this forest?!….after about 20 minutes of panicking I figured out that I wasn’t going to die and managed to find out where I was…phew! No arm chopping for me!
img_7123img_7124img_7126img_7128Jake and I have also been going on bike rides in and around the city. One day we caught the bus into the city and picked up some bikes while we were there, they are the same as the Boris bikes in London and only cost us $2 for the day!

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Catching the Citycat to collect the bikes

DCIM101GOPROGOPR2630.DCIM101GOPROGOPR2632.It was great to cycle in the city, it was so relaxing (even though it was 35 degrees out and I was paranoid I was going to get burnt!) we cycled along the river and it was great to take in all the sights.

The day after we cycled into the city from Jake’s house, this is when I saw one of the best sights I have ever seen – Jake getting attacked by a magpie whilst cycling through the park! The magpies over here swoop at you to protect their babies and you often see people with sticks etc stuck to their helmets to try and fend them off!
img_7129After the Magpie incident we cycled into the city, once again it was over 30 degrees but we had such a good time! It’s great cycling into the city, it’s all sectioned into cycle lanes so it’s a really easy ride. I haven’t been on a bike in years but we ended up doing over 10km that day!
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My first few days in Brisbane were a bit of a shock to the system, going from ‘working’ 6 day weeks in Borneo, with a laid back lifestyle to being in the city, with the hustle and bustle that goes along with that was a bit strange at first but it’s been a great first few days. Going into the city is really nice and it’s great to walk around see new sights.I’m looking forward to exploring the city more and meeting new people along the way!

Leaving Sepilok, leaving the orangutans, looking back at the best time of my life!

It’s been just over a week since I left Borneo and I know it’s going to sound terribly cliché but there are honestly not enough words to describe what an amazing time I had whilst I was there. When I booked the trip I had 19 months to wait and I can’t believe that it’s over!

Borneo is an amazing place, the local people are the friendliest and so kind and generous. They made us feel welcome from the minute we were picked up from the airport, to the minute we left. All the staff that we met at the centre are such wonderful people, so kind, happy and so funny! We would have a laugh with them all everyday and it was honestly a pleasure to get to know them and work with them. You can see the passion in every person that works at the centre, they do everything for the well-being of the orangutans that they care for and the bond between the staff and the orangutans at the centre is so touching to see. They have bought these animals up since they were babies and you can see the love they have for them. There is such a fun, positive, happy atmosphere when you’re working at the centre, everyday there is laughing, joking and singing, it’s really a great place to work!

Next are the group of people who I was lucky enough to share this wonderful experience with…
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I honestly couldn’t have been put with a better bunch of people! We all seemed to just click straight away, there was never any awkwardness amongst us and it honestly felt like we were old friends! Living and working together had the potential to be a bit ‘much’ but it just felt like a little family. It was so nice to be surrounded by people who were genuinely happy for one another, there was no competition or separate groups, everyone was just so happy to be there and to make the most of every opportunity that we were given. It was lovely finishing work for the day, coming home and the first thing you’d be asked was “how was your day?” and knowing that the person asking you genuinely wanted to hear how you’d got on!
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We had some of the best times together and I didn’t feel homesick once while I was there and I think it’s because we all got on so well and it felt like a family dynamic (a big family!) We all had dinner together in the evenings, watched films together, would do each others hair, looked out for each other when we were ill, laughed our heads off and just shared in the excitement of being there and getting stuck in at every opportunity! I’m so happy that I met such an amazing group of people and I know we’ll all keep in touch, we’ve already talked about reunions and I can’t wait to see them all again and to pick up where we left off!

Lastly, I will miss the orangutans, more than I could have ever imagined. Anyone that knows me knows that I’m a HUGE animal lover and love every animal I meet but being around the orangutans really has made a huge impact on me. I have never been around such an incredible animal before and I feel privileged to have had such close contact with them and to have shared some very special moments with them.
These beautiful, loving, sweet, friendly animals have been amazing to get to know. Learning all about their different stories, how they came to the centre, their different personalities etc has been wonderful. Orangutans share 96.4% of the same DNA as us and it’s incredible how similar they are to us, having that close contact and being able to watch them on a day to day basis was remarkable and I loved every day I spent with them.
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These beautiful animals live solitary lives in the wild so it was so special to watch them interacting with one another, on my last day there I saw Poogle, one of the biggest males at the centre, playing with Koko who is one of the smallest babies at the centre. It was such a special moment to watch, watching how gentle he was playing with her was so beautiful to see. Orangutans are about 6 times stronger than a man and they have a grip strength that is 4 times that of a human so it’s amazing to be around these animals and realise how gentle they are being with you! I will never forget when I first held one of the babies hands, how big and heavy it was, it was incredible!
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It breaks my heart that these beautiful animals are now on the endangered list and are on the verge of becoming extinct. Their homes have been destroyed for palm oil plantations, mothers are being killed and in some cases the babies being kept as pets. This really upsets me, I hate the fact that these wonderful animals are suffering because of man’s greed – it was also heartbreaking to see how the jungle thrives, it has it’s own eco system where everything runs smoothly and then one day we go through and bulldoze it all…for money. Palm oil is a huge industry in Malaysia and brings alot of money into the country, it also brings alot of destruction. Palm oil is in 40-50% of our household products and around 90% of the orangutans habitat has been destroyed through deforestation in the last 20 years causing them to now be on the endangered list. Saying that, I know that the future for the orangutans at Sepilok looks bright. They have the love and care of the staff and I can’t wait to see what is in store for the little babies that I helped to look after.
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The two months that I spent at Sepilok truly have been the best two months of my life, words cannot describe how much I loved this place and the people who I met along the way. Our last few days there were filled with laughter and tears, no one wanted to leave and I think this was a testament to how special everyone had found their time there.
The orangutans, the Sepilok centre and Borneo has well and truly stolen a piece of my heart and I’ve already promised myself that one day I will go back. Visiting such an amazing country, spending time with wonderful people, living in the jungle and learning about such amazing creatures has been the best thing I’ve ever done. It really has taught me that it’s good to be scared of the unknown, to put yourself in new situations, to shake things up a bit because you never know, it could end up being the best thing you ever did!

My second rotation in the outdoor nursery and saying goodbye to the gang!

Saturday the 15th October was the beginning of my second week in the outdoor nursery with Bidu, Beryl, Kolapis, Gellison and Chiquita. These babies are all aged between 4-6 and would still be with their mothers in the wild. Orangutans learn a huge amount from their mothers as they live solitary lives and only have their mother to teach them things. By the time orangutan babies are the same as Beryl and Bidu they would be venturing further away from their Mother to explore on their own but they would always be keeping a close eye on Mum incase of danger.

The outdoor nursery is a big space with a jungle gym for the orangutans to play on, it has ropes and tyres that they can swing and play with. There are also three platforms that we use for feeding. There are also lots of ropes that go from the outdoor nursery into the jungle and we want them to start venturing off in the jungle and socialising with the semi wild orangtans that are also at the centre.

During my second week in the outdoor nursery I made sure I took time every day to be aware of how amazing my surroundings were, it’s so easy just to focus on the task in hand like – making sure Chiquita doesn’t go on the roof, stopping Bidu playing in the puddles, making sure they’re not on the floor eating mud etc, that it’s easy to take the surroundings for granted. The outdoor nursery is a beautiful space that’s surrounded by huge trees and it’s great watching the semi wild orangutans come into the nursery from the jungle to have a play with the babies and eat.

img_6826img_6827img_6830It’s great to spend time with the babies in the outdoor nursery, they are at such a great age and find fun in everything! Their mood changes just like ours, some days they are extremely cheeky and give you the run around, other days they are a little quieter and are quite happy to sit and quietly wrestle with one another, other days its a mixture of both!
We have to make sure that the babies don’t go onto the ground and instead choose to spend their time in the trees or on the ropes – this is because wild orangutans never spend anytime on the forest floor, they are in danger of being hurt by predators such as dogs or snakes, I would never have thought that dogs would attack an orangutan but it’s something that does happen so we need to teach them that the floor is a dangerous place to be!
In our second week we started using a plastic snake on a stick when the babies were on the floor, we used it sparingly as we didn’t want them to get used to it but it was very effective as they were very cautious of it and would go up onto the platforms when we got closer with it, this is a great way to teach them that they need to stay up high if they see something that are scared of!
img_6841img_6842img_6857Working with the babies was such a special and amazing experience, when I walked with Beryl for the first time and she was walking and holding my hand I was shocked at how heavy her hand was! When you see the babies swinging and climbing you see just how strong they are so when they hold your hand so gently it’s amazing because you realise how gentle they are being with you. Another thing that shocked me is how heavy they are! Bidu, who is 4 and likes to be dragged around rather than walking weighs 23kg! It’s alot of weight to be dragging around with one arm and lifting up onto the feeding platforms that are eye level, I swear I have built up muscles in my arms quicker than when I had a gym membership!
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These little bundles of fun really are a pleasure to work with, it’s weird to even call it work because I loved every second I spent with them and I had so many special moments with them. They have the biggest personalities and would make me laugh on a daily basis, I would love watching them learn from one another and progress over the weeks. When I first worked with them, on the first day I was a bit intimidated by them, just by their sheer strength alone but you soon feel comfortable being so close to them and start to learn about each individual and their behavior.
I will cherish the little moments I shared with them like cleaning their hands and feet, this was my favourite part of the day! You would say ‘Bagis’ which means ‘Give’ and they would give you their hand and you would place it under the sink and wipe any mud off it (they can pick up nasty parasites from the mud and it can make them very sick), when you’d done both hands it was time for their feet to have a wash too, when you are washing their feet they place their hands on your shoulders and I swear the first time it happened I nearly died, it was the cutest thing ever!
img_6856img_6854img_6855The way that these guys look up as you as you walk along together is just breath taking. At the end of the day when we give them their milk they would look into your eyes with such intensity, it was amazing and I cherished those moments everyday.
It was heart breaking to say goodbye to these guys but I know they are in the best place with a team of people who care so deeply about every single one of them. The rangers have looked after these babies from such a young age, Chiquita for instance was bought to the centre at 3 weeks old! The orangutans at the centre are never released into the jungle, instead they are free to come and go as they please and when the time is right they will choose to spend the majority of their time in the jungle rather than at the centre. You can see the strong bond between the rangers and the orangutans at the centre and the love they all share. I know these guys will go on to have great lives, I’m so happy I was able to meet them and I can’t wait to see what their futures hold!

You can actually adopt some of the orangutans that are at the centre, including Bidu, Beryl, Chiquita and Gellison that I looked after in the outdoor nursery, it’s really worthwhile as your money from the adoption helps the centre and you get a lovely gift and updates about your chosen orangutan. It’s a great idea for a gift! Please click here or visit www.orangutan-appeal.org.uk/adopt and please share with anyone that you think would be interested!

Baggy trousers and Karaoke! : Thursday 13th October.

OK, OK….I know that the 13th of October was ages ago but the internet in the jungle can be a bit slow so now I’m catching up with blog posts!

On the 13th October we all got a taxi into Sandakan as we wanted to check out the markets and buy some baggy trousers!….nothing says ‘I’m travelling in Malaysia’ better than a pair of nice brightly coloured baggy trousers!
We got into Sandakan early and made our way to the markets, after stopping at McDonalds first. The market was huge with lots of clothes, food and cosmetics being sold.
14610977_10154747129036654_8694716605681478762_nWe went inside and got lost in a cloud of baggy trousers, the woman on the stalls would start shouting at you “What price?!”…”How much?”….in the end we all grabbed a few pairs each…(someone bought 7!) and left the market to have a little walk around Sandakan.
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The weather was glorious that day, so hot and it was lovely to walk around and see some new sights, it felt like we were all on holiday as it’s so different to where we have been staying.

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happy with our new purchases!

Also on Thursday we went out for the night, we headed into Mile 4 for some Karaoke! It was our first proper night out together and we were all really excited and a little apprehensive as none of us had really done karaoke before!…When we first got there we were a little overwhelmed as everyone that was already there was really going for it, karaoke is a big thing in Malaysia and they love a ballad!….We decided we needed to have a drink…we went up to the bar to order and soon realised that the drinking system was quite unusual, if you wanted spirits, you had to buy the whole bottle, so we bought a litre of vodka to start the night off!
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We had such a FUN night, everyone had a good laugh and really enjoyed themselves. We all sung a few songs, all the usual classics including a lovely rendition of Angels by Robbie Williams which you can watch below (apologies in advance) It was really nice to let our hair down and all enjoy a fun night together doing something different!