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Borneo 2012

anchored in Santubong for the Rainforest World Music Festival

Within minutes of stepping ashore in Borneo it felt we were in a special place. Giant butterflies gliding past, crocodiles on the river bank, massive trees and lush green forest, smiling friendly people passing by, and snakes on the path underfoot. We arrived just in time for the Rainforest World Music Festival in Santubong and together with our crew, Abi, Rich and Alisha, and our friends on other yachts, we danced barefoot under the stars in the jungle. Welcome to Borneo!

Careening at Telaga beach, Langkawi

We careened in Langkawi before we left for Borneo to repair our rudder and to give Moet a fresh coat of antifouling. The boys enjoyed swinging from the halyard in wide circles and we set up camp on the beach.

anchored at Pangkor Island, Malacca Strait

Sailing down the Malacca Strait was diverse and interesting - from beautiful islands in Langkawi and Pangkor, to muddy rivers in Port Klang, a posh marina in Port Dickson, stilt villages in Kukup, and a wonderful island called Pulau Pisang (Banana island). Actually it was full of mangoes, but although only 10 miles from Singapore, had a magical timeless quality with traditional houses and canoes, friendly lighthouse keepers, and no other visitors - it could have been in the middle of the ocean.

Singapore has 4 million people living there - the same as the population of NZ - but is only 35 miles wide; we sailed past it in a day, through a maze of tankers, supertankers and supersupertankers. What a surreal experience! And then up the coast to the lovely offshore islands of Malaysia - snorkelling with turtles, hiking to waterfalls on Tioman and enjoying some island time, before crossing the South China Sea to Borneo.


We had an excellent month sailing up the coast of Borneo. We hiked in Santubong and Bako, cooked fish on a beach fire and ran through the night rain as it made the beach light up with phosphorescent splashes. Magic.

Dylan ready to cool down, somewhere in the Borneo jungle

Yummy tropical fruit for breakfast

We spent 4 days motoring through the Rajang river, past quaint river villages and isolated longhouses, and we drank rice wine with the locals in the longhouse. Then onto Brunei through a maze of ships and oilwells, and we danced on deck as we sailed into port, much to the amusement of passing fishing boats!

We only just fit underneath this bridge!

Longhouse family life

kids play near the longhouses

on the river

sunset on the Rajang

It was great to catch up with Roger and Astrid on Storm Dodger in Brunei, and Dylan was happy to hang out and run around with Leah again. We had good wind after leaving Brunei and island hopped our way up the coast. We played in the surf and the mud at Pulau Tiga, and watched monkeys scramble over the rocks at Pulau Gaya. Some lovely anchorages along this coast, and many happy, lazy days.

mud people of Pulau Tiga!

view of Mount Kinabalu from the anchorage

At the moment we are anchored at the northern tip of Borneo as I write this. Kudat is a border town in Malaysia with a strong Philippino influence. We have just returned from the Sulu Sea, an area said to abound with smugglers and pirates. Fortunately we didn't encounter any of these - though we were approached by a boat full of guys with machine guns (coastguard, they said) off the island of Cagayan Sulu, and warned not to stay overnight on the islands due to danger of thieves and pirates, but to continue at sea to Palawan. Best to take a warning like that seriously, so we bypassed this beautiful island and headed out to sea for another night.

anchor life, Pulau Gaya

Jess, Blake and Mike joined us in August an we sailed south to Sandakan, stopping at many beautiful islands on the way. We flew kites and played frisbee on a perfect white sandbar, snorkelled amongst the reefs of Pulau Malliwali, and hiked through mango lined tracks on Pulau Banggi.

dylan demonstrates the classic bomb

look what I found mum! Jay and a prehistoric horseshoe crab

Jess and Mike battle it out

the end of another great day

At the turtle islands there is a turtle nesting ground and conservation area for tourists on one island, but just 5 miles away, on an overcrowded refugee island of Philippinos, they catch turtles to eat and collect the eggs for food too. We were given a pair of baby turtles who lived in a bucket in the cockpit for a couple of days before we set them free. Not sure what their chances of survival will be, but they would certainly have been eaten otherwise! We were overwhlemed with attention when we arrived on shore here, and Dylan was in his element, running wild with dozens of children on the beach while we chatted with the adults. He paddled there in the kayak the next morning and didn't want to come home!

Boat building, island style

Dylan and friends

look out Jay there's another squall coming!

After 2 weeks in the islands, cold beer in Sandakan was much appreciated. We played table tennis at the yacht club, and went to bowling and kareoke in town.

One of our favourite islands was Taganak island. We were presented with gifts of coconuts, grapefruits, bags of mangoes, and buckets of prawns and squid. There were great walking trails on the island, some nice snorkelling in the bay, friendly people, starry skies, and a pair of giant turtles mating right beside the boat - awesome!

Mike chillin' in the hammock

gathering coconuts

Mangrove river trip

After Taganak, onto Palawan (with the slight detour mentioned at Cagayan Sulu!), and after a 3 day sail arrived in the bay of islands. Frans and Mike even scored a little surf from a storm swell, and we explored the nearby islands for a couple of days, gathering papayas and coconuts on shore.

We then anchored at Nazir Bay, at the mouth of a river to the south; a beautiful spot with palm lined shores, thatch roof huts, lit by kerosene lamps at night, and surrounded by a backdrop of mountains running along the coast. We were invited into the home of an old man whose wife served us coffee and cookies and it seemed all his children and grandchildren were living in the room above. We played chess by candlelight (and all lost against the village champ!), but as the swell came up the next day we had to leave before the onshore wind got too strong. A couple of nights of squalls and sail changes later and we were all happy to be back in Banggi in a calm anchorage. Dylan celebrated by making us pancakes and putting on AC/DC and Metallica really loud and we taught him how to headbang. The neighbouring yachts all left early the next morning...

candlelight chess in the Philippines

It's been a fun few months. Thanks to everyone who joined us, and thanks to the good ship Moet. Now we're back in Kudat and working on a few repairs while we plan our next adventure...