Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Lok Kawi Zoo April 24th 2012

Lok kawi...Zoo

A wildlife park is located at Lok Kawi, a small coastal town about 20 minutes past the airport. The actual park though is some distance from the town, and getting there by public transport is going to be challenging. Varying opinions and advice, but the consensus seems to arrive at the place not being on a bus route, therefore will require a taxi ride to get there. I could take a bus to the nearest stop and hike, but that's still a long way according to folk at the bus station a few days ago, and there won't be any taxis either. Scrutiny of the map suggests possible shortcuts but a look at googles satellite imagery of the place indicates some kind of military installation, so I doubt those shortcuts are available to Joe public! Only one thing to do then - get on the bus and see what happens. Out of curiosity I did ask a taxi driver what the trip would cost - 100 RM, which actually started at 110 RM!, but it was a return price.

At the bus station looking out for a bus going to Lok Kawi. Should be easy to spot since each bus has its route taped up, and in English. Minibus 20a to Kinarut is the one that gets me closest to where I want to go. No harm in asking about bus's to the zoo. No bus, and the zoo will be 7Km from Lok Kawi town, is the reply. A discussion with the driver ensues, some frowning, then, I can go to the zoo for 25 RM each way. Two other tourists seem interested in the deal, and eventually after deliberation between the four of us it's 25 RM return, and be ready at 3pm. That's not such a bad deal all things considered!

Off to the zoo then, past the airport following a railway line, the only track in Sabah. Sea on the right, houses on stilts then the hills on the left. Not much to Lok Kawi, a few housing blocks, some rustic traditional looking shacks on stilts and a few shops. Looking out for where those shortcuts might have saved me a few quid and it is actually an Army camp running the entire length of the town - this would have been quite a long hike indeed. After dropping off the locals, just us three tourists are left to take the scenic ride into the hills and the wildlife park, which is actually a zoo. I'm coming here because it's probably the only chance to view some native animals. Otherwise it's a jungle camp out for possibly a week, and then it might just be a distance glimpse of something rustling in the tree tops. These kind of tours are available and very expensive too, but there is a market there among the worlds more adventurous travellers. Orang utans and Probiscis monkeys are what folks come to see, and indeed can see at various sanctuaries. Downside to that for me is they are all located the opposite side of Borneo, a long bus ride and an overnight stay. And after the efforts of getting there, it's a scramble with about 200 other camera clicking tourists to see one or maybe two, three if lucky, Orang utans swinging down for their daily feed - that's what I've read in reviews of others anyway. I can see those here, with much less effort involved.

3pm then and the bus driver nods, smiling, grinning this time, probably thinking about today's nice fat bonus - and good for him! A well laid out, respectable looking establishment from the outside, so let's see what's inside. The ticket price is 20 RM, about half that if a local. Get a map of where it all starts, and ends. Not really that many animals here actually, but I really only want to see the Orang utans and Probiscis monkeys, animals not seen outside Malaysia, not easily anyway. It's a nice place on the inside too, constructed within the hillside. Lots of plant life, and some really exciting finds outside of the official exhibits. A black squirrel, a lizard catching a rat and butterflies as big as birds swooping and floating. Gardens set into the hillside requires some effort to explore, but more for the possibility of finding wildlife, than looking at plants. It's all very tranquil, with walkways set along gurgling streams. And the best thing about this place - it has a walk-in aviary. Huge birds are swooping past, almost within touching distance. A giant bat creates a breeze as it flutters on past my head, and more of those black squirrels, a much closer look at these creatures.

Well, I need to be getting back to the bus. Won't have time for the reptile house, the next exhibit around the course, but maybe another time. Could done with more time really, especially in this aviary, an awesome exhibit for anyone with a connection to nature, however small it maybe. To have birds swooping past creating a breeze is something that will only be experienced in a place like this, unless you have a pet eagle of course.

In summary...

3 hours isn't really enough time to do this place justice and experience  all the things it has to offer. I had to leave the aviary for fear of missing the bus. The gardens too, should be explored carefully, especially those that like to see and photograph exotic and colourful butterflies. I skipped the reptile house, just because I was running out of time. All in all a good value for money place. Not the place for flip flops and shorts. Plenty of shade around and I was fine wearing jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt, but the mosquitoes are just a little excitable when they see a tourist coming. Bring some bottled water too, and try to avoid weekends to maximise the chance of seeing wildlife other than the exhibits.

Any debate concerning animal welfare, captivity and zoos can be conducted on various forums throughout the world wide web.

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