It had been a long day. Trekking through the rainforest had been fun and we staved off fatigue for a long time, riding the adrenaline rush from sighting animals and plants of great interest. However, 5 hours of exertion in the tropical heat and humidity eventually sapped our energy and enthusiasm and we were all glad to get back to the luxury of hot showers and a warm meal at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge in Danum Valley, Sabah.
Darkness fell quickly as we sat round the table in the Lodge’s dining area. Many of us were enjoying our soup starters while a few had raced on to the main meal. It had been a great day and we were satisfied and sated. It felt as if we sat in a cocoon of light while enjoying the sensation of warm food and pleasant conversation even if the latter was muted on account of tiredness.
Suddenly one of the Rainforest Lodge’s nature guides runs into the middle of the restaurant and shouts,”Attention! We have spotted the rare Western Tarsier. If anyone wants to see it, come now.”
It was electrifying. There was immediately the sound of cutlery being dropped and people rushing out after the guide. There must have been thirty of us in the restaurant but almost all rushed out without hesitation. Many of us were expecting to have our dinner and then retire for the night. Like many others, I was not dressed nor equipped to go into the jungle at night.
Until now, I had been very careful to avoid being bitten by leeches, snakes or any other stinging insect. Yet, there I was rushing into the inky blackness and crashing through the undergrowth wearing sandals instead of shoes, in shorts rather than long pants, not wearing my leech-proof socks and not carrying any torchlight.
Indeed there were not more than 4 torchlights in the hands of the nature guides to shine the way for the whole group of about 30 and when often we had to walk in single file, many of us could see no light at all. The only thing that was just barely visible was the dark shape of the person in front of you as you try to follow feeling your way along the uneven trail and trying to avoid thorns and hooks.
Nevertheless, we managed to cover about 300 metres when we were rewarded by the sight of the Western Tarsier. This animal is rarely seen even in this wilderness area. Some people have been there as many as ten times before but had never seen this unusual animal.
While it was truly a wonderful sight, in the darkness, some of us had ended up standing on a fire ant’s nest. Before long, we were yelping in pain as the ants bit with ferocity. I withstood the pain for about 3 minutes but was then forced to flee. Fortunately, my colleague Azizul was made of tougher stuff (but he was also wearing boots) and captured this wonderful video below so that our tale would not be about the one that got away.
So I am proud to present this video for your viewing pleasure although I still sport 5 very itchy ant bites on my feet.Vodpod videos no longer available.
* “Nocturnal Perambulations” : I spent a year in my youth where I slept in a residential school dormitory with 20 others. I always remember the dorm monitor saying before the lights are switched off, “On no account, are any of you to participate in nocturnal perambulations on pain of punishment.” My nocturnal perambulations in the Bornean rainforest had a painful consequence but it was worth the prize of seeing the Tarsier.