The first national park we decided to check out for our ten day Sarawak NP Extravaganza was Kubah, home of palms and frogs apparently, which left us in no doubt on what to expect. We figured we might as well throw ourselves right into a trail or two as soon as we got to there, there are several to choose from and they’re mostly all linked by the main trail, but I’ve no idea what made us decide that the 5km each way hike to Matang Wildlife Centre would be appropriate. Temporary possession by a sadistic demon? A brain parasite? Insanity brought on by the heat? Who knows? But off we went from HQ thinking we’d just nip along the main trail to where it picks up the Rayu trail rather than walk up the sealed road because it might be a bit more pleasant. No. One simply does not “nip” along the main trail. The main trail is a mini aspiring Everest but slightly more vindictive with inclines that’ll have you collapsing onto the nearest bench in a pool of your own sweat and tears whilst questioning all of your life choices.
An hour it took us to get to the Rayu trail. A fucking hour. Could have walked up the sealed road but nooooo, we had to get all at one with nature and slog our guts out along the trail with ants so fucking huge you could trip over them. Okay yeah, that last but is a lie but shit me, there are some big bastard ants knocking around here. If they put their hive mind to it they could quite easily take over the world. Aside from the sweating and the swearing it’s a lovely trail though and once we got onto Rayu it levelled out for a few hundred glorious metres until it descended and all we could think about was the fact we’d have to get back up this hill later on.
The trails are colour coded with patches of paint on trees so you know where you are at all times and every 50 metres there’s a post with a distance from the start of the trail on one side and the end of the trail on the other so you can be reminded of your lack of progress because you’re too busy trying not to excrete every single molecule of fluid from your face. Seriously. Sweat was dripping into my eyes. I considered having my eyebrows replaced with guttering. But a signpost every 50 metres is a bit excessive, it’s kind of like that colleague who clock watches and announces the time every ten minutes until finish, or until you strangle them and stash their body behind the water cooler, or you have a nervous breakdown, which ever happens first.
Two and a half hours later and we limped into Matang Wildlife Centre which is basically a zoo, but it’s a zoo that only exists on account of the fact humans decided they wanted to steal an animal from the wild and keep it as a pet. They’ve all been confiscated and whilst they try and rehabilitate and release as many as possible it’s still an inherently depressing place. If you take your entrance ticket and accommodation receipt from Kubah you don’t have to pay to get in, we wouldn’t have actually gone at all if we’d had to pay an entrance fee, we’d already read that it was a bunch of creatures in cages. I believe feeding time is around 3pm but we didn’t want to hang around that long on account of wanting to get back to Kubah before it got dark which meant we were left to wander around the enclosures and wince a lot at the conditions the poor animals are kept in.
It’s not the wildlife centre’s fault, they do what they can with the funds they have according to the Lonely Planet, but it’s so sad. There are animals that you can understand why people want them as pets even if it’s not right, such as sun bears and orangutans, silver leaf monkeys and gibbons, birds like owls and hornbills, even the rhinoceros hornbill which is actually fucking massive and I wouldn’t want one eyeing me up in the kitchen as I made myself a cheese sandwich. But they also have sambar deer and crocodiles. What fuckwit thought they might make good pets? They’re not going to curl up on the sofa with you of an evening and binge watch Stranger Things on Netflix you utter, utter prick.
If you’re after ticking all of your Borneo boxes with very few shits as you how you see the animals then this is where you need to be. We saw clouded leopards in tiny cages, birds of prey, several crocodiles penned in together. One of the gibbons legit threw shit at us, turns out this is a thing. It had a little pile of poo by the bars which it swung over to and picked bits off to fling at us. He was a bloody good shot too, we had to jump out of the way. I read somewhere that this is a trait of an intelligent animal kept in captivity, they’ve figured out that it evokes an emotional response from the humans. Orangutans with the saddest faces you ever saw gazed out through bars, and one of them sprawled out on the floor, barely moving, a lot like me the morning after I’ve attempted to fit all of the vodka in the world into my liver the night before.
Yeah, we didn’t need to see any of this and I kind of wish we hadn’t. It’s awful. Humans are the worst. But anyway, we made it back to Kubah with daylight to spare and brushed up on a bit of frog knowledge from the booklet we’d bought at reception, because one does not come to Kubah National Park and not indulge in a spot of nocturnal frog bothering.
Kubah National Park, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia
Stayed at: Hostel room at Kubah National Park
Useful shit to know…
- There are three different accommodation options at Kubah National Park, we stayed in a dorm bed for RM15 per person per night. The only way to book this is through this link.
- There isn’t anywhere to get food, there’s no canteen or nearby town, we brought all ours in and cooked in the well equipped kitchen in the hostel building. There’s a communal fridge and freezer too. You can buy bottled water from reception.
- It took us 2.5 hours to get from Kubah to Matang and less than that to get back.