OK Travel-blazers, this week’s article comes packed with the beauty and glory of some of the finest offspring Mother Nature has to offer! We’re sure you know about these animals, and you’ve probably seen heaps of photographs of them across the web, you might even have watched them on a National Geographic documentary or two or ten!
But to fully experience these creatures in their fullest and most awesome-est glory, nothing beats an upfront, in close and personal experience of seeing them in their natural habitat! And what better way to do that than by going on safari or visiting the rainforests of Borneo?
And if you were to do that with us… we’re ready to some champagne and toast with you! And while some bubbly may be refreshing for your palate, few things will be as refreshing for your soul as seeing these majestic creatures on your travel journey.
1. Pygmy elephants
Aren’t they adorable? Pygmy elephants are found in both Africa and Asia, and Borneo is well known as a hot spot for them. By going on a river safari on the Kinabatangan River, you will not only get to search for wild pygmy elephants, but also crocodiles, hornbills, kingfishers, and much more! The Kinabatangan River is a unique and rich ecosystem that is widely acknowledged by experts to be the most varied and easily accessible in all of Southeast Asia so that’s nothing to scoff at. The variety of wildlife here is almost second to none!
- Pygmy elephants are the smallest of all elephant subspecies.
- Their tails are so long that they often touch the ground even while the elephants are in standing position.
- A pygmy elephant’s gestation period is close to 22 months and the average litter size is one!
- Baby elephants weigh 100kgs at the time of their birth.
- A pygmy elephant can run at speeds of up to 43kmph.
One of the major highlights of our Borneo tours is the chance to watch the orangutan up close in their natural habitat. The world famous Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, which, by the way, is the first official orangutan sanctuary and rehabilitation centre in the world, welcomes orphaned and injured orangutans for rehabilitation before returning them to forest life. Did you know? Orangutans are endemic to Borneo, and Borneo is one of only two places in the world where you can still see them in the wild. If that’s not a unique experience we don’t know what is.
- In Malay, orang means “person” and utan is derived from the word hutan, which means “forest.” Thus orangutan literally means “person of the forest”.
- Orangutans’ arms stretch out longer than their bodies. In the case of some males, their arms measure up to 8 ft. from fingertip to fingertip.
- Like humans, orangutans have opposable thumbs. Their big toes are also opposable. Unlike humans however, approximately one third of all orangutans do not have nails on their big toes.
- For the first few years of his/her life, a young orangutan holds tight to his/her mother’s body as she moves through the forest canopy.
- In the wild, females usually give birth to their first offspring when they are 15 to 16 years of age. However, some females in captivity have given birth when they were as young as eight years old.
3. Proboscis monkeys
Proboscis monkeys are just one of the more than 100 animal species that are endemic to Borneo, which means you won’t get to see these animals in the wild anywhere else in the world! They’re pretty special, aren’t they? Other amazing animals that are endemic to Borneo – and that you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of while you are on a river safari – include Bornean clouded leopards and Bornean rhinos.
- The proboscis monkey is also called the monyet belanda monkey, which means the long nosed monkey. Their noses are what distinguish them from all other species.
- The larger the nose, the more attractive a male monkey is to a female. A proboscis monkey’s nose can grow up to 7 inches long.
- Male proboscis monkeys weigh up to 25kg while female monkeys weigh only about 9kg.
- Proboscis monkeys live in groups of about 10 to 30 monkeys.
- Proboscis monkeys swim very well, even in deep water.
4. Malayan sun bears
This is no ordinary bear… Thanks to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, Malayan sun bears have a fighting chance of surviving. This conservation centre, which is conveniently located next to the famous Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, is a wildlife conservation and research centre dedicated to improving animal welfare and the rehabilitation of the Malayan sun bear. You won’t see a great many of these in the wild, so don’t lose this opportunity!
- The Malayan sun bear is one of the smallest bears, measuring around 1.4m long and weighing up to 45kg.
- Also known as honey bears, Malayan sun bears eat lizards, little birds, rodents, insects, termites, fruit and honey.
- Because they live in tropical regions, Malayan sun bears do not need to hibernate and are able to mate throughout the year.
- Malayan sun bears are hunted for their meat and body parts, which are used for medicine. Cubs are often taken from their mothers and kept as pets.
- Malayan sun bears have loose skin that allows them to twist when being bitten so that they can defend themselves and bite their attackers.
Have you ever witnessed a green turtle laying her eggs? These animals might not seem like anything special to some people, but wait till you see up close how beautiful they really are! The Turtle Island National Park in Borneo is a must visit for turtle lovers – you’ll get to watch green turtles lay their eggs and also release newborn baby turtles into the sea.
- Turtles belong to one of the oldest reptile groups in the world – beating snakes, crocodiles and alligators!
- Turtles date back to the time of the dinosaurs, over 200 million years ago!
- Just like your bones, a turtle’s shell is actually part of its skeleton. A turtle’s shell is made up of over 50 bones, which include its ribcage and spine.
- Turtles have an incredibly long lifespan. The oldest ever recorded, named Tu”i Malila, of Tonga Island, passed away at 188 years old!
- Turtles are “amniotes”, which means they breathe air and lay their eggs on land even though they live in or around water.
The majestic king of the jungle is called that for good reason – despite all the images that we have seen, the experience of seeing lions in the wild is still one that takes our breath away. (Cue ‘Circle of Life’ from The Lion King…) One of the most sought-after animals on safaris, lions can be difficult to spot as they mainly hunt at dawn or dusk so keep your fingers and toes crossed. Some of the best places to see lions on safari include Tanzania and South Africa.
- Lions usually live in “prides” of 10 or 15 animals.
- An adult male lion’s roar is so loud that it can be heard up to 8km away!
- A male lion needs 7kg or more of meat a day, while a female lion needs 5kg.
- A baby lion is called a cub, whelp or lionet.
- Lions can run at speeds of up to 81kmph!
Another amazing animal that you might be lucky enough to see in Tanzania and South Africa is the leopard. Believe it or not, these magnificent and powerful cats are actually really shy and nocturnal, often spending most of their days hiding away in the canopy of large trees, so you’ll have to look closely to spot one. Good luck!
- Leopards use their long tails for balance.
- Leopards weigh anywhere from 27kg to 90kg and range in length from 5 to 8 feet. Male leopards are larger than females.
- Pregnant female leopards find a cave, crevice among boulders, hollow tree or thicket to give birth. They usually have 2 cubs but can have up to 4.
- Leopard cubs are born blind and helpless, and only emerge from their den at six weeks old.
- Leopards have flexible ankle joints that allow the foot to rotate greatly. This allows them to descend headfirst from high perches and be agile climbers.
Sadly, wide scale poaching has left rhinos in a very precarious position so count yourself very fortunate indeed if you spot one! These powerful creatures have been wandering the plains of Africa for millions of years and have no natural animal predators in the wild – besides humans, of course. They have very poor eyesight but a superb sense of smell so you’ll have to keep down-wind of them if you want to get close.
- The name rhinoceros actually means “nose horn”. It comes from the Greek words rhino (nose) and ceros (horn).
- Female rhinos are pregnant for 15 to 16 months and baby rhinos stay with their mother until they are approximately 3 years old.
- Rhino skin might be thick but it is actually quite sensitive, which is why they like to wallow in mud so much – when the mud dries it acts as protection from sunburns and insects.
- Rhinoceros horns are made from a protein called keratin, which is the same substance that our fingernails and hair are made of!
- A group of rhinoceros is called a “herd” or a “crash”.
Wildebeest travel in huge herds, and the sight of them running across wide-open plains and grasslands is enough to stop everyone in their tracks! The largest concentration of wildebeest is found in the Serengeti and Maasai Mara eco-systems in Tanzania and Kenya, where one of the world’s greatest wildlife migrations take place every year. These annual events, which you might have seen video footage or photos of, also include thousands of zebra and antelope, all of which are followed by very large numbers of predators! No wonder this is one of the most remarkable wildlife viewing experiences in the world!
- Wildebeest have forequarters that could have come from an ox, hindquarters that look like an antelope’s, and manes and tails that resemble a horse’s.
- The antics of the territorial male wildebeests during breeding season have earned them the name “clowns of the savannah”.
- A wildebeest calf can stand and run within minutes of birth! It immediately begins to follow its mother and stays close to her to avoid getting lost or killed by waiting predators. Within days, it can run fast enough to keep up with the adult herd.
- Wildebeest are the preferred prey of lions and spotted hyenas.
- In the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, herds of wildebeest make a migratory circle each year of 800km to 1600km. That’s a long walk!
Have you secretly wanted to be the star of your own version of Gorillas in the Mist? Gorillas are shy, gentle animals, only attacking if they feel that they or their family is being threatened. They are also one of the most endearing primates to see, and it’s sad to think that there are only 900 mountain gorillas left in the wild today, no thanks to the loss of their habitat and poaching. Gorilla trekking in Uganda is one of the few precious opportunities left to gorilla lovers, so if that’s you, be sure not to miss out.
- Gorillas are the world’s largest primates. They are closely related to humans, with 98% of their DNA identical to that of ours!
- Gorillas are highly intelligent. They use tools and have various methods of communication, including some 25 different sounds.
- One of the most famous gorillas is Koko, who was captive-born and taught sign language from the time she was a year old. By the time she was 40, Koko had a library of about 1,000 signs and could understand some 2,000 words of English.
- Much like human fingerprints, gorillas have unique nose prints, which can be used to identify individual gorillas.
- Gorillas live in groups of 6 to 12, with the oldest and largest silverback leading a family of females, their young, and younger males called blackbacks. The silverback decides when his group wakes up, eats, moves, and rests for the night.
So here you have it, some of nature’s most beautiful and amazing creatures. While hardly definitive, this is a good list to start with if you’re an animal lover, and what better way to experience them than by coming on tour with us? If you can’t wait any longer, my travel-enthusiast, to find out more and see these sublime creatures in person, get in touch with me today. That bottle of champagne is crying out to be uncorked!
Trailblazers Travel is your eco travel expert, providing ethical, responsible and sustainable holidays and safari experiences including South Africa tours, Cape Town tours, Tanzania tours, Serengeti safaris, Zanzibar tours, Victoria Falls tours, Rwanda tours, India tours and Borneo tours. Browse our website for more information or get in touch with us today!