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Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Nepal 2018, a wildlife trip.


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Hey all,

I'm active on safari talk for a couple of months now. I am waiting for my honeymoon to Namibia and Botswana next September (if COVID-19 allows it). 

I wanted to write my first trip report about that trip, but then I realised that I can also write a trip report about a previous trip, which was not to Africa, but to Asia.
As you may notice I’m not a native English speaker so there might be some incorrect use of English. Sorry for that and if you do see something that's terribly wrong please let me know.

This trip report will be about my first trip to Asia, I travelled together with my girlfriend. My girlfriend was going to do an internship in a Children's Hospital in Kathmandu, which was the reason for us to travel to Asia prior to that internship. First we considered to only go to Nepal because we only had a little more than three weeks, but rainy season in Nepal can be very extreme and our travel period was right in the rainy season. Our holiday was from the 4th of June until the 29th.


So this leaded to a new question, where do we go?
To answer this question we visited the biggest holiday fair off the Netherlands and got information from al lot of Asian countries. But as we do more often we talked about iconic animal species that we wanted to see and that's how we got to our final itinerary.

We decided to split up our holiday in four parts. In all of these parts we wanted to see at least one iconic wildlife species. So, this trip report will also consist of four parts. First, we went to Ulu Muda reserve in Northern Malaysia on the border with Thailand to see wild Asian elephants. After that we went to Pulau Tioman to find sea turtles and for my girlfriend to get her PADI certificate. Then we went to Bukit Lawang, Sumatra to find Sumatran orangutans and we finished our wildlife trip at Chitwan National Park,  Nepal where we wanted to find Indian rhinoceros.     

On this google maps screenshot you can see the locations we Visited in South East Asia.


Okay, the next days I will write the 4 parts of this trip report. To start of with one spoiler, is a picture of a Sumatran orangutan. (Unfortunately I wasnot able to set my camera settings on manual so not all picture, like this orangutan are perfect.)



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I'm looking forward to more.  Most of us on ST are starved for trip reports, so your timing is excellent.

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@Bjorn13 Thanks for sharing your Asian Safari adventures, really looking forward to more when you have time. 

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Thanks so much for starting a new trip report! Looking forward to lots of orangutan pictures. The one you posted is terrific, but don't worry if they are not perfect--there are many people on safaritalk who are incredible photographers, but lots of just are just average! It can be a bit intimidating to post when you see so many shots that look like they should win photography contests or be in National geographic....

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So let's start with the second part of my trip report.
In this part I will talk about our search for the Asian elephant  (Elaphus maximus) in the Ulu Muda reserve, Kedah.

After a long journey with flights from Amsterdam to Helsinki, Helsinki to Singapore and then Singapore to Kuala Lumpur we finally made it to Malaysia’s capital. Since we landed in the evening and our next flight was going the next morning, we decided to stay in a budget hotel close to the airport. Thus we did not get to see Kuala Lumpur this time.
The next morning, we flew from Kuala Lumpur to Alor Setar, which is in the far north of Malaysia. It was an one hour flight and we used AirAsia for it. After we landed we had to wait 2 hours before our taxi would arrive. Since it is a very small airport, with nothing to do, it felt like a long time. It was a 1.5 hour drive leaving us a the Lake Muda jetty. The drive was very scenic and it was our first glimpse of South East Asia. This jetty was very small with space for about 10 fishing boats.


Few from the  Lake muda Jetty


We had to wait another hour before our 2 guides and cook arrived at the jetty. From there it was a 2 hour boat trip going deeper and deeper into the leaving, ending at the Earth lodge. The earth lodge is an eco-friendly lodge in the middle of the jungle ran by a former WWF employee who uses this place as a research station and for tourism.  This place is very remote and gives you the feeling of being one with the jungle.



View from the porch of our room.


Our room.


Our hut. 



You can only book this accommodation with a package of activities and all food and water/tea were included. Our programme for the next days was as follows:

Day One


Lunch by river

Trek back to camp (1.5 hours hike)

Wildlife boat cruise



Day Three


Boat to tubing starting point

Stop over at saltlick (Sira Ayer Hangat)

Wildlife boat cruise


Day Four


Leave Earth Lodge by Boat (11am)

Back at Lake Muda Jetty (12noon)

End of trip


After we were settled in and had our introduction it was time to go on our first wildlife boat trip. Around the earth lodge there our several salt licks, attracting wildlife. The first wild animals we saw, were of course monkeys. This were long tailed macaque looking for a place the spend the night. After visiting the first few salt licks without elephants, we found a big elephant on the fourth. Which was incredible, since we were there in our boat with just the 4 of us. We had to keep our distance since the animals tend to be a little bit skittish. After watching this elephant for half on hour we moved on the a big lake. Around sunset you can see big flocks of different hornbill species ( 9 species can be found around Ulu Muda) flying back to there nests. We saw many flocks and our guides counted all of them, for scientific purposes. During our way back to the lodge we had the best encounter with an elephant. The elephant wanted to cross the river, but then we surprised him. This made him show how impressive elephants are, roaring and ear flapping. After this exciting first boat trip it time for a delicious meal and then call it a day.





After a typical Malayan breakfast, namely nasi, it was time for our jungle hike with the Bukit Labu caves as goal. The walk was really amazing showing the beauty of the jungle and our guides had a lot of knowledge which made it even better. I was glad that we brought our long pants and “bloodsuckersocks” (leechsocks), because the jungle was full of them. But our guides stated that the more leeches you find, the more wildlife is around. During this hike we did not see a lot a wildlife apart from the bats in the cave, some cool insects and a (what the guides told us looked like a) hairy-nosed otter.




During this afternoon one of our guides brought to a nice place to swim in a side stream of the river and after that we left for another boat trip, unfortunately no elephants this time, but we saw wild boar and again loads of hornbills and other cool birds (sorry I am not into birding, so do remember the species).

At our last day of activities we woke up due to the sounds of the jungle. Gibbons were close by, we unfortunately we did not find them. This morning a tube trip was planned. During our trip to the starting point we visited another salt lick, which was an hot spring. In it, algae grew which tasted like eggs. Here we came as close to Malayan Tapir as we did this trip, as we saw dung and foot prints, which was already rewarding to find. After that we left to the starting point and had a great tube trip on the river. Which was relaxing and a perfect way to “feel” the jungle.
During the afternoon we had our last wildlife boat trip and we found an herd of elephants, which was amazing. We also saw monitor lizards, smooth otters and a yellow-throated marten.

After another warm night, we had to get packing and leave Ulu Muda’s Earth lodge. It was again a 1.5 hour boat ride, during which we saw more wild boar and smooth otter.



To conclude all this:

We saw Asian elephant, long-tailed macaque, hornbills, otters, a yellow-throated marten, wild boar, monitor lizard and a lot of different birds. Photographic opportunities were not the best, since there were a lot of low light conditions and animals were skittish. Luckily finding these animals in such a wild environment makes up for that. The guides were amazing and both former WWF employees, so you can ask them anything about the reserve and conservation. Hymeir (the owner) helps you with everything and the price is, imo, very nice, especially compared to African safaris. We had a private trip and it was simply amazing. Do bear in mind that the night get very hot,  electricity is not always available and leeches are everywhere.
But it was an extremely good and wild experience.

Visit their website for more information: https://www.earthlodgemalaysia.com/





Edited by Bjorn13
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Great start, Bjorn. I have not even heard about Ulu Muda, so thanks for that. What year was your trip?

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On 5/5/2020 at 9:01 PM, xelas said:

Great start, Bjorn. I have not even heard about Ulu Muda, so thanks for that. What year was your trip?

I was not easy to find, but I am very happy that we found out about it. The trip was in 2018.

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Excellent photos, great to see the elephants - and the scenery is also beautiful.

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