This is the first of many posts from Australian travel writers Lara Dunston and Terence Carter who blog about travel on their site Grantourismo. Lara and Terence travel the world continuously for their work – they’ve visited 70 countries so far! – and InsureandGo have partnered with the couple to bring you fresh travel advice, up-to-the-minute destination guides, and regular updates from the places they visit.
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Our travels take us to some extraordinary places around the world, but few have matched one of our most recent destinations, that of Malaysian Borneo and specifically, the region at the northern tip of the island, Sabah. We were recently there to experience an Orion Expedition – our first cruise ever! – and we topped and tailed that 10-day trip with stays in the small cities of Tawau and Kota Kinabalu.
Strangely enough, before the trip we didn’t know many people who had been to Borneo, and we didn’t know much about Borneo itself. Yet it turns out that Sabah is a tremendously popular destination with Australians. Aussies young and old head there primarily for the lush rainforests and abundance of animals that inhabit them, especially the Orang-utans, which are best viewed at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, and the Proboscis Monkeys, which can be seen in close proximity at Labuk Bay Sanctuary.
We were lucky to spot plenty of primates at both places, which we highly recommend you visit, as well as in the wild on the Kinabatangan River, where we left the boat for a couple of days and a night to stay in riverside accommodation so we could make the most of the experience. Again, strongly encourage you to spend time on the river if you’re heading to Malaysia.
After the wildlife, most Australians are in Sabah to visit World War II sites. We were fortunate to meet four women on board the Orion who were there to do just that. Descendents of the six Australian men who survived the horrific Sandakan Death Marches, in which 2,400 Australian and British Prisoners of War brutally died between January and 08/1945, they brought the tragic stories to life for us with their personal accounts of stories they’d heard firsthand from their relatives.
While little known to many Aussies, the Death Marches are considered to be the greatest atrocity against Australian soldiers, accounting for more deaths than any other single event, including the more infamous construction of the Burma Railway. Ill and starving, suffering from malaria and tropical ulcers, the men were forced by the Japanese to stagger – carrying heavy loads of rice and other supplies – over three separate marches, some 250 kilometres from Sandakan to Renau. Their purpose was to contribute to construction of an airstrip. Sadly, most died en route or were killed in cruel circumstances, with only the women’s six relatives surviving after escaping into the jungle and being helped by locals.
Sabah is dotted with memorials to these soldiers – at Sandankan, Labua, and Kundasang – and it’s a very poignant experience to visit to pay respect to these young heroes. And they were very young too – many in their late teens and twenties, fighting a war when, if they were living today, they might have been travelling Borneo for some wildlife spotting, carrying little more than a backpack.
Next week we’ll bring you our guide to Kuala Lumpur, another popular destination with Australians.
This post was written by our Lara Dunston and Terence Carter of http://grantourismotravels.com, with whom InsureandGo has a special partnership. We would like to thank Lara and Terence very much for sharing their passion for travel. If you would like to contribute to our blog by sharing your travel experiences with us, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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