Welcome to the Tioman jungle!
Our 3rd week of the expedition was very exciting and we got to explore a bit more of Tioman island, especially the very spiky jungle – but more about this later 😉
On Sunday the 11 of us started on a hike to cross the island from Tekek (our homebase on the west coast) to Juara (a small village on the east coast). The trek led us steeply up the mountain chain and after crawling up 946 steps (!) we rolled down the other side straight into Juara to stop at the next shop for cold drinks and a tasty Milo icecream. Late afternoon we arrived at the Juara Turtle sanctuary (link: www.juaraturtleproject.com) – our home for the next 3 nights, where we met Joe, the blind green turtle, and the turtle project team. Tom, John and Charlie are running the sanctuary with the help of volunteers and donations. During our stay we learned a lot about the native turtle species. The most exciting part of it was taking part in the nightly beach patrols to check for nesting turtles and new hatchlings. I got to hold a hatchling in my hand and it was amazing how small and soft it is – yet very energetic and determined to crawl off into the sea as soon as possible!
We also got a chance to explore some interesting dive sites on this side of the island, which is generally more rugged due to the monsoon hitting the east coast every winter.
On Wednesday, we took off from Juara to our 3-day-jungle-wilderness-camping-hike taking us through the most dense and steep jungle bits of Tioman, aiming to summit Gunung Kajang – the highest point of the island at 1038m above the beach. Day 1 was basically a warmup of 5 hours walking/scrambling to basecamp – well, a clearing in the jungle with a little freshwater stream nearby.
Day 2 was very rough, I only remember bits of it, like fighting the nasty spiky branches and trying to keep the leeches out of my socks which kept me really busy. This jungle contains the biggest variety of spiky leaves and branches I have ever seen in my life. It is almost impossible to not get stuck in them. Especially people with long hair are heavily disadvantaged. Somehow we made it up to the peak by noon, thanks to our wonderful guide Sahak who is incredibly experienced and has a talent to motivate even the most tired person. Whoop whoop – we survived. You can clearly see how proud we were:
After a second night in basecamp – including washing-up in the stream with some curious catfish and jungle rave party at the campfire – we went back to Juara on day 3. Oh my god, everyone was really exhausted and all of us had some serious jungle injuries (leech bites, cuts and scratches, and veerrryyy soooore muscles). But after all, we have summited! Being back in Tioman Dive Center feels very good though, as we get spoiled with BBQ nights and very comfy beds here again. What an exciting week!