Around the world

18 Nov

The Pinnacles

The Pinnacles, the one sight I remember most (maybe the paradise bird dance – but that was in Papua New Guinea) from Planet Earth when David Attenbourgh is narrating about Borneo! What he does not tell is that they got there by helicopter and that getting there on foot involves quite a lot sweating and a 3 days trip (well it could be done in 2). The First day we left Mulu HQ by boat and stopped to visit Wind Cave and Clearwater cave 170km

16 Nov


15 Nov

Niah Caves

If you have ever seen the best documentaries series ever made (BBC’s Planet Earth, which we super highly recomend) you will feel confortable with this and the next posts since we are starting the main course of our trip. Niah Caves and the Gunung Mulu national park.
But first things first, today we took a small van to the UNESCO world heritage site of the Niah Caves. As the name says the main attraction here are the limestone caves, what the name does not say its the grandeur of theese…
After walking for about an hour from the park entrance we arrived to the Traders Cave (which is actually a cavern – meening that it is very wide open on one side. A bit like the difference between a tunnel and a bus shelter), where we coud see the rests of an early bird’s nest and guano collectors settlement used as a trading post with the costal traders, hence the name.
Few minutes further we got to west mouth of the great cave. 60m high and 250m wide, it definetly deserves the name!!! And it is only the entrance… Moving into the cave we got the feeling of being in a huge place, althoug dark, you could feel how big these chambers where, foremost when the powerfull torch would’t make it to the opposite wall or ceiling. Even more spectacular are the bamboo and ironwood (belian) poles used by the local birds’ nest collectors. I have no idea how they hang them on the ceilings to later climb on them to collect the saliva-made swiftlets’ nests highly regarded in Chinese cuisine (birds’ nest soup is a very exxclusive plate as caviar is in Europe). Fortunately, the park constantly monitors the harvesting to keep the swiftlets population healty and avoid yet another ecological catastrophy caused by Chinese beliefs (see turtle eggs poaching and most remarkably shark finning).
After walking for about an hour in the dark we emerged on the other side of the cave where we walked through the forest to the Painted cave, a very quiet and relaxing place where old cave paintings and death-ships (boat shaped coffins) illustrate the burial beliefs of early Niah settlers.
On the way back after going through the great cave we decided to have a look at the longhouse nearby and of course to take the other branch of the plankwalk… Well lets say it would have been easier to listen to the kiosk ladies saying “tida bagus, tida bagus (not good, not good)” but then what explorers would we be ;) ? So we took it and had to crawl under, jump over, climb around fallen trees that where blocking the way… Well it was hot but fun!

13 Nov

Bandar Seri Begawan

Ok, let’s do a bit of geo trivia:
– which countries share Borneo? (easy)
– which one is the richest one? (easy)
– what is it’s capital name? (medium)
– what is it’s ruler complete name and how much did he invest in a Country club? (hard)

Got them?
Here the answers:
– (ordered by percentage) Indonesia (Kalimatan), Malaysia (Sabah & Sarawak), Brunei Darussalam

– Brunei, thanks to it’s oil fields

– Bandar Seri Begawan, also known as BSB

– the complete name take 2 lines and I can’t recall it… The empire hotel and country club costed 1 Billion US$

Well, you guessed it, we are in Brunei right now. Pretty interesting place, fairly different from sabah, it looks richer and along the road you can actually see rain forest and not oil palm! Which is nice, very nice!
We are here just for two days, tomorrow we’ll leave for Miri in Sarawak and then to Gunung Mulu!

BSB is a small city (90000 inhabitants, Brunei has 400000) with coupple of interesting Mosques and a museum filled with presents to the Sultan by other heads of state… Funny what they give each other… I wouldn’t want to keep those things in my house, ehm palace (did I mention the sultan’s palace is 200000 sqm and has 1788 rooms?)…

For the rest, we had a very chill day walking around and in the evening had an interesting conversation about brunei/immigration/chinese/oil/switzerland/… With a local journalist.

12 Nov

Pulau Labuan

11 Nov

Kota Kinabalu

10 Nov

Poring hot springs – Kota Kinabalu


08 Nov

Mt. Kinabalu wake up call ( at least for those who slept) and let’s do the highway to the summit with 50 other persons! Good side of waiting in a jam…you are not starting too fast! After overtaking almost all of them, we make it to the top in 2 hours!! Unfortunately it is really cold and we don’t want to wait 45 min to see the sunrise…so we decide to start the descent…

we are really lucky with the weather, it is absolutely gorgeous! The granite is shining with the first rays of light! It is going to be our reward for the next hours! We are back the base camp at 7 am and after the breakfast, the worst part of the trip is still in front of us! OH MY GOD! 2300 meters in 8 km….that’s hard! For the knees and for the legs. We looked like handicapped when we reach the HQ! So we decide to go straight to the poring hot spring 50 km away…

06 Nov

Sepilok Orang Utan rehabilitation centre

Well, after seeing wild Orang Utans we are not really shore if we want to go to Sepilog since it is more of a touristy thing, at the end we decide that actually, although many tourists go there, a rehabilitation centre (for injured, house pets, …) is not a zoo, and they try to make people aware of the precarious situation for Orangs. It must be noted that driving trough Sabah’s main roads makes us feel almost sick due to the quantity of oil palm plantations. Basically it is the ONLY thing you see, with sometimes some ridiculously small patches of intact forest. It’s sad, foremost knowing that very little can be done since kernel palm oil is used almost everywhere…

Now, back to the rehabilitation centre, as we entered we meet a guy holding a sign: “silence please”, all excited we thought there was an Orang there, we where mistaken, there where three!!! Soooo cooool, and not even so many people watching. Most people arrived around 3pm when the centre staff feeds the Orangs that decide to show up. Remember it is not a zoo, there are no boundaries, nets, nor cages, just a “playground” in the jungle where they can get easy bananas :)

As the banana time was getting closer, more Apes arrived, including a huge Alfa male (that had been in rehabilitation 10 years ago) that stayed for almost an hour and a mother with her 2 weeks old baby.

Although they are not totally wild animals it was extremely interesting and touching having the chance to observe our close relatives from so close and for so long without them being scared.

BTW on their websites you can help the centre with an adoption:

04 Nov

Kinabatangan River

Our secret goal was to spot wild orangutans…well mission accomplished! Cruising early morning on the river we even had the chance to see some proboscis monkey, silver-leave monkey, gibbons, and some gorgeous birds while trekking at night time!

03 Nov

Tabin wildlife reserve

Malaysia try to push 5 star resort travellers, which is really sad because lots of things are without reach of backpackers travellers. Danum Valley, Tabin Reserve and further Mont Kinabalu national park are managed by only one company that aims “wealthy” people! Nature and UNESCO world heritage should be “available” for everybody. Furthermore, backpackers allow a lot of local families to work! I really don’t get the governement politic!

For exemple, if you want to go to Tabin, the choices are either the 800RM (250CHF) 1 night 2 days package to the exclusie lodge or 1 day at 350 RM (100CHF) just for transportation and a 20 min walk to the reserve. On top of that, public transports do not exist between Lahad Datu and the reserve which make it difficult to visit it!

Anyway, we shared a taxi we two guys from the hostel. After the short walk we climbed the look out platform with view on the mud pools that are an important sources of minerals for animals wihch means a great spots for viewing wildlife. As usual you need to be lucky! That is part of the deal! we saw a few hornbills, two warrants, monkeys and….a wild boar… .

02 Nov

Lahad Datu

First day backpacking, but first we go shopping in Semporna, we both need shoes :) half an hour later Sarah is a proud owner of her first pair of pOma!!! The plan for today was to get a bas mini (mini bus) to Lahad Datu and then go to Danum Valley conservation area, unfortunately they are booked for the next 2 weeks, so we are stuck in Lahad Datu. In the evening we met a swiss coupple that showed us some pictures of Pulau Derawan, a small island in Indonesia just south of Tawau where the Manta Season is at it’s peak… We might go and have a look, we’ll see.

01 Nov

Mabul – Sipadan

We were so excited (event without sleep at all) to dive Sipadan and I have to say while trying to get some rest, I was thinking that to compensate this spoiled Mabul island, it must be really really really cool! Well it was…it is crazy to think that we were working only 50 min away form this world famous island but that the underwater world is so different! White and black tipped reef sharks, schools of bumped head parrot fish and barracudas, heaps of turtles, groupers, and so much more! And Foremost BIG WAAALLL diving…

Definitely world class.

31 Oct

Leaving Pom Pom / Mabul

Today we left “the island” for good, it was a mix of emotion, on one hand the joy of starting a new trip, on the other the sadness of leaving back some very good persons with which we spent a lot of time while here on the island.

It was very touching seeing all the dive-shop staff come down to the jetty to wish us luck and give us a beautiful card made by Yunus. It was hard to leave, when  even the “tough” boatmen and assistants looked sad and made us understand that they really liked working together.

I really hope, that our future replacements will be cool people and that all the local staff will enjoy working with them. Anyhow, for now they are in very very good hands… or are Sally and Michelle in very good hands… !?

After getting to Semporna we embark (with a Russian couple) a mini boat to Mabul. Mabul is a small island whit an overpopulated waterfront, in fact it looks more like a maze on piloti than a village. Our home-stay was full so they sent us to the neighboring one, the “Hyatt”… well name only of course :)

A quick live cleaning of the room and here we are our little retreat on Mabul is ready… did I mention that the diesel generator is just beneath our window? Oh, we are not there yet… Walking around the village you encounter a mix of kids, cats and roasters. Once we get to the other side of the island we get in front of the main landmark on Mabul, the oil rig, is an authentic oil platform in front of the best hotel (of course you don’t see it on their website :) which has now been converted into a dive centre. After a BBQ dinner at our dive center, we go to another bar where a live band plays some good music till late night (It’s weird to have a party after 2 months on quiet Pom Pom). Then we go to bed, ehm to the generator room and unsuccessfully try to sleep.

30 Oct

Diving in Pom Pom

Here Some Great pictureso of the diving around PomPom Island:

25 Sep

Efficency… lost in translation!?

So, sitting in the internet room today I was wondering about efficency, It is a well known thing that swiss tend to be on the maniacal side of efficency, but even for me, a laid back ticinese (means from south switzerland -> with all the mediterranean implications) some things just can’t be right…

Imagine sitting in a room near a new chinese office staff being trained by a senior japanese senior staff… The training is stock taking, and it involves a lot of counting, but now, what if the person being trained has no clue (well, maybe a bit) a it about numbers in english… let alone japaneese… Well, Higlly amusing yet still a bit “disturbing” :)

08 Sep

Another week on the Island

hello, I’ve been kind of lazy this days, you might think, but I haven’t at allll… In fact I’ve been very very active reparing my laptop wich apparently doesn’t like hot climates at all. Not big news actually since it ran super hot the all winter back home. well, apparently now I got it fixed (knock on wood).

Back to life in pompom, we had some “big” events like an almost sunken boat,  me doing laundry, seeing a see snake, shaving… you know, big stuff :)

Diving is cool, but finally after 11 in a row diving I had a day of office work doing some uninspired graphic design… I soo much miss my favourite designer (aka Sarah :) ) and today I started teaching a nitrox course to two Italian doctors…. cool, I really like teaching this course, there is a bit more thinking involved :)

here some pics:

29 Aug

Almost a week

So,  It has been a week from when Sarah and I were still renewing our (now awesome) apartment in Sagogn and now I’m living on a semi-tiny Island east of Semporna (Sabah, Malaysia). The island is about 30minutes around (that’s what people tell me, I haven’t  done it yet, but tomorrow I will :) ) and it has a resort on it. There are around 60 guests and 30 employees, so not much folk :). The guests are mainly Italians and some Japanese, the difference couldn’t be greater :)

After suffering from a plane-cold, yesterday I restarted diving. by noe I’ve done 6 dives just following a local dive-master to get the feeling about where those small -sometimes very very small- thingies live.

As I said before (I think) the Celeb sea is a paradise for macro photography, which basically means that anything bigger than 10 cm is neglected :)… doesn’t make my life any easier…. but today I found my first orangutan crab,  a banded pipefish and a tiny lionfish. As well I saw a beautiful mandarinfish… so I’m getting my eye tuned.

I’m starting learning some words of bahasa melayu (malay language) a

nd yesterday I had my first “super satisfaction”… After repeating some words with a boat captain, he told me that I had a very good accent unlike the others… Brits ;)

so, write to you soon
cheers Marco

26 Aug

First day on PomPom

Hello from the island!

Finally yesterday I got on the island, after a long day waiting for the boat to get me here, I can now see myself how it looks like. It is actually veeery beautiful! today I got to do my first two dives and to guide a snorkeling trip. Very cool, I already got to see some highlights like the orang-utan crab, the mantis shrimp and many nudibranches. In the afternoon I saw some squids, turtles, lion fishes, clown fishes and many more while snorkeling near mataking.

Unfortunately, there is not only good things, the reef here has been bombed (as in bomb-fishing) and some bits are in an horrible state, what a shame.

Now I’m super tired and I need to sleep… I’ll write soon again

cheers Marco

Finally yesterday I got on the island, after a long day waiting for the boat to get me here, I can now see myself how it looks like. It is actually veeery beautiful! today I got to do my first two dives and to guide a snorkeling trip. Very cool, I already got to see some highlights like the orang-utan crab and the mantis shrimp

orangutan crab
24 Aug

Hello from Borneo

Hi all, just a quick note that I Smoothly landed on Borneo after 3 flights and 19 hours of sitting… Right now I’m in Tawau and tomorrow I’ll go to pompom island (2h bus+boat). Tonite I went for chinese food with a chinese-malay guy from pompom and he ordered steamed prawns with sabah vegetables… Yummmmy

23 Aug

Last day in Switzerland

Today, before leaving for Borneo, Sarah and I we did a via ferrata… A bit of mountain before the ocean is always good :)

It was a great way to say bye to the alps :) here some pictures. actually what was even cooler was to fly over the alpr in the afternoon, it is such a great view!!!

14 Feb

remember the tooth issue in Honduras???

oh well, the avid readers will maybe remember my broken tooth in honduras… well, here the sequel. this time while syncro skiing :D

02 Sep

Caleta Tortuga Negra

01 Sep

Puerto Egas & Bartolome

Puerto Egas


31 Aug

Cerro Dragon & Rabida

Cerro Dragon


30 Aug

Darwin Station

29 Aug

Mosquera & Seymour

New spots, new guide, new luck!?
We try, the first dive site is supposed to be a very good site to spot white tips and hammerheads, the second to see Rays (eagle, golden and maybe manta).
After a semi-complicated start caused by the new girl that didn’t have enough weight and the DM loosing her, we start drifting. After a couple of minutes luck seems to be playing with us, the fists mini school of white tips is just there. We stop, hold on a rock and watch. With the time passing, they get more and more curious and start checking us out, very cool! Meanwhile, schools of fish and turtles keep on passing by. We start moving again, we still want to see the hammerheads. As the dive goes on we keep on seeing white tips and turtles but no hammerhead, after all luck didn’t totally play with us. 60 minutes into the dive we start the ascend, three more minutes of safety stop and then it happens, at 1 m depth there they are, two beautiful small hammerheads waiting for us. Amazing! With big smiles on our faces we surface and get ready for more.
After a short lunch break we go rays spotting, as we drop to the bottom it is immediately clear why this site is so good for rays, an immense plain full of huge garden eels extends in front of us. Garden eels are thin eels that live in vertical holes in the sand, when no predator (first of all eagle rays) is around they come out of their holes standing upright catching food. When a predator (or a diver) is getting too close they quickly retract into the safety of the hole. They live in big groups creating what looks like gardens, hence the name.
After just a couple of minutes we see the first medium sized eagle ray, but it is just an appetizer to what is to come, seconds later a group of 12 spotted eagle rays is effortlessly passing five meters in front of us. The sight is amazing, but what is even more impressive is the size of the rays spanning from 80 cm to 3 m of wingspan, massive and still the most elegant sight you can imagine. The school stays around for a good five minutes giving me the chance to take some good (I hope – remember my display is not working) video shots. We move around a bit just to find another school and enjoy the spectacle. Not enough, while I’m filming Sarah spots a hammerhead!
Definitely a good day and at 2pm we’re back in Puerto Ayora to rest and enjoy our memories.
Eagle ray video coming

28 Aug


Early day today, we meet at the dive shop at 7… we leave for Floreana, the southernmost of Galapagos Islands, about 30 nautical miles from Puerto Ayora. The trip there lastas about two hours and the ocean is fairly calm but it manages to knock down Ryan and Luca’s wife and to make Sarah focus on the horizon.
Once we get there the Capitan decides that (to help the seasick ones) we will first do the land visit. On the dock we meet huge marine iguanas, pelicans, sally footed crabs and sleepy sea lions. A short bus ride gets us to the visit site, first we go for a stroll to see where buccaneers used to live and hunt in the 17th century then we go to the giant land tortoises.
What to say about them… HUGE! Those things can live up to 150 years (rough data) and keep on growing until they are around 80. Well, you’ll ask what the secret to such longevity is, definitely take it easy!
Half more hour of navigation takes us to the first dive site: Champion. Here we are supposed to se white tips, seals and a lot of fish. The site is very nice; there is a “bit” of current but nothing dramatic. As expected we se sea lions and white tips and lots of fish. Unfortunately no big surprise coming from the blue but for this the second dive should be better.
After lunch we move to Enderby where big big things (I’m talking whale-sharkish here) could surprise us.
First we go after the weird looking batfish over a sandy bottom. For once that I’m not being the lowest one to follow what our guide said, the others saw it and we didn’t… oh well. Then we moved to the rocky reef where all the activity was. There we saw plenty of fish, an octopus, a school of jacks and we fought hard against the very strong current waiting for the big ones to pass by but we were unlucky again. Well, not really unlucky, the dives were really cool; we just do not seem to be meant to see hammerheads and whale sharks…

27 Aug

Gordon’s Rock

Yipiha..we are finally going diving!! With all the underwater advertising picture that we saw, we were more than ready to see school of hammerheads, whale sharks, turtles, penguins and all the rest. Apparently the place is one of the best to see what we really want to see: Hammerheads. We had the video camera of the dive shop with us, it was part of our deal for 130$ for two dives. The problem is that the housing screen is not working, so Marco will have to record without really knowing what he will point at. Will see… It was a short one hour ride from Puerto Ayora to the dive site. The current was stronger that we were used to. We had to grab the rocks to be able to stay at the same place for a while. During the first dive, I kind of see my first hammerhead but he was pretty far and disappeared fast. We saw lots of turtles sleeping at the bottom that we could admired from close.
The second dive is pretty much the same, thousands of fish everywhere. We hadn’t seen that anywhere else so far. It is really nice even though nothing big…BUT WHERE ARE THOSE SCHOOLS?

26 Aug

Galapagos – Puerto Ayora

24 Aug


20 Aug


We stayed 4 days in Baños. The place wasnice (even though Vilcabamba had a better setting) and I would say with too many tourists around. We had great plans and hips of activities to choose from but my stomach didn’t let us enjoy the place as much as the rainy weather. So Marco decided to work night long on the website and between to “bathroom run”, we had time to rent a buggy to explore the waterfalls. The scenery was really stunning until it started raining…was funny anyway!

Otherwise, during our time in Banos, we managed to eat a RACLETTE! the first one after a year and a half thanks to the swiss bistrot that we discovered here! ! just deliiiiicious.

18 Aug


16 Aug


16 Aug

Jaen – Vilcabamba… Welcome to Ecuador

26 Jul


22 Jul

Arequipa- Welcome to Peru!

21 Jul

Copacabana- Islas Flotantes

20 Jul

Titicaca lake – Isla del Sol

A two hour boat ride that brought us to Isla del Sol on the Titicaca lake was sooooo slow, that swimming would have been faster. Anyway the landscape was just amazing. The lake is dark blue and the islands are yellowish. Isla de Sol is supposed to be the beginning of the Inca religion because of a big rock where one can see ( with a lot of imagination) the face of THE god.

For the story, the boat drops you off on the south side of the island and catch you up on the north one, so that you can walk for a few hours and visit the place. We bought the entrance ticket for the museum and the ruins (south part) and then start walking to the north. Once in the middle of the island we were stopped by a nice old man asking for the ticket that allowed us to go to the north part ! well we had to buy a new one…A little bit further on the north side, this time a family asked for the north side ticket!? Are you kidding me? No,we needed a third ticket to simply walk through the island. Sometimes I really think that a $ is tattooed on tourists forehead!!!

19 Jul

Rurrenabaque – Copacabana

The 3 days boat ride we did a few days earlier saved us about 18 hours of gravel road. Even though it was the budget of 2 days, we decided to take the plane, bringing us back to La Paz. As we arrived at the airport, we saw a bunch of cows grazing the landing area!! About 10 min before the first flight was supposed to land, they finally decide to move them outside the gate…

The flight in this small plane of 16 persons lasted 45 min (remember instead of 18 hours of bus..). Unfortunately the windows were really dirty and we only distinguished the majestic Andes. In La Paz we took a bus to Copacabana on the Titicaca lake side.

16 Jul

3 days in “La Pampa”

13 Jul

3 Days boat tour to Rurrenabaque

12 Jul


11 Jul

La Paz-Coroico

10 Jul

La Ruta de la Muerte

08 Jul

La Paz

05 Jul


04 Jul

Potosi’s mines

03 Jul


02 Jul


No picture for this post: just an explanation. After our 3 days in the desert, we headed to Potosi. The 6 hours ride by bus ( first experience with Bolivian bus) were just the worst…After the good no wonderful quality of service in Argentina, we ( I) were not prepared to THAT. -10°c inside by night. Apparently it is common not to have an heating system, because people are coming with one or two blankets when they take the bus. Well we didn’t know…..Oh MY GOD!!!my poor icy leg. For the record, that night we found the only backpacker hostel in whole Bolivia with ….a heater in the room and really warm shower!

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