NAME Margarita Steinhardt, Sydney, NSW
THE TRIP Wildlife watching safari in Deramakot Forest Reserve, Borneo
THE ITINERARY Over the past three years, Deramakot Forest Reserve in the Malaysian state of Sabah in Borneo has been gaining a reputation as the go-to place to see Borneo's wild cats.
Urged by the desire to see a clouded leopard in the wild, I teamed up with three other wildlife watchers and we booked a 10-night safari with Adventure Alternative Borneo. We all flew to Sandakan, and from there on AA Borneo took care of everything else: transfers, permits to enter Deramakot, all food and drink and accommodation. They also provided us with an unstoppable support team: Mike our eagle-eyed guide, Caleb – the fearless driver and Giddi – a talented cook, who wasn't opposed to cooking some of our meals out in the field.
For the next 10 days, our activities alternated between long night drives in search of wildlife and lazy days around the living quarters. After searching the jungle for seven nights, we finally found our main quarry – the notoriously elusive clouded leopard. The following night, we found an equally elusive marbled cat camped up on a tree branch about 40 metres above our heads. While looking for cats, we had close encounters with Borneo pygmy elephants, watched flying squirrels soar across the sky, saw orangutans, colugos and a plethora of other wildlife.
The accommodation in Deramakot is not flash, but comfortable. We had a three-bedroom chalet to ourselves that came equipped with airconditioning and en suite bathrooms.
BEST BITS Apart from the unique and rarely-seen wildlife, it was the magic of the jungle at night. On clear nights, we could see the bright band of the Milky Way arching over the treetops.
WORST BITS Borneo is one of the wettest places on earth, so be prepared to get caught in a tropical downpour at least once during your stay.
BEST TIP Visit between March and November to have the highest chance of dry weather.
WHERE TO NEXT Argentina and Brazil for jaguars and ocelots.