This morning after returning home from my usual Saturday morning routine, I randomly picked up a copy of magazine from my stash of Asian Geographic magazine collection only to discover that I had received an Honourable Mention from the 2008 ASIA WITHOUT BORDERS Photo Competition. Casually flipping the complimentary copy of PHOTO ANNUAL 2008 that came bundled with PHOTO ANNUAL 2009 No. 69 Issue 8/2009 I was going down the list of winners in the Honourable Mentions | Wild Places on page 120 and noticed my full name in print—suddenly this Saturday isn’t so usual any more!

Pygmy Squirrel — The Honourable Mention entry.

I normally don’t like surprises but to be surprised like this on another wet and unproductive day, I don’t mind! Say hello to this cute tiny little Pygmy Squirrel which I photographed while on assignment at the Temburong Ulu Ulu Resort (check out the gallery for other pictures of small ephemeral creatures).



The Pygmy Squirrel is really very tiny and so happened I had the 70-200mm f/2.8 on my full frame 5D and it was darting about the resort when I first caught sight of it. Standing very still and quite unbelievably, it came towards me and was  just inches from my feet—a definitive get it or lose it moment—quite nerve wrecking!

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Previously published photos in ASIAN GEOGRAPHIC magazine include  Brunei Hari Raya Aidilfitri Celebrations

Complimentary copies of Asian Geographic mags for my collection

Beyond the Postcard: A Resort in the Mist.

Continuing the upward momentum from the previous post, here are images from my recent working trip into the rainforest of Brunei Darussalam, a journey that had me drive from my home in Seria to taking a long boat to Ulu Temburong. So where do I even begin to describe what it’s like in the remote Ulu Ulu Resort accessible only by long boats called Temuai or by helicopter for the fortunate few?

The journey: from Seria to Kianggeh jetty in the capital – 1 hour 15 mins | Board speedboat to Bangar town, Temburong – 45 mins | Bangar to Batang Duri jetty – 30 mins | Long boat to Ulu Ulu Resort – 30 mins. Passport NOT required.

© Jan Shim Photography

The weather continued to be challenging as we arrived Batang Duri jetty and we made sure the bags that housed our camera and video equipment were protected. The inclement weather had given me an opportunity to see how ill-prepared I might have been for the trip given the risks my camera and lenses faced surrounded by so much water! The storm and gray sky had in fact created a mood that’s better illustrated below—misty rainforest heightened by the sense of adventure from the raging waters. The resort, the history of which escapes me, is presently managed by the folks at Sunshine Borneo Tours. This was my first trip to the resort and its surroundings and it certainly won’t be the last judging from the on-going improvements Sunshine is doing to the place.

© Jan Shim Photography

The Canon 20D takes a swim! David and I made plans to leave the resort as early as 5.30 AM on the longboat in otherwise zero visibility lit only by a couple of torch lights. By the way we reached what was the beginning of a 30 mins walk towards “Waterfall 1” there was sufficient light and the walk in the cold upstream waters was refreshing. And slippery. The idea here is to avoid stepping on the larger stones that are often slippery but there are occasions where this is completely unavoidable. On our way in, we made several stops to photograph the streams where the available light was just right!

© Jan Shim Photography

These water shots were captured on the way to the waterfall. On the way out, I made an unavoidable but preventable mistake of hanging the 20D on my shoulder. Unavoidable because my Lowepro Mini Trekker was packed to the brim with the EOS-5D/24-70/70-200/100-400/. Preventable because extra precautions could have been taken ie carry the 20D/10-22 in a waterproof bag such as an ALOKSAK. A regrettable action that is neither difficult nor expensive to have undertaken. (see Travel Notes).

© Jan Shim Photography

By the time we got back at the resort at approx 9 AM, the sun’s gotten too strong for any more nature shots so I diverted attention to the more subtle items around the place. Shame there was no one kayaking that morning although there were frequent day-trip visitors to the national park.

© Jan Shim Photography

One of many long boats with visitors to the rainforest. You’d be pleasantly surprised just how popular the national park really is with tourists even on a week day. I can only imagine what it’s going to be like during peak periods.

© Jan Shim Photography

At the Two-River Terrace right upstairs of where the kayaks are stored, there’s a a traditional BLOWPIPE that’s used by natives to hunt. While not exactly a Swiss Knife, the idea of two-in-one has long been in existence with an integrated spear for hunting or self-defense.

© Jan Shim Photography

Blowpipe darts used in the blowpipe are/were attached with feathers. The ones you see here are made from palm fronds with a lightweight stopper to make an air-tight seal.

© Jan Shim Photography

The resort today is pretty much barebones and the creature comforts are limited to generator-powered electricity from 6 in the evenings to 6 in the mornings. There’s also no phone communication and no internet access but for everything else that requires power, you can charge your batteries or power up your laptop for offline work. I brought 6 sets of full charged batteries for the camera to limit our baggage to essentials items only.

In the evenings when the lights come on, the resort’s transformation best described and captured through low-light photography—beauty beyond what our eyes register and appreciate.

© Jan Shim Photography

With the exception of power and communications facilities during the day, the Club Lounge comes alive after hours with decor that easily rivals and exceeds the standards of other similar lounges in town.

Here’s a shot from the jetty at 6 AM when we left for the waterfall. Simply illuminating!

© Jan Shim Photography

Expect the unexpected. As with most resorts and hotels, there are different rooms catering to different needs and requirements of guests. It’s hard to imagine just how lavishly furnished certain rooms are if you’ve never seen it before. A compelling reason to publish these pictures is to help promote the resort, eco tourism by providing useful information to would-be visitors to remove general doubts. I apologise if this post has taken away the element of surprise through discovery.

Important note: When enquiring with Sunshine, be sure to ask about the different rooms available to avoid disappointment.

© Jan Shim Photography

© Jan Shim Photography

Beyond the Ulu Ulu Resort lies everything else that have attracted tourists from all over the world. Explore the rainforest streams, Canopy walkway, Kayaking to name a few. The left photo below shows the first steps of a total of 1226 steps. The suspension bridge that attracts countless visitors during the day also attracts countless species of insects to the lights at night. In the interest of maximising our time there, we decided we defer the Canopy Walkway to our next trip (we have recently seen and photographed the top of the Canopy Walkway from a helicopter so we were not that motivated to carry over 10 kgs of equipment up there).

© Jan Shim Photography

The lesser known activities often explored by professional photographers and videographers in this remote part of Brunei are research, documentary, birds, flowers, macro images of the insect kingdom essentially all that make up the fauna and flora of the rainforest.

The National Flower of Brunei Darussalam is the Simpur or Simpor as it’s often spelt. Pictured here is a budding Simpur seen along the corridors of the resort and they blossom into large yellow petals in full bloom. Incidentally, this photo was taken by a Sunshine staff (Chuan) exploring my EOS 5D/70-200mm.

© Jan Shim Photography

Here are two opportunity photos of a resident at the resort, the Pygmy Squirrel, the world’s smallest squirrel that literally fits in your palm. They are hyper active and can be seen darting across floor boards or on the trunk of a tree just long enough to catch a glimpse before they disappear!

© Jan Shim Photography

Aren’t these moths extraordinary? These were captured on a sunny morning of Day 3 at the suspension bridge. On one of the steps leading to where the moths were was a huge black cicada measuring around 5 inches. One supposedly scary looking insect was no match against all the glorious colours of the moth colony. I shot these with my EF24-70mm fortunately with macro capability I was able to get pretty close to capture the features with sufficient details. The left moth has what appears to be a fur coat. Quite the irony! On the right is one for the air force, a camourflage moth resembling a Stealth jet!

© Jan Shim Photography

Our host SUNSHINE made sure we were well looked after and assigned guides who not only helped us with directions and equipment but were clearly knowledgeable of the rainforest habitat that made them invaluable. Great work guys and thank you! For more information, check out Sunshine’s tour packages.

People I Met

When you venture into unknown territory, approach with an open mind expect to be surprised. One of the things I enjoy is meeting new faces and there’s nothing I enjoy more than meeting a fellow professional photographer from abroad who coincidentally was staying next door to our villa. It was an honour to have met JORGE Camilo Valenzuela, a French pro photog and author of Au Coeur de BORNEO whom I exchanged life and work experiences during tea and dinner (not forgetting to mention his Malboro smokes).

Travel Notes
If you’re not spending the night at the resort, chances are you’ll have all your important items in the wallet and travel bag. Be sure they are all protected from the elements. Temburong is one big wetland, better to be safe than be sorry.

ALOKSAK Element Proof Storage bags with patented leakproof/airtight seal that are tested and approved by the Navy Experimental Unit and certified waterproof to 200FT/60 meters are inexpensive and can be found at NAAFI in Seria or GL EXTRA in Kiulap, BSB. Different sizes are available to fit anything from the contents of your wallet to a 15″ or 17″ laptop!

Related Tourism Links

Related Nature/Wildlife Links