Similajau National Park
Our next stop, Batang Ai National Park, was remote and difficult to access. We managed to get to the town of Lubok Antu, but from there it was too hard to organize economical transport across the reservoir and up the river. We decided to skip it and head north to the beachfront Similajau national park. The park was deserted, and we had the large hostel entirely to ourselves. We arranged a boat trip along the river at dusk to look for crocodiles. As the boat traveled upriver it grew darker and the forest closed in around us. Our guide scanned the banks with a powerful flashlight, looking for the red reflections of crocodile eyes. As we advanced, the eyes would disappear and then reappear further away, so that we could never get close enough to see the animal itself. In the jungle on the banks of the river, though, we saw a pair of red eyes. As we approached our spotlight illuminated a jungle cat! About the size of a housecat, with a beautifully marbled coat and tufts of fur around its ears, the cat blinked, transfixed by the strong beam. Eventually it crept, without a sound, back into the vines and creepers of the forest. Later, when we returned to our hostel we found that Anne's shoes were gone. We had put them outside on the steps to dry, and someone had taken them. The shoes were nothing special, neither new nor clean, but the loss meant time lost shopping for a suitable replacement pair. The park staff were shocked. The friendly head ranger personally searched the local area and made inquiries. He complained about the lack of staff since the park was privatized. They did not have enough staff and equipment to monitor illegal logging and patrol the beaches for turtle-egg poachers.