Kinabantang River Cruise

kinabatangan river borneo 1AWe had our hearts set on a jungle stay while we were in Borneo. There are so many different options for jungle stays, the ultimate being a visit to Dannum Valley .  This was a bit out of our price range so we ended up choosing a three day Kinabatangan River Safari .kinabatangan river borneo 4a kinabatangan river borneo 3

Kinabatangan river 3 kinabatangan river borneo 2It was definitely not deep in the jungle like Dannum, but we really enjoyed our stay there. The tour included 2 boat rides each day to spot wildlife, a walk to Ox Bow lake and an optional night walk. We saw lots of monkeys swing through the trees, including the Proboscis Monkey and Macaques. The Proboscis monkeys are amazing animals. They are highly endangered and can only be found in Borneo. They have a long wobbly nose, that they use to attract females and communicate with other monkeys.

We were also lucky to see lots of hornbills, a crocodile, and a tarsier on a night walk. And we saw lots of  leeches :).   kinabatangan river borneo 13 kinabatangan river borneo 11

kinabatangan river borneo 7 kinabatangan river borneo 12The Nature Lodge Kinabatangan served amazing food during our stay. It was a great mix of local and some western food, and super friendly staff. We went with the private cabin and ensuite option, but there are dorms and shared bathroom suites also available. Our chalet was so nice, with a raised boardwalk, a little balcony and our own bathroom.  kinabatangan river borneo 5

kinabatangan river borneo 14 kinabatangan river borneo 6 kinabatangan river borneo 9Here are some tips for anyone else heading to the jungle in Borneo. We heard some many conflicting views, so just to throw one more opinion into the mix; here are a few things we would recommend:

  1. Take a light pancho. We have one that folds up to pocket size. It rained every afternoon that we were there, really heavy monsoonal downpours, the pancho was a lifesaver to keep our camera and iphone dry;
  2. Stock up on snack food at the servo, there is a lot of downtime and if your anything like me you will appreciate lots of snacks;
  3. Take a head torch – You will need a head torch to do the night walk and also to get around at night when the power isn’t that reliable;
  4. We didn’t use leech socks. – We just used roll on repellent (which we always take in our carry on) around our socks and the bottom of our legs. – our guide was the only one who had leech socks and was the only one who got a leech (which found its way to his foot from the hole in the sock).
  5. Take a light long sleeve top and some light long pants – it is HOT in the jungle, jeans are not an option, you need long sleeve to help ward off mosquito’s and leech bites.

Have fun and enjoy the amazing animals and people in this country!!

Gomantong caves tour

gomantong cave 1a After Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre we headed to the Rainforest Discovery Centre and Gomantong Caves. This is education centre located not far from Sepilok in the Kabali-Sepilok Forest Reserve. The primary purpose of the centre is to create public awareness and appreciation of the importance of conserving forests as well as the sustainable use of forest resources. It consists of a canopy walk through the treetops to spot wildlife and interpretive posters of the animals you can expect to see at the centre.gomatong cave 11 gomatong cave 10 gomatong cave 8

When we arrived there was a rehearsal going on for an upcoming festival. There were hundreds of kids dressed up in tribal costumes performing traditional dances and music. This, of course, scared most of the animals away. But we did still see a few birds, and a timid black monkey on top of the rehearsals.gomatong cave 14 gomatong cave 9 gomatong cave 12

We then took the long drive to Gomantong Caves. Gomantong Cave is the largest limestone hill and the most important source of edible bird nest in Sabah. We had first heard about the caves while watching David Attenborough on TV. Where we had seen people scaling dangerously high cliffs to harvest swiftlet birds nests’. The nests, which are made from the male bird’s saliva over a period of 30 plus days, are used for expensive soup in Chinese cuisine. This industry is now highly regulated by the Malaysian government to help preserve the birds and their habitat.Gomantong cave 3 gomantong cave 1 copy Gomatong cave 7 Gomatong cave 5

The cave is also home to millions of bats and cockroaches and a small hut where the workers live while the harvest season is happening. Yep they live at the caves entrance, with metres of guano below their hut. The cave is set up with a boardwalk  so you don’t actually have to walk on the guano. We had read a few bad reviews on the smell. We knew that we were visiting a cave, with bats and cockroaches and lots of bat poo, so we expected a guano and urea smell, obviously ;). And it really wasn’t that bad. It is worth the slight smell to visit this amazing place. And as a bonus we saw some wild orangutans not far from the entrance.

Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre, Sandakan, Borneo

Before I share the photos from our recent holiday I want to share the rest of the highlights from our honeymoon in Borneo and Thailand. I hope to inspire you to travel to both these amazing countries. The whole aim of our trip to Borneo was to see animals in the wild, particularly the orangutan’s and the probiscus monkey.Sepilok rehab centre 2

After leaving Kota Kinabalu we took a short flight to Sandakan. As soon as we stepped off the plane we hopped onto a full day tour with “In Sabah tours”Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, the rainforest discovery centre and Goomatong Cave. Sepilok rehab centre 13 Sepilok rehab centre 12 Sepilok rehab centre 11

Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary is a rehabilitation centre for orphaned and injured orangutans. The centre covers  43 sq km and is situated adjacent to Kabali Sepilok Forest Reserve. There are about 60 – 80 orangutans living at Sepilok, but they are free to roam the whole reserve so you are not guaranteed to see them with your entrance fee.Sepilok rehab centre 7 Sepilok rehab centre 5 Sepilok rehab centre 4

You watch a short video when you arrive at the facility on how they rehabilitate the animals and how you can help out and donate. Then it is a short walk to the feeding platform where you wait and hope to see one. They feed the orangutan’s a bland diet of the same fruit and some milk to encourage them to forage in the reserve.  We were lucky that there were lots of animals around the day we visited. Including one very bald one that looked like Gollum from the lord of the rings 🙂 . Sepilok rehab centre 9 Sepilok rehab centre 1

Our entrance fees were included in our day tour, but there is a 10 RM camera fee on top that we had to pay to take photos. It is possible to get to the facility by public bus (details in the lonely planet) if you didn’t want to pay for a tour. We thought that Sepilok was very well run and was well worth the visit. Sepilok rehab centre 8 Sepilok rehab centre 3

The orangutans truly really are amazing animals. The way they move, eat, cuddle, and interact is fascinating to see. They are so alike and yet so un-alike us in many ways and it was a real privilege to be able to see them in the (semi) wild.

Wooden wedding signs

Shantele hand painted wooden wedding signs 2Recently a friend of mine asked me to do some wedding signs for her little sisters wedding. She was at my wedding and had seen the signage we had used so when her sister wanted something similar I jumped at the chance. Shantele hand painted wooden wedding signs Shantele hand painted wooden wedding signs 8

She wanted about 30 signs all up ranging from large wooden ones, to smaller chalkboard ones that were used for sweets. I was happy to be able to use the wedding chalkboard that we made for our wedding again.Shantele hand painted wooden wedding signs 6 Shantele hand painted wooden wedding signs 5

We used some lighter coloured boards this time round which turned out nice. Next time I make some I would like to try staining some wood a walnut colour. Shantele hand painted wooden wedding signs 4 Shantele hand painted wooden wedding signs 3

I had so much fun doing these that I would like to offer some custom wedding signage in my shop to compliment your special day. Any shape of wood could be accommodated and customised wording in whatever colour or font you choose. If you are interested please send an email to shantele.ianna(at)

Australia trip blurb book

Blurb 8x10 review coverWe just got back from a fantastic journey to the Kimberley in Western Australia (hence the lack of blog posts lately). I thought that before I shared all the amazing photos from our holiday I would share the photo book I made for our last trip in Australia in 2012.Blurb 8x10 review page 1

Blurb 8x10 review page 2 Blurb 8x10 review page 3We didn’t plan or book anything before we left, we just got in the car and drove north. It was a fantastic holiday and exactly what we needed. We ended up driving from northern new south wales to Darwin, to south Australia and to the snow in Jindabyne, totally random and unplanned and rad. I put all the photos into a blurb book and thought I would share the outcome here.Blurb 8x10 review page 4 Blurb 8x10 review page 5 Blurb 8x10 review page 6

I have made two blurb books before, both in the square 7×7 inch format (read my review here). I knew for this book I wanted to use the landscape format. A road trip in Australia is a visual overload, there are so many changing landscapes and wide open spaces, and I wanted my book to reflect that, so I went with the horizontal 8 x 10 inch size.Blurb 8x10 review page 7 Blurb 8x10 review page 8 Blurb 8x10 review page 9

I used the booksmart software again, but I played around with it a bit this time and created a few of my own layouts. But generally I like the look of full page spreads and photos. I also used my own handwriting again to add any text or journaling after I received the book. I played around a bit more this time with the fonts I used, but tried to keep them similar for a cohesive look. Blurb 8x10 review page 10

This time I added a double page spread at the end with a heap of photos that didn’t make it into the book. I love how this turned out and will probably do it again. Blurb 8x10 review page 11

Blurb 8x10 review back coverJust like last time I was really happy with the quality of the book, I love the image wrap on the cover and I will probably stick to hand journaling any text in future books. But I am really just happy to have the photos out of the computer and printed to enjoy and reminisce.  Now onto documenting all the other holidays and events…….

Meanwhile on holidays….

Sorry for the absence everyone but we have been travelling around the top end of Australia and have had limited reception to post on my website. I have been posting lots of holiday snaps when we get reception on instagram though so check out my account there.

We are making our way home now and will be back to posting again next week.

Giant devils Fig weed {field guide Friday}

This is a series on my blog this year where I will be sharing a sketch from my nature journal every Friday in an effort to keep myself drawing (at least weekly) and to hopefully inspire someone else while I’m at it. Hope you enjoy it! Giant devils fig by shantele ianna

The Giant devils fig is a noxious weed on the north coast. It originates from central America and is spreading rapidly throughout the region. We are also noticing that it is widespread along the sides of roads in the area. It is easily recognised from the deeply lobed leaves which are covered in spines along the leaf veins and the stems which have large thick spines.

Giant devils fig fruit by shantele ianna

The weeds flower in autumn and spring, and have green fruit which turn yellow when mature. The seeds are spread by birds and bats. We have also noticed that the cows have been eating the leaves. When a large plant is mowed with the slasher, the remaining parts will grow new roots and turn into new plants. This makes the removal very difficult unless sprays are used. They really need to be removed as soon as they are spotted and before flowering because they can rapidly spread and choke the waterways and compete with native species.

Our honeymoon Kuala Lumpur and Borneo

We spent our honeymoon in Peninsular Malaysia, Borneo and Thailand. Borneo was the obviously choice for us because it is where we were supposed to finish our round the world adventure in 2012. We got there but just 2 years later than planned! Thailand happened at the last minute because we found $40 flights from Kuala Lumour (KL) to Krabi!!. IMG_8701We had three weeks, 2 weeks of backpacking and a week of relaxing on a beach. We flew in and out of KL. There is so much to do in this city. We as per usual, just wandered around, caught the metro, people watched and sampled food without worrying to much about seeing all the sights.IMG_6924Batu caves 1KL airport is the easiest airport I have navigated in the world. We got out of our plane, bought a local sim card for our phone, got directly to the transport section and caught a bus to the city for next to nothing (there is a train which is quicker but more expensive), very easy and efficient. I don’t recommend the bus for the return trip to the airport, it took us three hours to get to the city. A local sim card is a life saver, it allows us to have internet on the go and to contact anyone within the country regarding tours, accommodation etc.

batu caves 3 Batu caves by shantele ianna 1I definitely planned on sketching, but only managed a couple of pages. I think partly because of the craziness of the wedding planning, I just didn’t want to have to do anything, and partly because instead of a blank journal I took one that I had already filled by mistake (possibly partly due to the craziness of the wedding). I managed to find another one at a bookstore, but just couldn’t get into the sketching groove. But did take lots of photos.  when we were in KL we escaped a downpour in a Hard rock café, and were left wondering what all the hype is about;IMG_8783

Checked out the Petrona’s twin towers, but decided not to spend the money to go up;…IMG_8789

Were lucky enough to be visiting during the Deepavali Hindu festival; IMG_8748 IMG_8726 IMG_8785

and still stuck to our rule of packing light and taking carryon only.IMG_7621

Generally when I get to a new country we like to travel by land, slowly, both of us are not fans of flying. This is not really an option in Borneo. You really have to fly to get around the country. We flew into Kota Kinabalu from KL and used it as a stopover before flying to Sandakan. We explored the night markets at Kota Kinabalu, but really just relaxed for the first few days…KK markets Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset KK harbour Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Rescue chickens {Field guide Friday}

This is a series on my blog this year where I will be sharing a sketch from my nature journal every Friday in an effort to keep myself drawing (at least weekly) and to hopefully inspire someone else while I’m at it. Hope you enjoy it!

rescue chicken sketch by Shantele ianna

About 6 months ago now I found out that there were some chicken’s available on a farm for free. We went out there with the intention to take 15 or so, between me and my husband’s family. When I got there and saw that the chickens had had their beaks de-tipped (this happens before the small chicks come to the farm and is usually done because the birds are kept in huge numbers and can peck and attack one another).  There were also hundreds of birds that were going to loose their lives. I ended up taking 50, we have 15 and we have re-homed the rest to friends and family.

The farmer explained that after the chickens reach 12 months of age their eggs get bigger and the shells get thinner and the restaurants don’t want them. So every 12 months the whole flock is replaced. The 12 months and older chickens are killed and new younger ones are bought in to replace them.

I had heard of factory farms before, where chickens are kept cooped up in cages inside barns and never see light of day, but I had no idea that this is how some free range hens are kept. These chickens got let out to roam the farm every day, are fed well, kept locked up at night, but are only allowed to live for 12 months and are kept with huge numbers of other birds.  Generally the farmer doesn’t want to operate in this manner either, but the market dictates it.

I don’t know if this is common practice for free range egg farms, but it got me thinking about food labelling and that it can sometimes not tell the whole story behind a product. I grew up with backyard chickens, and have been lucky enough to either know someone who can give me eggs, and now, have our own. Growing up on a farm I saw chickens behave like chickens, I have rarely been exposed to chickens having their beaks cut, but have been exposed to animals dying of disease and predators and natural causes. While rescue chickens take a bit more care I am happy to have these girls as a part of our farm.

I realise that keeping any “pet” chickens is not exactly natural for the birds, which would historically be living in trees and only laying eggs to reproduce. But if you are going to eat eggs (which I do), I am happy knowing how my chickens live their lives.

Photo Walk – Mornings

IMG_1742 IMG_1741 IMG_1693Still walking most mornings….IMG_1733

Loving the change of seasons and the foggy mornings that autumn is bringingIMG_9566 IMG_0388

Going crazy seeing all the Parramatta grass around that farm that needs to be cleared, such a BIG job…IMG_1522

Naming way to many cows, meet surprise below and Eric… IMG_0521nnn IMG_0503

Admiring all the different trees and plants on the farm; IMG_1686 IMG_1541 IMG_1550

feeling grateful that I get to call this place home… IMG_1779