Take Me To The River

Trip Start Jun 12, 2011
Trip End Oct 22, 2012

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Where I stayed
Nature Lodge Kinabatanga

Flag of Malaysia  ,
Thursday, September 15, 2011

For our first stop in Sabah, we spent 2 days on the outskirts of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah's capital, staying at Borneo Backpackers Beach House. The area was a bit of a dive, the beach a massive disappointment and we did nothing really worth noting (i.e. we watched films, caught up on blogs and drank some well deserved beer).  The best thing about the area was that it was a ten minute walk to the airport and as we needed to get to the airport at 5.30am 2 days later it seemed to be a good option.

Early mornings seemed to be our middle name for the next week. We started off our Kinabatangan adventure by catching a 7am flight to Sandakan, then had a long dull wait at the airport (attempting to catch up on sleep) for our transfer bus south to the 'Kinabatangan nature lodge’ situated on the Kinabatangan River, which would be our home for the next 3 nights. The Kinabatangan river system is over 500km long, though we would only be exploring a small part of it.  I would however like to see an aerial picture of the Kinabatangan river system, as although the river system and surrounding jungle is a reserve, it does not have national park status, which means areas of agriculture (or deforestation) i.e. palm oil plantations crisscross the landscape, and was certainly an all encompassing force from the view of our 3 hour bus ride to Kinabatangan.  Unfortunately in some parts it even comes right up to the river bank and so you do wonder just how narrow this strip of rainforest is. 

Our schedule for the next few days went something like this:

Day 1

4pm river cruise (2 hrs)

8 pm night walk (1 hr)

Day 2

6am river cruise (2hrs)

9am jungle trek (3hrs)

4pm river cruise (2hrs)

8pm night walk – err we actually ducked out of this as too tired, and trekked out

Day 3

6am river cruise (2hrs)

On our first afternoon river cruise we saw various species of wildlife including loads of different types of hornbills (Sarawak’s national symbol is the rhinoceros hornbill), proboscis monkeys and long tailed macaques.

In the morning river cruises the wildlife seemed to be more in abundance.  We set off into the mist which was quite surreal.  Although we saw proboscis monkeys and long tailed macaque monkeys by the park HQ in Bako national park, they were much more plentiful in the wild by the Kinabatangan River.

On the night walk we trudged through the mud in our hired wellington boots around the surrounding jungle looking for various bugs and birds. We saw sleeping miniature birds that looked like balls of cotton wool and a scorpion which seemed to be a bit stuck in the mud. Seeing all the creepy crawlies at night didn’t bother me very much, though I think Clare would have been happier staying back at the lodge on this occasion.

On the trek into the jungle we saw lots of leeches sitting on leaves waiting to pounce on unsuspecting humans, and our guide told us that they are especially fond of human’s ‘warm areas’, so T-shirts and socks were firms tucked into trousers. Thankfully I didn’t get got this time, and Clare developed an amusing way of walking by ducking and diving through the foliage as she is scared of them getting on her.  She screamed like a banshee when one was on her shoe in Laos so I suspect she didn’t want to repeat that display in front of our fellow Lodge dwellers.  I think we both feel a bit trekked out now after Taman Negara, Bako and this so after Mulu (already booked) we’ll avoid jungles for a while.

On the final morning cruise along the river we saw more than the other cruises but all in all we saw a lot of birds and animals including a fish owl, storm stalk, silver leaf monkey, a family of wild boar, bat hawk, loads of crocs including one that was 4 metres long, a mangrove snake, short tailed macaques aka Borneo baboon, kingfishers, eagles, a gibbon and even two lots of wild orang-utan one with its baby (although that one was really quite far away).  Although not as easy to photograph as the orang-utans in the Semenggoh Rehabilitation Centre it was good to see them in the wild.  Alas no infamous pigmy elephants which are apparently very rare to spot.

On the final river cruise our guide drove the river boat very close to the river bank so we could see a family of long tailed macaques, however unfortunately another boat also nestled in next to ours and bumped into a tree which disturbed a nest of angry jungles bees in the tree.  The first two rows of people on our river boat as well as those on the neighbouring boat were immediately covered in bees and endured many swift painful stings before the boat could reverse out of the way. This put an abrupt end to our river adventure as we sped back to HQ to make sure no one was allergic to the stings.  Thankfully everyone was ok.

It was great to see all the different monkeys and birds etc in the wild but a bit sad to think that maybe its so easy to see them all here as they cling to the remaining bits of rainforest that have been saved from deforestation as the reserve aka tourism has provided some protection.  I don’t know how it is at home but we talked to an Australian couple who told us that in Oz where you read ‘vegetable oil’ on a label 80% of the time it contains palm oil.  I don’t know what the rules are at home but I guess its similar.  I don’t know where or who buys most of the palm oil, all I can say is that if you see palm oil on a label, don’t buy it.  Don’t support what is happening here as it is truly sad to see.

We hopped on a bus to Semporna on our last day with our own personal guide as one of the girls at the Lodge is a dive instructor on Mabul... our next destination.
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