In Search of Hornbills

Trip Start Jun 19, 2009
Trip End Sep 17, 2009

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Where I stayed
Jungle hut

Flag of Malaysia  , Sabah,
Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sub-title: Faulty Towers Jungle Style.

Well, those alarm bells turned out to be fully valid and as we checked into the jungle huts we could see we were in for some basic standards. The hut had just a bed with a mattress on boards with some boards missing! There was a mozzie net with some holes in it (which we repaired with some of Martyn’s fantastic gaffer tape!) there was a loo (which leaked water out of the cistern continually and if you flushed you had to jump as it poured out onto the floor!) No shower just a bucket and scoop. We learned to flush the loo by pouring the bucket of water instead – much safer!

It was hot and sticky and there was no fan in the room but after a request to the staff one duly arrived by boat from somewhere down the river – thankfully it worked!

The first river trip was fantastic there were only 6 of us tourists and so it wasn’t crowded. Within a few minutes of going upstream we saw Proboscis monkeys and then – fantastic a wild orang-utan high in a tree! Then we had numerous sightings of hornbills and lots of different varieties – rhinoceros, pied, black & wrinkled. On the way back it became apparent that the river was crocodile infested as we saw our first one lazing on the side. Known as esturine crocodiles, the longest one recorded in Borneo was 8m!

Martyn was finding photography quite difficult in the low light and usually at the maximum zoom setting on his point and shoot camera but he was getting some recognisable pictures for the blog at least.

Back at the camp they did quite a good buffet dinner and then there was an offer of a night hike which Martyn went on and had a very rare sighting of a malay civet cat.

A most uncomfortable night as we were woken by scuffling of rats and the loud calls of a lizard!

At 5.40am we were up for the early morning river trip and it was a different boat. This one had a leak but this wasn’t a problem as they just kept bailing it out every so often! It turns out the previous boat was borrowed because this one (their own) had sunk overnight.

However, the wildlife spotting was really good again and we saw two more crocs and some gibbons!

Breakfast was coffee and toast because they’d run out of gas for cooking!

The other 4 brave backpackers left after breakfast as it was the end of their 2 days, so it was just Martyn and I for the jungle hike. We set off in our hired leech socks and wellies. Not much wildlife about as it was hot and sticky (and they had more sense!) but a nice leech free muddy walk to an oxbow lake which actually just looked like another bit of the river (but it has been cut off from the main river).

Back at camp and we lazed about on the hammocks till the new recruits arrived. A game couple from S. Australia (in their 60’s) and a Spanish guy. Really nice people. So, we had great company for our entertaining last night.

The next river trip was a bit of a non event as it was cut short at less than half distance due to a lack of petrol!

Then back at camp there was a power cut – so we ate out dinner by candle light (who knows what it was, but it tasted OK!)

Just as the night hike was about to leave the lights came back on – big cheer!

Last night in out rat infested hut, we were woken at 4am by scuffling under the bed – banged on the bed and heard it shoot out under the door. Didn’t get back to sleep after that so we were ready for the early river trip (more petrol had been delivered).

The last river trip was probably the best – the early morning mist on the water was lovely, it was still & calm and we were the first boat out so it was really quiet.

We saw otters scampering along the riverbank, as well as more hornbills and more crocs -getting blasť about them now!

Then on the way back we saw where the other boats had got to – elephants! We could hear them trumpeting to one another and crashing through the trees. They were really close but we didn’t get a clear view just the occasional glimpse between the trees but it was enough!

So, what we compromised on in luxury was certainly made up for in the quality of the wildlife and all in all it was one hell of an experience!!
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