Animals in the Wild
Trip Start Dec 18, 2011
18Trip End Feb 26, 2012
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Where I stayed
Spent the morning booking the my next flight in Borneo which ended up being Mulu rather than Bario since the flights to Bario were full. Also ended up with an extra day before my flight since there were no flights to Mulu on the 29th. While passing away the morning did some blogging and would have sorted my photos except that I had managed to fill up my hard drive about a week ago. Even after having deleted everything that wasnt a photo or program my hard drive was almost full.
Headed out a little while before my scheduled departure time to the pickup point and found that chinese new years celebrations were still in full swing. In this case it took the form of a number of dragon dancers either on the street or making their way around town on the back of a pick up truck.
At the pickup point ran into Kristina from the Kota Kinabalu walk and spent the bus trip to the lodge chatting with her. This trip took longer than I expected which may be due to the fact that along the way we stopped off to pick some people up from Sepilok> This was not necessarily a bad thing since while here we saw a couple of orangatuns hanging out at the top of the bamboo clump that was near the lodge there.
Once at the lodge Kristina ran into another person, Chris, who had also gone up the mountain on the same day as us. He had been at the lodge almost a week and since his dorm had 2 free beds we ended up sharing a dorm room with him and his room mate Eva.
Seems that he had decided to hang around since it only costs an extra 50Rm for extra extra night (full board, two boat tours and a night walk) you stay at the lodge. Defiantely a good deal if you dont need to be anywhere and want to spend your time looking for animals in the wild. After talking to him it also got me thinking about spending my extra day (before the flight) here at the lodge rather than in Kota Kinabalu.
After checking in it wasnt to long a wait for the afternoon river cruise
At the river mouth found that a group of macaques were down near the water. Unlike the probiscous monkeies these didnt run off to higher ground as soon they heard the boat. Besides the fighting that sunddenly broke out between a couple of monkeys at one point the rest of the troop seemed to be walking on top of the debris that was floating on the water looking for food. I believe that this food was fig fruits but not 100% certain.
Stayed here for a while watching the monkeys digging around, pulling things out of the water and then putting it into their mouths to eat. From here continued up the small river where another troup of probiscous monkies were hanging out. These were pretty close to the water but also took off pretty fast. Have a feeling that a paddle boat would be a better way to not alarm the monkies.
Worth noting here something about the monkies. Seems that at night the monkies in the area come down to the river to sleep. The guide was saying that this was to get away from the nocturnal predators that roam the forest at night though I am not sure why these predators would stay away from the waters edge, especially if food was there to be caught.
After this group of monkeys some horn bill birds were seen flying overhead
Continued up the river to find our last new animal of the day which was a large python. Seems this guy had recently eaten something and had a great big lump in the middle of it as a result I think it wasnt moving around to much and so the guides had a rough idea where to look for it on each visit. Headed back from here but spotted some probiscous monkies very close to the water (at least before they took off) and could have gotten some really nice photos if the boat had been positioned better and my view wasnt blocked by trees.
Found that on the ride back the sun was starting to set and with the moon up above the river got a few nice shots heading back to the lodge. This trip also seemed to be a lot longer then the one heading out. While heading back thought that was the end of the new animals for the day but saw one more in the for of a boar
Once back at the lodge grabbed our buffet dinner and joined Chris plus a costa Rician couple who had been at the lodge for two weeks. Juan had a really nice camera and given the number of animals and price (they were travelling a year) it was a nice place for them to hang out in. Also learnt that we missed out on seeing a pigmy elephant and orangutan that was building its nest. Seems that the better option would have been to take a boat that was heading upriver but even so I quite like watching the macaques that had been sitting on the river foraging food.
After dinner had a bit of a break before the night walk which was a 40min walk in the jungle near the lodge. The previous night they had seen a sivet (type of cat) but wasnt holding any hope that it was still hanging around.
For this walk decided to get the gum boots rather than use my boots. Given the amount of mud and water around this was definately a good choice. This night we saw a number of birds (eg kingfisher) sleeping in the trees. Found it interesting how the birds didnt run away even when the lights were shone on them and cameras stuck right up into their faces.
The main attraction of the night though was the spotting of a tasiar (type of monkey). This monkey just sat in the tree with its big wide eyes just staring.
The monkey and birds were the only large animals about that night though we did see a number of insects. These included a couple of whip tail scorpians, a stick insect and a grasshopper.
Back at the dorm room a couple of people got excited about a gecko which they miustook for a crocodile. As you can see in the photo the gecko does look a bit crocodilish but I cant remember the last time a crocodile was able to scale a wall to reach the ceiling. Such climbing ability would definately make it a scary thought.
While out here also managed to find another stick plant as well as a leach that was looking for something to attch itself to and such some blood out of. As you can see in the photo it has just extended itself and is wating for its next victim to come past. This victim ended up being my camera which got a bit to close while trying to take a photo.
This pretty much ended the day for us and we called it a night in preparation for our early morning start.
Day 2 – Morning and Evening River Cruise, Day Hike to Ox Bow Lake and Night Walk
Up for a 6am river cruise that didnt last very long due to bad weather
After the second set of monkys though it pretty much started to pour and didnt really stop all that much throughout the rest of the day. As can be expected we turned back around due to the bad weather.
Had breakfast and even though it was pouring decided to head out for the next activity of the day which was a walk to Ox Bow Lake. Didnt expect to see any animals but a walk through the jungle, in the rain, would be a fun experience in itself.
Lots of water and lots of mud with the level going up to the top of the gum boots in certain spots. Good thing I had the gum boots else my legs would have been soaked up to mid calf and my boots full of mud. Walked was about 3hrs in total with sloppy mud covered by a layer of water. As expected saw rain, rain and more rain. Pretty much didnt stop for the whole walk
After an hour and a half we reached the lake which had a small shelter. Here we had to pull a few leaches off of each other and I found that when you pulled it off it stuck to one hand then the other. In the end had to grab a leaf to pull it off with in order for it to stop sticking. After a short break walked back to the lodge where we had lunch and the afternoon off.
Took the camera out a few times during the start of the walk and while I got a few shots in this probably hadnt been the wisest move. By the end of the walk I found that if I turned the dial to certain settings the camera would then randomly select its own setting. Not a good sign though the problem seemed to clear up later that afternoon.
Ended up spending the afternoon on the laptop. Wifi way to slow to use but did manage to process some photos and write a blog. Also had a beer and chatted with Kristina until it was time for the afternoon boat tour. By now the rain had eased up and even stopped for a while so the boat trip was possible.
This trip decided to head up river in the hope that the pigmy elephants would still be around. Unfortuanately this was not the case though we did see a number of other animals the first being a large sea eagle sitting in a tree. Following this we found a number of different types of horn bill birds sitting in a tree. Supposedly there were 3 different types (distinguished by their beaks) but from the distance it was hard to see. It wasnt until I looked at the photos later that I got a better view of them
Continued upriver to find a large monitor lizard sitting on a tree above the river followed by a troup of probiscous monkeys. We then saw a couple of other species of monkey with one being the silver tailed and the other some other species I forget. After seeing a few more monkeys it was time to give up on the elephants and head back.
After getting back had dinner and then passed the time chatting waiting for the night walk. No big animals on the walk this time but we did find the same birds in the area. Seems that the birds pick a particular area for their nightly perch and spend every night in the same area even if it is one where tourist continually harass them with lights. As well as the birds saw some millipedes, a frog and a crab. Seen these often enough in the forest but there presence still seems to surprise me.
Pretty much called it a night after getting back from the walk.
Day 3 – Another Typical Day at the EcoLodge
Almost didnt get up for the morning river cruise and was lucky that Chris mentioned it was time to get up as he was walking out the door. Headed down river once again this morning. Very cloudy and very grey but thankfully no rain.
Pretty much speed down the river to reach the side river before we really started to look for wild life
Our first encounter was with some probiscous monkies that were quite close to the water but didnt take off immediately at the approach of the boat. While watching this monkey got some nice videos of it eating. Continued along the river and managed to get a photo of an egret before it flew off and then another group of probiscous monkies. These though were a bit higher up in the tree.
Further up river, on our way back, found a monitor lizard lounging in a tree above the rivers surface. Also saw lots of webs that had been spun in the branches (by spiders) to catch their insect dinners. Unfortunately it seems that the python that had been hanging around the river either wasnt there or was hiding to well.
Spent over 10min looking and then sped back to the lodge passed by a few groups of monkies without stopping but did stop when the guide spotted an orangutan in the branches of a tree. Unfortunately for the most part he didnt want to show his face and only got to see it once as he climbed down to a lower branch
Once back had breakfast said by to the people only staying 3 days and watched as the sun came out. Given the weather decided to do the jungle walk to Ox Bow Lake one more time. Unlike the day before the sun was shining and I was thinking I should be able to get some photos of the jungle and trees found by the trail. Didnt really expect to see any animals near trail with the possible exception of the occasional insect (and leach). Also heard, if not saw, a few birds in the trees above. Unfortunately way to much foilage to see that high up into the canopy.
Found that today the trail was still mudy but was thicker since it didnt have the layer of water on it that it had the previous day. Actually found it a tougher if dryer walk today. Also nice to see the sun lighting up the trees and forest canopy that had quite a few bromeliads in their branches.
During the walk learnt that the jungle here wasnt that old and that basically it had been restored 50 or so years ago due to the elephants having a 400-500km range along the river bank where they look for food and get water
Seems that they head in one direction turn around and head in the other direction in order to let the food they eat grow recover. also found that they can be quite agressive since the lodge is surrounded by an electric fence to keep them out and the day walk is cancelled if they are in the area of the lodge.
Once back had lodge had lunch and a quite afternoon before the heading out for the afternoon river cruise. Most interesting thing during the afternoon was the lizard that one of the guides found in the shrubs next to the dorm.
Headed up river once again with a mission to find the pygmy elephants. Besides a single stop to look at a sea eagle we didnt stop anywhere else along the way in order to get as far upriver as we could. At this point could see that the clouds were on their way back.
Unfortunatelu no sign of the elephants though you could see where they had been eating and stomping their way down to the water. Once we had given up on the elephants we made our way back slowly to the lodge and spotted some probiscous monkey, as well as a horn bill. In the end not sure it was worth the effort of searching.
Found on the way back the need to hide under my rain jacket due to the rain pelting me at the front of the boat
At the lodge had dinner and then headed to the dorm. Had planned to go out and take a night walk but when it started to rain decided to give it a miss. Given the condition of the camera I certainly wouldnt be taking it outside in the rain. Rain ended up stopping before the end of the walk so a walk probably would have been a good idea. They even saw the sivat (cat) again though it quickly moved this time and hid itself in the trees.
Day 4 – Morning Cruise with a Python and Transit to Kota Kinabalu
Again didnt feel like getting up so early but actually did wake up today, unlike the day before. Headed down river once more to the little side river that was 30min or so down river from the lodge. Unlike the previous time pretty much headed straight to the river with the misty views of the river bank to accompany us on our way
Once near the river mouth could smell dung. This suggested that the elephants had been around and still might be. After a few minutes of searching the banks though it seemed that their presense was unlikely so we continued on to see a monkey using the rope (monkey bridge) to cross over the river.
Continued further up the river and came across a couple of groups of probiscous monkeys which we stopped to watch. Once again these monkeys pretty much took off up intot the higher trees at the approach of the boat and I was wandering if the same thing would happen if you approached them with a paddle boat.
After the probiscous monkeys we found some long tail macaqua's sitting in a tree by the river. These monkeys didnt take off at our approach and we could see them eating and grooming each other in the tree. Found that this was a farely large family group with a number of what looked like very young monkeys in theh group. Spent a bit of time watching and taking photos of these monkeys before continuing
For our final animal encounter of the morning we came across a python sitting in a tree digesting its last meal. Here the boat got pretty close with it sitting under the snake. The guide had told me to hold onto the tree to stop the boat floating away. At this point I decided to stand up to get a better photo of the snake. I also decided to move a branch that was blocking my shot.
At first the snake didnt mind this but I guess I must of moved it a bit to fast at one point and spooked the snake since the next thing we new it was in the bottom of the boat. Was surprised just how fast it jumped out of the tree.
At this point everyone jumped up on the seat and the snake slivered around the bottom of the boat. While the snake was a python and not poisonous it didnt mean that getting bitten with its fangs and powerful jaws wouldnt be painful. The guide also had never had a snake jump in his boat and so wasnt quite sure what to do. In the end he headed to shore and got us to get out of the boat.
Once most of us were out he made an attempt to get the snake to get out of the boat
Left the boat for breakfast and had a few people thank me for the excitment. I though felt a bit bad about causing the commotion. At breakfast told the others who went to go have a look at the snake. Seems that if we had headed up river today we would have seen a crocodile. Since I have seen a few of these in the wild before the snake encounter had been a more interesting way to spend the morning.
While eating breakfast saw a few more guides wandering down to the boat so decided to head back to the snake which was a good idea. Here found one of the guides using a plastic bag to make the snake move before grabbing it by the back of teh head and pulling it out. He then tried to place the snake on a tree but it was a bit stressed and ended up on the decking
Got a few good photos here before a guide once again grabbed the snake and this time had success in putting the snake on a tree. Watched it here for a while before returning to the dorm to pack. Once this was done said bye to the guys I had met (they were here a few more days) and headed to the boat which would take me to the bus on the other side. Tried to find the snake on the tree it had been released on but it had either moved on by now or was hiding way to well.