Team Awesome & The River Kinabatangan
Trip Start Oct 24, 2005
337Trip End Ongoing
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Sandakan is situated on the northeastern coast of Borneo and, as such, is a great jumping off point to some of the surrounding islands
But it wasn't the beaches nor the park that brought us to Sandakan; we'd traveled all that way to visit the River Kinabatangan
On Sunday morning, we bought a few supplies (e.g.: Adidas Kampungs, which are rubber shoes with cleats on the bottom - perfect for walking around mucky areas, etc.), and then caught a bus out to the Uncle Tan's office. We had lunch, bought some more raingear, and then filed into the van. In all, there were nine of us in the group leaving that day: Lisa, a British babe who'd been traveling for nearly two years; Geert, a Belgian bloke who was in the midst of a two month journey through SE Asia; Oliver and Fiona, a Canadian couple who'd just begun their travels; B???, a Dutch dude who'd spent a bit of time living in Singapore; and Michael and Charlie, two Brits who were jetting around Malaysia and the Philippines for a few weeks
After a very precarious hike, we arrived at the camp and were shown to our new abodes. The camp was comprised of a series of "cabins" all raised on stilts and set off a main walkway, leading to a main structure that housed the kitchen and dining room. The "cabins" were all basic square structures with wood floors, ceilings, and walls on three sides. The front of the house was a wire/mesh combination that was intended to provide a barrier between us and the creatures haunting the jungle - it wasn't the most substantial of structures, but it was certainly more than we'd expected, and we happily set up camp beneath the mosquito nets that hung from the ceiling. It was still raining, so we headed to the "camp headquarters" to further acquaint ourselves with the people we rode in with, as well as those who were still there from the day before.
After a tasty dinner (lots of veggie friendly foods!), we had a short induction, where we were briefed on the planned activities for the next two days, and we were told there would be a slight change to the schedule because of the heavy rains. While the rains hampered our chances to view the wildlife we'd hoped to see (monkeys, birds, etc.), they were actually a blessing in disguise
Somehow, we missed the 5:45 wake up call the next morning, but still managed to get up in time for the early 6:30 AM river safari. We didn't see as much as we'd hoped for during the hour and a half that we cruised up and down the river, but it was still a great time. We got our first look at the proboscis monkeys (monkeys that apparently only live on the island of Borneo and have amusingly large noses) and saw tons of birds, including a variety of hornbills that are native to the area.
After breakfast, the group that had already been at the camp for two nights headed back to "civilization," and we set out on a rainforest hike. Unlike the previous day, the skies were clear and the sun was shining, which made for ideal conditions under which to see more of the local flora and fauna. The forest had transformed from the night before, and, while the frogs had retreated to swampier areas, many of the critters who had been in hiding had emerged. We saw (and touched!) a variety of leeches, centipedes, millipedes, and snakes, as well as numerous trees and plants. The highlight of the trek was our chance spotting of a family of orangutans. As we were walking, we happened upon a mother, father, and their 3-4 week old baby during feeding time, and we stood and watched them for about forty-five minutes
Because the clouds had dissipated, the sun was out in full effect, resulting in an incredibly hot and steamy day. We were all exhausted from our early morning antics, and most of us sought refuge in our huts or one of the many hammocks, where we all took a bit of an afternoon snooze. I awoke before Dan and decided to do a little wandering. I ran into a few of the other campers, and while we were chatting, one of the guides stealthily slinked up behind us whispering notice of another orangutan sighting. We followed him and discovered another group of orangs foraging amongst the leaves of the guava tree near the bathrooms. They didn't stick around long, but, nonetheless, it was another great animal spotting that really made the experience worthwhile.
By 5:00, we were back in the boat for another river safari. Whereas we hadn't seen much during our morning boat ride, our evening cruise was far more eventful. The skies were chockfull of birds, the trees were crawling with monkeys, and the sunset was absolutely stunning
After dinner, we split up into three different boats and set off on another river safari. As we walked towards the water, we dubbed our group Team Awesome - hence the name of this blog. During the boat ride, we were treated to a completely different array of visual delights. The nocturnal creatures were out in full force: some monkeys, huge lizards, kingfishers, and scads of owls. Because we were in three different boats, each group saw something a little different: one group saw an owl eat the head off a kingfisher, and two of the groups saw crocodiles... unfortunately, we weren't in either of these boats.
Most people slept in the next morning, but Lisa, Konrad, and I decided to wake up early and go for one last river safari. Of all our boat trips, it was definitely the least eventful, but it was nice to be out on the river again. We had breakfast, packed up, and got back in the boat to return to the Uncle Tan headquarters. Our group members were going in a number of different directions, so we bade one another farewell and dissolved Team Awesome. Like us, Lisa and Geert were KK-bound, so the four of us hopped on a bus and settled in for the seven hour long ride. On the way, we drove by Mount Kinabalu one last time, and our timing couldn't have been better - the sun was setting and the skies were clear - it was utterly gorgeous.
The four of us found ourselves rooms at North Borneo Cabin, immediately hopped in the shower, and then located some fairly tasty pizza for dinner. True to form, KK was disappointing; Dan and I had to change hotels again (apparently they'd made a mistake with our reservation and had only booked us a room for one night) and the new hotel was far inferior to the other. And that was all before we'd missed the ferry to our next destination, Labuan....