Its a Jungle Out There....

Trip Start Jul 16, 2012
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Flag of Malaysia  , Sabah,
Sunday, August 4, 2013

After a month in Borneo exploring the underwater wildlife delights it was time to take to the land and see the wonders which live in the rainforest, so we set off to the Kinabatangan River. To save hours on uncomfortable buses across Borneo we treated ourselves to a flight to Sandakan and one night in luxury in the Sheraton hotel (thanks to a major Agoda discount offer!).  Sandakan, like most other towns in Borneo was pretty drab and tired and as we were in Ramadam the restaurants were pretty much all closed until sundown which left MacDonalds as the only safe bet for an early quick dinner. Hey ho.

After a night of sleeping in the most comfortable bed in months, we set off to the meeting point to catch our bus to the River Lodge.  The advert on the internet claimed that the journey to Kinabatangan was just 2 hours from Sandakan, I can only assume that it was either a lie or we took a significant detour as we finally arrived 4 hours later.

After a very quick boat trip across the river, we were checked in, given tea and biscuits and told to be ready for our first boat trip in 30 minutes, so we quickly changed as the sky was grey and the rain clouds were looming.  Our hut was the best that the resort offered in that it was a private room with our own bathroom and it was basic to say the least. It was a little concerning when we were told to be careful of the electric fence surrounding the resort as it was designed to keep out elephants.  Ok lets not be touching that by accident.

Unpacked and ready to get on our boat, in true rainforest style the heavens opened so we treated ourselves to some brand spanking new 1 poncho's and headed to the boat.  There were 9 of us in the group so there was plenty of room on the boat to be able to see whatever the river had to offer us.  With our cameras safely wrapped in our poncho’s we set off and unbelievably the first animal that we saw was a wild orang-utan.  Now this being in the real wild rainforest and not a zoo, the orang was about 30 meters up a tree hiding in the leaves leaving me with my little camera barely able to see her let alone get a good picture, but she was there and she was amazing!  The rest of the boat was just filled with stops to see Probiscus monkeys (or cock noses as Tim and I like to call them, for obvious reasons).  They were everywhere, flying through the trees as gracefully as a pot bellied monkey with a cock on his nose can.  We also saw the standard macaques which have graced us pretty much everywhere around the world.  Our guide had some kind of sixth sense to be able to point out animals which I couldn’t see when he had a lazer pointer on them, yet he had seen them whilst shooting past in a boat, amazing.  With the rain easing we thoroughly enjoyed our first taste of the jungle.

After a relaxed evening and dinner it was time for the next adventure.  A night jungle trek.  Kitted out with torches, wellies and ponchos and insect repellent we were set to see what delights the jungle at night had to offer.  Within seconds of starting the journey with the lights of the resort still behind us we saw our first animal and there was not much that was ever going to beat this, it was what the Malaysians call a Ghost Monkey and what is more commonly known as a Tarsier.  This adorable little man is about the same size as a can of coke and is said to have been an animal made up of leftovers.  He has the eyes of an owl, the ears of a bat, the feet of a frog and the tail of a monkey.  I think it is the cutest and most amazing little furry thing I have ever set eyes on.  I could have finished the tour here and been happy.  But we had to carry on and had I been alone I would have seen nothing, but our guide as usual was able to find stunning sleeping birds all curled up in trees, leeches galore and even a little tree frog.  After the obligatory leech check we were headed to bed ready for an early start the next day.

Just as we were tucked into bed and about to fall asleep there was the most almighty crash on the side of our hut.  We managed to convince ourselves it was just a cocknose monkey and went to sleep, thank god we are not camping here!

So our next adventure was a morning boat trip down the river, the main thing that everyone is looking for on this trip is the elusive pygmy elephants which do occasionally pass through the area.  On the jungle walks there tracks are still there but they have been in hiding further up river for a while.  The trees were buzzing with monkeys just waking up, there was a little monitor lizard on the side of the bank and even a big crocodile, but sadly no elephants.  We spoke to our guide who told us that the elephants had moved upstream outside of the permit that the boat had so we all chipped in and bought an extension to go in search of the elephants on our afternoon boat ride.

We had one day trek which took us into the same jungle as the night trek, however seemingly every animal was in hiding, we saw some little grub that rolls itself into a perfect little ball and saw the remnant of some figs that had been eaten by Orangs (they don’t like fig skin apparently it is too sour for them, bless), but the big ginger furries were nowhere to be seen.  The rain had been pretty heavy in the last few days and the route we should have gone on was literally a lake so we cut short our day trek and returned to camp. The buildings at the resort seem to have built in security devices, every time you enter a building there is a weird noise that is like a high pitched dog squeal, seemingly this is the gecko’s that live in the roofs, who knows why they make a different noise here?!

After lunch we were all set in our ponchos and thankfully the weather was kind to us, we must have gone about 30 minutes upstream before we pulled over to see some fairly obvious elephant tracks.  Sadly the perpetrators of the big muddy footprints were nowhere to be found.  We tried going down a few smaller stream but the little mini elephants were definitely not wanting to be papped today.  On our route home our guide turned on his animal spotting vision and showed us some adorable wild hogs and so many hornbills, if only my camera could have really zoomed in to get their full beauty.  Our guide told us that hornbills live in large groups of males until they find their female partner and once they find a partner they stay together forever.  To woo the female the male has to bring her a piece of fruit and if she accepts it they are a couple.  When hornbills have babies, the male builds a nest into a tree for the female and seals her in with her babies to protect them and just brings food to deliver through a small hole.  The female sheds all her feathers so as to create a nest for her babies, meaning if anything happens to the male the female and her babies will perish, so sad :o(

We also discovered another animal living in the resort as we were getting ready for dinner, we have a little cheeky mouse who lives in our roof, so I balanced a cheese hoop crisp for him to have for his dinner!

Back at the camp and fed and watered it was time for the next night jungle walk, after the ghost monkey there was  not much else I wanted to see but I went along as I didn’t want to miss out.  After the rain the jungle floor was even more treacherous and we were all slipping and sliding everywhere.  We did however get to see a few cool things, the best was definitely a pit viper which was asleep in the bottom of a tree, apparently they are really rare in this colour, our guide has not seen one like this in 5 years!  The rest of the trip was mainly full of creapy crawlies, such as the long legged centipede, eugh and a lovely stick insect.  Leach check over and we were done for the night.

Our last Morning boat was something of a washout, the rain came down and literally soaked us through, the animals were all in hiding and it was not the most comfortable ride ever but everything else we had seen made it more than worthwhile.

After breakfast we were back on the bus back to Sandakan, yet again the promised 2 hours was far from correct and this time was 5.5 hours.  There was terrible traffic as it was the end of Ramadan and everyone was travelling to get home to their families.  After a good 4 hours of crossing his legs Tim asked driver if he could get off for a pee at the side of the road as the traffic was stopped for so long, another man on the bus got off.  The traffic suddenly started moving so the bus carried on.  Tim jumped on the bus and the bus kept going.  Unfortunately for the other man who got off the traffic miraculously cleared and the bus just carried on without him.  There were a few frantic phone calls amoungst the others on the bus so we assume he got a lift with someone else.  Ha ha that is the first time I have ever known a bus just leave someone at the side of the road having a pee.

Eventually we made it back to Sandakan and were back in the luxury of the Sheraton for one night only.  I could get used to Sheraton beds, Bliss. 
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