Discovering the Wildlife of Borneo’s Kinabatangan River
Cruising through the bay to the mouth of the river, our speed boat whirred as we speed along the water. Entering the mouth of the river we were plunged into mangrove forest, Oriental Darters sped above us as if they had somewhere to go more pressing than us. It wasn’t long before we spotted our first Monkey, our boat suddenly slowed and our guide had their binoculars up to their eyes, sure enough in a tree overhanging the river was a colony of the notorious Proboscis Monkeys the females with their pixie like noses and the male overlooking his harem with his notoriously almost offensive looking nose.
The further down the river we got; the more the landscape changed as we passed rice paddies, then Palm Oil plantation after plantation and community after community of the Orang Sungai (People of the River), in between, patches of untouched jungle or mangrove forest.
As we approached the jetty of our Jungle Lodge smiling staff were waving at us with broad welcoming smiles. After a much-needed cold towel to wipe the sweat of our faces and a delicious refreshing lime drink we headed back out onto the river for our afternoon safari. Our naturalist guide had planned to take us down one of the many tributaries however just a couple of minutes into our journey we took and sharp turn and headed back up the river where we had come from. At first we were builded and slightly disappointed until we found he had been tipped of to a heard of Pigmy Elephants in the forest just along the shores of the river. As we approached the bank we could hear the loud trumpet of the elephants not far in the distance. Our boat edges up to the riverbank and one by one we were allowed up onto the bank to get a glimpse of the elephants through the trees. But it wasn’t long before the elephants spotted us and we all got back into the boat to get away to a safe distance. Though we only got a glimpse, the next day we would be treated to the elephants in full along the bank, giving us a fantastic wild show. Something that is rarely seen so open along the river, it must have been our lucky day!
The afternoon jungle safaris each day were excellent; our expert, local naturalist guides new exactly where to take us. We saw an abundance of Proboscis monkey Colonies which never failed to entertain, we even saw them courageously drinking along the edge of the river, a whole boat holding our berth hoping they wouldn’t get taken by a crocodile lurking beneath. We saw South East Asia’s most prominent Monkey, the Macaques on several occasions and the more rare Long-tailed Macaque, along with the gorgeous Silver Langur with their almost cartoon-like bright orange babies. While we heard a Gibbon in the distance we never got to spot one, while one of the other boats did. This is how we new we were in the wild, not in the zoo and we relished the fact that everyday we had a new and unique discovery along the river and that we didn’t know what was coming and nor did the guides.
Back at the lodge and it was time to relax but we were here to spot the wildlife and that’s exactly what we did. From the Kilometre long winding boardwalk at the back of the lodge where we were lucky enough to spot a Flying Lemur hanging from the trees above, a nocturnal animal difficult to spot and rarely seen. But our lucky day didn’t stop their, just above our room in a tall tree hang a mother orang-utan with her young baby hanging off her. This was such a precious moment, one I had been dreaming about since a child and one I’ll treasure forever, to see such a gorgeous but rare creature out in the wild.
Each night, we scoffed down our delicious buffet dinner in anticipation for our night time safari, this was a chance to see the nocturnal creatures of the Jungle and get up close to some sleeping animals we could only see in the distance during the day.
We boarded our boat and set off down river with just the light of the moon and our spotlight to guide us.
A reflection from the torch in the distance like two glittering stars signalled a creature in the night, we turned off the motor and edged ever closer to the shoreline. There perched on a branch just a meter away was the quaint, glittering Blue Eared Kingfisher and just a few trees away and we spotted the Stalk-billed Kingfisher. An amazing sight to see where two Broadbills huddling next to their architectural nests hanging from the reeds.
Up higher in trees we spotted fruit bats majestically hanging from the branches and tired macaques with there babied snoozing on their bellies right above us.
In the distance across the water two large, glistening eyes disappeared into the murky depths of the river only to remerge and slink up on to the riverbank, It was a large croc having a rest from the nights hunting.
The Kinabatangan River is at its most enchanting in the morning when the mist hovers above the water glowing in the morning sun. While at tis early hour us humans didn’t look at our best it was when the birdlife was at it’s most active at the Baby Macaques at the most entertaining frolicking and play fighting with their brothers and sisters. It sure made the ungodly hour wake up worth it!
After a few days of wildlife safaris we reluctantly had to leave this enchanting place behind us, with out minds full or memories and our cameras full of pictures.
This was truly a once in a lifetime experience!