Orangs and elephants!

Kinabatangan Travel Blog

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Perfection

I don't know how else to describe the Kinabatangan river other than it’s a bit like a badly shaved Brazilian. Thin patches of wispy forest line the banks of this sluggish brown river (the longest river in Sabah) and these forest patches are broken up by oil palm and banana plantations. Never the less these patches of forest offer some of the best wildlife watching in this part of Asia - probably because the animals are trapped on the river bank.

We took a speed boat up the river with several other tourists and the wildlife spotting began, elegant egrets lined the river darting beaks picking up tiny fish, hornbills flew over, their wings making an audible swishing sound as they flapped. Suzan spotted an orange fuzz in the canopy of a tree, our first Bornean Orang, we couldn’t really make out much as it was so high up but it was amazing to see after only half an hour of looking, pretty impressive and to top it all off a stork billed kingfisher sat photogenic ally on a branch overhanging the river and cackled at us!

We reached our destination "uncle tans jungle camp' and our room was an open sided shack with a really comfortable mattress on the floor and mosquito net, this we shared with two other couples, luckily we got on pretty well and no one snore tooooo loudly.

Mmmm dinner
After a great dinner we headed of on a night time boat trip to spot light for the rivers nocturnal inhabitants and we were really excited at what we might see. I have to say that we were not disappointed. Almost immediately we spotted a civet on the river bank its eyes two giant glowing green orbs in the spotlight, it took its measure of us before slinking off into a thicket. Macaques chattered sleepily in a tree above as we moved on down the river. The next spot was a Leopard cat lounging on a tree branch, again it seemed not to mind our intrusion and stretched slowly before leaping down from its perch and disappearing into the grass, and so it went on animal after animal, sleeping king fishers, chubby river frogs, sleeping proboscis monkeys and then a huge buffy fish owl.
Pygmy elephants
The owl confused us a little bit as we could make out two pairs of eyes staring at us through the gloom, one pair large and red the other small and white, as we approached we could see the red eyed owl had a white eyed rat clutched tightly in its awesome talons - dinner, it was a magnificent creature and looked down at us quizzically. The last spot of the night was a small salt water crocodile which crashed into the water from its haul out side on the muddy bank, a startling splash in the dark.

We got ready for bed and I had a poke around the huts to see what else I could see, I came face to face with a common palm civet, turned around and nearly stumbled over a mouse deer and glanced up and saw a tree frog, not bad for our first day!

Up early and a bit of a disgusting shower in water that resembled a bad bowel movement and we made our way up the river for a morning cruise, it was so cool, more orang sightings, again high up in the tree and a pretty good view of a Borneo gibbon with a shocking white monobrow (poor git).

Mr Flange
The birds were fantastic with broadbills, hornbills and oriental darters flitting around. We normally get frustrated watching birds as all you see is a silhouette before it sods off and you just stand there thinking what the f***K was that, but they kind of got us interested here.

After breakfast we had a jungle trek which was more like a stroll in the park with killer mosquitoes taking advantage of the painfully slow pace. We learnt about some plants and how they are used and to be honest were quite board when a crashing sound alerted us to the presence of elephants! we followed the sound and came up on a ridge to see the arse end of five elephants as they crashed into the forest, our guides were really excited as this is the first time they had sighted elephants in the vicinity of the camp.

Hunting leopard cat

After lunch I decided to explore the forest some more and quite by chance came across the huge piles of elephant crap and there dinner plate sized footprints, in a moment of stupidity I decided to follow the trail and when I heard the crashing and the grinding of molars on thick rainforest vegetation I nearly turned and fled, my stupidity at approaching the elephants was rewarded by great views of them emerging into a forest clearing and feeding peacefully. One animal raised its trunk as it had caught my scent, I think the toilet water shower and the fact I was plastered in sweat it probably mistook me for a bush pig and it lowered its trunk, my heart stopped hammering and it resumed feeding, awesome.

We had another evening outing in the boat and saw silver leaf monkeys fleeing into the trees; pig tail macaques shaking branches at each other trying to out do each other in their display.

Sleeping Borneo fly catcher.
We also saw proboscis monkeys settling down for the night. There had obviously been a lot of rain up stream and the river level had increased by several meters and huge logs and rafts of vegetation (complete with a snake) floated down the river and made our journey difficult. The sun went down and it was a stunning sunset and hundreds of flying foxes flew over head to feed.

After dinner we had a night time jungle walk and were bitten by fire ants, we must have looked ridiculous doing jigs through the forest to rid ourselves of the ants. The pain was worth it as we got good views of mouse deer and sleeping birds. Some of these birds had ridiculous names like blue eared king fisher, lesser spider hunter and blue winged pitta.

Another day another safari and this morning was a great one, we saw a troop of macaques taunting a ball which turned out to be a coiled up baby reticulated python.

Yum yum all these figs
One of the braver macaques went as far as to yank the tail. We got excellent views of a huge male orang, this immense ginger beast had huge flaps of skin (known as flanges, lol) and he was startling to observe. The night time safari was a wet one but before it was rained off we had an excellent encounter with a hunting leopard cat. 

The days rolled into one and we were soon filthy, tired but happy and on our last day had the best view of a female orang who came down to feed on figs 3 meters above our boat, she didn’t seem phased by us at all and was surrounded by a thick fog of tiny fly’s from the fruit she was feeding on. A storm stork flew over the river a bird endemic to Borneo and gets the binoculars of avid twitchers fogged up, it was pretty cool.

its all tooo much
 

Our time was over on the Kinabatangan, the wildlife watching was great but it was sad to see that these animals were marooned in their tiny strip of land. Attempts are being made to reforest areas so as to connect the patches of forest so we hope the future will be brighter for this wonderful corner of Borneo.

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Perfection
Perfection
Mmmm dinner
Mmmm dinner
Pygmy elephants
Pygmy elephants
Mr Flange
Mr Flange
Hunting leopard cat
Hunting leopard cat
Sleeping Borneo fly catcher.
Sleeping Borneo fly catcher.
Yum yum all these figs
Yum yum all these figs
its all tooo much
its all tooo much
Kinabatangan
photo by: mpope9