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Kinabatangan River Cruise with Borneo Dream, Sabah

Discovering Kinabatangan river | Wild Borneo | Part 1

Enjoy Discovering Wild Borneo ‘Kinabatangan river’ with Borneo Dream in Kota Kinabalu

(Part 1 of 3)

In our latest instalment of stories from the sunny isle of Borneo, we are taking the unusual step of splitting this adventure into 3 parts. In the main, this is due to the fact that out latest ventures have taken us deep into the Borneo jungle and along the incredible Kinabatangan River where we have seen some of the most amazing things to share with you. How did it all pan out? What was so awesome about it? Read on to find out more.

Late last week Luke, a new member of the Borneo Dream Team, went on a trip deep into the Borneo jungle to check out our trips to the trek through Sepilok Forest Reserve and to visit the Kinabatangan River in search of wildlife. Read on to find out more about his exciting adventures…….

Following a short early morning internal flight from the hustle of Kota Kinabalu to the absolute serenity of Sandakan, we are met at the airport by our Senior Tour Guide for the trip, James.

Our local guide James has been a tour guide and trek leader in this region for many years and is a total wealth of knowledge, so we knew we were going to be in safe hands.

Our first port of call on our tour takes us to Sepilok Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC for short), where at the entrance we are met with another local guide “Azmi” who is going to take the lead in an 8km trek into the rainforest.

Donning our backpacks, containing enough water for the trek, emergency medical supplies, and leaving the van behind us we set our “MapmyHike” phone applications and make our way into the rainforest.

The first 1.5km are on a semi-sealed track through the secondary rainforest found in the Rainforest Discovery Centre until we get to a small junction where at its intersection lies a large map of the trail highlighting our trek ahead.

Discovering Wild Borneo with Borneo Dream

Adjusting our packs for the last time, Azmi turns to us, “Okay, are you ready for some fun?” We both acknowledge him with a “lets do this” and we head into the bush.

It’s 0830 in the morning but already the temperature is climbing, with cathedral-like shards of light arcing through the rainforest canopy above. It truly is the most serene and beautiful thing to be alone with nature like this.

Despite the fact that we are all walking together hardly a word passes between us as we make our way up the undulating shale track encompassed by the emerald green of the jungle.

At about 1.5km into the trail, we come across a purpose-built Pagoda, complete with benches for a perfect water stop. Laying down our packs and taking a much-needed gulp of water, we really get to hear the sounds of the rainforest around us. Bird song, clicks, warbles and whistles of wildlife this jungle really is alive in every sense of the word.

Ready Kinabatangan River Cruise? Discovering Wild Borneo with Borneo Dream

Fifteen minutes later we are on the move again, moving deeper into the rainforest canopy. The inclines are getting a little steeper now, followed by some really exciting downhill trekking until we reach a small brook of water and another much-needed rest stop.

In the background, we can hear what sounds like a pneumatic drill deeper into the jungle. Rob turns to Azmi and asks what’s making that sound. Surely it can’t be construction workers in the jungle, can it? Azmi breaks a cheeky smile, “Woody Woodpecker” he says. Made us laugh.

James tells us it’s going to get a bit challenging now as we make for the summit of the trail, so we get ready for the push up the hill and hit the trail again.

Crossing a man-made bridge over the brook, the steep climb begins up the trodden-path until we reach some steps and guide rope. Climbing the steps really got the heart racing well and we finally made it to the top to an incredible view of the rainforest below.

The final 1.5km is more downhill and before we know it we have arrived at the base camp, the mouth of the river, and into the full sunlight marking the end of our trek.

After a short break, we take a speedboat journey out of the river and towards the open sea, 20 minutes later finding ourselves at another jetty where our road transport awaits for the next journey.

Following a light lunch, we drive 2 hours through some of the most scenic backdrops Borneo has to offer until we arrive at yet another jetty and a short boat trip to our next port of call, the Kinabatangan Lodge, our home for the night. A welcome drink and briefing await and then we are shown to our accommodation to check-in.

Consisting of a quaint combination of both dormitory-style accommodation and chalets, the Nature Lodge is nestled in the heart of the Kinabatangan River with stunning views of the next adventure lying ahead.

Visit, Enjoy and discover the Kinabatangan River with Borneo Dream

Before we know it we are donning life jackets and getting on board an open-topped fibre glass river boat for our 2 hour cruise up the Kinabatangan.

Time to get cameras at the ready, our guide James becomes the captain of the boat and we head out.

Sunset, Kinabatnagan River Cruise in Sabah, Borneo

It turns out that our James has the eyes of an eagle, as within 5 minutes of heading out he turns to us and says, “Boys, crocodile, there in the mud bank.” He pointed but I couldn’t see it. Then I looked closer. First I see the eyes, then the whole body, perfect camouflage. James gets us in close for a good look and the sounds of camera clicks fill the air. Not yet full-size, this juvenile saltwater croc is about 2 metres long, displaying some pretty menacing teeth as the river water washes the mud from his snout. Saltwater crocs are abundant along the Kinabatangan, although very timid around the sound of boat engines and noise. James knows the drill and brings the boat engine to a gentle idle.

With a fearsome reputation as being one of the most dangerous crocodiles we take extra caution to keep our hands within the boat and just admire the view. It is clear that he is looking at us, but with mild interest only, as James tells us that they regularly come up onto the mud-banks to warm up in the late afternoon sun after hunting through the river.

Further on up the river we see tree branches swaying close to the ground so we motor on over to investigate. Here we find a family of long-tail Macaque monkies, one of the most widespread species of primate throughout Malaysia, and what a photogenic bunch they were. The babies and juveniles in particular are the most inquisitive and made for some excellent portrait subjects whilst the adults seemed a little more cautious but looked on with interest at the interaction.

As we move onwards up the river we quickly learnt to look in all directions, as James points up high into the tree-line pointing at 3 Hornbills perched on the highest branches. Usually feasting on fruits and berries these guys seemed just happy chilling out and I soon found myself whistling Bob Marley’s “3 Little Birds” … little things and all that!

Just as we were about to move on again, James suddenly says, “Here boys, over there in the trees, the Proboscis Monkey”. This is what I really wanted to see in the wild, Borneo’s national animal. It wasn’t just one Proboscis Monkey however but a whole family, males and females. Amazing. Listed as an endangered species, we feel incredibly privileged to see these incredible primates in their natural habitat, calling to each other and swinging from upper tree branch to upper tree branch.

As the boat turns around at the half-way point we feel lucky we have seen such amazing wildlife and believed that we had seen it all until James suddenly brings the boat to a complete stop and points to a large nest at the top of a large tree, “Wild Orangutan boys!” We look up and there it is. It’s high up but what an incredible site. The old man of the jungle, he is sitting proud on top of the branches, eating away without a care in the world. Our mouths just hung open in total awe at this incredible site. Seeing an orangutan in the wild was on the bucket-list and now we can officially strike it off.

We feel grateful for the long telephoto lenses of the Nikon as we fill memory cards of memories once more and then reluctantly head back to the Lodge as the sun begins to set.

Back at the lodge we settle for a quick shower and some traditional Malaysian fayre for dinner, consisting of a truly excellent Beef Curry, Soya Chicken and local vegetables with fruit.

However it wasn’t over yet. At 8.30pm we get ourselves ready for an unforgettable night trek complete with head-torches into the jungle.

However, that my friends … is for our next instalment.

For now, love and best wishes,

Billy, Jo and the intrepid Borneo Dream team. xx

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