Luke Cox’s Discovering Wild Borneo, Kinabatangan River with Borneo Dream
Welcome to this the final segment of our epic 3-parter on the truly breathtaking experiences to be encountered on our rainforest and Kinabatangan packages with Borneo Dream.
Having witnessed so many natural wonders in the last 24 hours of his journey, Luke believed that there was very little left to see that he hadn’t witnessed in the Borneo rainforest. How wrong was he? ….
Read on to find out more.
Our riverboat glides effortlessly through the millpond like conditions of the Kinabatangan River as dawn is breaking above the canopy of the Borneo rainforest.
With a cloudless sky above us, the entire river is lit up a bright orange as the sun begins to emerge above the tree line once more, signalling the start of a new day. A quick glance of the temperature reading on our GPS phones shows a temperature already of 30 degrees and rising, so it’s going to be another hot one.
With James at the helm of our boat once more, this time he is taking us in a new direction along the river.
As we motor through the river mouth, he tells us of the issues surrounding the Kinabatangan from a natural threat in the shape of the Water Hyacinth, which is becoming highly invasive and a threat to the environment.
Whilst it looks beautiful, the water hyacinth is actually a weed and by its very nature literally grows like wildfire along the surface of the water, with its roots buried deep throughout the stretches of wetlands.
Causing a major issue for the natural habitat, the hyacinth is literally choking certain stretches of the river now from edge to edge. Whilst it not only causes inconvenience for river travel by the local and travelling population, the primary concern here is that it is beginning to cause a major disruption to the water ebb and flow throughout the river, thus putting literally thousands of indigenous species at risk.
Borneo Dream and lodge work together to tackle this issue by teams of local people and volunteers to periodically clear the river of the hyacinth. The River cleaning (water hyacinth) is a popular conservation activity Borneo Dream includes as part of school expeditions organised by Borneo Dream to the Kinabatangan River. Again this is part of their CSR programme and something that many field trip teams and young people get involved with. It is yet another great example of communities working together for the greater good.
Driving past the hyacinth, the sound of the outboard motor is muffled by screeching up in the mid tree line at the riverbank.
We turn to see a group of Proboscis monkeys amongst the foliage who appear to be having some kind of family debate. I guess all families have these types of debates and our primate relatives are no exception.
To the left, the bulbous nosed male is sat on a large overhang and is clearly being the loudest of the bunch. He is calling out to a trio of female Proboscis on an adjoining tree who are gaggled together, all clinging on and gesturing at him with their very human looking hands. 3 wives? 3 girlfriends? Who knows, but they are clearly in some kind of heated discussion in a language that we will never understand.
With long lense attached we captured some great images of this trio who seem to be certainly taking part in some kind of pecking order ritual, just as one brave sharp nosed female jumped from one tree straight onto the branch of the bully-boy male.
Leaving the Proboscis to their family domestic, and heading further down the river we came across more long-tailed macaques (these little mischievous ones seem to litter the river banks in the morning light foraging for their breakfast) and another sleepy croc, considerably larger than yesterdays sighting who posed nicely for some pics.
Time flies when you’re enjoying yourself with nature and before we know it, the sight of the Lodge jetty is coming back into view.
We disembark and check out of our rooms in time to grab a quick coffee and head back across the river to our awaiting land transfer.
It’s time for another road trip, this time to the countries most famous rehab centre, namely the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.
Founded back in 1964, today, the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is home to over 70 orangutans and other primates in this 43 acre piece of landscape at the edge of the main reserve. It is not your traditional western zoo but has a complete open air and free environment, which is what these special primates need to rehabilitate and thrive.
Upon arrival at the centre, we are first acquainted with the strict rules that have to be observed whilst in the sanctuary, which basically consist of no food or water to be consumed or carried, no touching of the wildlife in any way and of course no smoking. All common sense stuff really.
Our first port of call here is to the nursery section of the centre located in a purpose made building over looking the main nursery. Don’t expect animal shows, or monkeys doing tricks here. This is for us to see first-hand the incredible work these team of specialists do with the very young who have either become injured or who have been affected by sickness, illness or habitat disruption.
There is a layer of glass between the young orangutans, and us but it has been very cleverly constructed at a 45-degree angle, thus minimising light reflection for some great photographs to be obtained.
Although set in a totally natural environment at the edge of the reserve, there are specific feeding times for the main groups of primates which takes place throughout the day which we very fortunate to witness.
Due to deforestation and other environmental factors as well as illegal poaching throughout the world, these days the Bornean Orangutan is officially on the endangered list. Therefore it is heartwarming indeed to see such a successful centre as this playing a major part in restoring the balance. It truly is a heartwarming experience to see such a dedicated team of professionals working seamlessly for these amazing relatives of ours.
Directly opposite the entrance of the orangutan sanctuary is the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), so it would be a shame not to pay this particular piece of conservation a look too.
One of the key differences between the Orangutan sanctuary and the Sun Bear Centre is that whilst the Orangutan sanctuary is headed up by the government and statutory agencies, the Sun Bear Center is majority funded and managed by a large group of non-government organisations (NGO’s) from both Malaysia and internationally alike.
Visiting the Sun Bear Conservation Centre gives us the perfect opportunity to get up close and personal with one of the world’s smallest bears, and whilst they may look like a baby grizzly bear, their diet mainly consists of honey and honey comb which is their given food of choice.
Officially classed as vulnerable on the IUCN Conservation Status, Sun Bears face similar threats of extinction as their neighbours across the road, the orangutans, due to various man-made and environmental factors, including the ever-constant threat of poaching.
The BSBCC have a very simple policy when it comes to how the centre is managed which includes rehabilitation and release, plus a wide array of education and awareness programmes.
We are fortunate to be at the centre at feeding time so got to see how these lazy bears suddenly spring into action when the dinner bell is sounded, again making for some solid photo opportunities.
Discover the wildlife at the Kinabatangan River, Sabah
Upon leaving the centre and walking out into the reception area we managed to get an added bonus, as one of the park rangers had located a lime green pit viper in the garden area at the front of the main building.
James turns to us and says, “Wow, you guys are lucky. See that? That’s a Pit Viper.” He looked fairly harmless as far as snakes go, but looks can be deceptive.
In truth, the Pit Viper is venomous to humans, although about 50% of bites are often called “dry bites” meaning that no or very little venom is actually injected. There are actually no recorded fatalities in the area from the Pit Viper and in any case, the local hospital is always fully stocked with anti-venom on a “just-in-case basis”, advises James.
Regardless of how dangerous he was, we couldn’t resist getting some great shots of him chilling out on the nearby tree, before reluctantly, we headed back to Sandakan airport for our journey back to Kota Kinabalu.
Usually a flight back home after any trip has us asleep before take off, however this entire trip had been so exciting and full adventure, we spent the full 45 minute flight going through the incredible array of images we had taken.
In less than 48 hours we had experienced more wildlife, (much of it in its natural habitat) than many people would witness in a lifetime. Despite having lived in Asia for over a decade, we feel privileged and blessed to have been part of this incredible journey.
Now, for the best part of all… Are you coming to Kota Kinabalu soon for your holidays? Has our series of blogs wet your appetite for adventure? Now, YOU intrepid explorers can experience just what we have blogged about, first hand, in all of its glory.
At Borneo Dream we can easily help you arrange your tour to the Kinabatangan River. We offer a range of trip options depending on your length of stay, budget and how many wildlife encounter opportunities you want to fit in – from day trips to 2D1N or 3D2N trips to the Kinabatangan River. You can also choose to combine your trip to the Kinabatangan River with a visit to Turtle Island to watch the magical moment of a Turtle nesting as part of a 3D2N or 4D3N Trip. You can see our full range of trips to the Kinabatangan River at https://www.borneodream.com/diveshop/visit-kinabatangan-river-sabah-borneo/. You can also contact the Borneo Dream for help in arranging your wildlife adventures in Sabah, Borneo – Contact us today and begin Your Kinabatangan River Cruise adventure
With love and best wishes from glorious Borneo,
Jo, Billy and the Dream Team xxx