Travel Journal

Cruising Sungai Kinabatangan (Malaysia)

(Tuesday 6 March 2012) by Lynda
Sungai Kinabatangan, this mighty muddy river is Sabah's longest, measuring a lengthy 560km from its headwaters deep in the southwest jungle to the marshy delta on the turquise Sulu sea. The best way to see the wildlife is to take a 3 day cruise on the river, so I was going up that river again, burrying myself in all the shades of green, blue and brown....lots and lots of brown.
Orang utan in Sepilok
Orang utan in Sepilok

The abundant wildlife is an ironic by-product of the rampant logging and oil-palm industry in Sabah that continues to gobble up virgin rainforst....the poor animals are loosing their habitat and have retreated to the floodplains of the Kinabatangan. But even with this sad thought in the back of my mind is great to cruise the river and see hornbills flying over the river, kingfishers sitting on dead branches over the river on the lookout for a nice meal, monkeys seeking refuge on branches hanging over the river to sleep and big crocodiles cruising the water waiting for things to happen.
Wrinkled hornbill
Wrinkled hornbill

I took 2 tours; my first trip with one of the big lodges in Bilit and I saw loads of animals but had to share them with 14 other people in my boot. My second trip with Mescot was so much nicer, just me, my guide and a boatsman. And they were both so helpfull pointing out the different birds and spotting the monkeys. We took early morning cruises to see the awakening of the jungle, morning walks to explore Oxbow lake and late afternoon cruises to see the animals preparing for the night and ofcourse the nightwalks. Nightwalks are a special affair in the Kinabatangan, slushing through the muddy jungle searching for nocturnal creatures and sleeping birds....thank god for rubber boots! But all the hardship was worth it, I saw beautiful colored sleeping birds and to top it....3 species of civet cats!!!

I've spotted squirrels, both the pigmee and the giant one, monitor lizards, otters, crocodiles, proboscis monkeys, longtail macaques, silver leaf monkeys and yes yes yes, I've seen 5 orang-utans in the wild, sooo lucky to see them and they are sooo shy, constantly hiding behind the foliage so impossible to shoot a good picture, but seeing them was such a treat. And to see them more ape close and personally, I droped by in Sepilok after my trip to the Kinabatangan to visit the Orang-Utan rehabilitations centre........but i need way more zoooooooom.

And ofcourse all the colorful birds, I've seen 5 species of the hornbill, 3 types of kingfisher, fly catchers, bee eaters, broadbills, trogons and the crested serpent eagle.
Covering my carbon footprint
Covering my carbon footprint
Sleeping in the jungle is also a special affair, brushing your teeth in the light of your headlamp and gazing into the dark jungle ahead of you, listening to the sounds of the jungle while sitting on the balcony of my treehouse and having the songs of birds instead of an alarmclock to wake me up.

And to compensate all this flying around i'm doing lately, I've planted 16 trees in the jungle to cover my carbon footprint, that does mean I have to come back in 5 years time to see how big they've grown.

I've come to the end of my Borneo adventure and feeling a bit sad I have to leave now, but that will probably not last very long because more great and adventurous things are waiting for me......


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