After a relaxing afternoon at the lodge, our first cruise down river was in the late afternoon. The water was calm, the afternoon sunlight glistening off the water with thick, healthy forest on either side. It was a great expereince listening to the sonds of the jungle and spotting macaque, probiscus and hornbills.
We had been for a short jungle walk in the morning and the tell-tale signs of recent elephant activity - elephant droppings - were there, so in the afternoon of our second day on the Kinabatangan River we headed upstream in search of the elephants.
We were not lucky enough to find the elephants, but it was still a great cruise. Not only did we spot more probiscus monkeys, macaques and hornbills, but we also saw orangutan. Having already been to Sepilok Orangutan Reserve, it was fantastic to see this majestic creature in the wild. Unfortunately no photos as the orangutan were not as close to the water's edge as the probiscus, but a great memory nonetheless.
Travelling down the Kinabatangan river offers the opportunity to see a range of wildlife. Included are the grey macaque who, in the late afternoon, find a resting and grooming place in the trees at the river's edge. We were lucky enough to spot a small family who casually went about their business of grooming each other as we looked on from below.
It was heart warming to have the knowledge that their habitat is still untouched in some areas and they can go about their lifes naturally.
One of the highlights of our trip to Sukau was the morning river cruise to one of the Oxbow lakes. We were up at dawn for a light breakfast and coffee before heading down river as the sun rose and the mist lifted from the water. On the way we saw a large croc trying to warm up in the early morning sun, large monitor lizards and birds just starting their day. We were taken into some narrow, shallow tributaries before reaching the open expanse of one of the lakes. The light shining on the trees was majestic - their reflection shimmering in the clear water.
Not to be missed!
Our main hope in organising a trip to Sukau was to get to see the probiscus monkeys in the wild. On our first afternoon, we took a trip down the Kinabatangan River and were fortunate to see several groups of probiscus in the trees right on the river's edge. The probiscs live either in bachelor groups or a troop containing one dominant male and a harem of females.
It became easy to differentiate between the males and females, with the large males having longer, more protruding noses and a paunchy belly.
We were surprised at their agility - leaping between branches high amongst the tree tops. I could have sat and watched for hours. Unfortunately my photos are not the best - needed a better lens - but fantastic memories and certainly a highlight of our Sabah experience.
If you are travelling with a tour company, afternoon and early morning river cruises are included in the itinerary.
Many of the tour companies will offer you a guided trek through the jungle as part of their tour package. The trek was more of a walk, not difficult at all, but beautiful nonethe less. Our guide took us to one of the picturesque Ox Bow lakes. On our return we found evidence that elephants had recenly passed through.
For anyone who is not accustomed to walking in the jungle, this is a good way to get a feel for it.
On both a morning and an afternoon cruise along the Kinabatangan River, we were lucky enough to spot huge crocodiles on the river bank and partially submerged near the edge of the bank. One croc seemed to get a little annoyed at our presence, rose from the bank, and gracefully dived under water heading towards our boat. Our guide decided it was in our best interests to move on!
They truly are magnificent creatures but as the signs suggest - this is not a river to go swimming in.
On an afternoon tour down the Kinabatangan we were fortunate to spot a troop of pigtail macaque right on the river's edge. They were playing around and scooping water with their hands. When our boat ventured a little closer, they clambered up the trees as you were expect they might. But many stayed intensely curious, and a few were real 'posers' as these pictures show.
It was quite mesmerising and a fantastic way to end a wonderful trip along the river.
We stayed at the Sri Menanggol cabins which were right by the main Kinabatangan river, looking towards the smaller Menanggol river.
Our trips were taken by boat, mostly on the smaller river where we saw crocodiles, monkeys snakes and many beautiful birds. The wildlife is easier to see here as you are closer to the banks and this is where we saw the proboscis monkeys. In parts it is very narrow and the forest rise high and dense on either side, making it very exciting to travel along in a small boat.
We saw elephants during our trip on the main river on two occasions and the banks of this river are large enough to be able to get out of the boat and walk, whereas on the Menanggol river they are not. The elephants we saw were not aggressive like African ellies, but were not happy having their lunch disturbed and ran towards us trumpeting loudly.
The Kinabatangan River is also better for certain birds than the smaller river - we saw more kingfishers here and the larger birds such as hornbills and fish eagles.
Two rivers to explore and much wildlife to see!
We stayed at the Sri Menanggol cabins which were right by the main Kinabatangan river, with the restaurant looking over the river. The meals were wonderful - simple local food all very fresh and well cooked. We were the only guests, so had the place to ourselves for the few days we were there. We had our own guide and also a local guide who knew the river well and where to find the wildlife.
One of the main pleasures was the least expected. Every night after dinner we were served a big plate of fresh fruit, which contained melon. We noticed that if we stayed still and quiet the small geckos would sneak up the wooden railing by the table and sip the melon juice from the plate, even licking the melon. If we moved just a little bit they would be scared away so we would always push the plate of melon towards the edge of the table where they could reach and just stay very still. It was difficult to get a picture - I had to stay very still with my camera for a while but finally managed it. It was a lovely experience and a wonderful place.
Also, apart from the boat trips. Our guide took us jungle trekking from the river bank to Ox Bow Lake. Ran into elephant dungs, wild boar tracks, and some funny creatures. It's quite a pain to trek in the jungle here. The plants made my feets very itchy, and the mosquitos aren't helping.
I enjoyed the trekking in Kinabalu park much much better. The climate there is wonderful and I don't remember getting itchy feet at all! Lesson to be learned? Please bring along long pants meant for jungle trekking, not knee-length khakis!
This is most probably why you are here, the boat trip along lower Kinabatangan river, if you are lucky, you can see a lotta wild animals along the river, waiting for you and your camera and telelense and binoculars.
Proboscis monkeys are not dificult to see, a lot more easier later in the evening. The same goes for Hornbills. Our package with the river people includes 3 river trips, 2 in the evening and 1 in the morning. I think evening is still the best time to go out to the river, you're definitely going to see the proboscis. And the sunset from the river can be amazing at times....
The big male nose monkey was along the riverbank with his whole family. But as soon as we approached the whole group, that was sitting in the trees, climbed up the trees to the top of the rocks, out of our sight.
This male nose monkey on the other hand, wanted to show he was brave, so he made himself big and impressive, saying "I am the boss and "I am not going anywhere else because you guys are here!"
Wow, and that made this a unique opportunity for us to watch the nose-monkey from up close. What an amazing creature, fantastic to see it sitting here in the tree, watching us from a safe distance, but still being so close by.
I have to write about this fun fact :-)). Did you know that the nose monkeys are also called "Monyet Belanda"? Hahaha, which means the "Dutchman Monkey"! :-)) As a joke on European traders and colonials they named this monkey after the Dutch. Both were hairy, had big red noses and big bellies! Oopsss.....
Hahaha, am I glad that I am not a 'real' Dutchman anymore, but now partly Swede ;-))
The nose monkey or Proboscis Monkey is a fascinating animal to see. The big nose looks absolutely funny of course (did you know that its nose keeps growing during its whole life?!). But besides its so characteristic nose it is just an impressive monkey species to see.
They are so wonderfully colourful with their warm red-brown coats, their cream coloured chest, their arms and legs going from red-brown into grey at the bottom and they have this amazing long white tail.
I think I could write on about this monkey for days, hahaha, and show you just as many pictures. But I better not. For me seeing this nose monkey on the water side and in this tree, was the highlight of my trip to Borneo. Amazing, amazing, amazing!
My two days on the river has come to an end. Two amazing days. From wildlife to creepy crawlers, I saw and experienced it all here. A fantastic journey, and I hope you enjoyed travelling virtually with me to this amazing place on Borneo.
The previous leg of my journey was a travelling long day and you can read all about that on my Sandakan page. It was great to see a bit of the country, learn about the palm oil plantation and visit the Gomantong caves.
My next page will be about Libaran Island. An island in the Sulu Sea, a place to relax, learn more about the local life of the people on the island and a great location for exploring the mangrove forest.
I hope you will join me on this virtual trip and enjoy reading my travel stories and see the pictures. For me it has been fantastic to write about my journey because it has made me relive the trip once again :-)