Whilst in Sandakan, we booked on a 2-day, 1-night jungle safari down the River Kinabatangen to see some more of the Borneo jungle. It was a 2-hour transfer from Sandakan to a village just outside Sukau. What struck me most on the journey was the miles and miles of palm tree plantations that we passed. This made me quite sad and even angry, as I had read about how they are chopping down the rainforests of Borneo to make way for these palm tree plantations for money making purposes (palm tree oil is a lucrative business apparently). Unfortunately this is at the expense of the Orang utan population which needs the rainforest to survive. Hence, the Orang utan is now an endangered species. Once again, another example of mankind interfering with nature – I’m seeing a lot of this on our travels. Maybe I should join Greenpeace.
Proboscis Monkey, Sabah, Borneo, MalaysiaAnyway on a lighter note, back to the safari. Arriving at our B+B it was evident we were in the middle of nowhere. I could see the panic on Mark’s face: ‘What no wifi?!’. Only joking. We dumped our belongings in the basic accommodation and went straight out on our first 2-hour river cruise of the day. It was suddenly like being back in South Africa on safari, except we were in a small 8-seater boat not a Land Rover, and we were on a river not in a Game Reserve. But you get the idea. The guide was pointing out wildlife and pulling over to get closer to the animals for viewing and photo opportunities. I watched gleefully as the various species of monkeys (long-tail macaques, big-tail macaques, proboscis monkeys) jumped from tree to tree playing merrily in their natural habitat without the interference of humans. I could have watched them all day, they were funny and made me laugh. Further down the main river we turned off into a narrow tributary, now it really felt like the jungle! We were closer still to the famous proboscis monkeys, endemic to Borneo, and found ourselves looking at hornbills, snakes, eagles and you guessed it: more monkeys.
After the first cruise there was a break for dinner back at the B+B, before we headed back out at 8pm for another 2-hour cruise – this time in darkness. The night-time cruise felt very eerie…and scary. Especially as we knew crocodiles lived in the waters. Firstly we were driven into a sort of cave like rock formation where hundreds of swallow-swifts were nesting and flying around at us from all angles. I thought I was on the set of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’. Further down the river, the guide flashed the search light on the water and asked us if we could see the crocodile. I could not. ‘There look, there’ he said, ‘the red eyes, you see them?’. No. We looked and looked. Eventually the crocodile gave his position away by ducking into the water and coming back up – this time we could see his eyes and the top of his head. It was a baby one. I was relieved. I don’t think I wanted to see a full-size one on these terms, it could easily have taken our small wooden boat out. With the excitement of the night cruise over, we headed back to land.
After a short nights sleep, we were woken by our alarm clock at 5.40am. Just enough time to open our eyes, get dressed, cover ourselves in insect repellent and head down to the landing stage for our 6am cruise. Bleary eyed and sleepy we drifted down the river looking for wildlife. The early bird catches the worm, so the saying goes. Although it was an enjoyable trip, I’m not sure that we saw any different wildlife then we had seen the day before. There were the usual monkeys and birds a plenty. I did however spot another baby crocodile which was probably about the length of my arm.
Breakfast was at 8am, then it was a quick check-out before taking the 9am transfer back to Sandakan. It was quite a whistle-stop trip really, but a very enjoyable one nevertheless. I was pleased that Mark had found the package deal and suggested we book on it. We both had a great time. Unfortunately it gave me the safari bug all over again though and made me pine for another South African safari: ‘Mark, when we’ve been round the world, can we go back to Africa please?’.