River Safari – Sabah Trip #10

April 11, 2016 at 12:29 am | Posted in itchy backside | 2 Comments
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We left the Operation Base for the campsite after a short briefing, around 2.30pm. Lights over at the campsite would only be turned on from 7am -12pm, which is fine…but the horrifying thing was to know that the bathrooms and toilets were very, very basic, or “Spartan in nature” as stated on their website, with only river water for shower! Wow, should have briefed us earlier! Then at least I could take another shower here since we had ample time after lunch…! Started to get a bit worried over what would be the condition…but too late to regret! Staying at Uncle Tan’s Wildlife Camp is a rough-it-out experience!

The journey to the jetty at Kinabatangan River would take about 1.5 hour depending on traffic condition. We were specially reminded to bring raincoat or poncho along if we didn’t, cos “the Camp is located in the Lower Kinabatangan Flood Plains – a Wetland and a Rain Forest. Floods can occur in a Flood Plain; often, it rains in a Rainforest and a Wetland isn’t exactly dry.”

The van made a stop at this old-fashioned mini-mart for us to buy ponchos and other essential items that we may need…But it was a bit of a rush and the shop was quite big with two storey…Only remembered to snap a photo of this old school shop from the van…

With us in the van was that quiet guy from Germany who stayed with us at the Operation Base. Two Australian couple followed our van in their own rental car. They would only be joining for one day.

After another short greeting from the staff, we were ushered to this jetty, and asked to  wrap our bags inside black garbage bags to prevent them from getting wet…It was a bit chaotic as the guys were busy loading food, ice and some other supplies so we were asked to carry our own bags and cross over… But with no straps to carry the bags on our backs, no way I could lug the backpack in my arms and walk that shaky bridge across to the jetty, especially with an injured leg…Luckily, they realised I needed help…hahah…

A welfie with our boat mates…ooops…I covered most of them…hahahah

We were told that our boat would not be stopping for safety reason as the water was quite high, unless we spot wild orang utans. But we only saw birds like egrets, kingfishers and some raptors….no photos since all bags were wrapped…and no sight of the orange ape… 😦

At around 5plus, we saw this welcoming sign! Their website says, “The Camp is near the Lokan River, a tributary of the Kinabatangan. The site of our Camp is on a native land that has not been cleared. The place is tucked between the Forest Reserve and the Wildlife Sanctuary.”

Our trip mates….Another group of Caucasians were leaving on another boat for their ride, so we were not the only tourists here…

We were then led to the briefing area…It was starting to get darker, probably also because we were in the forest…Another guy introduced himself as M, and briefed us on our programme…

Our 3D2N programme actually started from 2.30pm when we left the Operation Base…so we were only left with a night safari from 9-10pm for this first day. The second day will be a full day program from point 2-6, with breaks in-between. The third day would be just a morning boat safari before departing at 10.30am. For the Aussie couple, they would only be doing the first night safari and then the next morning safari. For a detailed itinerary, check out their website here (which we didn’t when we signed up…hahah)

After briefing, finally we could “check-in” to our “rooms”….All facilities at the Camp are in the form of raised huts.

We would be sharing “room” or rather, hut, with the Aussie couple…Every “room” has a latin name outside. Ours was Boiga Dendrophira, which is the Gold-ringed Cat Snake or Mangrove Snake. We have this in Singapore too but I have not seen a wild one yet… 

There…no doors or windows, only a light mattress and mosquito net, and the floors are covered with linoleum. Only a bulb outside. We were advised not to put food, not even scented toiletries in the hut, especially in our packs, as there were instances where people woke up the next morning to find their bags bitten through, most probably by rats and squirrels to get to the food! So every hut has a plastic covered bin for us to deposit our food and toiletries…

I think I could bear with the simple sleeping arrangement, since we also had similar mattress and net at the local villagers’ house during our previous trekking trip in Vietnam. Now, time to check out the toilets!

A two or three minutes’ walk on the raised platform led us to the bathrooms…The taps on the washing basins were not working, the flush in the toilets weren’t working either. The blue plastic containers were storage for  river water. So basically, we were supposed to scoop water into pails to shower and flush toilets…Would need to use bottled water for brushing of teeth and washing face! Reason why I didn’t take a closer photo? Cos the area had a lot of mosquitoes!

After looking at the bathrooms, I decided to skip shower…the water was so murky looking! How to bathe?! But Tisu Boy went ahead cos too humid in tropical rainforest!

Then, while waiting for dinner to be ready, it started drizzling…

Campsite kitty….

Kitty jumped on the dining table for some food…

The rain didn’t stop and at one point even got heavier…The earlier group came back, all drenched. But I think they said they saw crocodile in the water! How exciting and scary on a rainy night!

We went ahead when the rain got smaller. No wonder we needed ponchos! Saw owl and monkeys, but too dark and wet so no photos again!

Drenched! Ok, now I really don’t have to shower liao… :O

The next morning – rise and shine at 6am and set off half an hour later for morning river safari! And what a beautiful day with many sightings of birds!

Stork-billed Kingfisher

A pair of male and female Oriental Pied Hornbills!

The male with bigger casque

Crested Serpent Eagle

Flight shot…

Birdwing butterfly that flew reasonably close enough for us to take this photo…hahah…

We also saw so many endemic primates!

A lone Bornean Gibbon (Hylobates muelleri)


Giving us a good look…

…before getting into action!


What a jump! We saw this same Gibbon on both days of our morning boat safari. He seemed to be always hanging around the same area so our guide could easily predict when and where to spot him…I hope there are others of his kind around so he could start his own family….

Finally! Wild Proboscis Monkeys (Nasalis larvatus) in daytime! We saw a group last night but couldn’t take any photos cos of the rain and darkness…Endemic to the jungles of Borneo, they are certainly one of those bizarre-looking monkeys…look at the big nose of the male! That was supposed to be very sexy and attractive to females! Hahahah!

Young Proboscis Monkey. The bulk of their diet is made up of tough mangrove leaves which are pulled from the surrounding trees. Being leaf-eating monkeys, they have large and swollen stomach that is made up of chambers containing a special cellulose digesting bacteria that helps to break down the leaves. This is however, a very slow process and means that the Proboscis Monkey’s stomach is often full and can contain up to a quarter of the individual’s total body weight.


Another jumping one! They are very good swimmers!

We saw two groups of these unique-looking Proboscis Monkeys! Very easy to shoot if you have zoom lens!

A record shot of the Bornean Langur or Silver Leaf Monkey. They can live anywhere from warm humid, swamp forests of Borneo to cold mountain regions of Kinabalu Park

The Southern Pig-tailed Macaques. These are females. Traditionally this species of macaque is trained to climb coconut trees and to twist off the ripe coconuts with their strong hands

But these Pig-tailed Macaques are also quite aggressive. Here we have a handsome male and a juvenile…

We also saw a lot of these common Long-tailed Macaques… 

Unfortunately, throughout our two morning boat safari, we couldn’t find any wild orang utans! Only managed to see this nest that orang utan made for roosting at night…

The guides were generally knowledgeable in recognizing the different animal species, except a mis-identification of this one…

The very common Bird Nest Fern was being called an Orchid when our fellow boat mate asked what was it…!!!!

Certainly a very fruitful boat safari. It would be highly recommended to bring along a pair of binoculars to fully appreciate the animals!

Also see related posts:
> Visiting the Orphanage – Sabah Trip#9
Where is the Uncle – Sabah Trip#8
Wild Sabah – Sabah Trip#7
The Lost Gardens – Sabah Trip#6
A Close Shave – Sabah Trip#5
Boring Hot Spring – Sabah Trip#4
A Slow Slow Cllimb – Sabah Trip#3
A Different Garden – Sabah Trip#2
So Near Yet So Far – Sabah Trip#1

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