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


Visiting the Orphanage – Sabah Trip#9

February 22, 2016 at 12:19 am | Posted in itchy backside | Leave a comment
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At 9 plus in the morning, the van from Uncle Tan sent us to the nearby Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, where baby and young orphaned orangutans are rehabilitated.

Entrance tickets for foreigners were RM30, plus RM10 for cameras, a vast price difference from the locals. We skipped the video presentation at the main reception area cos we were late and the room was already quite packed. The morning feeding session would be at 10am.

Tisu Girl posing with her Orangutan tee from Malacca. :p Gotta walk through this boardwalk into the forest to see the orangutans

Most of these orphaned orangutans were victims of illegal pet trade. “Babies are often caught during logging or forest clearance or captured by poachers who slaughter the adult apes to reach them. The Malaysian Government has clamped down on illegal trading, outlawing all such practice and imposing prison sentences on anyone caught keeping them as pets.”

Signage along the way explaining plight of orphaned orangutans

“Orangutan” in Malay language means “man of the forest”

When we reached viewing area, we were a bit disappointed cos we thought the setting would be a little bit more natural…It actually looked like what we see at our Singapore Zoo….

From where we were standing at the viewing platform, we could see a few young orangutans hanging around on the trees…

Where’s the food….Wait till so sleepy….

Then, one by one, the orangutans started to move closer to the feeding platform….

Finally shortly after 10am, a ranger came with his basket of fruits and vegetables…

Actually I didn’t expect they would just leave the food there and watch over the orangutans while they eat…I was expecting to have some sort of commentaries about how they are rehabilitated, the kind of trainings given behind the scene…just like what we see on tv documentaries…Well, maybe they did that on the video presentation, but if people were to miss it, then the experience would really feel like just visiting a zoo…

“Hahaha! Of course TV programs would get special commentaries lah! Dumb dumb!”

Halfway through feeding came an intruder!

Sneaky fellow! Not sure if this Pig-tailed Macaque was also one of the animals at the centre since the website says they provide medical care for a few other wildlife species like sun bears, gibbons, Sumatran rhinos and elephants

In terms of size, he was not much of a difference from the youngsters, but since he was outnumbered, he was very cautious about not having close contact with the orangutans, and would take food that were further from the feasting youngsters.

He kept stuffing himself non-stop with the food…See his swollen cheek pouch? He was packing for his lunch later….

Soon, the ranger left them alone, and slowly some orangutans started to climb freely on the rope towards the trees…providing visitors a much closer look at them….

See her tattoo on her thigh? I shall call her, “Miss 735” 

Climbing is one of the most important skills orangutans need to develop, as they are arboreal and will spend their lives high in the rainforest canopy

At the centre, their natural mother’s teaching is replaced by joining the youngsters with older orphans who will show them the skills they themselves have already learnt. It has proven to be a very successful combination

See, so acrobatic! Can think on the go! 😀

Once they have developed their climbing and foraging skills, they are eventually released into the surrounding forest reserve to fend for themselves. They spend most of their time in the forest and will sometimes return to the centre for a free meal. So when it is fruiting seasons when naturally growing food is in abundance in the reserve, visitors may not get to see that many or even any orangutans. Although this can be disappointing for those hoping to see the orangutans, it just means that they are not reliant upon the feeding and are able to survive and in a free and natural existence in the reserve.

“Yo, can share?”

“Hahah! You must be joking! Look for your own food!”

You can help these orphaned orangutans too!

We followed the orangutans until they went further deeper into the trees…There are some trails of different distances that visitors could explore but due to time constraint, we didn’t try that. Thought of just chill out at the cafe since it was really a hot day!

On the way out, saw this Tractor Millipede….quite big, about the length and thickness of my index finger…about 6cm…ok,…I have short fingers… 😦

Then we realised the Bornean Sunbear Conservation Centre was just around the corner! But we were left with only one more hour before the van picked us back to Uncle Tan Operation Base at 12.30pm!

There is another entrance fee to the centre….We checked with the lady if one hour was enough for the visit and she said yes….

Way to observation platform

After climbing a flight of stairs, right in front of us was a cute Sun Bear on a tree!!!!

It was the first time Itchyfingers actually saw a Sun Bear on a tree! Usually in the zoos, they are just on the ground walking around or sleeping…never have the luxury of climbing up a tall tree!

Look at the tongue texture! So cute! Hahah….

Sun bears (Helarctos malayanus) are the smallest bear species and the best tree climber. 

They may be the small, but they have long tongue of 20-25 cm! They are useful when seeking out for honey in bee hives! Their fondness for honey means they are sometimes named ‘honey bear’ or ‘beruang madu’ in Malay and Indonesian. 

Once found throughout Asia, from India to Vietnam and China to Borneo, their numbers have decreased dramatically due to deforestation, commercial hunting and the pet trade. They are often found in appalling conditions; without a home, a mother, or left to rot in tiny cages. Hence the mission of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) is to rescue these sun bears and promote their conservation to return sun bears to the forest.”

Bear hug…like a koala! Hahahah….

Looking at us….

Something caught his attention?

Then he decided he had enough of the tree and started to descend! 

So agile!

A local researcher there told us that at that time there were 32 bears in six holding pens. Only realised he was actually the CEO and founder of the centre after reading the website! But only this one was opened to visitors. There was only this Sun Bear which was closest to the platform, and another two were further on another tree and much more hidden.

From this observation platform, you could walk a loop around the short boardwalk.

Got to see this Prevost’s Squirrel (Callosciurus prevostii pluto) hugging a trunk at a closer range…There was another hyperactive on at the platform

And found this Orangutan high up a tree foraging for fruit! He was supposed to be from the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre next door but apparently crossed over the boundary….Well, just showed that he was able to take care of himself and hopefully may be on the way to be released in the wild in the near future…

We had to take a last look at the adorable Sun Bear cos we would be transported back to the Operation Base and then to our camp site for the next three days.

The viewing areas opened to public and the boardwalk were actually quite small, so the entry fee was quite expensive if you think about it. But, if the money is able to help these orphaned animals have a better chance of survival and be eventually returned to the wild, then it would be money well spent and worth every cent of it! If you have the chance to visit Sepilok, do drop by these two centers for the Orangutans and Sun bear. By just being there, you would be contributing towards the conservation of these two beautiful animals.

Also see related posts:
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

Where is the Uncle? – Sabah Trip#8

February 10, 2016 at 9:54 pm | Posted in itchy backside | Leave a comment
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Upon reaching Sandakan, we took a cab (RM40.00) to our accommodation for the night. Tisu Boy read about this Uncle Tan Wildlife Adventure from Lonely Planet, which looked quite reputable and interesting. They offer wildlife tour where we could spot various endemic primates and many other flora and faunas. We would be staying at their campsite during the 3D2N tour, but for tonight, we would be putting up at their Operation Base at Sepilok.

We reached the Operation Base around 6plus in the evening, and already the whole premises was so dark, save for the office and the canteen areas. The accommodation for the night was not included in the tour package, and you could always choose to stay in the town and meet at the Base for their pickup the next afternoon but we thought it was probably easier and more convenient to stay with them here. The rate for an air-conditioned room with attached bathroom was RM110, only slightly cheaper than our accommodation at Mersilau. But the condition of the room was really, really basic.

There was only one bed in the entire room. No chair, no table…and no heater for shower!

Luckily, dinner was included, otherwise it would be so troublesome to call a cab to go town to eat and come back. It was already pitch dark outside the Base, which was further in from the main road and surrounded by trees. There was only minimum dim lighting leading the way to where we were staying, which was a separate building from the office. Food was basic “buffet” style with only two or three dishes to choose from…LOL! Seemed like there were only Itchyfingers and another very quiet Caucasian guy staying here…Was expecting the place to have full of visitors since it was mentioned in Lonely Planet?

We were a bit tired so after dinner, we returned to our room to prepare to shower and retire for the night. But soon it started to rain quite heavily and then the power went off!!!! The generator was restarted after a while but it lasted not too long before there was another blackout again! Actually it was quite scary cos we were the only ones staying in this block and the whole place was pitch black and silent except for the calls of insects!

“Alamak! Who switched off the lights! #$%&*”

Luckily we haven’t started to shower! Imagine halfway shampooing your hair and the lights went off! And luckily we didn’t try to save a few dollars and stay in the dormitory without attached bathroom…I would definitely freaked out alone in the dark with foams all over!!!!

Tisu Boy got impatient after waiting so long for the guy to restart the generator and went ahead to shower with his torchlight. Good thing for me that the lights came back after he finished bathing. But it was cold to shower without hot water….so took a real quick one! We also decided to turn off the air-con in case the generator got overloaded again…

The next morning we got up early cos there was free transport to send us to the nearby Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

Tisu Boy helping himself to the breakfast “buffet”….

Simple brekky….

Cute idea using the woks as washing basins...

While eating and waiting for the transport, we were more than happy to have the company of the resident kitties….


“I am your Father….”

Mummy feeding kittens!!! How cute! But mummy looked so skinny….I dun suppose they were fed proper cat food?

Sigh…eating leftover rice….

So cute!

Only now then we could take a proper look at where we stayed…

Our chalet

The common corridor to the different kinds of rooms and the shared toilets

There were many fruit trees around….

Unripe mangosteen tree just next to the wash basin area

Unripe rambutans near our room….

Plenty of durian trees outside our room! 

Crepe Ginger

Black-headed Munia

We were wondering why was the tour operator called “Uncle Tan”. Who is this Uncle Tan and where is the Uncle? There was only this younger guy named Leo at the Base, with some ladies at the kitchen. Only after chatting with him that we realised that Uncle Tan was the founder of the tour company but unfortunately he had passed away in 2002. The business is now passed down to his son based in Australia. He returns regularly every few months to oversee the business, but the daily operation is mostly run by his team of experienced and loyal staff.

There were many photos of the wildlife that were spotted by previous tours led by Uncle Tan’s staff. Hopefully we would be lucky enough to spot some interesting animals or birds…

Shuttle bus service to town

Wonder if we have time to visit this?

We booked for the 3D2N package. This price was for 2014….oops…very late blog post again….Now, it is RM498.20, inclusive of 6% GST and RM10 conservation levy

Seriously, we didn’t really research a lot about what to expect, except that it was recommended by Lonely Planet…But sometimes, it is better not to know too much lest the expectation would be higher and when things don’t turn out as expected, the disappointment would be bigger too…hahah…

But we certainly heard a lot and watched tv shows about this Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre! Really excited to finally be able to visit!  Look out for the next post on our experience! :p

Also see related posts:
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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