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Kinabatangan Wildlife

April 10, 2018 Tuesday – Sandakan to Kinabatangan, East Sabah, Malaysia

2018 Borneo tour

Kinabatangan, Sandakan & Sepilok area map

Kinabatangan, Sandakan & Sepilok area map

Today we trade our posh Le Meridien hotel in Kota Kinabalu for a wilderness lodge in the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. We fly to Sandakan in East Sabah this morning, drive along the Kinabatangan River (Sabah’s longest at over 500 kilometres) to Sukau and the Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge

Along the way we pass through many kilometres of oil-palm plantations, and arrive in time for lunch (served buffet-style). When one of the staff takes my bag to my cabin, he is attacked by a troupe of Macaque monkeys and is bitten. Not an impressive start to my stay!

Late this afternoon we take our first river cruise in search of Pygmy Elephants, but our guide Junior only finds fresh elephant dung, since they appear to be on the move. We do see a large group of Proboscus monkeys high in the trees beside the river, some other monkeys, and the Borneo Civit after dark as we return for a late dinner.

The cabins at the lodge are pretty basic, with no air conditioning, just fans and screens on the windows. There are bugs in the room and especially the bathroom. I started taking my Malarone anti-malarial medicine a couple of days ago in preparation for this segment of our travels, however despite the lodge being located right on the river, I see no mosquitos.

April 11, 2018 Wednesday – Kinabatangan in East Sabah, Malaysia

We leave the lodge by boat at 6:30AM for a 2.5 hour trip along the Kinabatangan River. We spot a beautiful Stork-billed Kingfisher soon after we leave the dock. Unlike yesterday evening, today I have my full camera kit with me for the boat trip, I take some good photos of a female Proboscus monkey with a baby in a tree, some Hornbills, a Black and Red Broadbill, a male Blue-eared Kingfisher, a Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, an Oriental Darter, some Silver Langur monkeys, a Wrinkled Hornbill, and a small Monitor Lizard. This is my most productive day for wildlife photography!

Our guide Junior gives a presentation on how he started out as a waiter in a resort, became a guide 35 years ago, and had the opportunity to work with David Attenborough on The Living Planet series. The biodiversity on Borneo is very concentrated, lending itself to feature films about the rainforest, such as the National Geographic Great Migration series. Junior tells us he is self-taught as a guide, but he is licensed by the government. Same goes for our other guides, including his son.

Stork-billed Kingfisher

Stork-billed Kingfisher

On the afternoon boat trip, we go up a tributary of the main river, where we spot: a Stork-billed Kingfisher, male Blue-eared Kingfisher, a large group of Long-tailed Macaque monkeys, a small group of Silver Lemur monkeys, a Roller Broadbill (aka Dollar Bird), a Wrinkled Hornbill, a Monitor Lizard (about a half metre long), and an Oriental Darter bird. We see a couple of wildlife bridges built by the government wildlife service  to help the Orangutans cross the river channel (since they don’t swim).

I skip the night cruise, since photography is pretty well out of the question, and I really don’t want to be bitten by bugs, pick up any leeches, or attempt to photograph bugs by flashlight.

April 12, 2018 Thursday – Kinabatangan to Sandakan in East Sabah, Malaysia

On our morning boat trip, we see: Proboscis monkeys feeding (including a male), a Cattle Egret in breeding plumage, a pair of Hornbills, a male Black and red Broadbill guarding it’s nest, and a young Crocodile on the muddy shore

Staff waving goodbye to us from the Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge

Staff waving goodbye to us from the Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge

After lunch, it is time to leave the lodge by taking a 2.5 hour boat trip down the river to the sea, and then to the jetty at Sandakan. This turns out to be an endurance contest, despite having a rest stop half way at Abai Jungle Restaurant and Lodge, a lodge on the lower river run by the same company (S I Tours) as where we were staying. The boats are going about 40 knots and when we are in exposed sea water in the Sulu Sea, the ride is very rough and noisy. I wear my noise-cancelling earbuds to reduce my exposure.

Once we arrive at the jetty in Sandakan, our bags are taken by hand carts to the bus waiting for us, and we are driven a short distance to the only deluxe hotel to be found in Sandakan, the Four Points by Sheraton. It has an infinity pool, gym, 2-level lobby with a piano, and is over 20 stories high. It’s quite pretentious, however I’m happy to have an American-style room with air conditioning, hot water and comfy bed after the last few nights in the river lodge!

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Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica

Monday, December 12, 2011 – Day 22 – Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica

I take a tour this morning, which takes us over the new highway to San Jose, but we turn off early and go to the upper reaches of the Taracoles River for a mangrove swamp boat trip. We see nesting Scarlett Macaws (from a distance), Crocodiles, a Jesus Christ Lizard, and some birds. The boat trip really doesn’t live up to my expectations, since it is so rushed, and we really don’t cover much of the river. The mangrove boat trips I took on previous visits to La Ensenada Lodge and Tamarindo were so much better!

The bus then takes us to nearby Orotina for a train ride back down to the coast near where Rotterdam is docked. The train trip is interesting, especially when the middle passenger car derails! The train crew uses a diverter to manoeuvre the car’s wheels back on the rails in short order. We see lots of interesting things along the way, including fields of cantaloupe and watermelon, the backyards of many Tico houses, some cute kids waving at us as we pass by, a long tunnel, and we cross over a river and see ever changing vegetation as we descend to the Pacific Coast. The bus is waiting for us at the station at Mata de Limon to take us back to the ship, which is only five minutes away.