Thursday, November 08, 2012

Exploring Malaysia Borneo’s biodiversity with a Kinabatangan River cruise

THE Kinabatangan River originates in the Crocker range in Malaysia and stretches for 560 miles before merging into the Sulu Sea east of Sandakan in Sabah, Borneo. It is the second longest river in Malaysia after the Rajang River.

Sandakan is the second largest city in Sabah and is the base for many wildlife adventures like the Turtle Islands Park, Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, Gomantong Caves and of course the Kinabatangan River cruises that offer unparalleled opportunities for observing wildlife.

Along the banks of Kinabatangan river thrives amazing wildlife that attracts tourists from all corners of the globe. The region is home to both orangutans and proboscis monkeys, as well as other primates. The conservation status of both the species is endangered.

A large section of the lower Kinabatangan floodplain is now a wildlife sanctuary in order to preserve the natural habitat of these primates. In all, 10 varieties of primates are found in the region.

Apart from the orangutans and proboscis monkeys there are salt water crocodiles, Borneo pygmy elephants, macaques and many more reptiles and insects. The area is also rich in birds with chances of sighting eagles, kingfishers, hornbills, egrets, storks and more. Given the biodiversity and scenic beauty of the mangrove forests, a Kinabatangan river cruise makes for an unforgettable adventure.

The closest town for the river safari is Sukau ,which is 135 kilometers away from Sandakan by road. Road transfer typically takes 3 hours. The public transport to and from Sandakan to Sukau is limited to one trip per day.

There is an airport at Sandakan which connects to Kota Kinabalu. There are a few lodges at Sukau which offer basic amenities for a comfortable stay. Homestay options are also available in the town. Sukau has just one road, with the town growing alongside it.

Early mornings, late afternoons and evenings are the best times to go on a river cruise as the chances of spotting wildlife are at their best at these times. Animals and birds come out at these times for food and water. It is also easier to spot wildlife with guides as they know the animals’ habitats and behaviors.

Animals and birds are also masters of camouflage so having the expert eyes of the guides always increases the chance of spotting them. The excitement in the boat becomes palpable whenever the people get lucky in spotting something like an orangutan, proboscis monkey or a pygmy elephant. Some even get lucky enough to sight rhinos.