Monday, February 11, 2013

The Lower Kinabatangan, Sabah

The lower Kinabatangan floodplain is one of the few remaining freshwater swamp forests in Southeast Asia. It is located in the eastern part of Sabah, a Malaysian state in the north of Borneo. The huge plain is created by heavy rainfalls and floods brought by the northeastern monsoon. The area has the highest density of wildlife in the island. It is possibly one of the best places in this region for wildlife viewing, birdwatching and photography.

Sabah’s longest river, the Kinabatangan, flows along the floodplain. The river meanders for 560 kilometres from its source in the southwestern mountains of Crocker Range into the Sulu Sea in the north eastern part of Borneo. For centuries, the Kinabatangan river has been an important lifeline to the local people. Early traders from as far as China followed the river into the forest to trade for birds’ nest, elephant ivory, hornbill casque and bee wax. The river system has curved out a few oxbow lakes and have carved a beautiful river landscape.

The floodplain is a habitat to many rare and endangered species. There are 50 species of mammals in the area which the endemic ones are the Proboscis Monkey, the Orang Utan, the Bornean Gibbon and the Borneo Pygmy Elephant. The long tail and pig tail macaques, Red Leaf and Grey Leaf Monkeys are among the other interesting mammals.

200 species of birds are recorded in the floodplain. That includes Stork-billed and Blue-eared Kingfishers, White-chested Babbler, Oriental Darters, White-bellied Fish Eagles, Pied and Rhinoceros Hornbills are commonly spotted at the main river and oxbow lakes.  The floodplain is not running low on reptiles! Sometimes, the Estuarine crocodile, monitor lizards and even snakes like the Yellow Ring and Paradise Tree Snakes can be spotted during the river cruise.

The best time to spot wildlife in the Kinabatangan is at dawn and dusk on a river cruise along the main river and its tributary. Night cruise will take you to see the night time wonders. Nocturnal animals are the leopard cat, civet, flying squirrel, flying fox, buffy fish owl and wild boar. Luminous fungus and several species of frogs can be spotted during a night walk into the forest trail.  The forest offers an amazing plant life and variety of insects which makes macro photography as enticing too.

About 26,000 hectare of forested area in the lower Kinabatangan floodplain was gazetted as a wildlife sanctuary to protect the habitat of these unique flora and fauna.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: The Lower Kinabatangan, Sabah