Monday, August 26, 2013

Expedition Borneo, Kinabatangan River

It was a long holiday period in Singapore with Hari Raya Puasa and National Day. While most people will be in celebration mood and spending time watching the parade and fireworks, my friends and I decided to spend the holiday somewhere exotic and quiet…in the jungles of Borneo. We departed from Singapore and flew to Kuala Lumpur and transfer to a domestic flight to Sandakan, Sabah (ensure you have about 3 hours in between flights).

At Sandakan airport, we hired a taxi for 35RM for a 30mins ride to Uncle Tan Wildlife Adventures Operation Base located at Sepilok. Upon reaching, the friendly staff prepared dinner for us which were really delicious. We spent a night at the Ops base in a very simple accommodation with only a queen size bed and surprisingly with air-conditioning.

Day 1

The next morning, we had breakfast (they do provide food for vegetarian and taste really good) before departing to the Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre just about 5mins drive away from the Ops base. The Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre is a place where wild orphaned baby orang utans are being rescued from poaching, deforestation sites or been kept as pets. They are being placed in 11 acres of mostly virgin rainforest where park rangers monitor their progress and rehabilitation process, so that one day they can be released back into the wild. The centre was packed with tourist eager to see the endangered great ape.

Each morning, there is a feeding session for the orang utans. Fruits were placed on a wooden platform for the apes to come down and feed. However, sightings of orang utans are not guaranteed as they are wild and free ranging. Most orang utans who are able to look after themselves will not come down for the feeding sessions as they are able to find their own food in the forest. The ones that come to feed are usually the younger ones who still depend on the park rangers to look after them. As we approached the feeding area, we waited eagerly for the first glimpse of the great ape. Slowly, the trees started to rustle and a flash of reddish orange can be seen in the thickets.

The first orang utan appears, making its way to the feeding platform, and then followed by the rest. It was a wonderful sight seeing these great apes swinging around the vines and enjoying their meal. A pair of Pig-tailed Macaques also joined in the feeding frenzy, much to the delight of the visitors. After the fruits have all been eaten, the orang utans slowly made their way back into the forest and disappear. During the feeding, we sighted a Rhinoceros Hornbill high up in the tree.

We proceeded along the path to look for more sightings, and spotted a young orang utan resting up on a tree just above our heads looking down at us. I stayed for a little while observing the little one before making my way to leave it in peace. Not long after, I came across a Green-crested Lizard among the green leaves. It looks slightly different from the ones back in Singapore as it has blue spots around the back of its body and yellow eyes compared to the plain green body and reddish eyes of the Singapore species. We later made our way out of the centre and went back to Ops base for lunch before departing for the wildlife camp.

As we boarded the mini bus and proceed to the jetty to take the boat ride to camp, it began to rain heavily. We wrapped ourselves with plastic bags as we board the boat at the jetty. The boat speeds up into the Kinabatangan River, the second longest river in Malaysia, as rain splatter heavily on us. Our first boat ride on the river was not a pleasant one as cold winds blow towards us under the pouring rain, and the trip to the camp was a long journey.

When we finally reached camp, we were being arranged by the staffs to our accommodation. It is very basic in the form of raised wooden huts with no doors or windows, situated in the middle of the swamp. There is electricity only from 6pm to midnight. We were then given briefing by the guide and had our dinner, after which we proceed for the night boat safari.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Expedition Borneo, Kinabatangan River