The moonless tropical night is perfectly still, as we cruise along Borneo’s Kinabatangan River in search of nocturnal wildlife. The beam of our spotlight dances across the curtain of the ghostly dark forest on the river bank.
The only sounds that break the silence are the rhythmic puffing of the boat engine and the occasional squeaks of the Flying foxes gorging themselves on fruit high up in the dark canopy.
With me in the boat are my two companions: Jo from the U.K. and Jens from Sweden; as well as our two guides: Mike, who is guiding us for our entire two weeks in Borneo and Osman, our host on the river for the next two nights. Both of them, we come to believe, poses superhuman vision when it comes to finding wildlife.
Soon Osman spots something on the bank and the mood in the boat changes dramatically. Now five pairs of eyes are glued to the centre of the spotlight beam. Mike sees the animal immediately. ‘It’s a Philippine slow loris.
Very low in the tree’, he whispers excitedly pointing out the animal’s location. We see it too now. What was just a pair of bright dots at first (loris’s eyes reflecting in the spotlight beam), now transforms into the cutest face imaginable.
Looking down at us with its cartoonishly large eyes, the loris appears as surprised to see us as we are to see it. We stare at each other in mute amazement.
Of all the wildlife watching hotspots in Borneo, lower Kinabatangan river in the Malaysian state of Sabah is where you are most likely to experience wildlife up close. Sadly, the reason for this abundance is that the wildlife has nowhere else to go.
Pushed by the encroaching oil palm plantations, the animals are trapped in the narrow stretch of forest on the river bank. If more land is cleared, we will lose this unexpected wildlife heaven for good. But for now, the loris is safe.
Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: The Wildlife Diaries: Wild nights in Borneo.