I woke up my first morning in Sandakan with people at my hostel preparing to leave for the Kinabatangan Jungle Cruise. Like this, at the last minute, I was convinced to join them. This turned out to be quite a good decision, I just wished I had stayed 3 days/2 nights instead of 2 days/1 night!
Our group was composed of a French girl, two Germans, one guy from Hong Kong, two Japanese girls and three Americans who were working in Seoul. They were really good company and I was happy I joined them. We chatted for quite a while at night around a drink before heading to bed.
Our first venture on the water proved to be quite fruitful as we managed to see a wild crocodile carrying off a monitor lizard. It was looking for a place to land to eat in peace. It dove a few times before finally resurfacing. We saw many long-tailed macaques, proboscis monkeys as well as hornbills. Actually, we saw so many proboscis monkeys that I didn’t feel the need to head to the rehabilitation center.
Proboscis monkeys are the funniest creatures with their long nose and big round bellies. However, it is really sad to think that the reason we saw so many of them is that the forest all around this river is being cut down. This loss of habitat has made them an endangered species. They are now protected by law.
Probscis monkeys are endemic to Borneo. Only the male has their signature long nose, which can exceed 10 cm and hang lower than their mouth. The dominant male has the biggest nose. Both males and females have the signature pot bellies.
I don’t have a picture up close, so do yourself a favor and google them. They are the cutest thing.
Next, during the night cruise we saw many birds, among which tiny kingfishers. Our guides were truly amazing at spotting them. Sadly for me, my camera decided it only wanted to work half the time.
My third cruise was not so fructuous, as we really didn’t see anything. I wonder how much is attributable to the skills of the guide in spotting animals. The scenery was worth it though, with the morning mist on the river. That’s the thing with open jungle and sanctuaries, you never know if you will be able to see what you came to see. It’s the price to pay to see the animals in their natural habitat.
This was my last cruise. The reason I say I wished I had stayed longer? My companions who did stay the extra day reported seeing a python and some owls during their night trek and elephants, orangutans and another crocodile during their extra cruise. That was a bad decision I took, I should have put all the chances on my side by allowing more time.
Instead, I decided to head on to the next site. To make the most of my time, I asked to be dropped at the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center and the Sun Bear Conservation Center in Sepilok. As I was too early for the orangutan feedings, I headed to the Sun Bear Sanctuary. Lucky for me, the sanctuary had opened its doors to the public just two months prior.