Quarter Life Excursion

Kinabatangan River – Crocodiles, Orangutans and Elephants

Borneo is one of those islands that make you think about dense jungles, diverse wildlife, harsh terrain, and untouched backcountry. It truly is a gorgeous island. Our next stop on the island is a guest house right on the edge of the wild Kinabatangan River, known for a wide array of bird life, crocodile infestation, and easy to spot mammals like monkeys and the occasional elephant. As we drove into this region, we admired the lush green forest in front of our eyes, until we started to notice a pattern.

Palms, palms, palms, and more palm trees. We noticed this from the plane as well. Unfortunately, a huge amount of primary forest has been decimated in the last century for palm oil. It's unfortunate to see and everyone hopes to see progress begin moving back in the right direction. As green as the palm plantations are, they don't support diverse life. The only reason the area we are visiting next, the Kinabatangan River, is such a hot spot for wildlife enthusiasts and birders, is because the river and the small protected forest that borders it is all the forest that is left in the area.

Apparently actions are being taken to protect the area and land is being bought back slowly, so we hope for the best. This area was really nice, and, true to it's reputation, packed with wildlife.

We arrived to our accommodation in the afternoon and after seeing our awesome dorm, we went for tea and immediately found a Yellow Ringed Cat Snake. It was a little juvenile and wound its way around a flute hung for decoration. After this and a donut, we left for the first river cruise. On the first cruise we saw two hornbill species, proboscis monkeys, long tail makaks, silver leaf langers, king fishers, snake eaters, egrets, herons, and crocodiles. The amount of wildlife we saw was unreal and it was made infinitely better by the local guide who was spotting and IDing everything in a heartbeat.

Dinner was delicious that night, especially since it was the first times we had beef in a few weeks. Later, geckos rained down from the sky.

The next morning started early and was full of crocodile spotting. Apparently no one with half a brain swims in this water because these crocs are big and probably hungry.

Next, we enjoyed breakfast and a day trek through the limited forest. We spotted stick bugs and fresh water otters and tracks, scat, and sounds for many local mammals. We even heard a wild elephant. The guide was so nervous he started beating on the roots of every tree we passed, so we never spotted him. At the lake at the end of the hike, we were warned not to swim in the water. Besides crocodiles, the area was packed with the little feeder fish that are normally seen cleaning tourist feet on the side of the road in Bangkok. Normally a fun and ticklish activity, this lake had so many that it was kind of a hazard. Ha. Imagine being slowly nibbled to death.

The new guide for the day was kind of a bore, but at the end of the second afternoon boat ride, we spoted a wild Orangutan! She was a huge silhouette in the distance, watching us as the sun set from the top of the canopy. After seeing her, I completely understand why the big foot myths exist, and why 'orangutan' means 'man of the forest'.

The next morning revealed a few more hornbills, monkeys, and crocodiles. After that, we were of to Semporna and Mabul to dive with ScubaJunkie for the next three days. So stoked!

Thanks for reading. I wish I had a SLR to take proper photos during this last leg of the trip, but my phone pictures will find their way to Dropbox eventually.


Grant and Danielle


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