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The Kinabatangan River

Watching monkey from a boat

all seasons in one day 32 °C

After another evening spent eating barbecued squid at the night market in Kota Kinabalu we took an early flight across the country to a town called Sanadakan. Sandakan used to be the capital of Malaysian Borneo until it got so blitzed by the Japanese in World War II that they gave it up as a lost cause and moved the capital to Kota Kinabalu. Despite this, it's now not a bad city and it has several KFCs.

On landing at the tiny airport we met up with Mike, a good friend from university who's been working in Australia for the past couple of years. Following a brief but heart-felt embrace we went to see some Orang Utans. The sanctuary, a forty minute drive from Sandakan town, gives a home to orphaned Orang Utans and tries to prepare them for life in the wild. However, as we turned up in time for feeding we were surprisingly close to the animals and it did have the feeling of a large zoo enclosure. Despite this, the Orang Utans were fascinating to watch; gracefully bouncing about between ropes and trees or simply hanging upside down, taking everything in. After an hour or so of watching the fellows we got the bus back into town, driven by an apparently huge Liverpool fan.

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At around lunch time the following day we boarded a bus that would take us on a two-and-a-half hour journey to probably Borneo's most famous river: the Kinabatangan. Here we'd spend the next two days sailing up and down it while marvelling at the sheer abount of wildlife on the river's banks. The reason for such high density of wildlife is likely due to the vast palm plantations that have replaced rainforest over much of Borneo, confining the jungle's inhabitants to a narrow strip either side of the river.

While we only caught a glimpse of the arse-end of the fabled pygmy elephants that roam the forest and drink from the river, proboscis monkeys, macaques, silver leaf monkeys, hornbills, monitor lizards and crocs were all found aplenty.

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Night walks into the jungle were generally a disappointment, however, as more stuff (including large gekos, bats, scorpions and other insects) simply walked (or flew in the case of the bats) into camp.

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On the final river cruise the heavens opened with a vengeance but so determined was our guide to find the pygmy elephants that this wasn't going to stop us. So for 90 minutes we sailed through torrential rain so bad that it was painful to actually look at anything. Our guide wasn't impervious to this either so spent most of the time driving the boat with his eyes closed. Unsurprisingly, this tactic hindered his ability to see elephants somewhat and after an hour and a half of this we returned back to shore soaked to the core. The silver lining to these extremely leaky clouds was that the thunder was even better in real life than on Dolby surround sound.

Posted by Monsk 07:02 Archived in Malaysia

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