Sunday, 15 April 2012

Monkeys and other creatures

Not content with a glimpse of a big floppy nose from behind a tree branch, we hired a car yesterday and drove three hours to Kota Kinabatangan for a wildlife river cruise. We hoped to see more proboscis monkeys, more orang-utan, Pygmy elephants and lots of bird life.

When we arrived we were a bit troubled by their apparent lack of other visitors. I.e. we were their only visitors! They only had three bottles of water and a can of coke in the fridge - we bought the lot; we'd left before lunch with nothing to eat or drink and were now ravenous! There was no food either so we'd have to wait until after the trip which was due to finish at 6.30pm.

Actually, it worked to our advantage being the only guests as we ended up on a private tour with a very knowledgable guide. We set off early and straight away saw a tree full of proboscis monkeys.

A dominant male with several wives and tiny babies! This was far more than I could have wished for - especially in the wild! It was a real lucky spotting!

You can easily pick out the dominant male - he's the one with the biggest nose and the fattest belly.

Their big noses look almost stuck on when you get a closer look. They are very comedic!

Immediately after seeing the family of proboscis, we saw a black hornbill sitting in the tree with his mate. You can tell which is the male by the colour of their beak - the male has an all white beak while the female's is all black and... erm... less horny.

In the same group of trees we also saw a lonely red leaf monkey. Normally they live in packs so it was unusual to see one alone like this. The guide said that he was drying off after the heavy rain. He was lying on his front across a branch with his arms and legs dangling off the edge.

After that we spotted more hornbills. Different types this time, a group of bushy crested hornbill (they always live together in groups of up to seven birds where other hornbills live alone or as part of a couple) and an oriental pied hornbill (the one in the photo below).

I asked if we'd see the elephants but the guide said that they were not at this point in the river yet. Shame. I had been really looking forward to seeing them.

On the hunt for orang-utan, we took a turn off down a narrower river towards a palm plantation where the orang-utan can usually be spotted. We saw a huge family of common macaque playing in the trees and the lillies growing at the river edge.

There were some tiny babies in amongst them but they weren't at all scared and came right up to the boat.

We continued up stream past a monkey bridge (a rope across the river with extra ropes hanging off it) which had been put there for the orang-utan as they can't swim. It also prevents the other monkeys from getting eaten by crocodiles as they try to cross the river.

We went as far as we could along the river but didn't see any orang-utan. Just a couple of men fishing. The guide pointed out a load of plastic bottles floating with their bottoms out along the edge of the river. This is where the fisherman have set fishing traps to catch crab and prawn. The bottles are just markers so that they don't lose their traps.

We turned around and made our way back with the hopes that we'd spot something in the trees. Nothing. The orang-utan were not interested in us today. We did spot a nest high in the canopy but the guide said that it had been abandoned - you could tell because it had turned brown already. The orang-utan use lots of green foliage when building their nests so if they were still living there it would be green. He thought they'd been gone for about a week.

Just as we were about to moor up, the guide squealed and nearly jumped out of the boat (he was so enthusiastic about things he must see every day). He'd spotted the most elusive of all of the hornbills - the rhinoceros hornbill - resting in a tree. I just managed to snap this one out of focus photo (it's hard using a big telephoto lens in a rocking boat with a moving subject!) before we were spotted and he flew off. What a perfect end to the day!

Note: if you ever hire a car in Borneo, never ask for a half tank of petrol! Fill that bugger up! On the way back from Kinabatangan, we passed one petrol station which was under construction, one which was dry, one which was closed and then not a single one for three hours until we got back to Sandakan! Luckily, the fuel light never came on but I was nervous, nevertheless!

Watch out for pot holes too - in some places it looked like a volcano had erupted!

Location:Sabah, Borneo, Kota Kinnabatangan


  1. Kat I love reading about your adventures!!!

  2. Wow, you had quite the adventure! Awesome pics and what a great time! Glad to see you're back. :)

  3. the dominant male with the biggest nose and fattest change there then!! :-)xx