A pseudo jungle experience in Borneo

After spending five days in the Peruvian jungle a few years ago, we thought we were prepared for the jungles of Borneo.  With visions of wild orangutans, herds of pygmy elephants and troops of proboscis monkeys dancing in our heads, we made our way to the Kinabatangan Nature Lodge where we planned to spend 3 days and 2 nights exploring this natural wonderland. The area has been touted as a must see attraction so understandably our expectations were set quite high.  We were prepared to suffer through unbearable heat and humidity, attacks of tenacious mosquitoes and whatever other discomforts nature sent our way with hopes of being rewarded with seeing some amazing wildlife in their natural habitat.

The first thing we noticed when we took the small motor boat across the river to the Lodge was how close it was to other homes and lodges. It was anything but remote. The Lodge itself was very comfortable, in fact far more comfortable than we had expected. Our private cabin with ensuite bathroom would put many of our recent hostel stays to shame.Tasty meals were served up in the communal dining room; they even had wifi available although it was pretty slow. We were definitely not roughing it on this jungle journey.

Our program included four river boat excursions, two night walks and one three hour trek through the jungle.  It was a full schedule, and I found it a challenge to keep up as I was still sick with what I was sure was another throat infection.  On each outing we saw lots of monkeys, mainly long tailed macaques and proboscis monkeys.  It didn’t take us long to spot the monkeys as we cruised down the river.  The rustling of leaves in the branches was a sure indication monkeys were about.  I loved watching them leap through the trees fearlessly as they raced from one tree to the next.  Often they just sat quietly in the tree branches, grooming each other meticulously.

Long tailed macaque staring at us from the riverbank.

Proboscis mother and child getting ready to leap to another tree.

During one of our outings, we saw a mother/offspring pair of wild Orangutans chomping away on fruit in a tree high above us.  But the highlight for me was seeing a newborn long tailed macaque; it was still wet from its birth.  We witnessed its tentative first steps along the branches, with mama watching close by.

Wild Orangutan “toddler”.

Newborn long tailed macaque.

Baby long tailed macaque with its mother.

Typical pose of a proboscis monkey.

There were a few bird sightings along the river, the most impressive being the Hornbill.  There were lots of eagles, colourful kingfishers, and we even saw an owl at the start of one of our night walks.  The night walks were rather disappointing as there wasn’t much to see in spite of our best efforts to walk quietly.  We saw a few birds sleeping on low branches which was something I had never seen before, a few insects and a frog.  That’s it.  During our three hour jungle trek where we traipsed through mud as high as our rubber boots, we saw nothing, not a single form a life.  It was a complete bust.    And no, we did not see the pygmy elephants either.  Apparently they were somewhere upstream, about 70 km away.  All in all, it was a rather disappointing experience in terms of the minimal wildlife we saw.

Male Hornbill eating berries in a tree.

Male and female Hornbills.  Can you see the difference?

Kingfisher seen during our night walk.

Both the rainforest and its inhabitants have been severely affected by human activity.  The rainforest itself is second generation meaning it had previously been razed by humans. There are signs of Palm Oil plantations everywhere, encroaching more and more on this natural habitat.  What was once a vast forested region, is now a forest corridor along the Kinabatangan River, connecting the coastal mangrove swamps with the upland forests.  At least the area is now protected under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment which went into effect in 1997.  Hopefully as the forest regenerates itself, its inhabitants will have the chance to flourish once again.

Video:  Monkeying around in Borneo

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  1. Angus says:

    Hi Guys, sounds like you’re still keeping a very busy schedule. Hope you get a chance to rest and get well Christina. We’ve been fighting the flu here for a few weeks.

    Friday night we had the company Christmas party so the holiday season has officially started and we’ll be out and about for the next few weeks visiting friends and family and eating too much.

    Janet wants to put up the Christmas tree today and start getting ready as Laura and Raf will be home in a couple of weeks.

    It’s cold and rainy here this week, unseasonably warm for this time of year but still miserable. The hot jungle of Borneo is looking pretty good right now, mosquitos and all.