Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Uncle Tan's Wildlife Adventure at the Kinabatangan River

Laura -- With very sore legs after our big climb, we got on a bus to head to Sandakan, on the east side of Sabah. We spent a nice evening there enjoying good food by the water and a wonderful hot shower and very comfy bed at the hotel.

View from our hotel room in Sandakan
First thing next morning, we took a cab to Sepilok - about an hour away. We spent the morning at the Orangutan sanctuary there. We got there early to see the feeding. There was a big platform with lots of ropes leading into the trees. When we arrived there were about 10 small long tail macaques chilling on it, eating leaves and climbing around. They all knew to leave though as soon as the orangutans started slowly swinging their way over. A man came with a basket of vegetables and bananas, he spread some on the platform, and kept some in the basket to make sure all the orangutans would get some. Four orangutans came over the hour we watched, and it was funny to watch their personalities. One just sat and ate the veggies, one would take a handful of bananas and sort of hide to eat them, and one insisted on picking her own bananas from the basket, and wasn't happy unless she had a bunch in each hand, and occasionally each foot too! The last one just sat back and watched all this until the keeper left and then came to the platform to eat when the others left. It was pretty neat, we were watching all this from maybe 10m away!







After this we went on a short walk through the forest (our legs refused to go further once we got to a hill!) On the way back though Jerome somehow spotted a really cool stick insect on a leaf! He was very excited. And the rest of the walk took forever since he had to examine every leaf and stick!!


Stick insect


We then went just down the road to Uncle Tan's Ops base, where we checked in for our 3 day jungle adventure! We had a very tasty lunch, and relaxed a bit waiting for all the guests. At about 2:30 we got in a shuttle van for a two hour drive to the Kinabatangan River. We transferred to a small boat and rode down the river for 45 minutes to get to camp. On the way our boatman spotted two crocodiles, a small 1m long one and a medium 3m long one. We also saw quite a few long tail macaques in the trees.




At camp, we had a briefing, were assigned to huts, and we had a very tasty dinner with about 12 different dishes! Then at 9, after it was very dark, we got back in the boat for our night river expedition. The guide had a super strong flashlight he scanned the banks with. We saw amusing proboscis monkeys, more macqaques, sleeping kingfishers

The next morning we were up at 6 for another river cruise. This time we saw mostly birds: two types of hornbills, a sea eagle, kytes, a kingfisher as well as a small monitor lizard.

Two hornbills sitting at the top of the tree

After breakfast at camp, we went out again, for a jungle trek this time. Due to the time and heat, there weren't many animals, but Akin showed us all the jungle plants, telling us what was poison and what was medicinal. At some points we could hardly hear him over the cicadas! We saw funny red legged millipedes, long legged spiders and cotton bugs too.



Molted carapaces of cicadas



Caterpillar



After lunch it was extremely hot and humid, and everyone found a hammock or somewhere to rest and try and stay cool. At 5 it started pouring rain, just in time for our evening boat ride. We all got into our rain gear and rented rubber boots and on the boat. And boy were we glad. We saw tons of proboscis monkeys, silver leaf monkeys and a big group of flying fox bats flying overhead with a sunset background, as the rain finally ebbed.



As darkness set in, we landed on the river bank, and made our way precariously up the extremely muddy bank. Jerome got stuck and I almost fell helping him and the corner of our camera got a bit muddy, but was fine! The night trek through the jungle was very cool and a bit eerie. We spent about an hour following our guide who pointed out sleeping birds, jumping spiders, wolf spiders -one carrying a big egg sack, lantern bugs, a jungle crab and lastly a Bornean Blue Tarantula!!! Pretty crazy to see it just hanging out in a tree!


Sleeping butterfly

Jumping spider

Tractor millipede

Sleeping kingfisher

Lantern bug




Bad picture of the tarantula (on the right side of the tree)



Back at camp we had dinner and found a scorpion nest with a big one and several babies, a few metres from the dining hut. And joined in a birthday party for one of the guides.

Next morning we had one last river cruise. Saw more hornbills and sea eagles and I spotted a pretty big crocodile laying in the mud with his mouth open! Then made the return trip to Sandakan,where we had about 24 hours to get laundry done, get clean again, have a great night's sleep and eat some good food before catching a flight back to Kota Kinabalu where did some diving!

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