I am out of the jungle. Pretty amazing journey once again! After my last quick entry, the spontaneous and magical moment of getting off the bus at just the right spot, seeing a sign for Uncle Tan’s, meeting Diego, renting a room, finding out I could go on the river trip that afternoon (in 35 minutes), unrenting my room, quickly organizing a river pack and in short order, getting on a bus and heading off for the Kingbatangan River.
For more information on the river: Kinabatangan River
For Uncle Tan information: Uncle Tan
My tour group consisted of Diego and myself. Perfect size. We drove for about one hour by mini-van, stopping along the way for rubber boats for the hiking as it’s high water now. The boat loaded with supplies and we were off. Within a short distance, we spotted a Hornbill, then a Macaque, and a little farther on the Proboscis Monkey. Before we reached camp upriver, we saw two Orangutan, more monkeys of various sorts, many more Hornbill and were both really impressed by the variety we saw on the short ride in!
Camp at Uncle Tan’s was very rustic and perfect. Mattresses on the floor of cabins covered with mosquito netting, a large dining area, a large meeting area, trees and vegetation all around, rising flood waters, amazing forest sounds and a wonderful staff. We were just off the shore of the river.
We met another group of nine coming back from their evening river trip as we headed off to our meeting. Dinner together, I met people from around the world all on some sort of adventure and all thrilled with their experience of the day. Rain cancelled our evening night boat trip so we joined the other group on the night hike jungle safari. Very interesting seeing a lot of insects and roosting birds, a civet cat, frogs, a tarantula, a huge poisonous Centipede and other miscellaneous creatures.
The next day was a mix of rain and sun. The morning river boat trip was nice but damp. Rain at 6:30 am kept most animals in their own hiding spots. Lunch and a 2 hour trek with Diego and our guide Leo up the hill where we learned a lot about the forest, spotted bottle bugs, birds but no mammals.
Our schedule continued: afternoon boat trip (in the drizzle so we saw little other than THOUSANDS of Flying Foxes, a fruit bat with wing spam of a hawk or eagle), night boat trip (lots of roosting birds, a Leopard Cat, dining Flying Fox) and a return to camp for music. The next morning, we had a 6:30 boat trip and saw lots of wildlife including a huge crocodile, the same species they have in Australia!
My first night was interrupted by rats eating through the side of my daypack after my “Fisherman’s Friend” cough drops I forgot were in there.
The second night was influenced by a growing cold. The jungle was hot, cold, dry, damp, windy, wet, cold, etc. My poor little body wasn’t sure how to deal with all of that!
Diego is a biologist now involved in biomedical research. We talked about the amazing amount of wildlife we saw on the river. During our trek with Leo and in conversation with others, we learned why there is so much wildlife here. This is all secondary forest only about 30 years old. It is very minimalistic compared to the original forest I hiked in Sumatra. In addition to that, the palm oil plantations come right down to the edge of the narrow forest strip. The government requires a 40 meter buffer but in places the palm oil comes right to the river’s edge.
Essentially, that means it’s not a forest but a corridor. The birds and mammals only can feed if they travel up and down the corridor parallel to the river.
In lonely planet, they described Borneo as “Mother Nature’s Fantasy”, maybe once but a long way from it now. They make so much money from the palm oil industry, they have destroyed most of the forest and thus the habitat of the Orangutan, Proboscis Monkey’s, and everything else. My friend Janet told me that Borneo convinced her that she never wanted to use anything with palm oil in it again.
In Taman Negara, they told me that an acre of land had 250 different species of trees. That is original forest on the mainland. When the palm oil trees come in, there is one species and nothing can feed on it. Kind of sad. Money drives so many decisions around the world. But often, the consequences are permanent, they estimate Orangutan could be extinct within the next 10 years and I heard yesterday there are only about 1,200 Proboscis Monkeys left in the world and only in Borneo.
I returned with Diego to Uncle Tan’s base camp where the trip started. Diego’s friend Sue was there from Sydney and preparing to head into the river trip. I grabbed my backpack, headed off to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center.
A taxi beeped but I thought a 20 minute walk would be good. That was before two people told me I was going the wrong way and gave me wrong directions that had me walking nearly 2 kilometers out of my wan in a driving rain. Finally, backpack soaked, body soaked, legs tired, cold weary, I stumbled into Sepilok in time for the 3:00 feeding so I bought a ticket and located a place to store my backpack.
As I was heading into the storage area, Steve and Sam (Samantha) came out. They were part of the group of nine I met who came out the day before I did. Really great people, friends that hook up periodically and travel to exotic locales around the world, I was very happy to see them again. They told me when they left about a Jungle Resort Lodge near that had budget accommodations.
Weary and unclear, I thought about simply staying at Uncle Tan’s but something told me that wasn’t to be so I carried my pack. I walked past two budget places along the way and stopped a van from the Jungle Resort Lodge as I reached Sepilok. Then, Steve and Sam said they were leaving that evening. I was disappointed but thought I’d move ahead on my own.
After the feeding, they said they were going to catch a taxi into Sandakan and a little tingle went off inside. I knew that was where I was to be heading, finally clear. I asked, they said yes, we shared a taxi to town and wound up getting a triple room here together. They left this morning for Kota Kinabalu and a couple days on an island diving and snorkeling before Steve heads back to England and Sam heads off to look for work and an adventure of 9 months or so in Australia.