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Published: November 4th 2008
After checking out three tour operators and the internet we ended up choosing the most expensive tour there was! Our “you’re only here once” attitude is gonna mean we’re back before you know it!!!! To be fair though the company was in Lonely Planet and had won loads of awards, so we thought it best to go with them, especially as we only had one afternoon to see as much wildlife as we could!! (Oh and their accommodation looked nicest too!!).
The full tour takes you to Sepilok in the morning to see the orangutans, but we had done that the day before so it meant we could have a bit of a lie in. (Everything in Borneo seems to start before 8am and finish in the afternoon - too much like work for us!).
We were picked up by a minibus at 11am then taken to the jetty (where the stilt village is - mad!) on the other side of town to start our journey. You do get what you pay for though - everyone introduced themselves in perfect English and they kept giving us welcome drinks and ice cold towels - so good!
We had chosen
the tour that got to the lodge by boat - the quickest and most scenic way. The boat sets out into the sea and then up the mouth of the river and carries on upstream.
We were joined on the boat by a retired Scottish couple called Mike and Ishbel (Gaelic for Isabelle). They were really nice and had lots of stories about where they had been on their travels. Mike was one of the people who helped plan Milton Keynes - we didn’t have the heart to tell him we thought Milton Keynes was a bit of a dive! Oh and they bought us a beer at dinner which won us over even more!!
Anyway, back to the real reason we paid so much to go on this tour. The Kinabatangan River is one of the biggest rivers in Borneo and it is even claimed that it’s older than the Amazon! It’s lined on both sides by dense jungle which is now protected by the government. It’s sad because this jungle used to cover the whole of Sabah. There is now only small strips of jungle either side fenced in between palm oil plantations. Not good for
the animals, but good for us because it almost guarantees that you will see wildlife.
And that is why we were there! As well as the orangutan, Sabah is home to another monkey you can see here - the Proboscis Monkey - Marissa’s new favourite animal! They told us there was a 75% chance of seeing one but as soon as we entered the mouth of the river there they were! About 10 of them high up in the trees. Mission accomplished and we had barely even entered the river!
We were due to make two stops that day - one for lunch and one where we would spend the night. Even before we got to the first stop we saw a baby croc, some long tailed macaques and two wild orangutans (mother and baby) (sorry no pics of those two - they were too far away, but we did see them, honestly!).
Our guide for the trip was called Basri and he was brilliant at spotting the animals - all we could see were trees! We arrived at the lodge about 3pm, checked in and got ready for our afternoon river cruise which would be in
a much smaller boat. This smaller boat would take us up a tributary river which would only be about 20 foot wide and apparently teeming with wildlife - yay!
We saw loads more monkeys, a hornbill bird, an oriental darter bird, a mangrove snake, an egret bird and two monitor lizards - one of which Marissa actually spotted herself! She did think it was a croc at first though!! At one point the driver virtually banked the boat in front of a family of long tailed macaques. It was brilliant because they were right above our heads so we could make out every bit of their faces - they are so funny, especially watching them eat!!
We headed back to the lodge and had dinner (where we wore sarongs - Marissa and Matt and everyone else - ha ha!), then off to bed - another 7am start the next day. When we got back to the room there was a big cockroach crawling up the wall. Matt took off his shoe, took aim, but missed! Oh no! The cockroach disappeared, nowhere to be found. This led to a somewhat troubled night’s sleep for Marissa, especially when Matt reminded
her not to sleep with her mouth open - crunchy! Needless to say the cockroach didn’t come back or if it did we were none the wiser.
We headed back to Sandakan, spotting a larger croc on the way, and checked in to the Mayfair Hotel - Marissa’s favourite place! That afternoon we went to the English Tea Room on the top of the hill, overlooking the town (this really was Marissa’s favourite place!). It was like being back in time. We had sandwiches, Pimms, scones and jam, cake and Earl Grey! Then we played croquet in the sun on the lovely green lawn! Bliss! Oh to be a rich colonial Englishman back then - but with anti-malarials!!
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