Kinabantanga River, Bilit 16-18 March 2016

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March 18th 2016
Published: March 19th 2016
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Bilit 16-18 March 2016

What a fantastic 3 days we had at the Bilit Adventure Lodge which is on the Kinabatangan River in Sabah, Malaysia. From the time we arrived to the time we departed, we did 4 river cruises which included 2 x 6.00am and 2 x 4.00pm cruises in aluminium boats. On all of these cruises our guide and driver were incredible spotters as you will see by the photos.

On our morning cruises, we would come back at about 8.00am for breakfast. It was always cooler in the morning, so light, long sleeved was the go!

The 1st night we were there, we went on a night-walk and spotted so many birds. Of course they were not flying at night so were easily photographed. We also saw several mouse deer which were too fast to photograph.

Our lodge was surrounded by jungle to there was plenty of opportunity to spot interesting wildlife. Much of the surrounding area is protected vegetation but on the way from Sandakan to meet our boat, which was to take us to our lodge, we saw slabs and slabs of palm oil plantations. Palm oil is the second highest income earner for the country.

During one of the days, we took part in a guided jungle walk to Ox-Bow Lakes. We found a jetty where some of our group dangled their feet in the water for the little fish to nibble their dead skin off. I could not think of too many worse things to do!!!!

We also did some tree planting to add to the rehabilitation of the Jungle Lodge. They even provided a sign and paint so that we could name who planted each tree.

We also walked to one of the local villages for a cooking lesson. We helped cook chicken pieces in palm oil, battered ‘prawns’ (similar to lobsters), cooked banana flowers and unripe Jack Fruit, rice and a really hot, yummy chilli sauce with local spices added. They gave us some grape juice and the whole meal was concluded with very little, sweet bananas.

We chatted to the little children and one of our travellers (Bill from Melbourne) showed them a number of tricks which they picked up really quickly. Everywhere we went we saw long-tailed macaques which are very cheeky. A little less often, we saw family groups of proboscis monkeys playing in the trees.

Our jungle rooms were basic but comfortable with fan and air-conditioning. We had a couple of hours each afternoon to catch up on washing and have lots of laughs with our travel companions. They were a fantastic group. In the evening before 7.30pm dinner, we all sat out on the big deck by the river in the breeze to have our pre-dinner drink. It was a great setup with plenty of room.

Perhaps one disadvantage living in the middle of a jungle is one night, Tom woke up to hear some rustling in our room. He switched the torch on and it was a 14cm-bodied rat eating our opened packet of chips. As soon as the light was switched on, it ran down a drain hole in the bathroom floor ..... which we blocked up after the rat came back a couple of times!!!

Everywhere we went, if we went inside a building, we were asked to take our shoes off. This was easy.

While there, the weather during the day was hot and humid but of course the vegetation provided some relief. We couldn’t swim in the river because of the very large salt water crocodiles.

We packed our bags on the last morning to leave by 8.30am. After going up the river a bus met us and took us to the Gomantong Cave. This was a very large, ground-level cave which had a population of bats on the ceiling as well as swallows that build their nests out of their sliver. There are black and white nesting swallows. The actual nests are a delicacy.

These edible bird's nests are created by swiftlets using solidified saliva, which are harvested for human consumption. They are particularly prized in Chinese culture due to their rarity, and supposedly high nutritional value and exquisite flavour. Edible bird's nests are among the most expensive animal products consumed by humans, with an average nest retailing for about $2,500 (US) per kilogramme in Asia. The type or grading of bird's nest depends on the type of bird as well as the diet of the bird. It differs in colour from white to dark brown. The Chinese believe that it promotes good health, especially for the skin. The nests have been used in Chinese cooking for over 400 years, most often as bird's nest soup. Very interesting/different.

On the floor of the Gomantong Cave was thick with bird droppings. We also lots of cockroaches, several of which were attaching dead or partly dead swiftlets.

The walls of the cave was impressive with rays of light narrowly streaming into parts of it from varying sized openings. There was 2 huts inside which is accommodation for 'watchers' of the cave so that nothing was destroyed by poachers etc.

After our circular walk-around, we hopped back in the bus and drove 2 hours back to Sandakan. We were all very, very satisfied with the sights and experiences we had over the past 3 days.

Additional photos below
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