Kinabatangan River in Sukau – MONKEYS!
After spending the night at Sepilok Jungle Resort, we got picked up by our driver to head to the Kinabatangan River in Sukau for a 3D/2N tour. From what we researched online and at the travel agencies, Borneo Island is the only place in the world where you can see wild Proboscis monkeys. There were also an array of other animals that can be seen interacting in their natural environment. The package includes 4 river cruises along the river during various times of the day. One morning, two afternoon, and one evening. We also do a bit of trekking after the morning cruise as well. This tour would make up for the lack of wildlife seen in Taman Negara.
Sukau was about an hour and a half drive from Sepilok, 80-90km away. We got to our accommodation at Sukau B&B around 3:30pm and immediately got our first briefing from our guide Joe. We hopped on to the boat at 4pm and off we went.
The person who was driving the boat, Nick, had the craziest vision I've ever seen! Joe said that he has 'eagle eyes' and can spot hard to see animals in the dense forest. He demonstrated those talents during our cruises.
Here we go!
Be on the lookout
It rained a little at times…cover up!
This first animals we saw were the Proboscis monkeys in the trees. We were told they would stay high in the trees closer to the river as a defensive tactic. If predators were to engage with them, they can jump right into the water. The distinct feature of this monkey is the large nose. It's a lot more prevalent in the adult male monkeys. These monkeys looked awfully creepy, like some villain characters in Marvel.
Some 20-30m up in the trees
Doesn't this one look like he drank one too many beers?
Oh shit I think he heard me…creeeeepy…
Another monkey species we saw were the long-tailed and pig-tailed macaque monkeys. The babies were really cute and one of them got pretty close to us about 6 feet away. Get ready for some funny monkey moments!
I just want someone to hold…
Hmm getting kinda hungry…
What do we got in the fridge today…
Ugh, leftovers again…
This little guy was the cutest! We thought he was gonna swing onto the boat when he grabbed the vine.
Look, I can do this!
Boo! Scared ya didn't I?
He so silly…
This one was eating a piece of fruit by himself on the river bank.
Another close encounter
These two young ones were totally curious about us. They kept climbing over each other trying to get a closer look. Then a third one came and joined the party.
These two were grooming each other
Ok my turn
You search my head while I do my tummy
Oh yeah, and don't forget the armpit this time
Baby strapped to the mother
Sorry for the blurry pics. I was in a rush to shoot when she started to run away
This was one mean old lookin monkey
There were ropes suspended on trees across parts of the river so monkeys can cross safely without having to do so in the water where they can be vulnerable. It was fun watching them move around.
We began to witness more of Nick's trained eye as he spotted some bubbles surfacing in the waters. Then for a brief moment a part of a crocodile's head appeared! I snapped a couple of shots before it sank back into the murky waters. I showed my pic to Joe and based on how far apart the eyes were, he predicted that this croc was about 4-4.5m long. Wow, that's a big croc.
After that surprise encounter, we went further along the river and Nick was able to detect a viper resting on a branch. I don't know how he's able to see past the camouflage of green and brown but I'm glad he's seeing them since we can't 🙂
We turn back the other way and another boat had spotted a viper that was a different one than the one earlier. This was a neon green viper. Apparently very poisonous. If you got bit by one, you wouldn't survive long enough to reach the clinic *gulp*
Moving along, a bird with a really long neck appeared. The neck was so long you could mistaken it for a snake.
Some views on different parts of the river
By the time we got back to the B&B, it was already starting to get dark. Our next activity after dinner was the night cruise. This one was amazing. We went along the main river this time and Nick was our go-to-guy again. Equipped with his big flashlight, we rode along the river in darkness and he started scanning the trees. Viv brought her flashlight too but our eyes weren't sharp enough to spot anything. You could imagine the difficulty of finding a small animal in the trees during daylight, it was at least twice as hard at night. Of course I'm speaking on behalf of us average tourists, and not our superpowered phenom 'eagle eye' Joe lol
First animal Nick spotted was a mini frog right by the river bank. The guy was in the back of the boat, 15 feet away from shore, and he spotted a frog that was less than two inches…X-men do exist lol
Then we were able to see a couple of birds as well. One was a pair sitting together on a branch.
The other was a beautiful looking Kingfisher. It was bright yellow and blue.
On two occasions, we saw owls. One was perched high on tree vine and the other was actually right on the river.
If we were lucky, our main goal was finding a python that night. We hit the jackpot! There was a python located in a crevice under a small rock cliff. We couldn't see the entire snake as there were branches around blocking our view. It didn't move for a few mins so we've been taking the same photos. Then suddenly the snake started to twist around. At first we thought that we saw the tail of the snake. But quickly we realized it wasn't the snake's tail…it was a rat's tail! You could see the python starting to squeeze tighter as the rat's leg was twitching like mad. After a few more mins the python started swallowing the rat. It slithered a bit forward so we could still see the tail hanging from the side of it's mouth. We were thrilled at the rare opportunity of seeing a live feeding in the wild. Its an experience that we'll both never forget. I took 4 videos in separate instances so hope to piece it all together for a complete video.
How the hell did Nick spot this? Crazy guy
Starting to twist
Can you see the rat's leg sticking straight up?
A second twisting (leg horizontal between the split branch)
Staring at us right after it finished its meal
The next morning we left for our 3rd river cruise at 6am. It was bound to happen but this time it wasn't as exciting as the last last two. We saw a couple of hornbills and some more proboscis and macaque monkeys. There were several more more birds on the trees but nothing to jump out of the seat for. The cruise was for one hour and then we stopped by the shore to do a 40min trek in the jungle. There was light rain throughout the morning and Joe gave us the option of not walking the trek. He said if it starts to rain really hard, we may run into the risk of getting lost as your vision will be very limited in the rainforest. However, if it does start to pour early on in the trek, we'll just turn back. Ok, let's do it then!
Couple of hornbills
Kingfisher during the day!
This trek was definitely a bit more raw than others I've experienced as there were multiple narrow paths that cris-cross and spread in different directions. The trails were barely marked and muddy. If heavy rain did occur, I can see all the trails being washed away leaving no trace of any exit pathway. But luckily the rain stayed consistently light so we made it all the way through safely.
Lead the way Joe!
Massive tree with large roots spread out wide enough you could go through
In terms of wildlife, we saw some ruffling of the trees by monkeys but couldn't see them in plain sight. We found a rhino bug on a tree which was neat since I've never seen one before.
The best part of the trek was the swamp. When you think of a swamp you don't necessarily paint a pretty picture in your head. But the beauty of this one was unexpected. Not to say that it's not dangerous, as big pythons and crocodiles are known to inhabit them. Joe said that this is a very popular area for biologists and nature programs that study these animals. The ground was covered with floating plants that look decievingly like solid ground. I had a bit of an adrenaline rush being only a few steps away from the edge and not knowing if any giant creatures were watching nearby.
Well we made all the way through and exited the other side relatively unscathed…almost. The mosquito's here were relentless! Viv got multiple bites (3 on the face!) and so did I. But I also got the bonus – During the trek Joe mentioned about leeches. If you happen to get attached by one, you'll start to feel an prickly sensation before they start to rob you of your blood. So after the trek we got on our boat and begun to head back. Within a minute after we left, I felt an itchy sensation on my back and a short needle-like prick. Originally I thought it was just another mosquito bite but how did it get under my life jacket, rain jacket, and shirt? I put my arm behind me under my shirt and suddenly felt the touch of a slimy worm on my fingers. I quickly pulled on it and why hello, it was a leech! Good thing it was a tiny one at about 1.5cm. It reattached pretty quickly to my index finger. Joe's advice was to spray bug repellent on it and it'll release its grip. I'm still curious to how it got there in the first place, but better on my back than on my ass! That would be the funnier ending 🙂
For our last activity, we were suppose to go on a night trek. However, Joe told us we won't be able to really see any animals and the weather conditions aren't that great to begin with. So he gave us an option to do the river cruise again which we agreed to do instead. So we're riding along the main river just like last night. There were frequent lightning strikes before we boarded and during the beginning of the cruise. Hmmm…15min into the cruise it starts to rain lightly. A short moment later the rain got a bit stronger. Then Joe asked us if we want to continue or turn back. From his experience, it'll be almost impossible to spot any creatures past the rain. If anything, I'm listening to the guy that knows best. So we came to a consensus to turn back.
Man, talk about timing. Shortly after turning the boat around the rain started to pour a bit heavier. Within a minute, it really started to come down! If you experienced a thunderstorm in SE Asia you'll know what I mean. It became even more extreme as the boat was flying back and felt like a giant shower head put on full blast. All of our clothes were soaked. Thank god the camera wasnt wet. I put it inside my jacket and covered up hoping to shelter most of the rain. We finally docked and briefly took cover to take photos and vids.
Tie the boat!
Nobody felt bad that we couldn't do the cruise as incidents like this is what makes traveling fun. The unexpected can sometimes turn out to be an adventure on its own.