You can also expect to see Crocodiles, Monitor Lizards, Civet Cats, Hawks, Eagles, Hornbills, Kingfishers and much more. if you are very lucky you can encounter the Borneon Pygmy Elephant feeding on the edge of the Kinabatangan River. As well as the animals and bird life you can also spot many insects, reptiles and amphibians including snakes, frogs and stick insects. For knowledge purposes, the origin of the name 'Kinabatangan' was derived from Kina (China) and Batang (large river).
Our boatman arriving to pick us from Sukau
On my recent trip to Kinabatangan in December 2009, I was totally amazed on how there was so much interesting wildlife available in just one small area. With the support from Sabah Tourism
, I made my way to Kinabatangan with my knowledgeable nature guide Ben and upon arrival at the local village jetty in Sukau
, our boat had arrived to ferry us to our resort - Bukit Melapi Proboscis Lodge
which is located along the banks of the Kinabatangan River.
Local 'orang sungai' homes along the banks of the river
The boat ride was enjoyable as it only took us about ten minutes to reach our Eco-lodge. Along the way, you see the River People
) homes along the Kinabatangan River and they are spaced out very well. There are about six to seven lodges along the river where they too are quite a distance from one another.
One of the Eco-Lodges along the Kinabatangan River Palm Oil being transported out of the Kinabatangan on barges
I saw some worker lorries being transported by barges along the river as they were sent deep inside the Kinabatangan to the Oil Palm plantations which is a large industry here and is quite alarming to the wildlife.
Another lodge by the river here
Finally after reaching the Bukit Melapi Proboscis Lodge
, we disembark while the resort staff are awaiting to help carry our luggage to the reception. I will be writing other articles on what I experienced while staying here. Generally, there are river cruises in the morning, evening and at night. Other than that, you can just enjoy the natural rainforest atmosphere at your resort or Eco-lodge. There are no shops around so you are pretty much confined to your lodge with very early nights and mornings.
Kinabatangan River Cruise along one of the smaller rivers
The Kinabatangan River Cruises
start in the mornings and usually last for about two to three hours and after cruising the main river, the boat man will go into the smaller rivers to further explore. There is abundant wildlife to catch and if your eyes are sharp, you would easily spot them.
Wildlife along the Kinabatangan River
Among the numerous animals I came across, there were the common macaques perched up of certain trees along the Kinabatangan river. The usually travel in packs and most of the time with a leader, his nine wives and like 20 kids.
Yellow Ring Snake
The Yellow Ring Snake
or Ringneck Snake
which is mildly venomous are a regular sighting along the river cruises. They are mostly partially hidden amongst the tree branches and it takes a sharp eye to spot them. Luckily for our experienced boatman, he must have spotted about four of them at various locations.
Kinabatangan inner rivers during the cruise
Parts of the river cruise will take you into the smaller inner rivers that connect to the major Kinabatangan River. It is at these rivers that you also get to see much of the wildlife and one of the popular spots to see them are at the Ox-bow Lakes
Scene during the river cruise
Other wildlife that can be spotted at the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary include two nocturnal primates namely Western Tarsier and Slow Loris and also the very protected and rare Sumatran rhinoceros.
A monitor lizard lazying on a tree along the Kinabatangan
Hoofed mammals which are mainly active at night include wild cattle or Tembadau, bearded pig and four species of deer namely sambar, greater mouse-deer, barking deer and lesser mouse-deer which is also the world's smallest hoofed mammal. Reptiles include reticulated python, tortoise, freshwater terrapin, monitor lizard and crocodiles which can be seen here.
A Proboscis monkey relaxing on a tree
Carnivores include the smallest bear in the world which is the Malayan sun bear, four species of wild cats which are the clouded leopard, which is the largest wild cat in Borneo, the leopard cat, marbled cat and flat-headed cat. Other small mammals include hairy-nosed otter, oriental small-clawed otter, smooth otter, Malay civet, common palm, small toothed palm, banded palm and moon rat.
A Kite sitting on a branch along the Kinabatangan
Among the 200 species of birds found in the region are 8 species of Hornbills. Bird lovers or Birders will find the Kinabatangan an amazing place for this. For more information on how to spot these animals and birds, you need to check with your nature guide when you get there.
Boats observing something on a tree
During the day cruises along the Kinabatangan River, you are bound to see other boats doing river safaris or cruises. At one time, I must have seen at least six boats in one area gawking at the high trees observing some primates in action.
Tourists amazed by what they see
Occasionally you will see boats parked side by side and when everyone is looking up, it is a sign that something interesting is to be viewed. Usually the boatmen who are the local 'River People' will make a stop for about five to ten minutes at a spot if something rare is sighted.
Proboscis Monkeys are seen high up on the trees
Most of the times at the river cruise, Proboscis Monkeys
are commonly sighted at various places. So it would be wise to bring a pair of binoculars or if you want to take pictures, a really good zoom lens is required. Trust me, I saw many unhappy guests as their cameras could not zoom to the monkeys high up on the trees. See end of article for my camera tips.
Proboscis Monkeys relaxing on some branches
I had a 18-105mm lens and that was not good enough so as you can see, most of my pictures are just average. This reminds me over and over that I should invest in a good 18-200mm lens for my future trips.
Highlights of the cruise was the Proboscis Monkeys
) or as some call them 'Dutchman Monkey
' or Monyet Belanda
in Malay. Proboscis Monkeys have very large prominent noses and large extended bellies which make them look like permanently pregnant. Adults have larger noses than females and one interesting fact about them is that the noses will turn red and swell when they get angry or excited. The fur colours are usually orange or reddish brown and this makes them stand out from the other common monkeys found there.
To read up more about this unique creature found around Borneo, Wikipedia has a great writeup on the Proboscis Monkey
Boats ferrying tourists along the inner Kinabatangan river
At one point of our river cruise, we chanced upon a rare sighting according to the boatman and also our guide Ben. There was a rare Borneon Gibbon
up on a tree and as we stopped to observe the gibbon, more boats came to join in the fun. There must have been at least 8 boats there. Ben had informed me that the last sighting he saw was about one year ago so it was a big thing for him and the boatman.
Crocodile warning sign in Malay
Crocodiles do live in the rivers here but are generally harmless. I saw a sign in local Malay warning that crocodiles are in the waters. This is to inform locals and those fishing in the area to be extra careful.
To have a excellent experience at the Kinabatangan Wildlife Cruise
, I would recommend guests stay a minimum of two nights at the lodges here. Just in case you don't get a chance to see something on the first day, you have a better chance seeing it on the second day. Plus you can then take your time and relax while here.
View along the Kinabatangan RiverMy conclusion on visiting the Kinabatangan River:
It was an eye opener for me. As a Malaysian, I never knew that we had so much to see and explore in our own backyard. You must be a nature lover to fully appreciate this visit and children are best brought here to expose them to the wildlife of Borneo. Highly educational and an excellent experience as I had learned so much about the Kinabatangan wildlife and my thanks goes to Ben - Our guide and also Sabah Tourism
for making this visit possible.
Boats are relatively safe as life vests are a must on each trip and the boatmen are all local guys who know the rivers by the back of their hands. Each boat can seat up to 10 persons and runs on a small 15cc motor engine. Your guide will always be with you on your river cruises so you will know what is going on and also learn the names of the things you see. Guides at the Kinabatangan are highly trained and well versed in English. Special language guides are available on request so check with your tour operator when booking your Sukau adventure.
wherever you are.