Posted by: Ross Gardner | March 25, 2018

The Kinabatangan

Kinabatangan River 8 (scaled)

From the many and various delights of Sepilok it was to the not inconsiderable waters of the Kinabatangan River that we headed next.  This Malaysia’s second longest river, winding 560 kilometres from source to the Sulu Sea.  Our last river experience was with the shimmering clear river that flowed fresh from the uplands and past the Lupa Masa jungle camp.  The Kinabatangan couldn’t be a lot different.  It is wide river with a steady flow.  And it is water that does not accommodate an inquiring eye into its murky depths.  Water too, which is rather less appealing for the bather, not least for the plentiful of Saltwater Crocodiles lurking within it.

The lower Kinabatangan is renowned for its concentrated abundance of wildlife and a place where elusive animals are more easily seen than some of their other Bornean haunts.  Herein though we find a double-edge sword.  One the key reasons for its popularity among wildlife watchers is that as the devastation of the vast oil palm plantations continues, the jungle creatures are increasing squeezed into this corridor sanctuary.

Proboscis monkey - Kinabatangan 5 (scaled)

Proboscis Monkey seemed plentiful by the river.

The wildlife here is fantastic.  We stayed for three nights with our guide and his family.  We were happy to know that our money spent was going directly into the community that takes its living from the river and cherishes what it has.  From his boat we would see much of what this amazing place offers the wide-eyed nature tourist.  Orang-utan and Silver Leaf Monkey were more occasional, but troops of Proboscis Monkey were a regular source of entertainment.  So too the Long-tailed Macaque that would almost ignore our boat while we watched them at the river edge feeding on the succulent growths of floating aquatic plants.

Long-tailed Macaque - Kinabatangan 6 (scaled)

Long-tailed Macaque seem exceptionally keen on the juicy stems of aquatic plants.

And the birds!  Views form close quarters of the large, heavy-billed Stork-billed Kingfisher was rather spectacular, while the Blue-throated Bee-eater were beautiful, the rhinoceros Hornbill stunning and the close encounter with a pair of Buffy Fish Owl quite unexpected.

Had we not seen anything of the Pygmy Elephant that live beside the river we would not have been complaining.  But even this our guide provide us with the unforgettable sight of an old bull, in clear view where the jungle meets the palms.

An amazing place!

Stork-billed Kingfisher 3 (scaled)

The Stork-billed is a large and impressive member of the Kingfisher tribe.

Pygmy Elephant 6. (scaled)

The Pygmy Elephant is a subspecies of the Asian endemic to Borneo. An unforgetable sight.


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