We couldn’t come to Borneo without experiencing some of the wildlife. Two hours drive from Kota Kinabalu we were able to immerse ourselves in a Borneo jungle, cruising down a river, looking for proboscis monkeys.
The drive was an interesting one (for me in any case). Much of the jungle and rainforest on our drive had been harvested and replaced with Palm Oil tree plantations or coconut trees. In some places all we could see to the distance were huge expanses of Palm Oil trees regimentally planted in line after line – the native vegetation completely gone. I couldn’t help but wonder what this place would have been like overrun with rainforest and jungle before the deforestation.
Eventually the palm plantations gave way to the green wilderness of jungle once more and we arrived at our destination. A short walk down a dirt track a small wooden dock awaited us with a malay style junk (boat not rubbish).
We set off slowly down the river. The jungle was breathtaking, swallowing us on either side with it’s greenery. Disney’s Jungle Cruise has NOTHING on the real thing (not that I ever thought it did – this simply confirmed it). The river itself was dark and muddy, both naturally and from pollution. It was sad to see the bubbling evidence of pollutants in the river. Several small eco-tourism boats roared past us as we meandered down the river and in the process they missed seeing wildlife we were fortunate enough to experience. Proboscis Monkeys, endemic to Borneo, were everywhere around us on both sides of the river. Patience and quiet brought them high into the trees for us to experience. We were fortunate enough to see a family group – the large Male, several females and a couple of babies too! There is nothing to compare with seeing a creature like this in its natural habitat.
See if you can spot the proboscis monkey in the photo. This is one place where I really wish I had a digital SLR. My little point and click can’t do the imagery justice, or show you truly how close they were to us. We could see them moving about, climbing the trees, jumping across trees, screeching at each other and for the most part ignoring us.
As the sun set the boat captain tied the boat to a tree near a large group of monkeys so we could enjoy them while drinking rose flavoured water (which tasted like cordial to me) and attempt a spot of fishing with a fishing reel.
Bethany and Mitchell both had a go at fishing with the help of daddy. Unfortunately nothing was biting the day we were there (except the mosquitos). I don’t think anyone on our boat brought up a fish – just lots of driftwood. It didn’t matter as the kids had fun trying and it took their mind off the humidity. To be honest with you given the pollution in the water I wouldn’t be sure anything that came out of the water would have been sanitary in any case.
As the sun set completely, the boat was filled with light and we were served dinner. It was a ‘western’ dinner with over cooked meat, some veges and fruit. It was probably the worst meal we had our entire trip in the most awesome of location.
Darkness enveloped the jungle and we were left to the mercy of our captain as he untied the boat, turned off all the lights and started to drive further down the river. It was quite dangerous given there was a lot of tourist traffic on the river, but all the boats were doing the same intentionally. Each boat knew where the others were through a crew member occasionally flashing a spotlight. Why the craziness? There is another creature of abundance in these jungles that can only be seen at night. The humble firefly. The trees along the riverbank were lit up like a christmas tree decorated with fairy lights all around us. It was incredibly pretty. Every once in a while, a firefly would fly into the boat, much to the delight of the kids as they got to see the glow and the microscopic size of the fireflies up close and personal. The children were mesmerised by the flickering lights on the trees and the stars in the sky. Alas I have no photos as my camera just doesn’t do night time shots with enough detail. It was worth the bad dinner to experience such a magical delight (although not quite as pretty as the glowworms in Waitomo). Eventually our magical boat ride came to an end and we hauled back into the bus for the two hour drive back to our hotel … just as rain started to bucket down around us. We were incredibly lucky it held off as long as it did.