Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My Sabah On a Shoestring: Wild Beings of Riverside

Kinabatangan River - 560 kilometers, Malaysia's second longest river and Sabah's longest.

Most nature lovers would know that this river provides an important source of livelihood for its native people known as Orang Sungei (literally means people of the river) and as well as to its vast diversity of wildlife. At the lower Kinabatangan River, which is known as Sukau where tourists would flock to see wild Probosis Monkeys (Nasalis larvatus), Orang Utans (Pongo pygmaeus), Bornean Pygmy Elephants (Elephas maximus borneensis), estuarine crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) and many more. 

The award winner of Asia's leading Green Hotel, Sukau Eco Lodge would be a perfect choice for most nature lovers to spend their holiday at Sukau. The temptation was there but their exorbitant package rates drew us away. And so, Aida and I decided to experience Kinabatangan River on a shoestring.

The bus ride from Inanam to the Kinabatangan bridge took us more than six hours of travelling before arriving Kampung Mengaris, Batu Puteh at 3am. Bart, our guide, greeted us on the pitch dark road of the village decorated by millions of stars up in the black sky. Some people did say that Langkawi is the best place for stars gazing but this place has beaten Langkawi.

Bart, a localised green badge guide, is also a friend of Aida's via projects that both of them worked together. So, I was fortunate. As it was still the wee hours of the morning, we had to salvage as much sleep as possible before setting out on our exploration. And so we slept on the jetty under the Kinabatangan bridge.

The glimpse of sun light at 5:45am woke me up and this was what I saw.

The planning stage only began after our breakfast at a local shop and the overall itinerary was dependent on our budget. After all the "brain-storming", we decided to take the river cruise after lunch. Meanwhile, Bart took us to Perpaduan Village, about 15 minutes drive away to an observation tower surrounded by oil palm plantation.

As I was looking from the top of the tower, I was pondering on the battle between our lowland rainforest and the palm oil plantation. Who would win? Will both of them live in harmony without creating extinction to the wildlife?

Bart spotted Red Leaf-Monkeys (Presbytis rubicunda) on the salt-lick trail. These primates were so shy and they jumped away quickly before I could reached out for my camera. My primate lifer!

Other flora and fauna along the trail:
Some sort of fungi. Anyone can help to id please?

A damselfly! Which I thought it was one earlier. Many thanks to Mandy for correcting me. It is an Antlion (Myrmeleontidae family)

River cruise at 2:30pm when Bart took us down river for 10 minutes. Could it be his instinct or he may had made appointments with these beings? We spotted them within that 10 minutes!
Another primate lifer! This one showed her teeth at us. I was surprised that Probosis monkeys would do that 
A wild estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus). Alas, not those in the crocodile farm

We headed upriver after that which was our initial plan. The plan was to camp in the forest and it was a 45-minute ride upriver by boat. Why that campsite? Because of the stories about a cave nearby that made us drooled.

The 45-minute ride became almost a two-hour journey. We saw two groups of Probosis monkeys, Black Hornbills (Anthracoceros malayanus), Darter (Anhinga melanogaster) , Green Imperial Pigeon (Ducula aenea)  and lots of Blue-Throated beeaters (Merops viridis)
Green Imperial Pigeon (Ducula aenea)

Aida with her brand new Canon G12 camera
Wonder why they call the village Kampung Mengaris. Mengaris is referring to those Tualang trees (Koompassia excelsa) that are found abundance along the river.

Lots of fig trees were fruiting along the river that had attracted the pigeons, hornbills, long-tailed macaques and many more

We arrived the campsite at 5pm and we were set to embrace the mosquitoes. There was sufficient time for us to set up our "sleeping den" before the sun starts to set after 6pm.
The kitchen area of the campsite. This nice wooden hut is not for us.
View of the river peeping from our "sleeping den"

Our enthusiastic guide, Bart arranged for a night walk behind our campsite. This was our wishlist to spot: Slow Loris, Flying Lemur and Giant Squirrel... but well, at least we did try to wish. With our pace, we took two hours instead of the intended walk of one hour.
 These sort of fungi illuminates in the dark after shining your torchlight on them
Bart spotted these scorpions mating. According to Bart, this species of scorpion will spray a mist of liquid that smells like vinegar in self-defense or escaping from a predator
 An appreciation to JK of SiputKuning for his help to identify this snail which is endemic to the Borneo lowland forest. Thanks JK!

It was a long day and I was looking forward to crawl into our "sleeping den".
Hey, Aida... I did control that night. You were saved from being "gassed" 

I have always love hammocks. Being my first time climbing onto the top of a double-storey hammock, thanks to Aida's idea, it was a bit tricky. Not long after we snuggled into the warm comfortable fabric of our hammocks, the mosquitoes came and joined us. On the next morning, I noticed a few droppings on the flysheet and we realised that Long-tailed macaques were also sleeping above us on the trees.

What's our itinerary on the next day? Next post ba...


  1. Definitely one of the best nature tourism sites in Malaysia. Been there about 10 different times and have done a number of studies over there. Great place. Going there again this weekend with the family.

  2. Wow, Wchinner!

    Thanks for your comments!

    What an adventure this is! I agree with Monkey King-Kinabatangan deserves to be the jewel of the crown for Malaysia's nature tourism industry.

    And the accommodation: I reckon you've chosen the best! You're spot on in choosing the most genuine way to experience the wild side of Malaysia. (albeit not the most comfortable!)

    I'm really looking forward to your next post! :)

  3. lovely looking snail. so limey green. try and get a job in EM in eco tourism and learn more abt the wildlife over there. you would be so happy there as there is so much more land to roam and explore compared to little Langkawi.


  4. Hi Monyet King,
    Pls pack me into your luggage bag to Kinabatangan!!! I ain't big and heavy. Surely can fit into your pack.

    Yes, i agree with you. So much well-managed ecotourism as compared to langkawi. Have a blast and an enjoyable holiday in Sabah.

    Hi JK,
    Once again, many thanks for sharing your expertise.
    Hammocks are the most comfortable. It is just those mozzies were waiting when you have to answer the call of nature.

    Hi TC;
    I want! I wish! Help me to look around too ;)

  5. Hola! Wchinner! Hope to be posted in Sabah when I work! Hehe and Enjoy all the State has to offer me! Lucky YOU!!

    Need you help, can please help me identify a few critters? over at-

  6. Hi Raoul;
    You are most welcome :)

  7. the fungus is a species of Amauroderma, possible A. rude.

  8. Hi Anonymous Jan26th,
    Thank you so much for the Amauroderma fungi id. I learnt a new fungi :) I know that is a savior somewhere on this planet.

    Would able to id the fungi that illuminates? Cheers.


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