After bidding farewell to the orangutans and sun bears, Courtney, John, Katie, and I ventured deeper into the jungle, to the Kinabatangan River. We stayed at the Tanjung Bulat Jungle Camp, located on an oxbow lake. Afiq, the jungle camp’s owner and our local guide, grew up nearby. The main rule for our stay was No Swimming: the crocodiles would love nothing more than a tasty tourist dinner.
We got settled in and spent the next three days exploring the jungle, by foot and boat, on the oxbow lake and the Kinabatangan proper, by day and night. We saw an abundance of wildlife, mostly because the palm oil plantations have taken away so much native habitat. Luckily, it’s illegal to grow palm trees within 500 meters of the river, and the locals usually abide, leaving a kilometer-wide strip of sanctuary.
The jungle camp was my favorite part of Sabah, and I would love to return someday. Here are a few of my photos:
Afiq and Katie, in our first look at the Kinabatangan River.
The Tanjung Jungle Camp, with owner Afiq prepping the boat.
Egrets were a very common sight on the river.
This brahminy kite circled overhead several times.
The shores were absolutely crawling with long-tailed macaques.
Late in the afternoon we spotted our first proboscis monkey!
Much of Sabah is now covered in oil palms, but some primary and secondary forest remains near the Kinabatangan.
Our driver had quite a keen eye. He spotted something red in a tree as we zoomed past. When we came in closer, I thought it was an orangutan. That would’ve been a very special sight, but this red-faced langur is probably even rarer than the orangutan. It only stuck around for a few seconds before retreating to the safety of the forest.
A pig-tailed macaque. They’re common in Borneo, but fairly rare on this part of the Kinabatangan.
A blue-throated bee-eater.
Our nighttime boat ride was amazing. The birds were either asleep or quite relaxed, so we could view them much more closely than we could during the day. Here we have four black-and-red broadbills.
A blue-eared kingfisher. I’m not sure how they can have blue ears, but nonetheless, there it was!
A buffy fish owl. This guy was wide awake, yet he didn’t seem to mind us at all.
This civit wanders the grounds of the jungle camp every night.
A darter, so named because it fishes by “darting” into the water.
This monitor lizard crawled right past the jungle camp.
You have to be careful on the Kinabatangan. It’s infested with crocodiles. A few months ago, a giant saltwater crocodile plucked a local fisherman from his boat. One moment he was there, the next he wasn’t. His friend witnessed the whole thing, close enough to see his own reflection in the croc’s eye.
We were very fortunate to get a glimpse of this beautiful crested serpent eagle.
A local fisherman. Probably not the safest spot to stand, given the previous story. But a man’s gotta eat.
Heading from the oxbow lake to the Kinabatangan proper.
An oriental pied hornbill shows off its beautiful plumage.
Let’s go fly a kite.
Proboscis monkeys love to jump between the trees.
During our night walk we spotted this tree frog. I assume it was asleep.
A stork-billed kingfisher, the biggest kingfisher in Borneo.
We got one more surprise before leaving. A freshly-fallen tree was blocking our exit. Luckily, Monkey was able to free us with his chainsaw.
This guy had just loaded up his boat with palm oil. It’s quite a profitable crop and has greatly helped the impoverished local population, but the palm trees have supplanted the rain forest habitat of Borneo’s wildlife. Unfortunately, the Kinabatangan is one of the last refuges with primary and secondary forest, which is why we were able to spot so much wildlife.