Kinabatangan River Adventure

Picture of Courtney and John in a boat.

Courtney and John.

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:

Picture of Afiq and Katie on the Kinabatangan River.

Afiq and Katie, in our first look at the Kinabatangan River.

Picture of Tanjung Jungle Camp.

The Tanjung Jungle Camp, with owner Afiq prepping the boat.

Picture of a flying cattle egret.

Egrets were a very common sight on the river.

Picture of flying brahminy kite.

This brahminy kite circled overhead several times.

Picture of long-tailed macaques.

The shores were absolutely crawling with long-tailed macaques.

Picture of proboscis monkey.

Late in the afternoon we spotted our first proboscis monkey!

Picture of rain forest.

Much of Sabah is now covered in oil palms, but some primary and secondary forest remains near the Kinabatangan.

Picture of red-faced langur.

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.

Picture of pig-tailed macaque.

A pig-tailed macaque. They’re common in Borneo, but fairly rare on this part of the Kinabatangan.

Picture of blue-throated bee-eater.

A blue-throated bee-eater.

Picture of four black-and-red broadbills.

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.

Picture of blue-eared kingfisher.

A blue-eared kingfisher. I’m not sure how they can have blue ears, but nonetheless, there it was!

Picture of buffy fish owl at night.

A buffy fish owl. This guy was wide awake, yet he didn’t seem to mind us at all.

Picture of civit.

This civit wanders the grounds of the jungle camp every night.

Picture of flying darter.

A darter, so named because it fishes by “darting” into the water.

Picture of monitor lizard.

This monitor lizard crawled right past the jungle camp.

Picture of crocodile swimming across the Kinabatangan oxbow lake.

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.

Picture of crested serpent eagle’s breast.

We were very fortunate to get a glimpse of this beautiful crested serpent eagle.

Picture of fisherman with net.

A local fisherman. Probably not the safest spot to stand, given the previous story. But a man’s gotta eat.

Picture of people walking to the Kinabatangan River.

Heading from the oxbow lake to the Kinabatangan proper.

Picture of oriental pied hornbill.

An oriental pied hornbill shows off its beautiful plumage.

Picture of kite.

Let’s go fly a kite.

Picture of jumping proboscis monkey.

Proboscis monkeys love to jump between the trees.

Picture of tree frog.

During our night walk we spotted this tree frog. I assume it was asleep.

Picture of stork-billed kingfisher.

A stork-billed kingfisher, the biggest kingfisher in Borneo.

Picture of man cutting a tree with a chainsaw from a boat on a river.

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.

Picture of boy loading boat with palm oil.

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.

More photos from the Tanjung Bulat Jungle Camp

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