Hello all, so I'll just quickly introduce myself, my name is Will Berry and I have been out in Borneo now for about a month doing a bit of work for DiscoverBorneo. It's mostly office based so when Ritch, one of my friends from England came over to Borneo, it was a brilliant reason to go off to the jungle, so here is the tail of our trip.
Getting there was really very simple, just a very quick ride in the taxi to KK airport. We arrived, with just enough time for a quick coffee for breakfast. Then up up and away for the 40 minute flight to Sandakan. If you go try to get a window seat you can get some really good views of the jungle, again very simple to get out of the airport, internal flights really could not be simpler.
So out in to the blazing sun of Borneo again we were picked up from the airport and taken down to the pier for a fast speed boat journey up river, here we meet John who had just taken his yacht up river to have a little snoop around, he could not get that far apparently because of an overhanging power lines but his description of the river was definitively interesting. We could not wait to get started!!!
As we started to leave Sandakan bay we must have passed over a huge school of fish since they started to jump up out of the sea flying in all direction and then we were in to the Kinabatangan itself a really broad river, as you travel up you can see civilisation begin to disappear the villages get further and further apart, the jungle get thicker and the trees taller.
There was another group of five heading up the river with us, so we chatted about what we hoped to see and how we had come to be in Borneo. The guide was really friendly and always kept an eye out for wildlife thought he explained that most animals slept during the mid day heat, the speed of the boat was keeping us nice an cool however. Just before we reached the lodge the driver suddenly cut the power to the engines and there just beside the boat was a 3 meter Crocodile he was only there a few seconds but he was a very beautiful animal, this gave us some really high hope for what we would see in the evening.
Then we arrived at the Melapi Lodge here we were welcomed with a cool glass of juice and a simple buffet lunch, then off to our cabin, much better than I had been anticipating for the middle of the jungle air conditioning, and a lovely veranda on watch the sun setting over the river. They have a big central lodge where they serve food and then there a reasonably well stocked bar and very friendly staff, nothing nicer then a cold beer after a hard days animal watching.
So now on to the important bit seeing the animals, this is all done by boat, our tour only included an afternoon trip for about 2 hours, but you can book morning and night trips when your there, just make sure you take enough money ATMs are a little hard to come by in the jungle. In total we took 2 afternoon, 1 morning and night time tour. This was just about perfect for us but then again we did get very lucky.
The boats are traditional long boats with a fifteen horse power engine on the back, when full they can fit about 6 people sitting two by two and then there is the guide and the boat driver. They have plenty of life jacket which you can us or not depending on your preference. On our first outing we saw a small herd of pygmy elephants just down by the water our guide had in the pasted work for WWF and pointed out the radio collars around some of the elephants necks, they were meant to allow WWF to track their movement but apparently deep in the jungle they where next to useless !!! The only way is the more advanced but more expensive GPS tracking. We stayed with the elephants for about 10 minutes, time for everyone to get some good shots and just admire this creatures apparently the reason they so small is evolution.
The big elephants in Africa don't have to worry too much about their size since they just have loads of open space but in Borneo big elephants would find it just about impossible to move around the jungle, so they shrunk.
The next animal we encountered were the hornbills now I' am in no way a twitchier, really I love the undersea world being a marine biologist, but these are some really spectacular birds with their massive beaks, we saw in the space of five minutes 3 different types of hornbills .
So then we headed of down a small tributary that lead off the Kinabatangan river this is where the jungle closes in a bit more, and you really feel inside the jungle. There are loads of Macaques all over the place, travelling around in there troops, mothers carrying little babies and grooming each other all very cute.
Then we encounter the one bad thing about the trip, lots and lots of other boats, some sitting six people per row and having six rows, we nick named these boats busses, how any one got to feel the remoteness of the jungle on these things is beyond me. There were a load of other small boats there as well it was like a traffic jam, this was where I really appreciated our boat driver he just zoomed passed all these boats and head off far up stream. It turns out that the boats from Melapi Lodge try to leave about half an hour earlier than all the rest of the boats and are not as concerned about using a little more fuel, to get you back to the peace and tranquillity of the jungle thank you thank you thank you, it really was these little touches that made the trip so good. Having left the gaggle of tourist well in our wake we could proceed to get back to watching the jungle.
Next on the list was a bird that I think no one could fail to be amazed by, kingfishers, they have 7 or 8 different type in Borneo depending on who you speak to , but that's not the point they are just magnificent birds, a real startling blue offset by a really powerful and vivid orange very very beautiful and the look so elegant, when they dive for a fish great just great birds. Then there are the fly catchers very very fast birds all I ever saw was a small black blur but apparently that what it was ( this is why I'am not really a twitcher). Then we came upon some quite extraordinary bridges these where actually crossing points for the orangutans, built from donated Japanese fire hoses to allow orangutans to cross the river, they really don't like to get wet apparently. I really really wanted to see an orangutan in the wild but I was not going to get my hopes up, since they are so rare.
So we crossed under the bridges which was swarming with Macaques and pushed a little further up river we had been going for about two hours by now and the sun which had been clear in the sky when we set out was now rapidly sinking over the horizon, the guide and boat drive were happy to go on looking for wildlife a little bit long, which was lucky because then we saw the proboscis monkey, which you can only see here in Borneo. They were having great fun jumping from tree to tree with the massive long white tails and let's face it really ugly noses, then we made an about turn and headed for home, really very pleased with ourselves for getting a really impressive haul of animals first time out. So that is enough for now watch out for more about this trip later.