Borneo: The Jungle Book – Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

As evening descended on the Kinabatangan river, we took a detour into a nearby lake which was huge and beautiful, arriving just in time for sunset. This diversion took us into the “proper” rainforest which forced us to duck under branches and knock back plants as our boat chugged through the low hanging jungle. On our way back, we spotted more macaques and proboscis monkeys, looking as bizarre as ever with their giant beer bellies and stonking great noses.

As we headed back to Osman’s, we stumbled across our first and only orang-utan of the boat trips, though we had to use the binoculars to see it since it was hiding in a gigantic tree. It was pretty big and stayed put so we could have a good look. One of the elephants seemed to get jealous that the orang-utan was getting all the attention though and paraded out of the reeds to try and hog the limelight. I’m not sure what bizarre landscape this where your response to an elephant making itself known is, “Oh look another one”.

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Spot the orangutan…

After admiring yet another spectacular rainforest sunset and having a bite to eat, we headed out on our most adventurous boat cruise yet – the night time one. I had no idea what to expect and genuinely thought we’d be unlikely to see very much (hence the lack of pictures as I didn’t take my camera). How wrong I was!

The fantastic thing about the night trip was that we were practically the only boat on the river so the jungle was giving us a personal show. Osman was adamant he’d be able to catch us a crocodile and he didn’t disappoint. The trick is, he explained, to go for the back of the head since this prevents them snapping at you. Unfortunately, he mistimed his catch and got the tail meaning he had to ham-fistedly release the (admittedly small) crocodile into the boat. This obviously prompted much hysterical screaming and jumping up from our party though things eventually calmed down and we all got a go holding the crocodile before returning it to its home which was fun.

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My only snap.

We found several more crocs, each increasing alarmingly in size, but our safari wasn’t just limited to reptiles. Osman’s insanely good vision found us owls, flying foxes, some sleeping kingfishers and a civet cat, best known for its role in Vietnam’s renowned ‘weasel coffee’. This was extraordinary since I’d never even seen most of these creatures before, let alone got up close to them. The night setting made us feel more like explorers, as if we were stumbling across things nobody had ever found before. It wasn’t true of course but, as mentioned in the earlier post, there was something so childlike about us sitting in that boat with no idea of what incredible species we were going to stumble across next.

As with the daytime trips, it was almost certainly the elephants who stole the show though. There were still a dozen or so grazing in the reeds and Osman proceeded to, between singing, let out dog noises to try and get a response. The elephants played their part perfectly, letting out a medley of trumpets I’ve only ever heard in movies before. The sound of the elephants’ hoots echoing through the pitch black rainforest is something that will stay with me forever. Truly, it was an awe-inspiring experience.

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It’s a trek to get to but if you do one thing in Sabah, please do this. I’ve run out of adjectives to describe how good it was. There is not a single sanctuary or zoo I have visited that can compare even in the slightest to seeing these animals in the jungle where they belong. In fact, I daresay I won’t visit such a place again. Because it doesn’t matter where I go, the greatest zoo on earth or the best sanctuary as voted for by TripAdvisor, nothing will get my spine tingling quite like the wonders of the Borneo jungle.

To get in touch with Osman and arrange a few nights at his homestay, you can contact him or his wife Yanti on Whatsapp on +60 19-841 5259.

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