The Kinabatangan River Cruise in Sandakan3/4/2013
A couple of weeks ago I decided to take a trip out to Sandakan for a bit of adventure and exploration. I really didn’t have any booked plans. I read about some famous sites like the Orangutan Sanctuary and a river cruise online. A 5 hour bus trip later, I arrived in the small downtown city of Sandakan. That night I decided to book the 2D/1N Kinabatangan River Cruise. I am very happy with that decision.
The Kinabatangan River is a protected river system famous for Proboscis Monkeys (only found in Sabah) and the highly endangered wild Orangoutang’s. In addition, Hornbill’s, Sea Eagles, Owls, Monitor Lizards, and Macaque Monkeys inhabit the trees while you can sometimes find Water Buffalo and Elephants on or in the water (If your REALLY lucky). The elusive crocodile patiently awaits any animal clumsy enough to swim alone in the river, including humans!
The Day Time
We arrived at the Kinabatangan River basin around mid-day. After an hour to go over details, drop belongings in the rooms, and have time for a quick cup of coffee, we were off on our first cruise of the day.
Is there any doubt who the king is of this family?
The site is lush with animal activity. We must of been in the boat all of 5 minutes before the guide pointed out the first group of Proboscis Monkeys. The dominant male is the one with the huge nose and can be quite shy. However on this cruise, he was gloating like a fat king. In addition, we were lucky to find a wild male Orangoutang relaxing in the tree-tops. Apparently they are quite a rare sighting as about 99% of the sights occur at or near the Orangoutang Sanctuary in Sepilok.
The Orangutan is hard to spot and photograph.
The day cruise was a relaxing 2 hour journey through the river and channels. My favorite animals to watch were the Macaque Monkeys. There always seems to be some drama with their clans, and we watched one cornered monkey fearlessly jump from the top of the trees into the river below. A 100 foot plummet that this particular monkey lived to tell about!
Lining up for the jump!
Towards the end of the cruise we saw many different types of native Sabah birds. The Rhinoceros Hornbill is truly a majestic creature. Their bright yellow-orange features stick out like a sore thumb in the green tree tops. They are quite loud as well, sounding like a vuvuzela during the South African World Cup.
The Majestic Hornbill of Sabah
To properly view the Kinabatangan River you need to see the nocturnal creatures. Here, we found Owls a-plenty! I had never seen an Owl in the wild before. They can be extremely elusive and are well camouflaged. The giant spotlight was easily able to capture many perched Owls, silently awaiting their next meal. Unfortunately, they tend to fly off once their cover has been blown.
Nighttime brings out the many unique sounds of the jungle. Insects, birds, monkeys, and fish create a beautiful harmonic tune on any given evening. One just needs to stop and listen to feel the essence of the rainforest. I loved the scavenger hunt of seeing what we can find in darkness.
In addition to Owl, we found a few of the day time creatures sleeping. This particular Fly catching bird pictured below, is quite a deep sleeper. We were able to get within a few feet of him before he finally awoke. Even then, I think he was a bit too dazed and confused to figure out what was going on. This bird was very photogenic on this particular night and did not fly away from our presence.
Is it daylight yet? I’m confused!
I loved this cruise and all the amazing animal life in the area. We searched all night for the apex predator of the river, the crocodile. However, we could not spot a single one during the 2 hour night cruise. That was until we reached base camp. Lurking maybe 200 meters from my accommodation, this beast awaited any small prey foolish enough to venture in his territory!
I can only hope one day, this young crocodile will be big enough to take down the largest of prey in the Kinabatangan River!
The Kinabatangan River Cruise was a joyous experience for me. The sights and sounds on quite a few occasions left me awe-struck. I didn’t find much to do in the city of Sandakan itself, but there are many great activities outside, like this cruise.
Additional Pictures from the trip below.