Monday, January 24, 2011

On the Kinabatangan River: Part 1

As I mentioned earlier, the wild Borneo I had envisioned doesn’t really exist anymore, but the wildest area I visited was the Bilit Rainforest Lodge on the Kinabatangan River. The river is a hotbed for wildlife and many indigenous and endangered animals can be found along the river bed like the proboscis monkey, orangutans, crocodiles, hornbills, and even the pygmy elephant (which unfortunately I did not get to see). If you are an avid wildlife fanatic and want to see all the animals Borneo has to offer you really need to stay there and trek in the jungle for weeks maybe even months on end. However, most tourists do not have that kind of time so some may be lucky enough to see a pygmy elephant or a wild orangutan, but as I’ve said a million times before, these are wild animals so it is luck of the draw. Of course there are certain factors that make it more likely to spot wildlife, one of them being a great and cooperative guide. My dad and I certainly did not have that. Our guide from Amazing Borneo was not only uninformed about the local wildlife, but he was lazy and did not want to take us out and was combative when we asked about trying to see certain animals. The Lodge we stayed at on the river is owned by the company Amazing Borneo and it is a perfectly nice lodge, but I would not recommend booking with their agency.
The lodge is situated right at the edge of the Kinabatangan River and can only be reached by boat. From Sandakan you drive into the jungle then get on a boat for a short trip down to the lodge. At the lodge you can view some local wildlife like the macaque monkeys and many interesting birds. The highlight of the trip is the boat safari down the river in search of wildlife. The lodge does not provide a guide on the boat, your guide is through the company you booked with, which was unfortunate for us because our guide was terrible, but the wildlife is spectacular. You can take two boats a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon in search of birds, monkeys, elephants, monitor lizards and crocodiles. The river is very interesting and you can see other villages and lodges along the riverbanks. At some points you can see the palm oil plantations coming almost right up to the water creating roadblocks of isolation for the animals as they can not live in the palm trees. To help rectify the situation the government has put up rope bridges high above the river for the orangutans and proboscis monkeys to use to cross the river. The monkeys can swim, but with dangerous and hungry crocodiles in the water it is a perilous journey.  Enjoy below my favorite images from along the river.  There are so many bird pictures that I've decided to dedicate a whole post to the birds of the Kinabatangan River so stay tuned for that next!


Fiona Orrman-Brown said...

Hi Rebecca, just wanted to compliment you on your photography in Borneo. My family travelled to Sandakan, Turtle Island & Sepilok & stayed at the Bilit Rainforest Lodge in April 2011. I was sorry to hear you did not have a good guide through Amazing Borneo, as the guide we had for the Bilit leg of our trip (3 nights just at Bilit) was named Bennie, and she was incredibly knowedgeable about the animals and the region. On every boat trip we did, she went out of her way to spot animals and give us opportunities to photograph them. Our experience at Bilit was that it was quiet, welcoming, comfortable, food was great & we would return in a heartbeat to have the same experience with Bennie as our guide. Best wishes, Fiona

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