Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Sungai Kinabatangan

So at the end of my last post we were sheltering from the relentless heat in the oasis that was the Rainforest Discovery Centre Exhibition Hall, from where we were picked up and driven a couple of hours deeper into the jungle, to a camp on the banks of the Kinabatangan river.

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We were taken to Nature Lodge Kinabatangan, where everything is geared around seeing see Borneo's flora and fauna in the wild. Over three days we went on four river safaris (two in the afternoon and two at actual dawn), a night hike and a three-hour trek through the jungle. We saw countless monkeys, birds, reptiles, insects and fish. We even came across a few critters just hanging (literally, you'll see) around the camp.

The animals were most lively during the afternoon river trips, as they made their way back to the banks to find a bed for the night.

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Water monitor lizard.

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Spot the kingfisher.

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More proboscis, yay!

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Hornbill.

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Gaaaah look at the little ones!

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For some reason this monkey was chased into the river and wasn't allowed to get out, poor thing. I'm not sure what a monkey has to do to be shunned like that, I guess maybe he stole their bananas, or slept in their nest, or weed on them or something. Maybe he just smelled really bad (badum tssshh).

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The dawn cruises were my favourite. It was all so quiet, with a hazy yellow light illuminating the mist rising off the water, which perfectly mirrored our surroundings. It was lovely to putter along, the sun rising behind us, pleasantly warming instead of burning our skin off as usual.

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But I found the jungle walk the most interesting, even if it was flippin' hot.

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We passed by a lake full of those little nibbly spa fish that eat the dead skin off your feet (yum) and stuck our hands in.

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It's a rather odd sensation, hence my expression.

And while we were there, Tom made a friend!

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(That was actually the second leech that 'befriended' him - he found the first actually under his shirt, wriggling up his chest, but unsurprisingly he got rid of it too quickly for me to take a photo. All very dignified of course. Hardly any screaming whatsoever).

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(Note how Tom's shirt is tucked in now...)

As if we hadn't already seen enough things with too many legs on the hike, when we got back to the camp our guide took us into the kitchen to see...this...

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Wtf?! Why do we even need things like that in the world?!

We didn't see very much at all on the night walk, but we managed to spot this little cutie.

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I know it looks like just another tree, but I promise there is something there. Two thirds up that branch in the middle is a red, yellow and black smudge - a bird asleep in a hole! Awwwwwwww!

A little tip for anyone going to Borneo, likely anywhere in Malaysia in fact, make sure you take mosquito repellent with you. I mean the super strength stuff that melts your nail polish, with at least 50% deet in it.  I didn't take any, assuming that I'd be able to get it in the nearest 7-Eleven like in Thailand, but it turns out...they don't sell it. Anywhere. So I was repellent-less in the jungle, and had to wear my only pair of trousers and my only long-sleeved top every single day while we were there. And on the night walk, I looked like this.

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(Flash is not my friend).

I'm a mosquito magnet and I already had about 60 bites from Sepilok, so I was taking no risks. As you would expect, I was practically microwaved under all that, so the next evening we decided not to go on another night hike. We'd already seen one sleeping bird and, as sweet as it was, I wasn't going to put myself through that again to see another one. Typically though, on the next night they saw loads more animals, including a Western Tarsier (like an actual Ewok), which I really wanted to see. But hey ho, I took the very last of the aubergine dish at dinner that night, so swings and roundabouts.

The food at the camp was fantastic, far better than I expected. It was really tasty and fresh and there was more than enough. And yeah, every mealtime there was something amazing with aubergines.

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Having survived our three days at the camp, it was time to move on. We'd heard about some nearby caves that sounded really interesting though, so we paid a bit extra to visit them on our way out.

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The Gomantong caves are home to countless swiflets, whose nests are harvested and sold in China for crazy amounts of money so they can make bird's nest soup (yeah, I know. Apparently it makes you immortal or something).

The swiflets aren't the only inhabitants though, the place is literally crawling with cockroaches and centipedes and spiders, like something from The Temple of Doom. There's also a hell of a lot of bat poo. Delightful! Seriously though, we really enjoyed it.

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Sorry.

Given how valuable the nests are, the cave has to be constantly guarded, so people actually live inside it for shifts of fifteen days! If your job ever gets you down, be thankful that it's not that!

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Skin crawling, we headed to the airport to catch a flight to Kota Kinabalu.

Next up - less bugs, more fish!

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