I hop on board a small passenger vessel at Sandakan on the east coast of Sabah and head across the Sulu Sea to the mouth of the wild Sungai Kinabatangan, the longest river in Sabah.
This is the famed Borneo jungle that I had flown from another continent to explore – an area now protected from the progress of agriculture and palm oil.
This is the domain of the deadly pit viper, the elusive clouded leopard, the Malay civet and the always popular pygmy elephant.
We journey up the deep brown river that’s surrounded by thick lush vegetation, for what seems only moment when I exclaim with much excitement, “There’s a monkey.”
I had spotted my first wild animal – sitting high in the trees.
My guide, Dean, who prefers to be called by his surname Nexter, scrambles for his binoculars to take a closer look.
This wasn’t a monkey – it was an ape.
But not just any type of ape; this was a famed orang-utan that can only be found in the jungles of Borneo and Sumatra – a glorious ginger beast that prefers a solitary existence, only coming together to mate.
Dean hands me the binoculars for a closer inspection.
The orang-utan is placed peacefully on the end of the branch surveying his surroundings.
I zoom in closer through the lens and to my incredible delight, there’s a juvenile waiting patiently for attention from his mother several branches below.
Dean explains that the young will remain under parental care until they turn six and then they’re on their own.
I had reserved two night’s accommodation at the award-winning Sukau Rainforest Lodge, an eco friendly set-up that provides comfort to travellers with a voracious appetite for adventure who want to explore and admire this astonishing region.
The 20 rooms within the complex are all named after noted conservationists and important individuals connected to Borneo.
I was lucky enough to be placed in the room where Sir David Attenborough stayed when he filmed a documentary on Sabah’s unique floodplain in 2011.
Sir David first visited the Kinabatangan in 1972 and was so impressed that he wrote, “Life on Earth is not evenly spread around our planet.
Borneo – the world’s third largest island – is one of its richest treasure houses, full of an immense variety of wild animals and plants, all living in a magnificent tropical forest.
“A vast area of this forest still cloaks the mountains, foothills and adjacent lowlands that stretch along the borders of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia.
This is the Heart of Borneo and all of us who value life on this planet should support the efforts of these countries to conserve it.
It is truly a world heritage and the world should respond to its needs.
“Like almost all such forests, it is threatened by being cleared or degraded, due to the economic and social pressures of life in the 21st century.
Unsustainable logging, clearance for agriculture and mining, and the increasing impact of climate change are all taking their toll.
Borneo is in danger of losing valuable ecosystems that are important to the survival of local communities and to the national economies of all three Bornean countries, as well as being a vital part of the global effort to combat climate change.”
In recent years, the authorities, recognising the importance of not only preserving the remaining rainforest from further destruction but also rehabilitating the environment that has been lost, created what is known as the Kinabatangan Wildlife Corridor, with the river at its heart.
Outside this corridor of life, the ever present palm oil plantations make for a stark reminder of the comparison between industry and the preservation of the habitat that so many fantastic creatures call home.
Labels: Borneo, Kinabatangan, Sukau