Sepilok Orangutans & Uncle Tans jungle camp
23.02.2013 - 27.02.2013
We recouperated in KK, hobbling around like a couple of pensioners as our thighs and calves made it clear that they did not appreciate us putting them through hell. We had to keep moving though or we'd seize up so after a good sleep we decided to explore one of the malls although we failed to realise until it was too late that the escalators only went up! We would have to take the stairs from the top floor all the way back down, which we only accomplished by clinging to the handrail and each other whilst laughing hysterically...it was either that or cry! Needless to say we got a few odd looks that day.
With Kinabalu ticked off the list it was now time to achieve another Borneo goal and find some Orangutans!
Uncle Tans Jungle Camp on the Kinabintang River had been recommended to us as a good place to spot wildlife and with their base in Sepilok we would also be able to visit the Orangutang sanctuary before we headed to the camp. Singing songs from the Jungle book we got a flight to Sandakan and then a short taxi ride to Uncles Tans base in Sepilok in time for lunch.
We had the afternoon to kill and as I was still exhausted that meant nap time but I didn't wake up till dinner! Woops. By this time Dan had met Ines a lady from Germany who would be joining us at the camp so we would be spending the next 3 days together. She was a great laugh and little did we know how adventurous our trip would be. There were only the 3 of us at the base which had a large sitting area so we wondered if anyone else would be turning up. After unsuccessfully trying to get the TV to work we spent the evening chatting away and trying to work out what was making this noise...
Turns out it was frogs! One of them had cleverly made its home in the drain which would make his call even loader to attract the ladies.
Next morning we were excited about going to Orangutan Rehabilitation centre, we hopped in the free shuttle from Uncle Tans and were soon walking through the jungle to the viewing platform in hope to see our ginger cousins. As it got closer to the feeding time the platform got more crowded and noisy despite the big signs saying 'SILENCE'. I found this quite frustrating as there is no guarantee that the orangutans would come and noise probably wouldn't help.....then the heavens opened and it tipped it down!!
We anxiously watched the jungle and waited, hoping the rain wouldn't put them off. Then we saw movement on one of the ropes...one was coming...everyone craned their necks trying to get the first glimpse...and then the disappointed sign as it was only a monkey!
More of his monkey mates came along and it was funny to watch the little ones jumping around.
Then there was a bigger movement on one of the ropes and we could see orange through the leaves and the rain...our first orangutan.
Soon more arrived and it was great to see how they used leaves to keep the rain off themselves.
It was amazing to see our first orangutans and watch the cheeky monkeys stealing their food. At one point one of the orangutans showed them who was boss deliberately taking hold of one of the ropes and shaking it till the monkeys fell off! It did feel a bit like looking at them in a wildlife park/zoo rather than in the wild and loads of people were using the flash on their cameras etc... This should not detract though from the fantastic and important work that the centre is doing by saving these young orangutans who have been orphaned through logging and deforestation or who have been illegally captured and kept as pets. It can take up to 7 years to rehabilitate a young orangutan!
We headed back to Uncle Tans and after lunch and a briefing we jumped in the mini vans for the hour drive to the Kinabantang River where we would transfer into boats for another hour to camp in the jungle! There were now 19 of us including two families that were holidaying together as well as some other back packers. Prepared for wet weather we split into three boats and headed up river.
It was beautiful along the river and we spotted egrets and hornbills along the way
We were then really lucky when one of the guides spotted an orangutan eating figs in a tree...this was more like it!
At camp we were introduced to Lan who was the head guide and very likeable character who did everything he could to ensure we had a fun stay at camp. He took us through a briefing of what to expect over the next couple of days from night safaris to walks in the jungle. He also told us that where we would be sleeping had no door or windows and the precautions we should take against rats looking for anything and everything to nibble on.
Once settled in and after a great dinner we were split into three teams named after the top animals people hoped to spot. The two families became team orangutan and team gibbon. We became team proboscis monkey along with Ines, Kat, Theo, Jennie and Jessica. Then it was to the boats for our first night safari on the river!
I was amazed at how the spotter could pick out wildlife along the river with his torch. Despite the rain we managed to see a baby crocodile, woaver spider, sleeping monitor lizard...
We also saw two types of king fisher...stork billed kingfisher and the blue eared kingfisher
It was possible to get right up close to them as they slept on their perches and oddly enough the light didn't seem to disturb them at all.
It was gone 10pm when we got back to camp and we would need to be up at 6am for our morning river safari to make the most of the wildlife waking up along the river. We definitely made sure the mosquito net was tightly tucked in when we discovered another roommate had checked in whilst we were out!
In the morning we discovered he had not been our only visitor. The rats had come in the night and eaten holes in both mine and Kats day bags (luckily we d left our big bags back at base). As we tried to recall if we had heard anything in the night Kat remembered that she had felt something near her head but thought she was dreaming...on closer inspection of her bed she discovered that a rat had in fact chewed a hole through the mosquito net to get inside to a bag she had kept under her pillow, and had munched on the incense sticks inside!! Eek!
After a quick cuppa we were back in the boats on the misty Kinabantang.
To begin with it was mainly birds that we saw from Bee-eaters to huge herons and even an eagle!
Then we had the treat of seeing Borneon Gibbons. After not seeing any gibbons on the gibbon experience in it was great to see how they swooped effortlessly through the trees.
Further up the river we saw yet another orangutan. Team Gibbon and Team orangutan had had a good morning but we still had not see a proboscis monkey so our team had yet to get our points!
Back at camp we had French toast for breakfast. Turns out 10am was footie time and the guides even turned up in the proper kit. As it had been raining in the night it was slippery but that didn't take away from the fun. As I wasn't playing I explored more around camp and spotted a huge monitor lizard climbing out of the tree in to the water that seemed to be slowly consuming the camp. After the game the boys cooled off in the river.
We then went on a jungle walk to look at the plants and bugs. We definitely were pleased we had rented their wellington boots as in places the mud came right up over your foot (if you're short that is). I've now forgotten the names of the plants which is not very useful! One of them was used to make rope that was really strong, so strong that even a crocodile would not be able to break it. Dan and Theo gave it a go but didn't succeed...
This is a Pygmy squirrel...so cute
A lantern bug
After lunch there was the option to spend the afternoon fishing on the river or chill out at basecamp before the next river cruise at 5pm to find the proboscis monkey. Not fancying 4 solid hours on the boat Ines and I decided to stay behind at camp and we were glad we did as it started to chuck it down as soon as the others left on the boat... camp was definitely going to get more flooded!
Ines spotted a black and red broadbill, with its amazing blue beak!
By the time we went to join them later in the afternoon the rain had stopped which was good. As the others were already up the river we jumped in a small boat and sped off to join them. Sitting at the front of the boat it felt a bit like being in a James Bond movie and the theme tune was going through my head when we came to a bend in the river. It was at this moment we saw another boat speeding towards us, I recognised Theo in the boat and was about to wave when I realised that any second we were going to have a head on collision!! Both boats swerved and managed to just avoid each other but our smaller boat couldn't cope with the sudden change in direction at speed and capsized!
Somehow my reflexes had kicked in and as I fell out the boat my hand shot up in the air to save the camera. Miraculously even though the rest of me went completely under the water the life jacket had enough buoyancy so my hand didn't go under and the camera survived! I was relieved when the other boat came back to us and dragged us in. It was only then that I could see that our boat had almost completely sunk and that the driver was still in the water with it, dragging it to the side of the river. Fortunately no one was badly hurt but Ines had not been so lucky with her camera.
Bedraggled and a bit disbelieving of what had just happened, it would have been so worse if we had collided and no one had been hit by a propeller or anything, we continued on to try and find the proboscis monkey!
We saw loads of them, although the male renowned for his huge nose eluded us!
Back at camp it was good to get out of wet clothes and have some warm food. We were meant to be doing a night jungle walk but after all the rain and 'excitement' of the day we all decided it would be better to have some beers and a singsong instead. It was a funny night Jennie and Ines lead us in a tribute to Madona, Dan got the crowd going with a rendition of Britany Spears "hit me baby one more time" and when he started to play U2 suddenly a mum from one of the families jumped up on the table and sang "With or without you" all the way through. The night got even more random when Lan produced a huge scorpion and tried to convince everyone to hold it. Knowing my recent luck I decided best to give that one a miss!
By the next morning the camp was really flooded with water and in places almost coming up to your knee. If it rained again I wouldn't be surprised if it came into our room. It was a bit unnerving walking through the water not knowing what might be in there and so I think it was good that it was our time to say goodbye to Uncle Tans.
It had been a fun couple of days with one or two unexpected surprises and definitely glad we went.
Huge thanks to the rest of Team Proboscis for making it so fun, was great to meet you all