Monday, 1 September 2014

19th August - Day 11; Sepilok & Kinabatangan River, Sabah, Borneo

We had to leave the island at 6:30, so it was another early start, and as we made our way down to the beach and the boat, the sun was just rising.  

Just outside the chalet were a pair of Tabon Scrubfowl, now only found on islands such as these, they look like a smaller peafowl, with that distinct dinosaur appearance, and long scaly legs

The beach was covered in turtle tracks, and it had been a very good night with 16 nestings.  A Brahminy Kite cruised the beach are, obviously looking for any stray and straggling baby turtles.

We left the island behind us and headed back to the jetty at Sandakan.

Arriving we had a pleasant breakfast and chance to take in the view around the waterfront. Fishing boats were out on the water.

A Striated Heron joined then as well, standing motionless on a post just off from the jetty.

As we waited for others to join us to set off to Sepilok, a pair of White-bellied Sea Eagles drifted over.

And an Asian Glossy Starling shared a perch with a Chinese Dragon.

We were going to the Orang Utan re-habituation centre at Sepilok to see the feeding time of the semi wild Orang Utans.  It was hot when we arrived and after going through some complicated administration we were off along the trail.  We stopped on the way to look at a couple of Pit Vipers that were too dark to photograph, and finally made it to the platform where a pair of adolescents were already waiting for the fruit to arrive.

At this time of yer there is a lot of natural food available around the reserve so the numbers was not that high, and eventually two more arrived.  We watched with all the other visitors as the apes ate and played with each other.

This is a rehabilitation centre, and the apes are free to roam in a huge area.  These are "teenagers" and as a result they can be inquisitive and naughty.  The set up though does have the feel of a zoo about it as you watch them feeding on the platform, but they have to get money in some how to fund the project.

Movement in the tree above the feeding platform turned out to be a Borneo Black-banded Squirrel.  It would seem this is a regular spot for this animal, probably taking advantage of the fruit left by the apes.

Leaving the platform we walked back along the boardwalk.  Butterflies would settle on the warm wood and surrounding vegetation.

We came across an Orang Utan in a tree close to the path, and then a little further on, one climbed up on to the walkway, and we were told to back away as it was a renowned "naughty" ape that would try and take something from you.  Finally we managed to get past safely, and returned to the entrance.  At the entrance another lovely butterfly caught my eye.

Almost everywhere there were these white flowers, they are called a White Spider Lily and are very delicate to look at.

We were now off to see the Sun Bear project.  Malaysian Sun Bears are the smallest bears, and as a result when they are about 3 - 4 months old they are the size of a teddy bear, and taken illegally as pets, but by the time they are 12 months they have strong claws, and sharp teeth, and are either set out to the wild where they cannot survive because they have not been taught y the mother, or they are kept in a small cage, which is clearly not the life for a bear.  
About the size of a German Shepherd dog, they have a distinct buff marking under the on the throat and neck.  This project looks too prepare these young bears for life back in the jungle, but it also gives you the chance to see them close up.

The whistle stop tour continued, as we made our way back to Sandakan to catch the boat to Kinabatangan River, and our lodge.  We left from the smaller jetty as opposed to the previous one we had just arrived on due to the tide, and headed off in the opposite direction from yesterday, past more islands

As we turned into the river mouth the sea turned brown from the silt brought down by the river.  We made our way upstream manoeuvring around logs that were being washed down stream.  

Sungai Kinabatangan is Sabah's longest river (and Malaysia's second longest).  The combination of the words Kina - China, and Batangan - large river suggest that there was a Chinese settlement on the banks originally.  The river is home to much flora and fauna, and is the only place in the world where you can see ten species of primate with four (Silvered, Maroon and Hose's Langur, and Proboscis Monkey) being endemic to Borneo.

Unfortunately though palm oil plantations encroach on the river, which is now but a corridor for the wildlfe on either side of the river banks.  This area will continue to remain vulnerable to the threat of deforestation, and will need to be named a national park to prevent this happening.

Great Egrets patrolled the edge of the water, and Brahminy Kites flew above the trees.  We stopped once for the chance to photograph a Lesser Adjutant Stork, I had seen one before in Sri Lanka, but the picture was lost.

There were plenty of Great Egrets about, with flocks flying up river.

And single birds taking advantage of the floating logs to fish from, or just ride the waves.

We had a short stop for lunch before heading back up river again.  Blue-eared Kingfishers, and Blue-throated Bee-eaters joined the egrets and swallows over the water.

The sky was getting darker and darker, providing quite a dramatic view as we struggled to avoid the flotsam that was floating down stream.  

As we finally arrived at the lodge it started to rain, and the rain got harder and harder with thunder and lightning.

We settled in, and I was not happy, we were only here for the night leaving early in the morning, the rain looked set to last, and if it didn't stop there would not be a cruise this evening.

By 16:15 it looked brighter, and 16:25 it had stopped and there was blue sky, so we set off across the river, stopping almost as soon as we started for a pair of Oriental Pied Hornbills.

We turned off on to a small tributary, following several other boats very soon we stopped for this Green Crested Lizard.  This is the Borneo equivalent of the Chameleon, as it can change body colour to suit the background within which it finds itself.

Another lizard that could be seen on both sides of the river, and even on trees in the middle was the Monitor Lizard.  These are quite happy swimming, and can grow up to two metres in length, the huge tail accounting for a lot of that length.  This one was relatively small in comparison, about a metre long.

A group of Long-tailed macaques were climbing through the darkest part of the trees and impossible to photograph, but across the river from the macaques there was a group of Proboscis Monkeys, with this male presiding over his family group.

Next up was a Yellow-ringed Cat Snake, or Gold-ringed Cat Snake, or Yellow-ringed Mangrove Snake depending on your book .  It is apparently mildly venomous, but with extremely sharp and long fangs which deliver a very nasty bite.  As we watched it on the tree branch above us it was moving its tongue out, clearly sensing the heat around it.

A small dark bird flew overhead there was a white spot on the wing, and I immediately knew what it was, a Dollarbird.  It is one of those birds you see in the books, and hope to see but don't.  I thought I might see them in India and Sri Lanka, but didn't, so I was pleased to find this one. 

There were in fact two, with them high in the tree against the white sky photography is difficult, but you can make out the blue colour, and the white dot on the wing that gives them their name.  They are in fact members of the Roller family.

A little further along we came across the other macaque in the area a Pig-tailed Macaque.  Slightly bigger than the the long-tailed its tail though is much shorter and pig like!

Crows are not common birds in Borneo, where in India and Sri lanka House Crows are everywhere humans are, here in Borneo you will only find crows in the jungle.  These are Slender-billed Crows.

Where there is water in Asia you will usually find the Oriental Darter, or Snakebird.

The cruise then kind of petered out with the failing light, There were more views of Macaques getting ready for bed, grooming each other on the thin branches of the trees

and on the ropes that span the river.

As the sun finally set on a very busy day we made our way back down the tributary.

For evening dinner we were all asked to wear sarongs, which I must admit was quite nice, so maybe David Beckham did have something after all.

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