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Sloggs' Travel Blog A journal of my travels in 2008 & beyond...

Uncle Tans jungle camp, Kinabatagan

MALAYSIA | Thursday, 6 March 2008 | Views [4668] | Comments [2]

Out on the Kinabatagan River from Uncle Tans on safari

Out on the Kinabatagan River from Uncle Tans on safari

At 6am on Thursday morning we woke to go on our river safari along the Kinabatagan river. I did not sleep well, partly due to not having a pillow, despite my efforts to roll one of the thin mattresses into one, and partly cos I am rubbish at sleeping! I had a strong coffee after a wash in cold water to try and wake up.

We all got kitted up with life jackets and boarded the boats about 6:30 and set off. The ride out from camp was superb, ducking under tree branches and weaving through the jungle to reach the river. The guys driving the boats were superb and they amazed us every time with spotting the wildlife! These guys could see birds, butterflies and monkeys in the trees from 100 meters sometimes, and I still struggled with some of them from 2 meters! Lol. They would spot wildlife, maneuver the boat into a great spot to view and (where possible) switch off the engine so we could sit and observe and take pictures. My camera isn't really very good for wildlife photography, as it only has a limited zoom, but all the guys with their huge lenses were loving it!

We saw plenty of Proboscis monkeys in groups in the trees, which are a strange beast with their big red hanging nose. The guide said they use it to attract a mate, but also as a snorkel when they swim! Apparently they are excellent swimmers, and at one point we witnessed one jumping quite deliberately into the water below before climbing back up into the tree. We also saw plenty of Hornbills, eagles and storks, along with butteflies and Macaque monkeys. We did not catch glimpse of any Orangutans though.

After two hours out on the river we sped back to camp, being careful to avoid the huge logs (or log-a-diles as we named them in the absence of any crocodile sightings!) that float down river at speed from the jungles above.

We had a good breakfast and some coffee, the fried bananas they make are gorgeous!

At 10:30 we left for our jungle trek. The normal area was too wet, so we took a boat ride out to a less used area and were planning to walk for a couple of hours and then have the boat meet us. We didn't see a huge amount of wildlife on this trek, as the floods still kept the wild pigs etc at bay. We saw plenty of cool insects, like giant millipedes and centipedes, plus the guide gave us lots of info on the plants and fungi, some of which we tried out for flavour. We did see lots of leeches though, tiger leeches, which reach out from leaves from ground level to waste height trying to grab a passing host to feed on. One of the guys in our group, Gavin, was an expert at collecting these and ended up with 7 or more on him during the walk, he even found one on his butt when we got back to camp, lol!

We saw lots of elephant poos, which the guide (Reme) said were a few days old, so we were unlikely to see any of them, but they do frequently sight them out here.

Near to the end of our walk it started raining again, and we found a small stream to cross, which Reme went into first to see how deep it was. It came up to his waste. We didn't really have another route, so I went first after Reme and walked through the cold water and scrambled up the very slippery bank the other side, nearly falling in to the stream with my day bag and camera on my back! Everyone got across ok, apart from Duncan who found a really deep hole on the crossing, and he went in up to his chest. Reme leapt to help him out and found an even deeper hole and completely disappeared from view under the water! He came up spluttering and once we'd got him out we all had a good laugh about it. After emptying our boots of water, we found the end part of our trail and waited for the boat, which should have already been there.

Reme went off to find the guy and the boat, and we waited in the now fierce down pouring by the river bank. After a little wait they turned up and we climbed in and headed back to camp to dry off and have lunch.

In the afternoon the staff all jumped in the water next to camp, where they normally play football, and played their own brand of volleyball/piggy-in-the-middle, which was quite entertaining. We relaxed around camp and around 16:30 greeted todays new arrivals with made up stories of crocodile attacks etc...

At 17:00 we went out for our afternoon boat trip around the oxbow lakes in the surrounding area. Because of the rain we didn't see lots of wildlife, but did catch more Proboscis and Macaques and a few birds again. We also caught a glimpse of a salt water croc in the water near the bank, but as we turned the boat to go back it disappeared down into the water and refused to come back up...

After dinner we were due to go on our night time jungle trek to find spiders, scorpions and insects, with maybe a lucky sighting of a snake. I didn't have lots of enthusiasm for this particular trek, but thought it would be a waste to not go, and would be especially gutted if they came back with great stories of thier sightings! The girls from our group elected to stay behind and drink beer, so myself, Gavin, Duncan, Geoff and another guy from the other group all went out around the back of camp with Reme. This time I knew it would be in water most of the trek, so I wore my swimming shorts and some little rubber slip on shoes from the camp, and took my headtorch (bought days before in Sandakan luckily).

This turned out to be the highlight of the trip! No sooner had we walked around the back of the staff quartes on camp, had we spotted a salt water crocodile about 8 meters in front of us, in the water that we were now stood in, up to our knees! We all froze and pointed our torches at it, and could see about a meter of it, from its nose to behind its head. Reme estimated it was about 2 meters or maybe a little more. Its eye glowed brightly with our torch light on it. After a few seconds it went under the brown water! We all stood and looked at Reme, who looked very relaxed and kind of shrugged his shoulders at us, not quite the response I was hoping for! Then the croc came back up, in the same spot and started moving around us in a big semi-circle. We decided to move back to the camp, the way we had come. Once back near camp we all wanted to do a little more of our night trek, so we went out behind camp in the other direction, all keeping a beady eye out for the croc in the water! On the way back to camp I felt something touch the back of my leg and moved away, only for it to touch me again. I shouted that something touched me and looked round to see a deadly log-a-dile bobbing in the water!! Obviously this was met with some hilarity, especially considering the crocodile viewing previously... I consider myself lucky to have survived such an horrific attack however! ;) During the afternoon trip we saw a huge log-a-dile in the the river, which was actually shaped like a croc, lol. The bloody picture failed to upload onto photobucket though, so I'll have to sort that later.

Out the back of the camp we walked straight into the path of a mangrove snake, a beautiful black and yellow striped venomous snake, which Reme confirmed as a pretty rare sighting lately. We saw 2 species of scorpion, 6 frog species, 2 lizards and a common huntsman spider. We couldn't find the Borneo blue tarantula unfortunately, and they are only found here in this region of Sabah. We didn't stay out long, as the croc being an ambush predator, was not a favourable companion.

Back at camp news of our sighting spread fast, and the bossman from the office was in camp tonight too, who wanted to know more about it... Reme asked us before we got back to camp to say that we spotted it first, as if he spots one he is not supposed to tell the visitors, but just move quietly away from it... The other night trek group came back to camp, having gone in a different direction, having only seen a couple of scorpions and hundreds of leeches, lol!

We had a few beers to celebrate our bravery before bed, and were dude to get up early again for another morning river safari, offered to us as we hadn't been lucky enough to spot an Orangutan on our treks as yet. We gratefully accepted the offer! I had someone take a group photo of the guys that spent the whole 3 days together, which came out well. We all swapped email addresses too, and I hope to catch up with Gavin and Gail in New Zealand for a beer! :)

The next morning we got up at 6am again, this time I had slept a bit, probably helped by the beer. The water had risen further still and was now close to the bottom of the huts. At least we were leaving this afternoon, so we wouldn't be sleeping on a floating mattress tonight!

The morning safari did not produce an Orangutan sighting unfortunately, but was equally as good as yesterdays for Proboscis, Macaques and big birds.

After breakfast we packed our bags and said a fond farewell to the staff at the camp and climbed onboard the boats for our last trip on the river, which was uneventful and wet!

We said goodbye to Duncan and Kate, who were heading off for KK, and the rest of us shared two minibus rides down to Semporna to do diving (snorkeling in my case) and where I was going to meet back up with Andy, the chap from little stoke.

Marsha and I shared a room at the dragon inn, where Gavin and Gail also stayed, a stilted hotel in the sea in this dull port town. I met with Andy and booked a snorkeling trip for tomorrow, had a few beers and slept really well in the super-comfy bed compared to Uncle Tans!

The jungle camp and experience was fantastic, I'd recommend Uncle Tans to anyone that came this way, the staff were superb fun to be with, made you feel at home and were great on the treks etc. I could have easily stayed there longer!

[I still have issues with photobucket at the moment, so you can see some of my pictures on facebook here instead for now.]

Tags: animals, jungle adventures




Is he really your uncle?

I'd have made my own logadile when I saw the crocodile mind.

  Woody Mar 13, 2008 4:18 AM


Sounds like you did have a lucky escape from that log-a-dile!

  Jo Mar 13, 2008 10:05 PM

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