Days 10-11: Only in Borneo: exploring the Kinabatangan River

Cruising on the Kinabatangan and its tributaries

Cruising on the Kinabatangan and its tributaries


Kehan and Owen scouting for monkeys at the front of the boat.

On day 10, we all probably didn’t have to set an alarm since we woke up from the loud noise of the rain falling onto the cabin roofs. Like the day before, the sky didn’t seem to clear up and the rain just intensified the humidity. It was exactly how the rainforest would have been described to someone who didn’t know what it is: humid, green, and full of noises from animals that we have never seen before.

The main activity today was to see animals and plants on the river cruise that took us on small boats down the river.
We were about 16 in each long but narrow metal boat and protected by rain coats and armed with cameras and phones to document the experience, we started with the cruise.
Since we had already learned some things about Proboscis monkeys during the orientation days before the actual field academy, I already knew how they looked like which made it easier to look for them.
Proboscis monkeys are endemic to Borneo and can be easily identified because of their very large nose. Since the number of existing Proboscis monkeys is decreasing because of their habitat loss, which we talked about during our days at TRACC, they are totally protected by law in every region in Borneo.

In the first few minutes of the cruise, we didn’t really see anything, mainly because we had cruised a rather large river with a lot of boat traffic and loud noises from the motors.
But as we went more towards the jungle, the river’s branches started to become narrow and we started to see untouched nature.
The most impressive thing we saw that day was a tree full of Proboscis monkeys next to another tree with a huge amount of Long-tailed Macaques. They are both very easy to differentiate between each other since the Macaques are smaller and have more of a grey fur.
It was also very interesting to see the difference of their behavior and attitude towards us, the group that could not stop to rave about the monkeys’ babies.
Compared to the Macaques, the Proboscis monkeys were very calm and they looked heavier or slower even though they showed multiple times that a jump between tree branches was not a challenge at all for them.
Macaques seemed to be rather aggressive and our river guide told us multiple times, that they are known amongst the locals to be naughty, and always on the hunt for some human leftovers. Some were telling that they heard them dancing on the roof at night, or that they stole their slippers.
The river cruise allowed me to see animals that can be only seen in Borneo and it was totally worth it to cruise in the warm rain to experience this part of nature where animals and plants, not humans, rule.