Day 10 – Sandakan
We had some tasty lunch, went for a wander and adopted an Orang-Utan. There is a UK company that works together with the SORC in rehabilitating the Orang-Utans. Usually it’s baby Orang-Utans whose mothers have been poached and the babies have been found in poor health, so they are brought back to the centre where they are cared for and taught by other Orang-Utans (with human assistance) how to live in the wild, and over a number of years are slowly released back into the wild. The adopt-an-Orang-Utan money goes towards things like Vets, Vaccinations etc. So I adopted a baby Orang-Utan called Chikita, ad every 6 months will receive photos and an update on how she is doing, as well as updates on how things are going at the centre in general.
After lunch time there was the afternoon feeding..this time I had a fully-charged camera battery. The afternoon feeding was much quieter than the morning, both in the tourist population and the Orang-Utan population. It was not as good for taking photos, but it was much more relaxed and pleasant. Being ‘amongst’ the Orang-Utans for a day really was fantastic, they are such beautiful animals!!
Day 11 – Sandakan
We booked a day trip for a wildlife cruise down the Kinabatangan River – something we had heard a great deal about from other tourists. We were collected from our hostel at around 11:30am and had a 2.5hour bus trip to get to the river, this also meant a 2.5hour bus trip back to the hostel in the evening. Word of advice – if you plan to go to the Kinabatangan, it would be better to do one of the overnight packages, rather than a day trip. Once at the river there was an hour to spend waiting for the cruise to start, so we found a nice peaceful spot to sit by the river and appreciate the serenity of the jungle/river environment.
The Cruise!!! About 10 of us were loaded into a long speed boat and we headed up the river with the aim of spotting wildlife. We looked and looked but didn’t see anything, then every now and then our boat driver would pull across to the riverbank to spot things he had seen..like a Pied Hornbill, a Monitor Lizard, a Macaque monkey, a Rhinocerous Hornbill. No idea how he could spot these things in transit, but we were grateful that he could! As the sun lowered in the sky, things became more interesting. There were three main highlights…
3. The Proboscis monkeys started to arise from their naps and head into the tops of the trees
2. We saw a wild Orang-Utan swinging through the trees. We were VERY lucky to see this, as they are such shy creatures, it is very rare to see them on these cruises.
1. A herd of Pygmy elephants came down to the riverside to much on some plants and play around. Again we were incredibly lucky to witness this, and unlike the Orang-Utan who swung off quite quickly because of our presence, the phlumps didn’t mind us at all. So for a solid chunk of time we just got to sit and watch and take photos at a distance of 5-10metres away. It was absolutely FANTASTIC!!!!!
Unfortunately though we had to leave at some point, so the boat driver started the engine and took us back to the starting point for a buffet dinner, and then our driver collected us, to bring us back to Sandakan.
So 5 hours worth of driving for a 2 hour wildlife cruise (all up we left at 11:30am and arrived back at the hostel at 10:30pm)…it was worth it for us and we saw some amazing things, but as I mentioned, it would be better as an overnight package.
Day 12 – Sandakan
Another early-ish start for a day trip out to Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary. I am in two-minds about the sanctuary, it is much more commercial and less natural than the Orang-Utan sanctuary, but at the same time, the monkeys still come to feeding time of their own free will and are not restricted to the sanctuary in any way.
One of the weirdest aspects, was that you had to drive through a palm oil plantation to get to the sanctuary. What happened was hat there were two brothers that own 1000acres of land and they were developing it into a plantation, when they came across the monkeys, they decided the reserve a portion of the land as a sanctuary for them, rather than destroy their habitat and kill them…good choice!
So as with the Orang-Utans, we attended two feeding times, but here there were two separate platforms, they were about 5km apart. The first platform wasn’t very nice as there was about a 5metre section of dry dirt and dead trees were they came to feed, where the second platform was very much on the edge of the jungle, so they could sit in the trees as they ate.
The proboscis monkeys are a bit funny looking, the male has a big, bulbous nose and basically a permanent erection, and the female also has a long-ish nose, but it’s upturned. The babies are SUPER CUTE!!!
At this sanctuary we got within 30cm of the alpha male who was just chilling out on the deck of the viewing platform, which was kind of crazy. He wasn’t at all fussed by our presence, and just let people get up close for photos while he watched us carefully.
So having had two full days of monkeys and some amazing wildlife sightings we felt happy that we had seen some amazing things and it was time to leave Sandakan for another new experience.
Travellers Tip – If you are headed to the Sandakan region to see the monkeys and the river, stay in Sepilok as it is more central to all the activities (it would have saved us 45 minutes of transit time each direction every day)