When I look back through the photos from our second day in Sandakan, I am totally blown away at how much we packed in. The day started early with breakfast at the lodge on Selingan Island, part of the Turtle Islands Park. After breakfast, we got back on the boat and headed for Sandakan.
We arrived in Sandakan and hopped in our van to make the drive out to Sepilok, where we planned to visit the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center. We arrived just before the reserve opened so had a quick look at their visitor’s center before heading into the sanctuary. Because the orangutans there are free ranging, we were not allowed to bring any bags, food, sunscreen, etc in with us, as many tourists have had their belongings taken by the orangutans, and this can be dangerous for both the tourists and for the apes themselves (they are great mimics, and so if they see someone using spray sunscreen, for instance, they may steal it and try to use it on themselves and get it in their eyes, etc). We were able to take cameras in, but were warned not to get too close while taking photos. Our guide Zali told us a cautionary tale of a previous client that had lost his brand new iPhone to a curious orangutan, and when he finally got it back it was not in usable condition. Apparently, however, he was quite impressed with the damage the animal had managed to inflict in such a short period of time, and he brought the broken phone home with him and had it framed as a souvenir and hung in his living room.
Once inside the reserve, which rehabilitates orphaned orangutans, we were able to spend some time observing several young ones in the nursery play area. Afterwards we watched as food was set out on a feeding platform, and several of the older orangutans came to check it out.
After our visit with the orangutans, we had a short 50 meter walk to our next destination, the newly opened Sunbear Conservation Center. I admit to knowing pretty much next to nothing about the Sun Bear before our visit, having only seen one previously at the Singapore Zoo. They really are quite fascinating creatures and super cute also. Oliver was immediately smitten and spent most of our visit looking through the book that listed all of the bears at the conservation center, reading their stories and looking at their pictures. Of course we saw a few of the real bears as well, and future visitors will be able to see even more, as they are currently working to build a new viewing platform that will allow visitors to view bears that are currently out of sight. The photo below shows Ah Bui, Oliver’s favorite sun bear.
After our time with the sun bears, it was time to get back to the jetty and back on board the boat, as we needed to head to that night’s accommodations, which were about a 2 1/2 hour journey up the Kinabatangan River. The first portion of the trip took about an hour, after which we stopped for lunch at the Abai Jungle Lodge. The staff at the lodge were super welcoming and friendly, and the food was great. The boys enjoyed having a break from the boat, and lounging on the hammock chairs on the riverside deck.
After our respite, we got back in the boat to complete the rest of the journey to the Kinabatangan River Lodge. On our way up the river, we spotted several large salt water crocodiles. Like, really, really, big. I was glad we were in a big and fast boat, but they were cool to see! After arriving at the lodge, we settled into our treetop chalet where we would spend the night. We had some free time, so I decided to do a little bit of laundry, washing clothes in the sink and hanging them out on our balcony to dry. Before too long I noticed a racket coming from just outside, and peered out the window to discover that a troop of monkeys had come to check out the laundry I’d set out. They were extremely curious about the new items and spent a long time walking all over them, rifling through the various pieces of clothing. Luckily, they eventually left and did not take any clothes with them.
After our break, we headed up to the main lodge for a snack (freshly made doughnuts, I think Eli ate about 10) and then got on a new, smaller boat for a trip up the Menanggul River, one of the nearby tributaries running into the Kinabatangan River. This trip was a bonus- I hadn’t even realized we would be doing a river cruise, but it turned out to be one of the coolest things we did on the whole Borneo adventure. We saw so many amazing animals- troops of monkeys- long tail and pig tail macaques right down at the river’s edge and proboscis monkeys high in the trees. There were interesting birds as well, and some species of bee that built a HUGE nest. We also saw warning signs about a “King Crocodile” that lived in that section of the river, but luckily we did not meet him. Our guide Zali was again amazing…he and the boat driver were super talented at spotting the animals, and Zali again provided lots of information about each species as we encountered them.
We finished our river trip just as dusk was creeping in, and again I was glad to have not met that crocodile. We enjoyed a buffet dinner at the lodge (which was decorated for Christmas) and then retired to our chalet in the treetops for a well deserved rest after an extremely busy day!