The rainforest is relentless in every way. Wildlife produce outstanding noises for 24 hours of the day that will keep you on your toes. We lived and breathed the rainforest lifestyle living with these incredible species for 3 days and 2 nights, I learnt a lot. No luxuries such as air con or fans as the heat beats down on you all over your body at every part of the day. It’s most tolerable at around 2am/3am when it cools down to a reasonable temperature. Our wooden huts with a metal roof ensured that when the rain down poured every night the noise would be deafening but it’s pure and real life. This is nature at its best and most rewarding.
We booked in with Uncle Tan’s Wildlife Tour who had their own patch along the Kinabatangan River and they had rave reviews at a very reasonable price. They don’t pull the wool over your eyes, they declare that you will be living in open huts with the wildlife who are able to join you for a kip or a chat. They pen in morning, evening and night safaris to scout for some familiar and unfamiliar wildlife. The dream of seeing Pygmy Elephants and Rhinos and thee consistently seen monkeys of varying types. Food is never short and the options available were incredible. This was a tour for anyone at any age and our group typified that.
As soon as we arrived we were straight to it, a night safari. As we entered the little boats with our guide Em, we quickly realised these guides absolutely love the rainforest and the wildlife. They were like the hawks of the river, staring at the bushes and trees either side of us. Suddenly they spot something which no can see as it is camouflaged amongst the shrubbery. As soon as you spot it they can write and read you an essay about what it is, where it lives, what it does, where it goes, how many of them etc. The knowledge is incredible and how they sight something so small or hidden is unbelievable. Earlier in the day the guide in our boat spotted an orangutan lazing in the tree as we got our boat to the camp, it took me about a minute to see it. On this night safari, little crocodiles were everywhere and are easily spotted as their eyes reflect with the flash light used by our guides. Monitor lizards were ever present but well hidden in the mud. If we could see this at night I wonder what the day would bring.
There was darkening clouds above and bolts of lightning could be seen in the distance as the guides warned us the rain will come and as soon as stepped in to our huts to get some sleep, bang! Rain came smashing down on the roof of our hut, great timing. If anything, this drowns out the noises from the crickets, frogs or anything else which makes your ears bleed at night. After a surprisingly reasonable night’s sleep, we were up early doors for our sunrise cruise along the river. I was particularly looking forward to what we would see in terms of wildlife but also the morning sun on the ripples of the river. It was very successful as we saw proboscis monkeys, the standard long tail macques which are known as the ‘jungle mafia’ and varying kingfishers.
Afterwards I booked myself in for a 3 aside football match with a few Dutch lads against some of staff. We done well scoring lots of goals but the heat and a lack of fitness (for me especially) took its toll and we lost. The searing heat was causing havoc on my body as I was dripping wet in sweat all over, so to conquer this I took a ‘local’ shower. Water as you can imagine in the rainforest isn’t in shortage but this also meant it wasn’t filtered. A combination of rainwater and river water meant I had a totally refreshing cold shower, shame that I was sweating ten minutes later. Having placed my clothes on the ledges outside my hut, I left them to dry from the sweat as I chilled out playing guitar around the campsite.
Next on the agenda for the day was a sunset safari on the river then a walk around camp at night, this was a last chance to see all the wildlife on our list. Fortunately, we saw some pygmy elephants at Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary the day before as they popped in for a feed, incredible moment. The chance of seeing them where we were was virtually zero but we could dream. The sunset safari produced some flying foxes, proboscis monkeys, storm storks, egrets and an eagle, but the photos of the sun and water were special. To be honest I was just relieved to get some wind in my face.
After we smashed dinner we prepared to get ready for the night trek but as I went back to my hut my t-shirt was gone! Emma and I checked underneath the hut but it was nowhere to be seen. Confused by this scenario I went and spoke to Otto (the main guide at the camp who is an absolute hawk on the river) and told him my t-shirt had gone missing. He replied with ‘Yep, same here. All my clothes have gone, the jungle mafia have taken them all so I have had to borrow some.’ The cheeky gits! I loved that t-shirt but we were warned they can take stuff if they wanted. It is nice to know that somewhere in that rainforest, a monkey is wearing and enjoying his new t-shirt. All I want is a picture.
The morning after we said our goodbyes to our new friends and switched details to keep in touch, we all knew we saw some great wildlife over the three days. In total, our group saw 60 different wildlife. We had some good laughs, got to know about each other’s home countries and greatly appreciated the guides who were with us. It was a great tour but all we kept thinking about on our return to Sandakan was air con, a shower and some western food. A fantastic trip with Uncle Tans which was beaming full of wildlife, had real rainforest living conditions, great tasty food and a lovely atmosphere. I would highly recommend this if you are about in Sandakan or Sepilok.