The Kinabatangan River

Chart showing entrance waypoints

Chart showing entrance waypoints

We spent a week at Sandakan before moving on to the Kinabatangan river. The night before we left a huge storm swept across the anchorage causing some of the boats to drag again. There was so much rubbish on the sea bed the anchors couldn’t dig in properly. The pink area on this chart is rain, when it rains here it rains!! This chart also shows the waypoints and our route plotted across the sandbanks to the entrance to the Kinabatangan river. The entrance has a sandbar and lots of sandbanks, it looks like our route went over the shallows but we didn’t have less than a metre under our keel the whole journey on the high tide.

Jackster with Samsara II in the distance

Jackster with Samsara II in the distance

 

Our friends on Jackster followed us in and Samsara II were a little way behind them. Fortunately the convoy had broken up a bit, some of the catamarans had gone in a day or two earlier and some of the mono hulls were still in Sandakan waiting another day or two for a higher high tide.

 

 

Wildlife spotting on the bow

Wildlife spotting on the bow

 

 

I took up my position on the bow with my deckchair, sunshade and binoculars looking out for wildlife.

 

 

 

 

Chocolate brown river

Chocolate brown river

Ninah palms on the river bank

Ninah palms on the river bank

 

 

 

The Kinabatangan river is Sabah’s longest at 560km of chocolate brown water, it coils into the Borneo interior. There’s a narrow strip of rain forest trees that have lots of wildlife in it that flee ever-encroaching palm-oil plantations.   The scenery was beautiful not in a ‘chocolate box cottage’ kind of way but in a ‘Borneo rainforest’ kind of way.

Riverside scenery

Riverside scenery

 

 

 

 

Our plan was to slowly glide along and just stop whenever we saw something interesting. All along the river are different types of trees holding 100s of monkeys. We were able to get in quite close to the rivers edge; it was fairly deep.

 

 

 

Nudging the bow in close

Nudging the bow in close

Proboscis monkey

Proboscis monkey

 

 

 

 

There were Proboscis monkeys everywhere; the males have large pendulus noses. They leap from tree to tree, bush to bush.  We have lots of photos of them but here are just a few.

 

 

 

 

 

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SONY DSCThe three boats anchored together that evening and we all enjoyed a fantastic display of fireflies once it got dark. Our waypoint was

05º42.08N

118º21.63E

Waking up in the morning in the middle of a rain forest was magical. The silence was very noisy.

Fishing village

Fishing village

 

 

 

 

We got under way and continued our slow journey stopping whenever we caught sight of something in the trees.

 

Homestead

Homestead

 

Local woman doing the washing

Local woman doing the washing

 

 

We went past some homesteads. The little shed on the waters edge is a ‘long drop’ toilet. Then a bit further along the riverbank the ladies were washing their hair and their clothes, as they’ve probably done for centuries, and the children were swimming in the water.   The river flowed fairly fast so I suppose everything gets washed out to sea.

 

 

 

Local boys swimming

Local boys swimming

 

Local boys fishing

Local boys fishing

 

 

 

 

These young boys were fishing, not sure I would like to eat anything caught in that water.

 

 

Slooping house

Slooping house

 

 

 

Yes this house is sloping towards the water; I wasn’t holding the camera crooked.

 

 

 

Anchored next to resort

Anchored next to resort

Egrets balancing on floating logs

Egrets balancing on floating logs

 

We turned right into the main river and anchored off of a resort for the rest of the day. There were lots of lumps of wood floating down the river. The egrets like to stand on them and float down with the tide and watch for fish but they were a real nuisance getting caught around the anchor chain.

Debris caught around the anchor chain

Debris caught around the anchor chain

There was more heavy rain in the afternoon, well we are in a rainforest. We only travelled about 6 miles that day, if it hadn’t rained we might have gone on but we had plenty of time. Our waypoint was

05º41.10N

118º22.98E

Entrance to Oxbow lake

Entrance to Oxbow lake

 

The next morning we made our way to the entrance of an oxbow lake, which was only 3 miles away. An oxbow lake is a U-shaped body of water that forms when a wide meander from the main stem of a river is cut off, creating a freestanding body of water. The first part was long and narrow then it opened up into the lake and wow!

The oxbow lake

The oxbow lake

 

 

 

 

 

21

Egret in the lake

Egret in the lake

 

 

 

 

The photos don’t do it justice but I’ve taken some panoramic shots to try and recreate our view.

 

 

 

 

 

Egret in flight

Egret in flight

 

Kingfisher with orange breast

Kingfisher with orange breast

 

 

 

The bird life was fantastic. Lots of hornbills, egrets and this beautiful kingfisher with an orange breast and red beak.

 

 

 

Blue water Hyacinth

Blue water Hyacinth

 

 

 

The blue water hyacinths that covered more than half the lake were exquisite.

 

 

 

 

Dave and Jacqui on Jackster

Dave and Jacqui on Jackster

 

 

 

 

 

Jackster and Samsara were there too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve and Julie on Samsara II

Steve and Julie on Samsara II

Pygmy elephant

Pygmy elephant

 

After an hour or so we motored back to the boats, I took up my position on the bow again and we continued up the river. We were so lucky being the lead boat that day because just around the next bend I saw a pygmy elephant drinking from the river.

 

"Cruisers coming, I'm off"

“Cruisers coming, I’m off”

 

It was on it’s own and we glided slowly towards it but it saw us coming and turned back into jungle. The others arrived and we could hear it stamping around behind the bush but it didn’t come back out again.

 

 

 

Pencil marks the spot

Pencil marks the spot

 

 

The pencil marks the spot where we saw the elephant. The red and white flag at the bottom of the chart is as far as we could go because it’s marking power lines that we couldn’t get under.

 

 

Macques on the webbing line

Macques on the webbing line

 

Our third night at anchor was spent only about an hour before the power lines next to a tributary. We took a closer look in the dinghy. There was webbing stretched high up across the tributary. Just as we were wondering what it was for a couple of monkeys walked along it. When they stopped they wound their tails expertly around the webbing hanging down for balance. We got some great photos of them.

SONY DSC

 

SONY DSC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SONY DSC

Macaque monkey

Macaque monkey

 

 

 

 

Further in there were lots of macaque monkeys playing in the undergrowth.

 

 

Stunning sunset

Stunning sunset

 

A stunning sunset awaited us back at the boat.

Our waypoint was

05º33.35N

118º20.17E

The next day we motored the last hour into Sukau the village next to the power lines.

The waypoint was

05º30.48N

118º17.54E our chartplotter showed this on land but the chart had been roughly correct up to the last little bit.

Tug and tow

Tug and tow

 

Our old friend the ‘tug and tow’ was there to greet us. We were only 20 miles inland as the crow flies but we’d travelled 41 miles from the river entrance. I don’t think Camomile has been that far away from the sea since crossing the Panama canal.

 

Camomile pretending to be the African Queen

Camomile pretending to be the African Queen

Local mosque

Local mosque

 

 

I went ashore to explore Sukau. There was the usual mosque and several rows of prettily painted houses with the usual washing hanging out.

 

 

 

 

Pretty houses

Pretty houses

Barge acting as ferry

Barge acting as ferry

 

 

 

 

The roads were only dirt tracks but to cross the river a barge was used pushed along by a large tug.

 

 

I walked for a couple of miles on a circuit from the village to a couple of resorts and back. Sadly I found as soon as I was away from the river the trees changed to palm oil plantations, miles and miles of them. It’s so wrong because the wildlife can’t live in them and in particular the wild Orang-utans need proper trees to live in.

Another pygmy elephant

Another pygmy elephant

 

We spent 2 nights in Sukau before making our way back down the river.  On the second evening we took the dinghy under the power lines to see what we could find.  We found a whole herd of pygmy elephants and we managed to get really close.  So lucky

 

 

I took 100s of photos and it was difficult choosing which ones to post on my blog, I hope you like my choice. A photo can show you what we saw but you can’t feel the temperature or the humidity, you can’t smell the jungle and you can’t hear the sounds of which there was a cacophony.

 

I'm looking at you, looking at me, looking at you

I’m looking at you, looking at me, looking at you

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Posted on July 26, 2014, in Circumnavigation, Port posts, sailing adventure and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Jessica on s/v Malaika

    Just ran across your blog entry;glad to hear you had a good time on the Kinabatangan. We are headed there (on a land trip) to Sukau Rainforest Lodge on Tuesday and hope to see the elephants also. Hope you are well and that your journey is continuing safely! Enjoyed seeing your pics. 🙂

  2. Great photos! Looks like a wonderful adventure. I have been to Sandakan years ago and went to see those proboscis monkeys in the jungle. A scientist had just gone missing in the area, I am not sure if they ever found him! Totally agree with your comments regarding the photos being just one aspect too – the smells, temperature, sounds etc can’t be replicated. I guess that is why we all still feel the need to travel to these places ourselves!
    Have fun!

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