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More Beautiful Borneo

After breakfast on our second day of our trip into the Borneo jungle, we had a little time to ourselves to relax and also make sure our bags were packed. We were staying one night in each of two jungle lodges.

At 10:30am, we met back with the group to head out for our tree planting activity. The Abai village which is located across the river from the Abai Jungle Lodge grows little seedlings. These trees are then sold to people to replant elsewhere. We went across the river by boat to pick up six trees and then headed a ways downstream to plant them.

There was a large grassy area where the tree planting took place, the former site of a village – they are trying to recreate growth in the area. However, in the open grasses it is hard for reforestation to happen without help.

With our trees and a handful of elephant dung

With our trees and a handful of elephant dung

As we got off the boat and on to land, we were all delighted to find many large piles of elephant dung. We then decided we should all grab some of the (dried) elephant dung to help fertilize our trees!

Digging a hole

Digging a hole

One of the local boys helped to dig holes, and we were left with sticking a sapling in a hole and filling the hole with dirt (more like clay in Sabah) and elephant dung. We then watered our saplings and made sure to note their numbers.

Planted Umbrella trees

Planted Umbrella trees

All the trees are tagged and numbered, and records are kept of them and who planted them. In case we ever want to visit our trees in the future. The species name was told to us in the local language – but the translation is umbrella tree.

Abai Village

Abai Village

We hopped backed into the boat and headed back to Abai village. We were given a little tour of the village and learned more about their history and way of life. They have a population of about 170 people, a school with about 40 students (I believe just through elementary school) and a mosque. There is also a very small store, and a machine which they use to process rice.

Our guide Albert explaining how this machine helps in harvesting rice more efficiently

Our guide, Albert, explaining how this machine helps in harvesting rice more efficiently

Fish drying in the village

Fish drying in the village

The village in supported mainly by fishing, and they seem to farm a lot of their own food. The village also has an Oriental Pied Hornbill that lives there and is very friendly to humans. When she was a baby, they found her injured and helped nurse her back to health. She flies free and has ever since she recovered; however, she stays in the village and seems to have no desire to go out on her own.

Village Store

Village Store

Collecting water

Collecting water

We had lunch in the village, before heading back across the river to the lodge.

Lunch

Lunch

The village bird, stealing our crumbs from lunch

The village bird, stealing our crumbs from lunch

John and I then were transported to Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge about an hour upstream where we would be spending our second night in the jungle. On the way, we spotted a 2.5 meter long crocodile on the bank!

Hey big guy!

Hey big guy!

The lodge seemed to be much bigger and had some new additions which made the accommodations slightly nicer than the Abai lodge; however, I like the food at Abai better.

Morning view from the Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge

Morning view from the Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge

Another trip up the river to search for wildlife was on the schedule for the late afternoon. We departed the lodge on another small boat and just went a couple minutes upstream before turning into a smaller river. It was nice to be on a smaller river again as you could see the wildlife on both sides of you and feel truly surrounded by the vegetation and wildlife. As we moved slowly up the river, the monkeys did not seem as frightened by us, and many stayed near the shore and let us watch them as they ate, played and groomed each other.

See the monkey?

See the monkey?

Late in the afternoon is when the monkeys find their way back to the river’s edge looking for a tree to stay the night in. Once back at the river, from their daily trips deeper into the jungle to find food, they snack on leaves and fruit, the young ones play and they socialize by grooming each other. It is fascinating to watch them and to learn about the different species.

Monkey silhouette

Monkey silhouette

Proboscis monkeys with their distinct large noses are only found on Borneo. In addition to the information we obtained from our guides, we were shown a 30 minute video on the species which was quite interesting.

This was right above John's head... The guide shook the tree and said, "they never wake up..."

This was right above John’s head… The guide shook the tree and said, “they never wake up…”

We saw long-tailed macaques, pig-tailed macaques and proboscis monkeys. We also spotted a black and yellow striped snake curled up sleeping in a tree, a couple water monitor lizards and of course more birds.

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Good Morning Borneo

Wednesday morning, after our first night in the jungle lodge, we woke early for a 6:30 am boat ride to see more wildlife. It had cooled down significantly overnight, which was evident by the crisp air, the dew covering everything and the light fog rising from the water. It was truly beautiful. All sorts of birds were awake singing and you could hear them surrounding you, even when you couldn’t see them.

From the lodge

From the lodge

Steam rising from the water

Steam rising from the water

We went a bit up the river to a much smaller tributary, and headed upstream towards a lake. At times, the trees from the sides of the river would cover us like a canopy. Under the trees you could see amazing root systems growing into the water. My favorite tree was the banyan tree (related to fig trees) that has stilt like roots growing down from the branches. The roots help support the branches and allow for the trees to grow to their enormous size – sometimes stretching across creeks to grow on the other side.

Tree roots

Tree roots

Banyan Tree

Banyan Tree

We kept startling a purple heron and following him further upstream to the lake. We also saw more monkeys, a beautiful oriental pied hornbill and great egrets. It was a beautiful morning! Our guide actually spotted a gibbon in a tree a long way off, but he had very powerful binoculars and we didn’t think of bringing any. (Note – if you go to Borneo, bring binocs – and a GOOD camera)

Wear a life jacket - even if it is 3 sizes too big!

Wear a life jacket – even if it is 3 sizes too big!

We moved along to a quiet spot on the opposite side of the lake, where we sat for awhile watching the birds and drinking coffee. Suddenly, there were loud cries from deep in the jungle. It was a dominant male orangutan. The BIG ones – the ones you do not see at the sanctuary. Orangutans stay very deep in the jungle and they are very, very rarely seen in the wild because of this. However, to hear a large male crying out in the morning was quite spectacular.

On our way back to the lodge, we spotted a crocodile sitting along the bank of the river. We knew they were around, but it was the first one we got to see.

Breakfast!

Breakfast!

Back at the lodge, we had breakfast served out in the woods.


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