Proboscis Lodge boat safari and wildlife viewing

Our boatman, a local tribesman employed at the Proboscis Lodge for his water and nature skills, is a skilled boatman and during our safari turns the motor off, or uses the quiet electric outboard motor, when we stop to watch wildlife.

Wildlife watching us watching them!
Wildlife (pig-tailed macaques) watching us watching them!


‘Look before you leap’ does not seem to be a saying that proboscis monkeys observe. They’re a noisy troop communicating with honks and groans and crash through the foliage, leaping from tree to tree and landing almost as a belly flop. A threatened species, they are a columbine monkey, which means they have enlarged, multi-chambered stomachs that has a bacteria which aids digestion, particularly of the hard-to-digest leaves they eat, and making them the only ruminant primate.

The clumsy and delightful Proboscis monkey (often called the Dutch Monkey because of the big nose and tummy!)
The clumsy and delightful Proboscis monkey (often called the Dutch Monkey because of the big nose and tummy!)

I’m told the babies have blue faces; all have webbed feet and can swim well; they only live about 13 years and need to range widely to find sufficient nourishment I love these comically long-nosed proboscis monkeys more than the world-renown man-of-the-forest the orang-utan and loved that we could sit in the boat and watch them living in the wild.

Twice I saw wild orang-utan in this area: I also saw people in a small electric boat. (They’re either NGOs or a University research team) Seems they often record all they see here, monitoring the animals – especially I think, as some Sepilok orang-utan have been released in the area.

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My journal is full of sightings; palm squirrels, long-tailed and pig-tailed macaques, and langur. A Storm’s stork, Serpent eagle, and Brahminy kite to name just a few birds. Up a side river, the Menanggol, an estuarine crocodiles, on the bank and in the water, eyes on us: these huge creatures, up to 8 metres in length, once prized for their hides, are now extremely rare. An optional extra, my night boat safari adds two civet cats and a couple of Buffy fish owls and the beautiful stork-billed kingfisher, the largest of kingfishers; this whole area, like Bako, is just another place on my revisit bucket list along with the caves here and in Sarawak.

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Borneo is young geologically and was once the huge land of Sundaland, a bio-geographical region of Southeast Asia, the part of the Asian continental shelf that was exposed during the last ice age. It included the Malay Peninsula on the Asian mainland, as well as the large islands of Borneo, Java, and Sumatra and their surrounding islands and when the ice-age finished, the sea rose and Borneo became isolated, the large island it is today.

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Kayaking in Borneo

use IMG_3599 (1)Kayaking was not on my to-do list for my East Malaysian travels!

I’m not a skilled paddler as anyone who has read my book knows: the last chapter is about me having to be rescued while kayaking around Pulau Perhentian Kecil  off the northeastern coast of West Malaysia .

However this is on a river, with a guide, so after visiting the orang utans at the Semonggoh Centre I’m back in the van with Nikki from SEABackpacker heading for a river and some rainforest kayaking – starting in the little Bidayuh village of Bengoh.

McKenzie, our Semadang Kayaking guide ( his father started this family run business) is waiting for us and with our life-jackets on we go down a few steps to where our boats await us: our Diethelm Travel guide is coming too and he’s happy to be out in the country. We all have our own kayaks: McKenzie points out to me they are New Zealand-made.

The water is low and a few times my boat scrapes the bottom as we glide down this bush-lined tributary at the start of our five-hour, 12-K trip. It’s not long  before we reach the Semadang River which is where we may experience some grade 1 rapids – sometimes they are grade 2 but not this week! Grade one suits me just fine!

‘Look, there’s a crocodile’ say McKenzie – he’s teasing us. There are no crocs in this river and its a baby monitor lizard he’s pointing at. who ever says the bush is quiet and peaceful have never kept quiet enough to listen to the noise of birds in the lush vegetation.  We see many including kingfisher, swifts,  black and white wagtails, along with silent dragon flies and butterflies that hover around.

McKenzie our guide

McKenzie our guide

A couple of times we find rapids and both Nikki have our canoes spin around and briefly travel backwards but we stay on board! Our land-guide was not so successful and tipped out once. Mackenzie took these action shots – and gave us a CD with the photos at the end of the journey 🙂

Partway into our trip we stop for lunch in Danu village – a wonderful meal cooked by our guides sister. “She has been married for two years but no babies yet so she helps us ‘ he says.

As we wait for lunch we explore the village gardens with pepper and many herbs and fruits growing.

Pepper drying in the sun
Pepper drying in the sun

Lunch is great and provides my first taste of midin which I’d been told was a must-taste food. Pronounced “mee deen” it’s a jungle fern that only grows in Sarawak and remains crunchy when cooked. The thin, curly shoots are delicious and it’s often stir-fried with garlic, ginger, shrimp paste and chili – I’m instantly a fan.hh IMG_7619

Back on the water we pass more rainforest, sandy beaches and limestone hills that tower over us and all too soon we reach the family’s home village of Semadang. My back was sore from sitting in one position for ages but it was still sad to finish such a great journey.

use IMG_3654 (1)At this end-point we meet their grandmother whose home is the base for this family company and its good to know that money is being left in the villages along the way . . . perfect eco-travel.