Kinabatangan River – When Mosquitos Attack…

From Sepilok we go to stay for a couple of days in a nature lodge on  the Kinabatangan River.  It’s a bit like a holiday camp here – they ring a gong every time you need to present yourself for an activity.  The first activity is a boat trip at dusk – the best time to spot animals.  The first the guide spots is an orang-utan.  It’s cool to see one in the wild, even though we just saw loads at the rehabilitation centre, but it’s very far away.  Here’s our photo – 100 points if you can spot it!

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We also see more proboscis monkeys

Proboscis monkey

A tree-full of silver leaf monkeys

Silver langurs

Some hornbills – they are very fun to watch as they have a very distinctive  silhouette and a funny way of hopping along a branch.

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And two types of macaque – they may be common as muck but they always make for a good photo opportunity!

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After dinner Col discovers that he has about 50 mosquito bites on his back already.  This is the start of a two-day battle with the most ravenous and persistent mozzies we have come across in seven months in Asia:

Us: Natural insect repellant (lots of)

Mozzies: CHOMP!

Us: Unnatural, highly-toxic DEET insect repellant (lots of)

Mozzies: CHOMP!

Us: Long trousers tucked into thick socks

Mozzies: CHOMP!

Us: Special anti-mozzie long-sleeved shirts

Mozzies: CHOMP!

Us: Wearing gore-tex raincoats at all times

Mozzies: Hmmm… CHOMP YOUR LEGS!

After two days, we have between 400 and 500 bites between us.  The lodge seems to understand the problem, as they keep ringing the gong for orange-squash-and-biscuits-time, just like you get after donating blood at home.  And if our donation to the local mosquito population wasn’t enough, the guides take us on a hike through the jungle to see if the leeches want to have a munch as well.  After all Mr Beet’s concerns about leeches these past few months, he is very dismissive when I actually get one “oh that’s just a tiny one – just flick it off”.  By the end of the hike (where we see two types of leech but not much else) we have had about half a dozen leeches each and are experts at flicking them off (there’s a technique to it).  Thankfully none actually reach our skin.  One of the other guests woke up in the middle of the night with one on his neck and he hadn’t even been on the jungle hike.

After our night hike (much the same as the day hike, except this time you couldn’t see the leeches) we get back to our room and head straight to the bathroom to strip off for a thorough leech inspection.  Suddenly the leeches weren’t the problem any more as we were sharing the bathroom with a great big rat.  He scuttled off and we discovered that he had been nibbling our soap, teabags and water bottles.  We left the fan running all night to try to drown out the sounds of them scurrying around in the roof, but we didn’t get much sleep.

We had a couple of dawn boat trips as well and we saw mostly the same animals as previously, but also a water monitor (a baby compared to the one we saw in Penang).

Monitor Lizard

We tried to spot crocodiles and Bornean pygmy elephants as well, but the water level was too high to see crocs and the elephants had moved to another area.  But we did get a brilliant view of an orang-utan on our last night to make up for it.

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More photos where you can play “spot the wildlife” on Mr Beet’s flickr page.

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