Sg.Kinabatangan, the mighty 560km longest river in Sabah fames for the wildlife spotting. Sukau had been many years the place to organize river cruising and jungle trekking. It is just a small village (population 2000) but not so backpacker friendly. It seemed to be very safe. Due to the occasion floods, many houses were built on stilts.
There is no efficient cheap public transport from Semporna or Sandakan. Buses normally stop at Sukau Junction, 42km from Sukau. Private minivans are waiting to accomplish the transport. MYR50 for a busload or MYR20 per “tourist” head (local people obviously paid less, but I was charged as tourist). Along the road, thousand acres of precious rainforest has been fell and replaced by commercial oil palm plantation, which means the original ecology has been destroyed. Is it worth in exchange for country development? I strongly disagree.
Most of the homestays or B&B are quite far apart. Transportation was not easy to be organized in this village. The popular budget B&Bs recommended by Lonely Planet were all fully booked. I ended up lodging at a local homestay. The irresponsible minivan driver didn’t help me to locate the homestay but pulled out my knapsack and dropped me at the square. Bastard!
I tried to organize river cruising but I had to rent the whole boat since I was the only guest in the homestay of the day. Eventually the owner granted me a good discount.
At 03:30pm, we set off the first river cruising. Boat navigated through small rivers slowly and quietly, observing animals along the river bank, mostly monkeys, proboscis and birds. 2 small snakes were spotted coiling on the tree branches, but no pygmy elephants and orang utan. Journey lasted for 2 hr.
After dinner, we proceeded with the night cruise, more interesting indeed. The nocturnal animals become active at night. The guides used spotlights to search around. Interestingly some animals like king fishers would be stunned and stay put when the light was shined on them. Really up close, within touching distance. Crocodiles, flying fox, monitor lizard and civet were seen.
The skillful guides were good to spot the animals that hiding in the dense bushes along the river, so do at night. The experience counts! Though the qty was not many, the feeling of observing wild animals was not the same as in the zoo.
I gave up jungle trekking because it was too expensive to be alone to hire a guide. An acquaintance said he encountered a wild orang utan during his adventure. Sounds very exciting, I should organize another trip here in future.