I have recently spent 5 weeks at the award winning Sukau Rainforest Lodge on the Kinabatangan river. The lodge itself is beautiful with 20 rooms which are named after guests who have contributed significantly to the conservation of the Lower Kinabatangan region. The most notable for me was Sir David Attenborough but sadly didn't get to stay in the room named after him, although got to ride around in the boat that was named after him.
Most of the wildlife spotting is done from boats on the river there which makes photography a challenge with tripods being almost useless so finding good light is essential. Trips were usually at 6 in the morning and at 4 in the evening, the most active time for the wildlife along the river with the morning being better for birds and the evening good for monkeys as they return to the trees by the river where they will spend the night.
The most popular sighting on anyones wish list was usually the Bornean Pygmy Elephant a sub-species which is endemic to Borneo. They can grow up to 2.5 metres with the Asian Elephant growing up to 3 metres. They also have larger ears and longer tails too with the tails almost reaching the ground.
The Elephants habit is sadly fragmented along the Kinabatangan so conflict between humans and elephants is common but hopefully initiatives such as the Kinabatangan Corridor of Life will hopefully reforest areas along the banks of the Kinabatangan which now have palm oil plantations reaching right to the water. Palm Oil platations are everywhere and it is a depressing sight to see them stretch for miles once you leave the small corridor of forest along the river.
It is definitely a special moment when you spot the elephants but sadly word spreads quickly and the boats start arriving en masse which can be a little concerning especially when some of the boat men start to get too close, however the guides at Sukau Rainforest Lodge were usually respectful and kept a distance. This is more difficult in the smaller rivers where you can get boxed in by approaching boats and it can become a little bit of a circus.
The largest group of elephants I saw numbered around 30 with many more in the forest behind which you could hear trumpeting, the sound echoing through the trees and across the river. Such a special sight is one I will not forget and definitely a highlight from my stay at Sukau.
Thanks to all the staff at Sukau Rainforest Lodge and Borneo Eco Tours for the wonderful experience.
I will post more photos from my time there soon.....