Wind: E 16-20 knots
I got my wake-up call at the Borneo Nature Lodge at 5.55am, dressed quickly and went out to face the morning with high expectations. A Plantain Squirrel playfully ran along the railings. Tim and I boarded our wildlife viewing boat, and cheerfully greeted our fellow guests. As our boats pulled away at 6.20am, we immediately spotted a pair of Oriental Pied Hornbills – a good omen. A veil of mist hung over the river, giving our excursion a greater sense of mystery and adventure, with the occasional Greater Egret emerging like ghosts from the mist.
Within minutes, we had found our first troop of Proboscis Monkeys, and we felt greatly honoured by our encounter with these “monkeys in the mist”. Soon, our attention was distracted when our guide Lloyd called out that a Wrinkled Hornbill was flying over and we were excited to see it was a pair. Our 4th Hornbill species! Again, we were interrupted by another hornbill flying past – this time a Bushy Crested Hornbill. This vaguely sinister looking bird was very shy and we had only limited success in getting a good look at them. We were excited that we had now achieved sightings of five hornbills, out of a total of eight hornbills that occur in all of Borneo. We saw Dollarbirds, which had recently migrated north from Australia, and a ‘murder’ of Slender-billed Crows. I was interested when we watched a Long-tailed Macaque feeding on the edge of the water from a cluster of Palm Oil fruit that had washed downstream. The action continued with a Crested Serpent Eagle with a large skink in its talons, a very close look at a Great Egret, a pair of Jerdon’s Bazas on a nest, and more Oriental Pied Hornbills.
We all agreed we should push on to try finding Orangutans, and, as we encountered Palm Oil encroachment of the river, our driver spotted an Orangutan in a large Cluster Fig, but it was very shy and all we could see was the sleeping platform it had been using only minutes before. Needless to say, I was a little disappointed, but still very happy with the fantastic diversity of wildlife I had seen that morning. As a field biologist, I was very used to the concept of never seeing everything I want to without spending days or sometimes even weeks in an area, so frankly, I actually felt a little spoilt by the diversity I had seen in such little time.
We returned to the Lodge by 8am, and I packed and had breakfast. I could not stop birdwatching, and spotted a Bornean Blue Flycatcher on the railings outside my hut. Tim and I retrieved the motion-sensor camera I had put out overnight but found that we didn’t have any photos on it. Tim was ever hopeful of a photo of a Clouded Leopard. After I checked out, I boarded our boat at 9am and we headed back downstream towards the mouth of the Kinabatangan River. Although we travelled quickly, we stopped a couple of times to see wildlife, including Mossy-nest Swiftlets nesting under a limestone overhang, and we saw Storm’s Storks, Crested Serpent Eagle and Brahminy Kites flying overhead.