The Kinabatangan River

Michael Hughes and Ger White
Tue 21 Aug 2012 12:00
After leaving Sandakan--where we attended the annual remembrance service for the Australian and British soldiers who died in the infamous Japanese PoW camp there---out of over 2000 prisoners only 6 survived---we set off up the Kinabatangan river--a massive river that goes into the heart of Borneo and it's jungle rainforest.
Entry to the river was interesting--very shallow but we had a complex series of waypoints for where the deeper water could be found--we went over at high water and never had less than 2 feet under our 7 foot keel---but no chance of seeing the bottom as the river runs brown.
Once in the river, it is deep and easily navigable--a wide strip of brown between the green forest jungle either side. We went about 40 miles up the river, over a few days. That is as far as we could go--to a village called Sukau--where there were overhead cables way too low for our mast to go under.
But in that 40 miles we saw lots of wildlife--birds, of course, and lots of monkeys, including many proboscis monkeys with their pot bellies and large pendulous noses. And wild elephants, 2 adults and 2 young, foraging in the trees beside the river--we watched them from the safety of the boat about 20 yards away for about half an hour. And snakes, but no crocs though we were told there were many. Not a nice thought when we caught some vegetation in the prop and I wondered if I would have to go down to clear it!! Thankfully a couple of 360s cleared it out.
So quite an experience, and a change from the sea. But we exited the river a couple of days ago--without going aground--and are now back at the resort island of Langkayan after a lovely sail. Good snorkelling this afternoon, and this evening we watched baby turtles hatching--climbing out of their buried sand nests in the sanctuary, heading down the beach and swimming away. Unlike the ones we watched in Trinidad, where very few made it to the sea--most were picked off by dogs and vultures---these ones all made it to the sea---no doubt to be eaten by fish!! They reckon only 1 in 1000 grows to adulthood!