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Venturing up the Kinabatang River

August 16, 2016

We left Sutera Harbour headed toward Kudat with a brief stop at Pulau Mantanani for a little snorkeling. Unfortunately, tour boats brought hordes of people out each day and we quickly moved on.  The marina in Kudat was full and we Med tied to the sea wall inside the breakwater. The marina had a great restaurant and cheap beer and quickly became the evening hangout for most of the cruisers.

Our arrival in Kudat coincided with their annual festival and we spent our days watching competitions, enjoying live entertainment, and exploring the Old Town. The cruisers fielded a rowing team in the dragon boat competition and came in a respectable third in a field of six.

Our primary reason for being in Kudat was for ESSCOM briefings on the security to be provided to our rally fleet as we pass near the Philippines. They have dedicated several chase boats as well as command vessels and air support to ensure we are safe from kidnappers. However, a number of boats felt uncomfortable and only 29 of the original 48 boats have continued.

We must now travel in a tight group and cannot travel at night.  Furthermore, we cruisers have instigated a night watch to supplement the chase boats that cruise through the anchorage. We have a curfew and must be back on our boats by 9:00 PM. This sounds like a great burden, but it is the price for being able to cruise an exceptional part of Borneo.

We travelled two days before arriving at Pulau Silingaan (Turtle Island) where dozens of turtles come ashore each night to lay their eggs. The eggs are immediately collected and moved to an incubator area.  The eggs hatch in about 60 days and the baby turtles are released into the sea.  We each selected a baby and had a turtle race to the sea.

The fleet stopped in Sandakan for four days and we enjoyed the eco-tourist attractions.  We visited the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, the Sun Bear Conservation Center, and the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary.  The monkeys and orangutans are semi-wild and free to go where they wished.  The bears are confined to several acres of natural habitat which we viewed from an elevated walkway. All of the facilities were extremely well done and they clearly conveyed the tragic story of these endangered animals’ diminishing habitats.

From there we travelled 35 miles up the Kinabatangan River into rain forests to witness several endangered species in their natural habitat. We watched a mother orangutan and her baby build a tree nest and troops of proboscis monkeys going about their daily business. Hornbill birds flocked overhead while crocodiles swam in the muddy waters. We chartered a fast boat and went 20 miles further up the river in search of the pigmy elephants but couldn’t find the herd. Only the day before other cruisers had been luckier and watched as the herd fed on elephant grass along the river bank (photos provided by Kittani).

In the evening we took our dinghy 2 km up a stream to a lake and watched monkeys and birds come alive as temperatures cooled. We arrived back at the boat just as a nightly rain storm hit.

Our river trip concluded when the rally fleet crossed the river bar into Dewhurst Bay, 20 miles from where we entered the river delta four days earlier. This part of the trip has exceeded our expectations and has provided us with great memories. Now we look forward to the next leg of our journey and some of the best scuba diving in the world.

Pulau Mantanani


Turtle Island

Kudat Festival




 Sun Bear Conservation Center


Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center


 Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary


Up the Kinabatang River


From → Travel

One Comment
  1. Barbara & Curtiss permalink

    Spectacular photos of a part of the world unknown to us land-bound Americans. Thanks for sharing your amazing journey with us.

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