Safari anyone? Well yes… cruising the Kinabatangan River.

Our next stop was the Kinabatangan river, a conservation corridor rich in wildlife. Unfortunately the reason it is so rich is that it is hemmed in on all sides by palm plantations which have slowly but surely destroyed the habitat of innumerable species of animals including a number of primates. Its really sad to see, amazing to see all the animals and birds but upsetting due to the reason. By getting tourists in they get funding to support conservation works including rangers to stop illegal poaching.

So……We got our hotel to book the bus from Kinabalu to Kota Kinabatangan, you need to book otherwise they might be full and not not stop! Pick up time was 9am, it arrived 15 minutes early, luckily we were very early-Gav wanted to get the pic of the peak sans cloud.

Gav had spent his time in KK well and had planned the week we had left in Sabah very well. First we booked a tour with Nasalis Larvatus tours (website for the river tour). As you know, we generally don’t do tours but all the lodges on the river have been taken over by tour companies so it is about the only way to do it now as Bilit-where most of the lodges are based is quite a way out and you’d still have to pay for transfers. Doing a tour seemed the easiest option at 450 RM/$105/£70 each (we got a slight discount of the 10% tax off, better than nothing). We had opted for the 3D/2N tour, in reality is it 2 days and 2 nights as getting there and leaving took up a day really. Of course we went for the cheapest option-well almost, we got a private en-suite budget cabin.

The bus ride to Kota Kinabatangan was 5 hours, where we waited for our pick up. Which then took us and the rest of the group (13 in all) to Bilit. Once there we had a short boat ride to our Lodge.

The place had a few permanent staff and then a few students doing their placement studies for their tourism diploma. So once they checked us in and give us some briefings of what our timetable would be for the time there. Then we were shown to our cabin, which no word of a lie, was the smallest place we had stayed in, 2 single beds which partially blocked the door and barely enough room at the end to stash our bags, it also had some mold in it due to the forest being a bit damp. This was the only thing I didn’t like about the place. Other than that it was all top notch, the more expensive cabins would have been a lot better but ours was ok for 2 days.

So our itinerary was as follows:

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On Day one- 3-3.30: Tea/Coffee (and snacks)- our room was right next to the food hall (win!) so never one to turn down free tea and coffee we went to see what was on offer. Only one other guy seemed to think free stuff was a good idea a German chap called Stefan. Remember Mulu Village? Well this was the chap that was to go there. We spent quite a bit of time hanging out with him in the food hall. The first day we were also joined by an guy from Cork, Willy, he was great craic altogether!

First night: 8.30pm Night walk (optional) we did it, after Mulu this was a massive letdown, it was quite boggy, the group was too big and we were at the back so missed a fair bit, that said Gav spotted loads!

So the cruises- as you can see there are a few if you stay for 3 days, two afternoon and two mornings. I preferred the morning cruises. Mostly because on these the annoying people who insist on using a flash don’t seem to need them (they were the unwitting assholes on the boat, stressing the wildlife and ruining everyone else’s photos, plus if they are behind you its like having lightening in your peripheral vision. Not good).

11 am-12.30 pm- Jungle trek to Ox bow lake. For us this was a bit pointless and clearly a way for them to fill the time. It was to give people a feel for what it was like to hike through the jungle. We did buy leech socks from them as they said there were leeches. We looked like elves. Also it was really mucky and we didn’t rent boots so our poor walking shoes got destroyed again. Damn Goretex takes forever to dry!!! But no leech attacks for us, a swedish girl got them all this time, I think she was a four by the end.

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As you can see Gav was not happy with me taking this photo- our shoes went on after this, we looked ridiculous! No leeches though so J’ll happily look like a fool in these again
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At the ox bow lake they had the pedicure fish again..
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..other than that (and the leeches found on people) this was the only other living thing there.

So after two really good days in Bilit we were back on the boat to leave the Lodge after a very fast shower and pack up after breakfast. Our next stop was Semporna, gateway for the Sipadan Island-regularly voted one of the top 10 in the world (Telegraph article). To get there we were to be dropped off at a junction to catch our pre-booked bus…….

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