We are just back from a trip to Sabah, Borneo and man, was it amazing! Borneo is the third largest island in the world. Sabah is home to the Kinabatangan River, which draws much of the island’s wildlife towards its southern parts due to excessive logging and palm plantations in the North and even some of the South.
We started our trip in Sepilok – home to the Orangutan Rehab and Sun Bear Conversation Centers. Both parks were very well designed and allowed for these animals to be seen in their natural habitat. I’d argue that the Orangutan Rehab Center did a better job of showing visitors the animals truly in the wild because the Sun Bears were kept in different fenced areas, which limited their mobility somewhat. Regardless, it was still really cool to see these animals. We stayed at Sepilok Forest Edge Resort, which I would highly recommend. The chalet that we stayed in was really nice – with A/C!
Next, we went to Selingan Island – one of three uninhabited Malaysian islands in the Sulu Sea where sea turtles land to lay eggs. During the day, we were able to hang out on the beautiful beach, snorkel, and just relax. At night, we watched one (of the twelve turtles that landed that night) lay eggs, then we relocated those eggs to the small hatchery in the middle of the island, and released the evening’s hatchlings from the day into the sea. The island is also home to a number of monitor lizards… these giants are the main predator of turtle eggs on the island and are one of the reasons that the eggs are relocated to the hatchery.
From Turtle Island, we headed back to Sandakan for a transfer to Sukau Junction where we were met by a driver sent by Osman’s Homestay. If you are thinking about going to Borneo and checking out the Kinabatangan River and curious about where to stay… look no further – just read below.
Osman claims to have been a tour guide since the age of 10 – that’s when he told us he started driving a boat. He is an easygoing guy that loves the outdoors. His eyes are well adapted to the landscape of the riverbanks and surrounding jungle – he kept spotting animals from distances that blew us away. He is good enough that he took Dave Attenborough, a British TV Broadcaster, out for one of his BBC television programs a few years back. Growing up on the river means that he knows all of the spots to find the wildlife!
He offers a few different tours, but basically just wants to take you out to do whatever you are interested in. We gave Osman our list of “wants,” and he didn’t disappoint. Day 1 was proboscis monkeys. Day 2 was crocodiles, orangutans, and pygmy elephants, and Day 3 was more orangutans and a visit to the Gomantong Caves where we saw a spectacular display of bats coming out of the cave at dusk. We saw many different animals as well… the previously mentioned are just a quick highlight.
For anyone traveling on a budget (or just wanting a truly authentic experience) Osman’s Homestay is super cheap compared to everything else we found on the Kinabatangan River – at 70RM per person per day (for BLD cooked by his wife Yanti and a fan room) and 50-150RM per person per tour depending on the distance travelled, our total price for three days came out to be just over 1100RM ($280 USD at time of writing).
Osman only has three rooms at his house. He told us that he also puts people up in two houses down the river a bit from his. I’d suggest emailing him in advance and specifically asking to stay at his place to get the true experience!
If you’d like more info on Osman’s Homestay, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +60 (0) 19 841 5259 or you can leave a comment and I can help you out. He’s quick to mention (its actually his wife that emails) that his place is very basic, not to expect a romantic getaway, and that guests should respect his family (he has six children from 10-21). Osman’s family is Muslim, so do not expect late night partying or pork to be served at meal time, but do expect to be appreciated for who you are and welcomed into a nice home run by a very respectful family.
That’s all for now… I started a new basketball league this weekend, so look forward to more basketball posts soon!