6/3/18: Wildman With Wildlife (Kinabatangan River, Borneo)

Johanna’s alarm went off at 5:30 to wake us up for the morning river cruise.

After a quick cup of coffee, we hopped on the boat.

The water was so nice and serene; it glimmers differently in the morning. I love that early-morning air.



What we saw this. morning:

  • Egret bird


  • Kingfisher bird
Image result for kingfisher bird borneo
  • Hornbills (white and oriental)
Image result for white hornbill borneo
  • Almost saw orangutans (they came out of the nest for a brief moment)
  • Crested silver eagle
  • Baby salt water crocodile
    • We were ZOOMING on our boat, heading back to the lodge, when all of a sudden our guide, Khairol, turned the boat around. He pulled in closer to the riverbank, and told us there was a baby crocodile swimming. It was TINY— I’m talking maybe a foot long. I have no idea how he saw it because we were really speeding by and it was mostly submerged in water. He has a superpower, I swear. But yeah! We saw a baby crocodile, so that was pretty cool.

We were back at the lodge at 7 for breakfast. There was a nice assortment of food, like noodles, eggs, pancakes, bread, and fruit.  The pineapple was super sweet and delicious.


At 9:30 am we met up with Khairol again for a jungle trek.

What we saw on the jungle trek:

  • Monitor lizard
    • Eats everything, including each other.
  • Lots of millipedes and mushrooms
  • Elephant and wild boar tracks
    • I’ve never been around so many mosquitoes. They were surrounding our entire bodies the whole time.


So much mud and water


Crazy branches!


Khairol carried a machete with him ahaha


Our guide showed us special branches/vines that have water inside. Useful survival knowledge!

The jungle was so muddy, our feet got stuck so many times. It took serious effort to pull our feet through some parts of the trek. And we are  in “dry” season, too. God knows how bad it is during wet season.

He showed us parasitic vines that grow from the top of a tree down to its roots, strangling and killing it by the time it gets to the bottom. It looks pretty cool, but I guess is not very nice…

Strangling vines


Trying not to get stuck


Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Elephant tracks!

Khairol has lived in a fishing village along the river his whole life, so I figured he’d be a good source of knowledge and stories.

My first question was if he’s ever swam in the river. He told us he would swim home from school as a kid if the boats weren’t there to take him. His mother would understandably get really upset with him, given there are crocodiles in the water. His mom would beat him with a special type of stick (I forget the Malay name) found in the jungle. The women use it for both basket weaving and corporal punishment. A multifunctional tool!
Khairol added that the teachers also used to beat him when he didn’t do his homework. The village didn’t have electricity until 2004, so they only had the afternoon to do homework. If he didn’t get it done in time, that stick would come for him the next day.

I also asked if he’s ever gotten lost in the jungle, and he said he did one time when we was hunting with his cousin. They were chasing down a pygmy dear and got deeper and deeper into the jungle. They didn’t make any marks along the way, so they didn’t know where they were by the time they caught the deer. They stayed in the jungle overnight, praying not to get attacked by leopards or bitten by snakes. His grandpa looked for them the next day, found them, and led them back to the village.

We didn’t see any wildlife, but it was still cool to learn about the different plants and ecosystems in the jungle.

And I somehow didn’t get any leeches on me again! Woo! 2 for 2. The jungle is my friend now.

We had another hour and a half until lunch, so I read more of my book, The Psychopath Test.

The gong, which lets us know when it’s time for the next activity as if we’re kids at summer camp, went off promptly at noon. Lunch time!

There was SO much food. Mostly vegetables, which I always appreciate.

They made me steamed bok choy, sautéed cabbage and mushrooms, rice, more veggies on the side, and French fries. I was so happy.

IMG_2915Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

We all stayed and chatted for a while after lunch.

Our next activity wasn’t until 4 pm, so I decided to do a BBG workout in between.

I got my towel, laid it out on the porch, and started the workout: week 2&4 arms and abs.

Jungle humidity+BBG=sweaty AF.

I realized how bad I am at pushups now. I hadn’t done strength in God knows how long… at least 3 months. I needed it. It felt really good.

I stretched for a bit after, and wow that was painful. I really need to start stretching more. I can’t even do the splits anymore! Something that I haven’t lost since I quit gymnastics 10 years ago.

I was very shocked to learn that there was hot water in the shower here of all places. I usually don’t even get hot water in many cities in Southeast Asia. It didn’t really make sense to me why there was hot water in a remote jungle village, but whatever! Not complaining.

3:30 was tea time. They were serving fried bananas along with tea and coffee, so I went to grab one. One of the employees approached me, asking me if I was vegan.

“Oh ok, don’t eat those.”
“Oh, are these not vegan?”
“No, they have egg. The chef is making you ones now without egg.”
“Oh my god, thank you so much! That is so nice of you.”

I was blown away. They really didn’t need to go out of their way to make special fried banana sans egg for me. I was so touched.

My special vegan bananas came out a few minutes later, all warm and crispy. I really like them— the texture of the banana was unreal. Crispy on the outside, gooey and sweet on the inside.


The gong went off at 4 for our final river cruise of the day.

What we saw:

  • More proboscis monkeys
  • An orangutan!!!
    • It was hanging out in a tree.
    • They live independently. The mother leaves them around age 8 and then they live on their own.
Image result for orangutan borneo
  • Civet cat
    • Normally nocturnal but this one was eating during day. Perhaps it is observing reverse Ramadan?
Image result for civet cat borneo
  • Short tail macaques
    • Super aggressive animals
Image result for short tailed macaque borneo
  • Rhinoceros hornbills

Image result for rhinoceros hornbill

  • Black and red broadbill bird
Image result for black and red broadbill
  • Oriental white hornbill
    • A group of them flew directly above us. It was beautiful!
Image result for oriental white hornbill borneo
  • Silvered leaf monkey
Image result for silver leaf monkey

As we were sitting in the boat, looking out into the trees desperately trying to spot any signs of wildlife, it occurred to me how strange this all is. What is the purpose of simply witnessing the existence of other animals? What do we get out of it?

Boatman chillin’


IMG_0289IMG_2933Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset

River village
So lush
Monkey chillin on the rope built for Orangutans (so they can cross the river; they can’t swim)


So many macaques
Sun going down
More monkeys in the tree




Village mosque


When we found a big group of macaques, I wondered what the monkeys think of us. They probably think the same group of humans come over to them every single day, staring up and pointing strange objects up at them. They must think we are so weird.

We got back to the lodge around 6, and I had a beer with Johanna. I hadn’t had a beer in about 3 weeks, and it tasted so good! I forgot how nice beer can taste on a hot day.

As we were sitting on the porch with our beers, a wild boar randomly appeared. He then proceeded to completely tear up the yard, searching for food in the ground. I felt so bad for the yard worker who had just spent the whole day meticulously mowing and tending to the yard.


7 pm was dinner time. I got eggplant curry, some mustard greens, rice, boiled potatoes, salad, and fruit. They also brought me extra curried veggies on the side since I couldn’t have the meat-based dishes.


At 8:30, we had our final activity of the day: a night walk. This time we would just be walking along the boardwalk built around the perimeter of the lodge, so we didn’t need to worry about leeches or mud.

What we saw:

  • Malaysia blue flycatcher

Image result for malaysian blue flycatcher

  • Mangrove blue flycatcher
Image result for mangrove blue flycatcher borneo
  • Glowing mushroom
    • We had to turn off all our flashlights so we could see it glowing. It was really luminous and glowing like a firefly.
    • It’s a poisonous one.
    • The experience was a bit trippy— I couldn’t see anything around me and had no conception of space. I don’t know how to explain it, but it was really disorienting and made me feel a bit dizzy.
    • Again, I have NO idea how our guide spotted it since you need all the lights off to even see it, and he spotted it with his flashlight on. See??! He has superpowers.
Image result for glowing mushroom borneo
  • Stick insect
  • Frogs

I was so tired by this point and so happy to go to bed. It was only 9 pm, but felt like midnight.

Leave a Reply