Living wild with Uncle Tan on the Kinabatangan River
Palm oil plantations are forcing animals such as proboscis monkeys closer to the banks of Sabah’s longest river, making it is a haven for wildlife.
Seeing such distinctive creatures in (what is left of) their natural habitat was important to us, and so we shopped around Sandakan for a tour that would offer us the chance to do just that.
That's when we came across Uncle Tan's.
After a stop at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, we were driven to Sukau where we hopped on a boat and headed down river.
A little wooden hut positioned over what I can best describe as a swamp, inland from the river, was our humble abode for two nights. Expectedly basic, we slept on a mattress on the floor covered by a mosquito net. There was no running water and the staff bathed in the (crocodile-infested) water. Not being brave enough to jump in too, we were pretty smelly by the time we returned to Sandakan. The jungle is noisy and humid, with all sorts of sounds keeping us awake at night, so take earplugs. An eye mask is advised as well, as opening your eyes to strange insects crawling up the side of your cabin can be terrifying.
Food was a mixture of tasty rice and meat dishes, with toast and pancakes for breakfast. Beware, as soon as you open the jam/honey/butter there will be a swarm of wasps around the jar!
We had numerous tours on the river at day and night, as well as walking tours in the dense jungle. The guides have a sharp eye, and could spot animals from what seemed like miles away. Binoculars are essential, and luckily our group had a few to share. Although we didn't spot any orangutans (but we did see them at Sepilok) or pygmy elephants (much to Matt's disappointment, but it was off season), we saw a range of monkeys, insects, bats and birds.
Our 3D/2N tour with Uncle Tan's Wildlife Adventures cost MYR 420 per person, which is approximately £80 per person in August 2016. This included a visit to Sepilok Orang-Utan Sanctuary, all transfers, accommodation, food and tours.
It is possible to arrange your own transport to the river village of Sukau and get a super deal on the day, but, unless you're on an extremely tight budget, taking a tour from Sandakan is an easy and reasonably priced option.