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Summer Vacation 2008 - Day 2 on the Kinabatangan

sunny 32 °C

What's happening?

- beep beep beep beep -.

Oh right. That's the alarm going off. It's 05:35 and we have a morning river cruise at 06:00. Awesome.

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We pulled ourselves together (as much as we could for 06:00 in the morning) and sauntered out to where everyone else was waiting for the boats. Surprisingly, we were conscious enough to organize ourselves so we got the seats we wanted: at the back of the big boat, by the guide.

We launched and quickly realized that not many other animals were awake yet. We didn't see many things, but it was still nice and relaxing to be out in a boat in the morning. We did see some birds and monkeys.

We arrived back at the camp with enough time to eat breakfast and get changed for the three-hour morning hike up to one of the oxbow lakes along the Kinabatangan River. As we were going through the jungle, our guide stopped to point out edible and medicinal plants traditionally used by people who live by the river. He also showed us different types of fruit eaten by orangutans and other monkeys.

We found this little bug and Court got to practice using her new macro lens. It worked really really well.

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We arrived at the lake for a little rest. Our guide explained that this lake is famous for some very large fish. He said that every year the people who live on the river have a large festival where they catch the fish and then barbecue them. We weren't there for the festival, unfortunately.

We walked back up the path to a spot where WWF is planting banana trees as a food source for the animals. Our guide said that elephants will come here to feed for a while, and then move on. We saw, but didn't step in, evidence that the elephants had, indeed, enjoyed the bananas. At this spot, another guide came and picked us up with the boat for a quick ride back to the lodge.

Then it was lunch / rest / relax time. We didn't do much in the afternoon.

The nature lodge offers the opportunity to charter boats, at MYR62 per person, to go out looking specifically for elephants. Yesterday, a German mother and son did just this, and they got lucky and managed to see some. They told the other members of our group about this, and they also decided to charter a boat to look for elephants. In our group there were 15 people, and 11 went on the optional elephant cruise. Four people decided not to go, and we were two of them. Budget restrictions, disappointingly. Y'know how it is.

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We laid low until it was time for the 4:00 pm cruise. We set off and saw a lot of the same stuff as yesterday, including lots of macaques, proboscis monkeys, and birds.

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Then all of a sudden our guide took off and sped down-river. One of the other boats had spotted these:

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Elephants!

There were about 15 in total. We were really, really, really, really lucky to see them. There are only two herds in the area around the river: one with about a hundred elephants and one with about fifteen. We saw the latter. Our guide said that they are in one area one and day and move on the next. They take about four months to move up river and four months to come back.

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They were all lined up along the river bank chowing away at the reeds. We sat and watched for a long time. But then, in a quest to get closer (we don't know if it was the guide or someone on the boat who decided to do this), one of the boatmen put their boat up on the shore almost next to the baby elephant. These elephants are not aggressive, but it still spooked the baby elephant enough that it turned and walked away. Which meant, of course, the other elephants followed suit. This whole situation was very uncool with us. We're going to write a strongly worded letter.

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But, at this point we did notice a male elephant down stream. We floated our way down to see him. One of the other girls noticed that he was radio collared and he only had one tusk. We weren't sure why that was.

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We went cruising down the river some more. We didn't really see that much, because we were all still really excited about the elephants. Then we noticed that the optional elephant cruise was coming back from down-river. Our guide said that the other group didn't see any elephants. We felt good that we didn't pay for the other tour and lucked into seeing them. At the same time, we felt bad for everyone else. At this point our guide made the signal for 'we saw an elephant', flapping his hand behind his ear, and sent the other boats off to find the elephants we saw. Thankfully they did see the elephants, so it worked out for all of us.

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We got back to camp around 18:30. We had a little more time to rest until dinner at 19:15. After dinner it was the night hike. We didn't go last night so we decided to go tonight. We left around 20:30. It was pretty dark and were gone for an hour. We didn't see very much: a sleeping bird, a slightly poisonous frog and a stick bug. But it was still great to be out in the jungle at night.

Then it was bed time. We had another cruise the next morning at 6:00 am. It was a good animal spotting day.

Posted by agc_cwm 01:22 Archived in Malaysia

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