Walk on the Wild Side
River & Rainforest
From Sandakan, a 90-minute boat ride propels you into the Sulu Sea, to the unspoiled paradise island of Lankayan, cornerstone of a significant marine conservation area and macro diving hot spot.
This tiny jewel-like isle, ringed by talcum-fine white sand, is also a nesting place and foraging ground for sea turtles. I decide to continue my wildlife sojourn by venturing up the mighty Kinabatangan River, which threads through the jungle for 560 kilometres like a khaki webbing belt. Staying at Sukau Rainforest Lodge (sukau.com), a riverside eco-lodge where past guests have included Sir David Attenborough, dawn has just broken when I join a small group in search of the unique proboscis monkey.
Guided by a skilled boatman, the long bow silently penetrates the white dawn as a female proboscis and her baby settle on a branch bathed in pink light. Glittering kingfishers, distant soaring eagles and brilliantly marked rhinoceros’ hornbills are spotted along the riverbank, while mischievous macaque monkeys leap noisily through the trees. My Kinabatangan wildlife safari is off to a good start.
Days are spent cruising through interlacing waterways in search of pygmy elephants and orangutans in their natural (but ever-diminishing) habitat, while each evening, back at the Sukau Rainforest Lodge, the rare luxury of perfect solitude engages couples in quiet conversation, the blackness of a Borneo night softened by the romantic glow of oil lamps.